Modular construction is a new hot topic in North America. But what is it, and how is it impacting the construction industry? A study done by Dodge Data & Analytics shows that establishing the use of both prefabrication and modular construction quantifies its users’ benefits and increases the industry’s understanding of what will most likely be used in the future of construction.
An Overview of Modular Construction
Modular construction off-site production of some type of structure.
Components are built in factories then transported to job sites. The first step of modular construction is finding a factory willing to build a modular unit to its specifications. Instead of factories building copies of units, each unit is built for a specific project. The interior, exterior, and other aspects are all constructed explicitly. Most of the time, factories assemble modules to 90%, so the site crew doesn’t have to do much to finish the project. Once the project is at the site, all that needs to be done is the assembly.
There are two different types of units. First, there are permanent modular units that are at the location for three or more years. These units are permanently installed once delivered to the site. Whereas with the relocatable units, project or building managers generally move them before three years. Permanent structures represent 50% of the modular industry. These units fit International Building Codes and are usually indistinguishable from the traditionally built unit.
A benefit of modular construction is that you can get it either temporary or permanent. Even if you choose to get one built, some companies can lease out of it. There are many different options for modular construction.
What Counts as Modular Construction?
Modular construction can be a traditional project, like a fitted bathroom, or placed on the unit. The term doesn’t just apply to structural units.
These relocatable and permanent structures use the same materials as traditional construction. But all factories won’t offer the same options. Many factories specialize in one type of unit so they can stay efficient and cut back on costs. Project managers can find factories to manufacture units with materials that will benefit the job site and the project costs.
Traditional construction incorporates modular units in many ways. For example, additions and repairs are when modular units are built to certain specifications and are meant to make construction easier.
How Does Modular Construction Work?
Modular construction must undergo a very intense and precise design process to ensure that the unit will fit the project. This process makes sure that there are no sizing issues at the job site. Then, the units must go through a series of tests to meet local, state, and federal building codes.
Modular units are designed to meet the project’s needs using the same materials you would on a traditional project. The structure is also built the same as you would a stick-build project. The workers construct the frame, insulate the walls and subfloor, then install the drywall and floors. Electrical and mechanical can even be installed. Finally, it is moved to the job site. It may not be delivered all at once; it depends on how it is scheduled. These units are delivered so that they aren’t just waiting at the site for days. They are installed immediately for efficiency and completing any finishing touches and connecting the utilities.
Other Aspects of Modular Construction
Europe has used the methodology for many years now. They use both temporary structures and permanent structures. Now we’re seeing an increase in the use of it in North America. It is used for temporary classrooms, hospitals, dorm rooms, apartments, hotels, and similar buildings. The Dodge Data & Analytics study forecasted that low office rises, commercial warehouses, and public buildings would be the most frequent building types for modular construction in the next three years.
Another reason why Europe embraced the approach is because of how environmentally conscious they are. Constructing the units in factories minimizes the energy used and reduces the raw material demanded to create new buildings. This generates less waste. Also, it’s easier to disassemble, relocate, and refurbish units for other uses.
Modular construction projects go up very fast. These projects take about two-thirds to half of the time that traditional projects need. There are a few reasons why these projects are so efficient. One reason is that the factories will have all the necessary tools and materials right there for you. Another reason is that building is no longer weather-dependent because you’re inside of a factory.
Modular construction is the construction industry’s future due to its quality, speed, and environmental friendliness. This type of construction saves companies a ton of money as well. However, companies will need comprehensive schedules and coordination because it is a strategic and precise way of building.
Modular construction can save the US up to $22 Billion per year. With construction prices being so high right now, this could potentially revive the market. Improvements are being made daily to figure out ways to make this type of construction more affordable. For example, newer and lighter-weight materials are now being used to improve precision and productivity and lower the price.