MODULAR CONSTRUCTION Answers to the most common questions and myths
WHAT IS MODULAR CONSTRUCTION?
Modular construction is an off-site building method where the
structure is built in separate sections or modules, typically in a
manufacturing plant, using a tightly controlled assembly line
process. The buildings are designed to the same model building
codes and standards and incorporate identical construction
materials to those that are used in facilities which are primarily
The construction of the building typically uses either wood (Type
V-b) or steel framing (Type II-b) for the structure and may
incorporate a wood or concrete floor. The modular sections are
configured to accommodate the building layout and typically
range between 10’ and 14’ wide and 30’ to 70’ long in order
to be transportable to the construction site.
After manufacturing, the modules are transported to the
construction site where they are assembled together on an
appropriate foundation system yielding a building that is
comparable to a site-built structure but is completed in a
significantly reduced time frame.
The benefits of modular construction
Speed: The modular building process provides for a simultaneous overlap of the activities that take place off-site in the manufacturing plant and on-site while preparing the site for the building installation. Since the structure is being built in the factory and doesn't wait for the site preparation to take place or is subjected to weather delays, a permanent or relocatable modular building can be completed in 25-40% of the time required for typical site-built methods.
Lower Costs: The modular building process can yield 10-25% lower design and construction costs and the compressed schedule helps reduce the overall project general conditions and financing required. The approach provides for a more predictable and streamlined process with beter coodination to reduce costly mistakes and material waste. The vertical integration of many modular companies also provides for a greater degree of value engineering to meet a client's budget on a project.
Superior Quality: Modular buildings utilize the same materials and is built to the same codes, standards, and architectural specifications as site construction methods. Quality improvements are recognized through the factory assembly process which leads to greater efficiencies, consistency, and safety, while established protocols for receiving, rejecting, and storing materials also eliminate issues with poor or damaged components. Permanent modular buildings can be designed to match existing structures, and after installation and finish-out are often indistinguishable from a completely site-built structures.
Sustainability: The use of a factory-controlled manufacturing is also a greener process that generates less waste, reduces on-site disturbances, and allows for tighter control of the entire process. There is less material waste and greater use of recycling of building materials, and with relocatable buildings they can be dismantled and relocated or refurbished for a new or secondary use.
The two types of Commercial Modular Buildings
A relocatable building uses a factory-built
modular building process where
the structures are typically constructed to
an 80% or greater level of completion in
the manufacturing plant, including the
application of the interior and exterior
finishes. The buildings are designed with
complete MEP, fixtures, and finishes that
enable them to be conveniently reused or
repurposed multiple times. They offer the fastest form of delivery, the ability to relocate to other sites, and potentially advantageous financing and tax characteristics associated with the building being classified as personal property.
Relocatable buildings meet state and local building code requirements and are
an ideal solution for meeting fast temporary or interim space solutions.
Permanent Modular Construction (PMC)
is an environmentally sustainable
construction method that utilizes lean
offsite manufacturing techniques to
prefabricate single or multistory
buildings that are delivered in modular
sections and attached to a permanent
foundation. This process can be
performed on traditional pier and beam
type foundations, or on a traditional
engineered concrete slab where the
modules are built without a floor and are
crane set directly on to the concrete slab.
PMC buildings can also be integrated
with other forms of site construction like
pre-engineered steel buildings or
concrete tilt-wall to yield hybrid facilities
that can meet larger mixed-use
Correcting the Modular Myths
Modular Buildings Are Structurally Sound
Modular buildings are designed and built to meet
the same building codes and approvals as site
constructed facilities. The off-site manufacturing
process is monitored by an applicable state
approved inspection program, while the local
inspection process at the site insures that each
facility will meet the structural integrity and
performance that is required. In many cases, the
modules are superior structurally given how they
are built to safely transport them on the highway
and for crane-setting onto the foundation.
Modular Buildings Aren't Just Temporary
For years modular buildings constituted an
image of temporary or mobile type facilities
primarily used by construction companies or
schools. Although these are still a staple of the
industry, the advances in permanent modular
building approaches have allowed for the
development of sophisticated single and
multistory application for space needs across a
broad multitude of industries. And, with proper
maintenance, they do not have a limited lifespan.
They Offer Unlimited Architectural Appeal
With the improvements in the production
process and an increasing number of design
professionals rapidly embracing modular
building systems, today's generation of both
relocatable and permanent modular buildings
have a greater degree of curb appeal and
functionality than ever before. Whether it's a
freestanding facility or an addition to an existing
building, modular buildings can be designed to
meet or exceed the architectural aesthetics of
traditional site built structures.
INDUSTRY APPLICATIONS FOR MODULAR BUILDING SYSTEMS
Superior quality and a reduction in completion time are just a few of the benefits that
relocatable or permanent modular facilities can offer owners and institutions requiring
facilities for education, healthcare, hospitality, and other commercial and government
applications. Whether it's for a standalone facility or an addition to an existing structure,
modular building construction is a proven building method to create functional and flexible
buildings that integrate into most environments. It's ideal for the kind of occupancies that
allow for light structural loading and favors floor plan layouts that call for multiple room
and area compartmentalization. Only facilities that require large volumes or high ceilings
like airport hangers or large unfinished spaces such as warehouses are generally not
suitable for modular buildings unless done as a hybrid project using a combination of
modular and other site construction techniques for the appropriate spaces.
For architects, developers, and owners alike, commercial modular buildings can meet the
sophisticated design and construction expectations to rival that of site-built facilities. By
choosing the use of off-site construction early in the project planning phase, the building
can be designed around the individual modular sections to ensure good functionality while
also allowing for 100% percent of the structure to be factory assembled.