What is meant by modular construction?
Modular building is a growing construction approach involving off-site modules' production using standardised designs and materials. These components are then brought to the building site and combined to make an entire structure. This technology offers advantages over traditional buildings, including shorter build times, reduced prices, increased quality control, and greater design freedom. Modular building is frequently employed for various building types, including residential, commercial, and institutional constructions. It is well-suited for projects with high accuracy and consistency, such as hospitals and labs. It is projected to expand in popularity as sustainability and efficiency becomes critical considerations for industry experts.
Types Of Modular Building
1. Volumetric Modular Building
Volumetric Modular building is a method in which complete 3D modules or units are manufactured in a factory environment. These units are produced with walls, floors, ceilings, and internal finishes already installed. The units are then transported to the desired construction site and assembled using cranes.
2. Panelized Modular Building
This prefabrication method involves mass-producing building materials like walls, floors, and roofs in a facility before shipping them to a construction location. The prefabricated module is pre-made on-site using a sequencing process designed for quickness and efficiency. This system also ensures higher quality control and easier customisation of building components.
3. Hybrid Modular Building
Hybrid modular building is an innovative technique that combines volumetric and panelised construction methods. When using prefabricated 3D modules and panels, large portions of a building can be constructed quickly and precisely. This technique has enabled designers to create complex structures with minimal labour and material costs and faster turnaround times.
4. IM (Building Information Modeling) Modular Building
IM (Building Information Modeling) Modular building is a process in which a building's design is created via 3D modelling software. This approach allows the team to visualise and layout the building, systems, and materials before Construction begins and helps minimise human errors, and saves time and money. Ultimately, it benefits the overall efficiency and accuracy of the entire building process, strengthening the structure with better outcomes.
5. Flat Pack Modular Building
Flat-pack modular building is a technique used to build buildings quickly and efficiently. It involves prefabricated components designed to be transported and swiftly assembled on-site. The modular building components are connected in a flat-pack form during assembly. This decreases both construction time and the associated labour costs. The outcome is a structurally sound building that meets all of the requirements of the building code and is finalised much faster than traditional construction methods.
When Was Modular Construction Invented?
The first declaration of use of the modular building was in London in 1837 by an architect named Henry Manning designed prefabricated buildings for use as hospital wards. Still, in the early 1900s, the modular structure began to be applied on a larger scale. Since then, the modular building has continued to improve and be used in various applications, as well as residential homes, commercial buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure. Moreover, technology and materials improvements have allowed the modular structure to be used even more well-organized and streamlined way.
What Are Modular Units?
Modular units are factory-built components used to construct buildings and structures. They are made from various materials, including wood, steel, concrete, and composites, and offer benefits like faster construction time, lower costs, better quality control, and improved sustainability. Modular units can be designed to meet specific requirements and architectural styles and accommodate various building systems like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. In addition, since they are prefabricated, they can be more efficient, cost-effective, and easily customised for any project.
How Are They Made?
Modular building begins with design and engineering. Designers create a blueprint for the building using computer-aided design software, and engineers ensure structural integrity. Skilled workers in a specialised factory use tools and equipment to assemble the components according to the design. The modules are then transported to the construction site and securely assembled and installed using cranes and heavy equipment. After installation, finishing touches such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems are added to the building.
How Much Do They Cost?
The cost of a modular building depends on various factors, including the project's size and design. Prices range from $55 to $60 per square foot for basic modular structures. However, complex systems can cost more than $300 per square foot. In addition, site preparation and installation costs can significantly increase the overall cost.
How Long Do They Last?
Modular buildings can last for a long time. The strength and durability of the material in the Construction can contribute to the structure's longevity. While it may be hard to measure an exact lifespan of a modular building, they can typically last between 25 to 30 years with proper maintenance. This maintenance includes keeping the structure free from dirt, debris, and insects and properly maintaining the mechanical and electrical components. The quality of the material used and the design of the building will also impact the longevity of the modular construction. The structure may last longer than anticipated with environmentally-friendly materials and proper insulation.
What Is Volumetric Modular Construction?
It is a type of Construction in which modules made in a factory are delivered to the construction site and stacked together to form more significant structures. The modules are designed and assembled in a factory and comprise three-dimensional elements such as walls, floors, and roofs. These are combined to form much larger structures, such as multi-story constructions.
Modular Building Disadvantages
1. High Initial Cost
The main disadvantage of modular building is its higher initial cost compared to traditional Construction. This is due to the need for additional engineering and specialised tradespeople to assemble and finish the structures. In addition, the cost of prefabricated components, shipping, and storage also add to the initial cost.
2. Rigidity and Mobility Challenges
Modular buildings often have rigidity and mobility challenges, such as moving large equipment and components into the desired location. Poor planning and lack of modular building standards can also lead to issues in assembling or maintaining the structure over time.
3. Limited Design Choices
Modular building can be restrictive regarding design choices since the modular sections are pre-constructed and have specific sizes and shapes. This means that custom designs and details might be limited or not available. Additionally, materials and features available may be limited and subject to availability.
4. Approval Process Can Be Complicated
Modular building can involve many levels of approval, including from the architect, manufacturer, state or local governments, or other regulatory agencies. This can add complexity and unpredictability to the timeline and additional cost or resource expenditure.
5. Risk is on Few Suppliers
The modular building carries the disadvantage of relying heavily on only a few suppliers for standardised components. This can lead to supply chain problems, high costs, and an inflexible build schedule. The risk of over-reliance on fewer suppliers could also lead to delays in receiving parts and components.
Should You Adopt A Modular Building Approach?
With the number of construction projects expected to increase due to economic recovery, modular building has become a much more attractive option. It provides many benefits, such as cost savings, a shortened construction timeline, and greater consistency in material quality. The modular building also reduces waste, emissions, and noise while on-site and improves the environmental impact of a project. This approach also makes production much easier from site to site, as all parts of the process production are standardised, including the design and supply chain of the modules. Therefore, modular building is an excellent option for anyone looking for cost savings and the flexibility to bring projects to market quickly.