The modular construction industry has witnessed lucrative growth over the last few years owing to its cost-efficiency and host of benefits offered in comparison with conventional construction type. In the U.S. they have been popularly being adopted for building affordable housing societies, school, hostels, and both temporary as well as permanent.
What are modular buildings?
Simply put, it is a way through which the traditional construction mode is converted into a factory type of setting and modules or components are manufactured off-site. i.e., away from the site wherein the final building structure is planned to be constructed. These units can easily be transported via road to be assembled and installed on the site. These modules are typically standardized in nature, making assembly quite easy.
Types of modular buildings
They are commonly being adopted for the construction of both residential and commercial spaces.
1. Residential Buildings
Although modules are built in factory-like settings, and they are pretty standardized in nature, it is possible to customize them as per the end user’s requirements. In fact, due to their inexpensive nature, it is possible to build affordable homes or those looking out for low-cost accommodation through these structures.
2. Commercial Complexes
Both permanent as well as temporary prefabricated buildings are being used to build commercial modular offices and complexes. They are widely used to build temporary offices, as the components can easily be dismantled and reinstalled at another site. Apart from this, they are popularly used in building classrooms, restrooms, restaurants, hostels, etc.
Benefits of Modular Buildings
1. Faster way of Construction
Modular construction has proven to be faster than its conventional counterpart in many ways. How?
- The primary reason is you need not follow the linear style of construction as foundation work can be carried out simultaneously along with the fabrication of the modules at the factory setting itself.
- As construction of modules is carried out in a factory setting, in a controlled environment, it is much more efficient. Moreover, processes that are repeatable and standardized can be easily carried out. In the case of traditional construction, much is left at the mercy of weather conditions, availability of raw materials, and completion of one process to start the next one.
- You can always keep materials handy by purchasing them in bulk, and there are fewer chances of it being stolen. This saves up a lot of time
- As it is possible to make the off-site construction setting automated, you save up a lot of time. There is a lesser need to bring heavy machinery on the site as units have already been fabricated in the factory settings.
2. Modular Buildings are Stronger
When it comes to modular, most of them are apprehensive of the strength and the life of a modular structure. However, since every single unit is built separately and tested to assess their durability, their quality and strength are higher than that of a commercial building structure. Often, materials used for building these structures are sustainable and less toxic in nature. Additionally, materials such as steel are fire-resistant, usage of which enhances the safety of these structures.
3. Modular Buildings are Better
Although the concept of modular buildings is not new, it had not gained popularity until recently when issues such as labor crunch, pollution, and lack of resources cropped up. Modular buildings address most of the issues that traditional ones could not. They are better in many ways:
- Reusability is a unique feature of modular structures. Simply disassemble and move the unit to another site. This saves not only time and money but also precious resources. There are many used modular buildings available for sale, which can be reused and customized further to suit the end requirement.
- Automated processes ensure higher efficiency, less wastage, and reduced need for labor. This reduces the quantity of on-site wastage.
- Construction activity will not come to a halt due to extreme weather conditions. Additionally, as labor has to work lesser hours on the site, it ensures a safer working environment and reduces the chances of construction accidents to a considerable degree.
- It is a sustainable solution that will help reduce carbon footprints. There will be less shuttling of vehicles and heavy equipment on the site, reducing pollution in nearby areas.
- As construction work is carried out off-site, there will be fewer disturbances to offices and other nearby residential areas, lowering noise pollution to a great extent.
- As materials are stored in a controlled environment, chances of pilferage and theft are lower. Also, as similar materials are used in a single project, manufacturers can order bulk quantity and mitigate the risk of lack of availability of materials and increased cost of these materials.
- Modular structure allows usage of innovative materials such as cross-laminated timber (CLT). Ideal for mid-rise buildings, their strength and stability make them useful for building walls, floors, and roofs.
Constructing a building is a daunting and time-consuming task. It requires high investment in terms of money, men, and materials. This industry is quite volatile and affected by many parameters, cost of resources, government regulations, adoption of automation, type of machinery available, etc. To achieve optimal results through proper usage of available materials and giving the end-user the desired output is a lengthy process in this industry. Modular is the answer to all these questions.
It streamlines the entire process by making it more like manufacturing any other product, giving construction managers a much higher control over the entire project. Modular buildings also need to transform to suit the versatility of end-use and deal with challenges such as management of logistics, especially in complex and dense urban spaces.
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