What Is A Modular Construction?

[Updated Nov 2019]—The process that allows you to build different sections or modules of a building, individually in a controlled off-site manufacturing area, to assemble them finally at the actual site of building construction is known as modular construction.
March 31, 2021

Modular construction is a process that allows you to build different sections or “modules” of a building individually, in a controlled off-site manufacturing area, to assemble them finally at the actual site of the building construction. Consistent with other construction types, this construction method use the same materials and design to the same codes and standards as conventionally-built facilities, but utilize methods of assembly line production.

Read more below to know more about modular construction and what the process entails. 

What’s involved in the process of modular construction?

The process of modular building is often compared to using building blocks or LEGOS. Each piece is constructed to fit perfectly with the next piece. The end result is a high-quality construction, produced in a safe and efficient work environment. Just as with traditional construction builds, steps to ensure efficiency, durability, and dependability are in place and are made priority during construction. 

Each module is manufactured individually 8’-14’ wide for easy transport to the building site. The length of the module can be anywhere from 30’ to 72’, depending on the layout of the site, the area to be constructed, and other building configurations.

While the modules are being manufactured off-site, the building site itself is prepared by excavating and grading the site, then the utilities and foundation are constructed.

Once the modules are transferred from the manufacturing site to the building site, they are organized in a predetermined order on the building site for final assembly via crane.

Modular vs Traditional Construction

As mentioned, the main difference between traditional construction and modular construction is that modules are constructed at an off-site location, unlike with the traditional method, where the building materials are grouped together at the construction site.

Another difference is that modular construction is done much faster. Since modular construction can be done on-site and off-site at the same time, allowing construction workers to prep the site as the modules are being created. Thus, modular construction can be finished in half the time regular construction does, as traditional construction requires site preparation before the building can begin being constructed. 

Lastly, the latest technological advancements have increased the popularity of modular construction in recent years. The technologies have made it easier to design, move and assemble the individual modules to construct residential and commercial buildings, and thus more and more constructions are being done via modular construction rather than via the traditional methods.

Materials Required to Make Modular Buildings

In modular construction, there are normally two types of frames used: standard wood-frame construction and steel and concrete construction. The first is built with standard wooden frames, while the second utilizes concrete and steel to manufacture the individual module. Each of these options have their own set of pros and cons. Buildings made using standard wooden-frame construction are cheaper, but buildings that utilize concrete and steel are much stronger and more durable.

Other materials used in the modular construction process, besides the frame of your choice, may include:

  • Wood trusses used for roof
  • VCG or vinyl covered gypsum or Drywall for finishing interior walls
  • Drop or Acoustical ceiling
  • Pex, CPVC or copper tubing or piping
  • Solid core doors
  • Carpeting of preferred thickness
  • Double pane glass
  • Commercial hardware and fixtures
  • VCT or vinyl composite tiles or ceramic tiles

Can You Customize with Modular Construction?

The short answer: yes, absolutely! Just as with any building, the floor plan can be customized as per your requirements. You have free reign over what number of rooms you’ll need in your building, and whether it be bedrooms, conference rooms, waiting rooms, etc. You’ll be able to customize specific parts of the building, such as the technology systems or the aesthetic plans. All modular buildings can be customized, expanded, remodeled, and updated as you find necessary.

In this way, modular construction is not very different from traditional construction methods. Modular construction is just a speedier, more efficient process.  

How Long Does a Modular Building Last?

Like with most things, regular maintenance is key to the longevity of a modular building. Permanent modular buildings have no limit to their life-span, while temporary modular buildings—with proper care—typically last 20-25 years.

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