You’ve heard of modular construction, and you may have even considered using it for your business. However, you might still have questions or be unsure about whether modular is right for you. In this blog, we’ll answer questions about modular construction methods, types of modular construction, modular construction materials, and much more.
What is Modular Construction?
Modular construction methods involve individual sections (called modules) that are constructed in a controlled, off-site manufacturing facility and assembled at a building site. Leveraging assembly line production methods, each module is fabricated with standard building materials.
Check out this video for an inside look at the modular manufacturing process:
Which Businesses & Organizations Use Modular Construction?
Businesses and organizations in a variety of industries choose modular construction for their projects. These industries include (but are not limited to):
What Does the Modular Construction Process Look Like?
Modular construction methods are often compared to building with blocks, because each building section is constructed to fit perfectly with the next one. This results in a high-quality product that’s constructed in a safe, effective work environment. Ultimately, modular prioritizes efficiency, durability, and quality control.
Each module is typically 12-14 feet wide to ensure it can be transported over-the-road to your building site. Module lengths depend on the overall building configuration, square footage requirements, and site layout, although they typically range from 30-72 feet long.
Here are a few simple examples of how to calculate your modular building square footage based on the size and number of modules:
- 2*(14′[W] * 50′[L]) = 1,400 square feet
- 10*(12′[W] * 32′[L]) = 3,840 square feet
As module construction is happening at the manufacturing facility, prep work is done at the building site. This includes things like excavation, grading, foundation work, and utility installation.
Once they’re delivered to the building site, each module is staged in a predetermined order to ensure final assembly is as efficient as possible. Either a translift or a crane is used to set the modules and construct the completed building.
How Does Modular Construction Compare to Traditional Construction?
The majority of modular construction work occurs off-site inside of a manufacturing facility. Traditional construction projects require that all work be completed on-site and from the ground up. Because modular construction takes place simultaneously in a factory and on-site, it can be completed in half the time of traditional construction.
Here’s a closer look at the timelines for both traditional and modular construction:
The infographic below explains the main differences between the traditional and modular construction processes in more detail.
What Are Some Common Modular Construction Myths?
As modular construction has continued to grow in popularity and usefulness, the industry has rapidly improved its products. However, many common modular building myths remain. We’ll debunk a few of the most common misconceptions below.
Myth #1: They Aren’t Structurally Sound
Modular buildings are engineered and fabricated to meet the same building codes as traditionally-built structures. Because they’re built in sections, modular buildings even undergo structural inspections throughout the construction process. Inspections are also performed at the project site during assembly to further verify the building’s structural integrity.
Myth #2: They Aren’t Aesthetically Pleasing
Contrary to popular belief, modular buildings can be both functional and attractive. Pre-assembled buildings designed for permanent use can be multiple stories high. And depending on budget and specifications, the interior and exterior of a modular building can be completely customized. Most importantly, modular buildings can be finished to match the design and facade of surrounding structures to seamlessly blend into your existing facility.
Myth #3: They’re Only Temporary
Temporary modular buildings are commonly located at construction sites or expanding businesses. As such, it’s easy to understand why people perceive modular as only a temporary solution. However, there are a variety of permanent modular construction (PMC) choices available.
These buildings provide an alternative option to meet the broad, long-term space needs of businesses, schools, healthcare facilities, and more. PMC solutions are affixed to permanent foundations, which are custom-installed to precisely meet the specifications of each modular building. This results in a high-quality, cohesive structure that will last for decades to come.
Myth #4: You Have to Buy Modular Buildings
Don’t want to own your modular building for business purposes? Only intend to use it temporarily? Don’t want to spend the upfront capital to purchase a building? You’re in luck. There are a variety of used modular buildings that are available for leasing. Because they’re already built, leased buildings can be installed and occupied more quickly. Plus, they’re more affordable than new buildings.
What Modular Construction Materials Are Used?
There are two main structural materials used in any type of modular construction:
- Standard, wood-frame (Type V-B) construction (built with standard lumber)
- Steel and concrete (Type II-B non-combustible) construction
While steel and concrete are stronger building materials, wood-framed options are often a less-expensive option. Along with your choice of framing, some other common materials used in modular building construction include:
- Wood trusses
- Drywall or VCG (vinyl-covered gypsum) interior wall finish
- Acoustical ceiling (also known as drop ceiling)
- CPVC, pex, or copper piping/tubing
- Double-pane glass
- Solid-core doors
- Commercial hardware and fixtures
- Carpeting (rolled carpet or carpet tiles)
- VCT (vinyl composite tiles) or ceramic tiles
Can Modular Buildings Be Customized?
In most cases, you can completely customize the layout and floor plan of your modular building. Here are just a few of your options for customizing the appearance and operations of your modular building:
- Exterior finishes (brick, stone, stucco, siding)
- Roof slope (flat or pitched)
- Crown molding and trim
- Hardwood floors
- Upgraded hardware and fixtures
- Cove base
- Broadband wiring
- Alarm systems
- Secure access
- Sensor switches
- High-efficiency HVAC
- Solar power
- Roofing color
- Wall and ceiling insulation
What is the Life Expectancy of Modular Buildings?
Just like any building, the life expectancy of a modular building depends on whether it receives regular maintenance. Permanent modular buildings don’t have a limited lifespan and can last as long as traditional construction. Temporary modular buildings typically have a useful life of 20-25 years, but this can be extended if they are well-maintained and periodically renovated. All modular buildings — temporary or permanent — can be expanded, remodeled, and updated whenever necessary.