Common Modular Building Construction Materials
Whether you’re looking for sleek and modern or rustic and traditional, the sky’s the limit when it comes to modular building construction materials. This allows you to seamlessly blend your temporary or permanent modular building with your property’s existing structures. In this blog, we’ll answer the question, “what materials are used in modular construction?” to help you make an informed purchasing decision.
There are two main options available when it comes to the overall framework of your modular building: wood and steel / concrete. We’ll take a closer look at each of these modular building construction materials below.
Option #1: Wood
Wood is the most commonly used material in modular construction because it’s easy to work with. The size and shape of wood can be manipulated with very little effort, and it can even be constructed to rise several stories.
Modular buildings made from wood use traditional studs and are built using standard lumber. Wood is most commonly used for the following framework elements:
- Roof and floor trusses
- Wall framing
- Engineered beams
- Oriented strand boards (OSB)
- Composite panels
- Exterior wall panels
There are many benefits of choosing wood for your modular framework, including the following:
- Superior insulation to control energy loss
- Reduced risk of electric shock
- Lower price tag
- Stronger and more structurally sound as it dries
- Sustainable since it can be reused and repurposed
- Biodegradable to eliminate its environmental impact
- Extremely low toxin levels
- Absorbs less moisture in factory settings for improved air quality
Option #2: Steel / Concrete
These buildings include a steel frame, steel / concrete floor deck, and cold-formed steel wall panels. Steel / concrete modular building components are great options because they:
- Contain 80% recycled material for enhanced sustainability
- Can be dismantled and recycled at the end of its useful life
- Are fire-resistant
- Offer larger beam span openings
- Require fewer raw materials
- Offer more consistency between pieces than wood
International Building Code (IBC) Construction Types
Wood and steel / concrete modular buildings fall into two International Building Code (IBC) construction types: V-B and II-B. Defined in Section 6 of the IBC, construction types play a vital role in determining your modular building design and size restrictions.
Construction Type V-B
These structures feature an unprotected wood frame constructed with standard lumber. Since there’s exposed wood, they offer no fire resistance. You can build using the wood species of your choice, and you don’t have to worry about ratings.
Construction Type II-B
While these unprotected structures are non-combustible, they may or may not feature materials that are fire resistant. In fact, there are no fire resistance requirements for any of the building materials in Type II-B structures if they satisfy adequate fire separation distances.
Flooring, Ceilings, & Interior Walls
You can choose from a wide variety of modular building construction materials for your structure’s flooring, ceiling, and interior walls. We’ll review some of the most popular choices below.
Many customers opt for vinyl composite tiles (VCT), which are a great choice for high-traffic areas. They’re easy to clean, offer a long lifespan, and are an inexpensive option as opposed to some other materials.
Ceramic tiles are another high-quality option that’s ideal for areas with high humidity, like bathrooms. They’re also water-resistant and easy to maintain for a long lifespan.
You may also opt for carpeting, which is an especially smart choice for modular buildings that serve as or classrooms. Carpet offers warmth, safety, and comfort, and it’s also a low-cost option that can reduce noise pollution.
Vinyl plank flooring mimics the look of high-end materials like wood, ceramic, porcelain, marble, and granite. It’s fully-waterproof and both easy to install and maintain.
Ceilings & Interior Walls
Many modular buildings feature ceilings with T-grid tiles or attractive acoustical drop configurations. When it comes to walls, the most common options are drywall and vinyl-covered gypsum (VCG). VCG is a convenient option that doesn’t require taping, sanding, painting, or any of the other tasks associated with hanging drywall.
You have many different options when it comes to the exterior siding of your modular structure. We’ll review some of the most popular custom choices for this modular building component below.
Composite Exterior Panels
This prefabricated product combines an insulated finished surface with superior waterproofing for a single integrated composite material. You may also hear this item referred to as an Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS), Exterior Wall Insulation System (EWI), or an External Thermal Insulation Composite System (ETICS).
Composite exterior panels are lightweight, cost-effective, and can quickly be applied to wood- or steel-framed modules. Plus, they create a modern aesthetic and are available in a variety of finishes for texture and visual interest. Best of all, the flexibility and creativity of composite exterior panels ensure they satisfy code requirements while reducing substructure load.
If you want your permanent modular building to blend in with your existing stone structure(s), stone veneer is the perfect choice. Manufacturers offer options to match the size, shape, and color of any fieldstone for the ultimate customization. Stone veneer can quickly be applied on top of building paper or felt, which acts as a moisture barrier.
There are many benefits of choosing stone veneer for the exterior siding of your modular building, including:
- More affordable than real stone
- Lightweight and easier to ship
- Can be installed on nearly any surface
- Flexible for curved or less-than-level surfaces
- Easy to clean and restore
- Long lifespan since it’s made from durable materials
Stucco is a mix of Portland cement, limestone, sand, water, and additives designed to increase the material’s strength and flexibility. Stucco is extremely durable and a great choice for a wide variety of climates and weather conditions. Here are a few more advantages of stucco:
- Low maintenance and easy to clean
- Fire- and insect-resistant
- Offers some soundproofing and insulation
- Less expensive than most other siding materials
- Long lifespan of 50+ years with regular maintenance
Available in a wide variety of colors, textures, and thicknesses, this product offers all the benefits of brick in a less expensive package. Thin brick is also easier to transport, lighter, and presents fewer seismic concerns than traditional brick. There are many other benefits of using thin brick, including:
- Lightweight option for structures that can’t handle the load of a full-brick wall
- No extra foundation or steel angle support system required
- Prefabricated for faster application than traditional brick
- Durable fired product with an extended lifespan
- Better fire protection than most wood or plastic materials
- Requires fewer materials for decreased embodied energy
Many customers opt for vinyl, which can be fully customized to match the structures surrounding your modular building. Here are just a few of the many benefits associated with vinyl exterior siding:
- Durable option that’s insect-, salt-, fungus-, moisture-, and rot-resistant
- Resists dents, scratches, fading, and weather damage
- Low maintenance as opposed to some other materials
- Won’t splinter, twist, or warp
- Ideal for outdoor applications and ground contact
- Flame-retardant and a good noise insulator
Wood is a beautiful, timeless option that seamlessly blends into the natural environment and your existing structures. Cambia by NFP® is one of the most popular options on the market due to its high performance and lower price tag than real wood and many wood substitutes.
Cambia is thermally-modified using high heat in a controlled environment, improving its durability and dimensional stability. Here are a few more advantages of selecting this eco-friendly material for modular building:
- Resistant to damage, decay, and fungal infestation
- Less susceptible to humidity-induced warping
- Rich finished chocolate color highlights the natural beauty of the wood grain
- Environmentally-friendly and non-toxic
Modular Building Construction Materials Satisfy Building Code Requirements
No matter what materials you choose for your modular building, you can rest assured that they meet IBC requirements for commercial buildings and any applicable state and federal building codes. This is because they’re subject to the same standards used when inspecting traditionally-built structures.
These inspections are completed during the design phase, modular building construction process, and during final on-site assembly. This ensures that your modular building is as safe, durable, and well-constructed as a traditionally-built establishment.