Construction is always changing, and modular buildings are at the forefront of new construction techniques. A modular building is made up of parts that are fabricated in a factory, then shipped to the construction site.
We believe commercial modular buildings will have a significant impact on construction in Albuquerque and New Mexico. Here’s everything you need to know:
How Modular Construction Works
Modular construction is a type of construction where most of the components (called “modules”) for a building are constructed off-site in factories, then delivered and assembled on-site. These modules can be practically anything involved in creating a building—walls, ceilings, roofs, sidings, windows, doors, and more. Plumbing, electrical, ductwork, and other utilities can be fully integrated into the modules during construction.
The Benefits of Modular Construction
There are many different benefits to modular construction—the industry has spawned think pieces on how it could change construction forever. While modular construction has some downsides (we’ll get to those later), the advantages of building with modules are pretty incredible. They include faster construction times, lower costs, greater design flexibility, and a greener industry—all things that both contractors and consumers want.
Faster Construction Times
Modules are constructed to code (or better)—the resulting buildings are as high-quality as a comparable building constructed on-site.
These modules are all built in factories under tightly controlled conditions. There’s no need to worry about adverse weather conditions, and supply can be more tightly controlled with on-site inventory, which leads to fewer delays and faster construction times.
Here’s what’s most remarkable: That’s not even where most of the time-savings are found!
The reason modular construction is so fast is that the modules can all be built while the construction site is being prepared. Contractors can build the foundation, handle landscaping, and ensure that all utilities are ready to be connected while the modules are being built. The site will be completed as the modules are being delivered—from there, it’s a simple matter of putting the modules together.
Some finishing touches are often required once the modules are put together (depending on what was included in the modules). Altogether, however, there’s less downtime, less cleanup, and fewer delays—it’s a much faster process than traditional construction.
Improved Cost and Schedule Predictability
Factory-built modules don’t just improve speed—they make both costs and timeframes more predictable. “On time and on budget” are important goals for any construction project—modular construction promises to provide both with greater reliability. There are a number of factors that contribute to this:
- Labor costs are lowered, as laborers don’t need to move from site to site, and labor needs are more predictable.
- Economies of scale allow modular construction facilities to purchase materials for less.
- The controlled factory setting eliminates weather concerns and creates opportunities for better quality control.
- Site preparation and module building occur in tandem, reducing construction times and overall costs.
- Vandalism and theft are eliminated.
More predictable commercial construction is a boon to both the private and public sectors; commercial construction contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and both governments and companies will benefit.
Greater Design Flexibility
You might be surprised to learn that modular builds, which we’ve just described as being predictable, also offer incredible flexibility and customization. All kinds of different modules can be used to build a building, different styles of sidings, windows, and other architectural features can be integrated, and custom modules can be designed. Additionally, the orientation of modules can be changed with ease.
Most importantly, however, modules can be stacked on top of each other. This allows commercial buildings to expand as necessary. Imagine a hotel that needs greater capacity or a hospital in need of a new wing—with modules that can be easily integrated on top or to the side of existing facilities, expansion is made easy.
Demolition creates a lot of waste. Once demolished, many of the materials in buildings cannot be recycled, and there’s always a risk of contamination to waterways. Demolition can also create air pollution.
Modular buildings can be fully deconstructed rather than demolished—they’re taken apart piece by piece.
Where Commercial Modular Construction Is Used
Commercial modular construction can be used to create malls, office spaces, multi-family dwellings, and more. We’re going to focus on the advantages of modular commercial construction for two particular types of buildings: Hospitals and hotels.
Regular construction can cause disruptions to the essential work of hospitals, with dust, debris, and noise being introduced into the environment. Modular construction mitigates these problems. Infection control is also improved, with most of the work being done off-site.
Modules can be moved—this makes it easy to add capacity when necessary and to move capacity from one hospital to another within a city if it becomes necessary. This can make it easier for public health officials and hospital managers to meet demand.
Hotel chains have taken to modular construction—they value predictability in their facilities, and modular buildings make it easier for these chains to manage maintenance across dozens or hundreds of buildings.
Reduced noise levels and shorter construction times also enable hotel owners to add capacity to their buildings while creating minimal disruptions for their guests.
Drawbacks of Modular Construction
There’s a Steep Learning Curve
While modular builds promise faster construction times with fewer delays and more predictable costs, these things are only the case if the contractors working with the supplier know how to prepare for and assemble modular buildings. They also need to time their labor so that site preparation is complete as close to when the modules are delivered as possible.
That makes choosing a contractor with experience in commercial module construction essential to the success of your project.
Errors Can Reduce or Eliminate Any Cost Savings
Errors generally fall into three categories: Design errors, which can make the modules incompatible with each other; manufacturing errors, which may only be discovered on-site; and assembly errors, which can compromise the structural integrity of the build.
Any of these errors can mean one or several different modules need to be remade, causing substantial delays, as the modules need to be fabricated, then delivered. These delays can reduce or eliminate any cost savings.
Modules Can Be Damaged During Shipping
While any construction material can be damaged during the shipping process, damage to modules is particularly problematic, as they’ll need to be constructed from scratch again. While most companies specializing in commercial modular construction have tight controls over their shipping, accidents happen—and those accidents can be particularly costly.
Despite the disadvantages of modular construction, we believe it to be a key piece of the future of the commercial construction industry. Here at Dub-L-EE Construction, we’re proud of the modular commercial construction work we’ve done—we look forward to the sector’s continued growth and the benefits it will provide to all stakeholders.