What are modular office buildings – and how might they support post-pandemic work?
Modular construction is on the rise worldwide. And, within this market, modular office buildings are perhaps the fastest-growing sector. Research in the United States shows that almost half of all modular construction is focused on the commercial office market.
Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have questioned the purpose of traditional office space. They’re reevaluating both how much of it they need, and where it should be located. But despite the rise in home working, there are good reasons to believe there will be demand for more office space in future – and modular office building could play an important role in responding to this demand.
So, what is a modular office building, and how could it help us to adapt to the post-pandemic working world?
Not the death of the office
Despite gloomy predictions at the start of the pandemic, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the commercial office market. Studies show that many staff are looking to return to the office and that, if anything, firms may want more office space in future. Here are some reasons why we may see an increase in the construction of offices:
Post-pandemic, employees may be reluctant to commute long distances in packed trains to work at their companies’ headquarters. Yet if they don’t have space to work in their own homes, they will need places to do their jobs. Therefore, we may see the emergence of smaller office buildings located in suburban areas where staff can rent a desk.
Clusters and satellite offices
On a similar theme, many businesses are reconsidering whether they need all their staff working in a central office in a major city. Besides the cost of city centre real estate, a disease outbreak is more likely if all your staff are working in one building. To reduce risk and save money, we might see many firms operating satellite offices, where back-office teams work in lower-cost locations. Meanwhile, customer-facing staff might continue to work at headquarters.
Maintaining social distancing
Before the pandemic, office managers were trying to pack more employees into existing floorspace. However, in future it’s likely staff will insist on a minimum of personal space to reduce the spread of all kinds of disease (including future COVID variants). This could mean that firms will start looking to increase the amount of office space they have – either on existing sites or further afield.
These trends make it likely that companies consider buying or renting a wider variety of office space in more locations. And modular office building can help developers rapidly respond to that demand.
What is a modular office building?
A modular office building uses the principles of modular construction to provide flexible, high-quality office space. Unlike traditional construction methods, modular building uses manufacturing to produce most parts of a structure. The parts are then transported to a building site and assembled.
This approach to construction has many benefits, not least the fact that it can be up to 50% faster and is significantly less expensive while being more environmentally sound too. Modular buildings contain all the same features as traditional offices, including meeting rooms, kitchenettes, bathrooms, general-purpose workspace, and reception areas.
There are several different types of modular office buildings available. These include:
- Portable modular office buildings: As the name suggests, you can relocate portable buildings as and when you need. They are especially popular if a company needs a temporary office near a site. They are already commonly used in industries like construction, civil engineering, mining, etc.
- Standardised modular buildings: One of the great benefits of modular construction is that it draws on manufacturing processes that allow the manufacturer to produce hundreds of identical parts. When it comes to office buildings, the customer can simply order a readymade design that will fit their needs.
- Customized modular office building: A custom modular office building still uses manufacturing techniques, but the end product is more bespoke to the needs of the customer or the space available. While this is more expensive and time-consuming than standard modular construction, it is still usually more efficient than traditional construction.
Why choose modular office buildings?
If your organisation is looking to meet the changing trends in office demand, modular office buildings provide plenty of benefits:
- Lower cost: As noted above, it is significantly cheaper to build a modular office building than using traditional construction methods.
- Speed of construction: Using the manufacturing process means that the weather is less likely to delay construction. Assembling parts on a site is also potentially extremely speedy (taking as little as a couple of days).
- Identical design and branding: If a company operates several offices, using modular construction can really contribute to brand identity and a seamless experience for employees and visitors. With modular construction, all of the company’s buildings can look and feel the same as each other.
- Attractive design: Many of today’s modular office designs are sophisticated, aesthetically pleasing and use attractive materials (such as timber). This can be much more appealing to potential buyers or tenants than a standard grey office building!
- Potential to modify: Depending on the design of the structure, it may be possible for the tenant to modify the internal layout of a modular office building. In some modular offices, for instance, it may be possible to move internal walls as the company’s requirements change.
Related: 7 benefits of modular construction
An exciting future for modular office buildings
With changes in expectations about where offices are located and how these spaces are used, it seems reasonable to expect growth in flexible office space in the coming years. And with their speed of construction, flexibility, and low cost, modular office buildings will surely play an important role.