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What are the benefits of modular building?

They are rolling off the construction lines in greater numbers than ever before. Bathroom units, interior walls, external facades and even entire apartment shells – the UK is currently seeing a boom in modular building. Studies indicate that the market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate of 4.5% and will increase from about 8% of all new homes built to 20% within the decade.

If your firm is considering entering the growing market for modular building, it is important to develop a business case. So, what exactly is modular construction, and how might it benefit your company?

Modular mixed-use buildings

What is modular construction?

Modular construction is a form of building that uses manufacturing techniques to produce a building’s components on an assembly line. These elements are then transported to a site and fitted together. It is possible to prefabricate almost any part of a building in a factory – from floors to window frames to walls or even structural shells. Some companies build entire homes using this technique, but it’s more common to prefabricate some parts in a factory and build other sections on site.

Modular construction has existed in some form or another for centuries but saw a boom in the decades following the Second World War. In the UK, prefab buildings were thrown up quickly to respond to the high demand for housing in the 1950s. However, low quality and poor maintenance meant this construction method developed a poor reputation.

However, over the last decade or so interest in modular construction has seen a real resurgence and seen some of the most exciting recent innovations in construction technology. Leaders in this field, such as Japan and the Nordic countries, have shown the rest of the world that modular buildings can be both efficient and attractive to buyers.

Related: Benefits of 3D printing in construction

7 benefits of modular building

Modular construction is certainly not for everyone. Some firms may find the approach limits them or is simply not appropriate for the kind of work they do. Nevertheless, there are many examples of successful modular housing schemes, public buildings, commercial structures and much more, indicating that this is an approach with real potential.

There are seven key benefits:

  1. Faster construction
  2. Lower building costs
  3. Requires fewer workers
  4. Reduces waste
  5. Causes less disruption around the building site
  6. Has a lower environmental impact
  7. Enables greater quality control

 

Here is a deeper look at each of the benefits of modular building:

  1. Faster construction

Modular construction can significantly speed up building time – and it does this at many different stages of a project. At the manufacturing stage, modular allows firms to produce components faster because of the repeatability that manufacturing allows. There are also fewer delays – working in a dry, indoor environment means that you prevent the weather from interrupting production. Once prefabricated parts reach the building site, fixing them together takes much less time than traditional methods such as pouring concrete and laying bricks.

  1. Lower building costs

Modular construction also reduces costs significantly. Modular buildings tend to require fewer labourers on-site, thereby bringing down one of building’s biggest outlays. It also requires less equipment – which saves on rental and energy.  Manufacturing also allows for more precise planning which reduces the risk of ordering more material than required.

  1. Address labour shortages

The UK is currently experiencing acute labour shortages in the construction sector. Using a form of building that requires fewer workers can help to at least partially address this problem.

Case study: Learn how Coventry firm Innovare benefits from modular construction

  1. Reduces waste

The construction industry is responsible for over 60% of all waste in the UK. Modular construction helps here, thanks to the efficiency of manufacturing. By using BIM, production managers can define exactly how much of each material they will need for a project. As a result, they can avoid ordering too much material.

Modular buildings are also easier to take apart and recycle. Whether it’s entire prefabricated office buildings, or individual components (wall frames or facades), it’s possible to take these buildings apart and re-use materials later. This further reduces waste.

  1. Less disruption

Since modular building tends to be quicker than more traditional methods, there is less disruption around a site. You need fewer deliveries to the site and projects take significantly less time to complete. That means fewer traffic jams and therefore greater acceptance from nearby residents.

  1. Lower environmental impact

Modular construction achieves a much lower environmental impact than other more traditional building methods. Since most of the building takes place in a factory, the process releases much less dust and pollution into the surrounding area when putting up the building itself.

There are also fewer carbon emissions associated with producing modular buildings. It is simply more energy efficient when you can construct components in a factory compared to directly on site.

  1. Greater quality control

When putting together a component in a factory environment, it is possible for the production manager to perform far more rigorous quality control assessments than on a traditional building site. Visual inspections and snagging can be done much more easily and take significantly less time than if the project manager has to walk around a half-built structure.

Is modular building right for your firm?

Modular could be a seriously attractive option for many construction firms. With its reduced costs, efficiency, environmental benefits and high-profit potential, it can really meet the needs of many builders today. Of course, modular buildings are not for everyone, and it won’t be appropriate for every firm. But, with the market set to expand significantly in the coming years, those who opt for this approach to construction can expect to see some serious benefits.

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