Construction Supply Chain

Modular Construction 101

A structure made up of one or more modules is known as a modular building. Modular Construction is one of the hottest topics in the Construction Industry. If you are new to this concept, here is a 5-minute overview of what you need to know.

First, what is modular construction? 

Although modules follow the same logic in assembly and installation, there's a wide variety of functionality, materials used, and completeness available from the factory. For instance, some modules may come pre-equipped and include appliances and flooring. Other variants may ship less finished so that contractors can fit them out on site. The material of modules can vary as well. From wood to steel, the panels that make a modular unit differ according to the project's characteristics and end-user requirements.

Despite individual differences, all modules are manufactured in a factory setting, then assembled into the final project on-site.




What is the Difference Between Modular Construction and Prefabrication?

Prefabrication in construction means the manufacturing of building elements that are shipped to the site. Prefabrication is a term that includes any kind of material not constructed on-site. Modular panels, a pre-hung door, and other units would fall under the prefabricated category. Nevertheless, prefabrication often involves just the manufacturing of particular elements rather than units ready for installation. Modular construction has now evolved to a point where kitchen and bathroom units can be purchased and installed without any modification.

When does it make sense to take a modular approach? 

Although modular construction can be implemented in a variety of projects and has been increasingly leveraged in the last few years, it’s particularly beneficial for building structures that follow patterns. For instance, 300 hotel rooms might be just 5 different designs arranged through 10 floors. Prefabricating these modular units and assembling them on-site is faster than any other construction method. This example can be extended to healthcare facilities, data centers, multi-family units, schools, and many other types of buildings.

Permanent vs. Relocatable Modular Construction

The flexibility of modular construction allows the development of two types of buildings: relocatable and permanent structures. The former can be moved after they have been installed in order to repurpose them. For instance, these modular buildings are often temporary office spaces, schools, and even hospital units that need to be constantly relocated.

On the other hand, in permanent modular construction (PMC), modules are manufactured in factories and then shipped to the site where they will be permanently located. In contrast with relocatable modular construction, the buildings PMC produces are more customizable and vary in size and other specifications. Furthermore, since it creates permanent structures, PMC is often chosen for almost any construction project with a modular approach: From single-story homes to large industrial facilities such as data centers or process plants.

What are the Benefits of Modular Construction?

Compared with traditional methods of construction, modular construction offers a range of benefits that may make it an ideal choice for your project: 

  • Reduced delays: weather conditions don’t affect the project’s schedule when manufacturing in a factory setting. Without weather affecting manufacturing, time savings can be achieved, and deadlines are more likely to be met.

  • Waste reduction: Factory environments also improve the quality of the building elements produced. The possibility of closely monitoring the development of each manufactured component and optimizing the use of resources results in waste reduction and a more sustainable approach to construction.

  • Parallel Operations: As module units are fabricated, the construction process can also be carried out simultaneously. While workers are manufacturing building elements or complete module units, foundations can be established on the site. This speeds up the construction process and saves both time and money.

  • Usability: Modular projects can be modified over time by adding or subtracting modules. Through these modifications, facilities can be reutilized for a different purpose than their original one.

  • More Accessible Labor Pool: Modular construction occurs in a factory setting. When building in an area with a small labor pool this is beneficial as temporary workers do not need to relocate or travel to the site for a project.  

  • Quality: Modular units can be made of materials such as Structural Insulated Panels (SIP). These panels not only provide thermal insulation but also cold resistance. This means they may be a hardier option than utilizing conventional methods such as traditional stick-built structures. In addition, since they are manufactured in factories, there’s less risk of moisture, mold, mildew, and rust occurring during the build process.

Want to learn more about implementing a modular approach for your next project? 

Modular construction is evolving as a more efficient and sustainable way of approaching construction. At KDI, we believe that a modular approach to construction leads to streamlined operations throughout the construction supply chain and results in a higher quality product. Want to learn more about how you can implement a modular strategy for your next project? Let's talk shop!


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