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January 18, 2021

Off-site construction has gone through highs and lows as a preferred construction process over several decades. Once used in the post-WWII era as a means of accelerating developments, particularly for residential housing projects, the practice has been revitalized in recent years as modern technology makes it a popular way to streamline construction.

It’s now commonly known as modular construction, and it’s commonly used by developers across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Modular construction allows prefabrication and development to occur off-site of where the building will be located, and then the assembled components are transported to the building site where they’re connected into the finished product.

You might be asking; how does modular construction differ from standard best practices, and what is the cost-benefit analysis of modular developments compared to traditional construction? “What are the pros and cons of modular construction?”, well that’s what we’re going to look into with this article.

House exterior with modern pool

What is modular construction?

Modular construction involves the development of structures in a factory or some industrial site before the structures are then transported to the building site for final assembly and completion.

During the prefabrication process, modules are used to shape the development. Using technology, the modules function as highly sophisticated building blocks that assemble the various elements of the project in question until it’s ready for transport to the building site.

Once the modules arrive on-site, work crews position the structures into the exact location they should be set, based on the design specifications outlined by the architect for the project. The modules are then set in place and the building comes together. From there, the crews are able to complete the remaining steps in the construction checklist until the job is complete.

pros and cons of modular construction

Modular construction is a more technologically advanced way of developing a building or an entire complex of structures. It has both advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional steps in commercial construction.

Costs

While it’s not universal, modular construction typically results in significant cost savings for developers. One of the biggest advantages is that work on the modules can proceed in the factories as the foundation for the building site is poured and finished. This allows work to move ahead on the building itself as the foundation is set, reducing the overall time to complete the project and, therefore, providing significant cost reductions as a result of those savings.

Construction time

Since the modules are developed in a factory, weather conditions have no effect on how the project progresses. Delays caused by weather increase the overall cost of traditional construction projects, and those delays are avoidable using a modular process.

Acoustics

Acoustic insulation performance is often more effective with modular constructed buildings than with traditionally built structures. The acoustics from modular developments help control temperatures within the building and maintain both a thermal and environmentally friendly atmosphere that helps maintain comfort and control.

Interior of a modular building

Room size

As modular construction uses modules for standardized spacing, it’s faster and easier to develop space for homes, offices, restaurants, and other structures. The dimensions for the room size are set, and the modules are capable of standardizing that space for each and every piece of the building constructed in that factory space.

Financing

Suppose you’re building a home that’s being developed in a suburban space where each of the houses are identical. It’s very possible that you’ll use modular construction to develop those houses, and there are financial institutions that specialize in providing mortgages and financing to pay for the developments.

Resale value

While there are many advantages to modular construction, there are a few notable disadvantages, particularly in the residential market. There’s a perceived lesser value on modular homes compared to non-modular residences, which can impact the resale value of the property. Keep that in mind if ever you choose to invest in a modular home; there are benefits, but you may have to overcome a social stigma to sell it for the value you want to achieve.

Land restrictions

Since modular buildings are standardized, there’s little room for customization; largely, this is because there’s only a limited amount of land space available. Once the building is complete, there’s very few opportunities to develop extensions or add-ons to the existing structure. You’ll need to be satisfied with the initial development if you plan to own a modular home.

Is modular construction cheaper than traditional construction?

In order to properly budget for a construction project, developers use various methods to anticipate costs for the project. One common method is to calculate the average construction cost per square foot, and use that number as a guide to keep the cost of the entire project on track. If the average cost appears to be rising, modifications need to be made to lower costs.

However, modular construction is less expensive than traditional construction because of how the modules are standardized, and the technology reduces the time and labour required to complete the job. All in, modular construction will, on average, save between 10 to 20 percent of construction costs per square foot.

Savings on transportation and materials

We’re beating a common drum with this point, but the benefit of developing parts of the building while the foundation work gets underway saves an abundance in labour costs and materials, including with concrete. The technology used to build the modules knows how to use the exact amount of concrete necessary to develop the buildings. Since the modules are standardized, it allows construction managers to order the exact amount of required materials without having to go over budget with additional materials.

As there are fewer orders for materials, the savings extend to transportation. Fewer materials means fewer trips to the job site, which means those shipping costs can be budgeted back into the development. The only real transportation costs will be when the modules are finished and must be transported to the building site.

Modular Construction

Final thoughts

Modular construction has its ups and downs but, at the end of the day, it allows construction work to be completed faster, easier, and with standardized practices that streamline the entire operation. It encompasses a shift in how construction work is being done, and enables project managers to get building sites developed and finalized in a much more efficient way.

Looking for a modular construction partner? We can handle it from start to finish so you can focus on the growth of the brand. Get in touch with the experts at (905) 696-0486 or email [email protected] for more details.