Why Build Modular?
Modular buildings are everywhere. The global construction landscape is changing fast, and modular building methods are becoming increasingly popular with developers, contractors and architects on projects all around the world.
Modular building methods are revolutionising the way we build - but why is it so popular?
In this guide, we’ll explore what a modular building actually is, where they can be used, how they compare to traditional building methods, and the benefits of choosing modular buildings over traditional structures.
What is a modular building?
Let’s start with a quick overview of what a modular building actually is:
Modular buildings (also known as prefabricated buildings) are structures made up of multiple pre-fabricated sections, know as modules. Each of these sections (modules) is manufactured in a factory, before being transported to the building site.
Once on site, these modules are then assembled and joined together to make the final structure. Depending on the design of the building, the modules can be stacked, laid side to side, or assembled end to end to create the desired structure.
Modular buildings are created using many of the same materials used in traditional structures – wood, concrete and steel.
Where can modular buildings be used?
Think of modular buildings, and the first thing that probably comes to mind is portable classrooms and temporary welfare buildings. In reality, it goes far beyond that.
Modular buildings are extremely versatile – they can be used instead of conventional methods on a huge range of different projects. Today, modular buildings are commonly used for the construction of temporary, long term and permanent buildings across a huge range of different sectors, including:
- Public sector
- Apartment blocks, offices and mixed-use buildings
- Industrial facilities
- Commercial and marketing buildings
Simply put, it can be used in place of traditional construction or alongside conventional construction methods in pretty much any project, across a full range of industries, and in a full range of environments.
Modular Building vs Conventional Structures
This infographic shows a quick comparison between modular buildings and conventional structures in terms of the cost, design, construction, build time, lifespan and environmental impact:
The benefits of modular buildings
Modular buildings have some real advantages over conventional construction techniques, in terms of:
- Build time
- Carbon footprint
- Quality and consistency
- Running costs
Modular buildings are significantly cheaper to create than conventional structures – a new modular building can be up to 35% cheaper.
This is because the modular building process is:
- Less labour intensive
- Not impacted by bad weather
- Conducted off-site
- More efficient – using fewer materials and creating less waste
This creates cost savings throughout the process in terms of:
- Fuel & transport
- Delays and site disruption
- Material costs
In many cases, modular buildings can also be reused, repurposed and relocated.
By choosing to purchase a used modular building, it’s possible to make savings of around 50% on the cost of building a traditional structure from scratch using conventional methods.
The modular building process is significantly faster than conventional construction. This makes it ideal for time sensitive projects, and for minimising disruption in and around the site.
Typically, modular building methods can deliver time-savings of between 30% and 50% over traditional builds:
This is due to:
- Off-site manufacturing - modules can be fabricated at the same time as the foundation work is done on site
- Factory conditions – up to 90% of the construction work is completed indoors, eliminating delays due to bad weather
- Streamlined planning – in many sectors, the planning and building regulations concerning the erection of modular buildings are more lenient than for traditional builds, meaning less time spent in planning.
For extremely time sensitive projects, used modular buildings can be delivered and assembled on-site in as little as a few weeks.
The modular building process is much more environmentally friendly and sustainable than traditional building methods.
It takes up to 67% less energy to manufacture a modular building than it does to build a conventional structure. When life-cycle costs are factored in, modular buildings can deliver a lifetime energy saving of up to 90%.
This is due to:
- The manufacturing process – manufacturing offsite in controlled factory conditions maximises efficiency, cutting time and waste.
- Installation and assembly – whilst modular buildings do require assembly, this process requires significantly fewer vehicle movements than traditional construction methods. On a typical build, on-site traffic is reduced by up to 90%, reducing fuel usage and vehicle emissions.
- Running costs - By law, all new and used modular buildings need to comply with the latest L2 Building Regulations – rules which deal with the thermal efficiency and heat loss of a building. In many cases, modular buildings cost significantly less to run and heat than traditional structures.
- End of life disposal – modular buildings can also be easily relocated, refurbished and repurposed. Once they come to the end of their life, they are easy to dismantle and recycle, minimising waste and lifetime environmental impact.
Quality & consistency
Modular buildings are fabricated to meet (and in some cases exceed) the same building codes and standards as traditional structures.
They are precision manufactured using the same high performance materials used in conventionally constructed buildings. However, these materials are stored off-site in controlled environments, ensuring increased consistency across the manufacturing process.
The result is that you can benefit from the same quality, durability, and longevity with modular buildings as you can with traditional builds.
Modular buildings are extremely versatile – and just as with conventional buildings, modular structures can be used for any purpose.
Modular building methods deliver significant flexibility benefits in terms of:
- Portability – they can be easily relocated and removed from site
- Reuse – the design of modular buildings means that they can be reused, redesigned and repurposed
- Expansion – a modular design makes it easier to expand structures to meet future needs
- Resale – there is a strong market for used modular buildings