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First, let's describe what modular construction is.
Modular construction is a process in which a building is constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities – but in about half the time. Buildings are produced in “modules” that when put together on site, reflect the identical design intent and specifications of the most sophisticated site-built facility – without compromise.
Structurally, modular buildings are generally stronger than conventional construction because each module is engineered to independently withstand the rigors of transportation and craning onto foundations. Once together and sealed, the modules become one integrated wall, floor and roof assembly.
Building off site ensures better construction quality management. Materials that are delivered to the plant location are safely and securely stored in the manufacturer’s warehouse to prevent damage or deterioration from moisture and the elements. Manufacturing plants have stringent QA/QC programs with independent inspection and testing protocols that promote superior quality of construction every step of the way.
Beyond quality management and improved completion time, modular construction offers numerous other benefits to owners. Removing approximately 80% of the building construction activity from the site location significantly reduces site disruption, vehicular traffic and improves overall safety and security. So, for schools, hospitals, or other active businesses, reducing on-site activity and thereby eliminating a large part of the ongoing construction hazards, is a tremendous advantage.
For architects and owners alike, modular construction companies today can work with levels of design and construction sophistication that will exceed all expectations, rivaling their conventional counterparts. It is beneficial that when exploring the various project delivery methods, off-site construction is chosen early in the design development process, and the project built around that methodology, to avoid redesigning. Most modular companies, however, can take a stick built design and create a modular version when required, so it’s never too late to explore the possibilities!
As owners and designers look for more sustainable designs for improved environmental impact, modular construction is inherently a natural fit. Building in a controlled environment reduces waste through avoidance upstream rather than diversion downstream. This, along with improved quality management throughout the construction process and significantly less on-site activity and disturbance, inherently promotes sustainability.
High quality, sustainable, innovative, efficient, cost-effective, and shorter time to completion… “Why NOT Build Modular?”
The factory-controlled process generates less waste, creates fewer site disturbances and allows for tighter construction.
Construction of modular buildings occurs simultaneously with site work, allowing projects to be completed in half the time of traditional construction.
Modular buildings are built with the
same materials and to the same building codes and architectural specifications
as traditional construction. Once assembled, they are virtually indistinguishable from their site-built counterparts.
Permanent Modular Construction (PMC)
Permanent Modular Construction “PMC” is an innovative, sustainable construction delivery method utilizing offsite, lean manufacturing techniques to prefabricate single or multi-story whole building solutions in deliverable module sections. PMC buildings are manufactured in a safe and controlled setting, and can be constructed of wood, steel, or concrete. The structures are 60% to 90% completed in a factory-controlled environment, and transported and assembled at the final building site.
PMC modules can be integrated into site built projects or stand alone as a turn-key solution and can be delivered with MEP, fixtures and interior finishes in less time -- with less waste, and higher quality control compared to projects utilizing only traditional site build construction. A lot of research has come out in the last few years supporting the fact that modular construction is an efficient construction process and poised to help the industry grow.
A recent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Research Council identifies modular construction as an underutilized resource and a breakthrough for the U.S. construction industry to advance its competitiveness and efficiency.
“Manufacturing building components off-site provides for more controlled conditions and allows for improved quality and precision in the fabrication of the component.”
Relocatable Buildings (RBs)
A Relocatable Building (RB) is a partially or completely assembled building that complies with applicable codes or state regulations and is constructed in a building manufacturing facility using a modular construction process. Relocatable modular buildings are designed to be reused or repurposed multiple times and transported to different building sites.
Relocatable modular buildings are utilized for schools, construction site offices, medical clinics, sales centers and in any application where a relocatable building can meet a temporary space need. These buildings offer fast delivery, ease of relocation, low-cost reconfiguration, accelerated depreciation schedules and enormous flexibility. Relocatable modular buildings are not permanently affixed to real estate but are installed in accordance with manufacturer’s installation guidelines and local code requirements. These buildings are essential in cases where speed, temporary space and the ability to relocate are necessary.
FMI Corporation reported in its fourth quarter 2010 Nonresidential Construction Index that modular construction is considered a growth opportunity for the industry. Of the panelists surveyed 49% expect growth to exceed 5%. Panelists expect this area to grow faster than the market in general due the growing use of BIM, owners wanting projects faster and for lower cost, safety, quality and the shortage of skilled labor once markets return to more normal growth.
THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE VIRGINIA TECH FOR THE MASTER OF SCIENCE IN ARCHITECTURE
A Case Study Approach to Identifying the Constraints and Barriers to Design Innovation for Modular Construction
- Joseph M. Schoenborn
It is important for an architect to understand the limiting factors that will affect the design of a modular building. The implementation of modular construction as a means of improving production efficiency and worker safety in the construction industry raises into question the design quality of modular buildings, and whether or not the merits of the building process can also be captured from the perspective of the architect. For this reason, the constraints and barriers to design innovation in modular construction are recorded through the lens of an architect.
This study uses interviews with modular manufacturers to extract information on the topic of innovation in the industry. Featuring a case study project as the platform for discussion, the opinions of experienced building professionals were sought to identify what is and what isn’t possible. Among the primary constraints and barriers to innovation, including manufacturing costs, dimensional requirements based on transportation method, and the infl exibility of CAM software, the results of the study identified a need for architects to become better educated about modular construction in general. Therefore, the information presented is meant to be a teaching tool geared towards architects.