Modular construction, it’s one of the hot words in construction right now and rightfully so. For the last hundred years we’ve been building the same. Put up a crane, pour a foundation and stick build the remainder of the building. Modular construction is a way of re-thinking how we typically build.
What Is Modular Construction?
Modular construction or off-site construction involves removing some of the on-site production and instead, fabricating components of a building in a factory. Once the component is complete off site it is than shipped to the job site where it is installed in place.
Some of the benefits to constructing using a modular construction technique involve:
- Increased productivity (material is always stored nearby and you’re working in a controlled environment)
- Reduced costs due to the repetitiveness
- Improved quality as the inspection and process can be monitored much more closely
What Are Some Examples of Modular Construction?
While there are many examples of this building practice in use throughout the world some of the most extreme examples are the most interesting. When you consider that entire buildings are being constructed in China off-site you start to understand just how revolutionary this building practice is.
You likely don’t have the facility to build an entire building using this practice so what are some examples of things we can all fabricate off site? For that we recommend reviewing your drawings and specifications for repetitive components.
Some easy examples are temporary construction type items:
- Temporary Hoarding
- Ramps and Stairs
- Temporary electrical panels
Beyond those you can consider actually pre-fabricating permanent building components, some examples are:
- Doors and Hardware (mounting hardware on doors and painting them before they arrive on site)
- Bathrooms – if you’re building a high rise consider fabricating them entirely off site
- Facade components – building wall panels which include the stud, window and any cladding completely off site, and securing them in place on site
- Stairs and Ramps – fabricate entirely off site and drop in place
These are just a few examples, essentially anything that is repeated enough to make it the gained efficiency of doing the work off site is worth it.
What Are Some Of The Downsides of Modular Construction?
You’re probably thinking that you’ve read this type of article before. Upselling the benefits of this new construction methodology. The truth is modular construction isn’t the greatest in all circumstances. There are a number of instances where it makes more sense to build on site:
Existing Buildings – existing buildings provide unique challenges. The main two that hamper off site construction include access and tolerances. Fabricating off site requires that you maintain tight tolerances on site, an existing building can vary alot and may pose a challenge to fabricating off site.
Non-Repetitive or Unique Work – if the number of times something is repeated is less than ten it may be faster and easier to construct them using typical construction methods.
Maintaining the Work Flow – one of the main challenges with off-site construction is that you need to employ a separate crew at a different facility to make it work. Keeping that crew busy the five days a week can be a challenge if your work log isn’t substantial.
What Do I Need To Get Started in Modular Construction?
One of the most important things you need to know about getting into modular construction is that it takes up alot of space. Companies such as Ford or Tesla make more money by refining each step of their fabrication process. Making each step a second quicker can mean greater returns on each vehicle. Modular construction is no different, and creating the assembly line to allow those types of changes requires space, lots of it. To start you will likely need a small factory space to start setting up your assembly line.
Once you have your assembly space you’ll need a few other critical components, these include tools and machinery and people. These are the main tools you will need in your arsenal to make your modular construction yard a reality.
Modular construction is not an easy construction technique to get into, however, if done right it can help to boost your construction business and give you an edge of the competition. Are you using modular construction techniques in your business? Let us know in the comments below.