There can be a lot of confusion in the terminology used in the prefab and modular construction industry. This article will debunk and discuss some of the issues and use cases for offsite types of construction. Construction is simply defined as the building of large structures, so “modular construction” is simply the use of parts and pieces called modules to build larger structures. In fact, almost all construction is already modular. Door knobs, faucets, windows, and many other components are already pre-assembled or pre-cut.
So modular construction is not new and is not an industry by itself. It is used by manufacturers in the industry as a term for highly repeatable or mass manufactured buildings like mobile homes, apartment complexes where the same unit is repeated, or even single family homes where there is a limited selection of houses. There is a distinction between modular construction as a construction tool and as the developed sub industry that we see.
Now let’s compare offsite processes to what we call stick built construction. In the typical stick built construction process you see the following elements:
- You need a piece of land to build on
- You typically only bring subcontractors in a specific order
- Each subcontractor is a specialist
- Your speed is limited by the number of sequences to build the building
And in the modular construction process here are the key parts:
- You break down the building to replicable parts
- You build the replicable parts in parallel to key parts like foundation
- You create repeatable processes that don’t need skilled labor
Okay, so let’s dive into when you should and shouldn’t use modular construction as a tool. If you answer yes to any of these questions, then modular will be helpful:
- Will you need to move your building?
- Does your building have repeatable well defined units?
- Do you need to build very quickly?
- Are you building a lot of repeatable units?
Interested to learn more about this topic? Check out these articles:
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