Modular construction is a construction practice where parts of a project are completed off site in a controlled environment and then moved to the location. Walls, roofs, rooms and sometimes entire buildings or wings of buildings can be completed modularly. Modular construction is a growing construction practice and is changing the nature of construction. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about modular construction.
There are a few different timelines on modular homes being purchasable. An article from the Modular Building Institute dates it back to the 1600s when a colonial American fisherman from England wanted to bring a good, English-built home with him across the ocean over to America. In the 1800s, preassembled homes were built in New York and then shipped across the country to California to help quickly establish cities and towns during the Gold Rush.
Most of the history of modular construction revolves around residential buildings and homes. Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line in 1913 really started to change this, too, making it easier than ever to construct buildings in quick succession. The housing crisis after WWII greatly benefited from modular home construction.
Sitting on the bottom of the earth, Halley VI Research Station currently resides on the Brunt Ice Shelf. The shelf is 150 meters of ice that is moving 400 meters towards the sea every year. With temperatures below -56˚C and winds that blow up to 160 kph, this research center needs to withstand perilous weather and an ever-changing landscape.
Halley VI was officially opened in 2013, 67 years after the first British Antarctic research base was founded. The research center is made up of eight modularly constructed pods, each fitted with hydraulic legs that can raise and lower to keep it above snow level. These legs are even fitted with retractable skis to allow it to be relocated as needed.
These pods were built and finished completely modularly in Cape Town, South Africa. 26 modular pieces were constructed to finish the eight pods. It can hold 32 people. The modular pieces were shipped whole down to Antarctica, unloaded from the boat and pulled 15 kms to their first destination before being reconnected.
The Halley VI research station is a true testament to the power of modular construction.
Sustainable construction needs modular construction. There are a few ways that modular construction is good for the environment. Projects that utilize modular practices can be completed between 25% - 50% faster than traditional construction. This reduces carbon emissions.
By constructing parts of a building off site, it reduces waste and unused or unneeded materials. Not only are these facilities specialists in building and know exactly what materials are needed but they are also climate controlled. Unexpected rain, snow hail or heat waves will not damage any materials left out. Building off site also means less noise pollution, truck and equipment traffic and improved recycling practice of unused products.
When you consider less waste, reduced construction equipment and shorter project times, the end result is money. More specifically, saving money. Modular construction is great for project budgets. Construction companies that are looking to reduce project costs will be turning to modular construction practices more and more. Technology like BIM will make identifying modular uses easier than ever, too.
Most people think that modularly constructed buildings are boring. They think of boxes or simple designs that lack imagination and will destroy the diversity in our architecture. In fact, the opposite is true.
Modular construction can take advantage of new building technologies that may be difficult to use on site. 3D printing, alternative building materials, sculpting and detailed carving and masonry can increase in use through modularization. Specialized workers can work on numerous projects all in one location instead of traveling to a bunch of sites.
With modular construction, office buildings, schools, homes and even hospitals can be more unique than ever.
Modular construction is a really cool innovative way to keep the construction industry moving. These 5 facts are just a few of the many cool things about this building trend. With technology advancing and new building materials being discovered every day, the future of construction - modular or not - is going to be more unique than ever.