The current state of construction materials shortages is causing companies to look at many alternative methods to put up buildings. At the same time, the construction industry is changing with advancements in technology. The construction industry accounts for 6% of global gross domestic product, and these buildings produce 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the alternative construction methods being considered to replace traditional construction practices is modular, or prefabricated, buildings, due to the many advantages that come along with it.
What is Modular Construction?
Modular construction is construction of different modules of a building off-site in a controlled environment, using the same materials, building codes, and standards as a conventional building, and later assembling these modules on-site.
The potential of modular buildings is limitless. They can be used as:
- Mobile classrooms
- Corporate offices
- Modular housing
- Portable offices
- Structures that can be disassembled
- Military construction
Modular construction provides solutions for owners that are working with tight budgets, frequently change locations, require unique customizations, and follow eco-friendly construction practices.
Is Modular building the efficient construction method of the future? And how is it sustainable?
- Reduced building costs – Reduced construction time ultimately results in reduced building costs. Modular construction provides the greatest cost savings for projects that have high labor-intensive activities and repeated processes.
- Accelerated building schedules – If a project has time constraints, modular is a very good option. Building schedules can be reduced by 20%-30%.
- Safer working conditions – A modular building allows up to 80% of the traditional labor activity to be shifted offsite to a manufacturing facility, eliminating several onsite risks and hazards.
- Re-usable nature of modular buildings – Modular buildings can be dismantled, relocated, and re-used without having to make changes.
- Green alternative – Modular buildings require considerably reduced amount of operational energy and cut out the waste and overall usage of materials, require smaller onsite crews, reduce transportation materials to and from the site, and a shorter project schedule results from an overall reduced demand for resources.
Modular construction is popular in markets with a higher demand for housing or labor shortages in the building trades. Many companies are faced with a limited supply of skilled labor, which requires higher wages and drives up costs. The always-changing construction industry and advancements in technology make modular construction a viable option.
Example of Modular Construction
Shingobee Builders has constructed several modular buildings in the past. An example is a convenience store that was constructed in Williston, North Dakota (pictured).
The building system included prebuilt exterior walls, with all the exterior wall finishes completed. The convenience store was erected and ready for roofing material in four days.
A considerable amount of time was saved on the exterior finishes, allowing mechanical, electrical, and plumbing trades to begin work right away inside the building.
With the project’s location and time of the year, using a modular building allowed Shingobee to finish the project before North Dakota’s harsh winter. It also helped to avoid any labor constraints that could potentially lead to delays and increased costs.
The current construction environment, with extreme labor and material shortages, is a good time to consider modular buildings for some commercial construction projects. Their potential for cost and schedule efficiency, as well as sustainable aspects, make them a smart choice in the right circumstances.
About the Author
Shane Johnson has been a project manager with Shingobee for five years and has over 15 years of experience in commercial construction. He has managed numerous retail projects, for clients such as Holiday Stationstores, Casey’s, and ALDI Food Stores. Shane serves his community as a reserve police officer for the City of St. Joseph, MN.