Modular building processes are certainly not new to the construction industry. They are, however, becoming more mainstream than ever. Current construction trends such as the growing demand for green construction practices, increased use of technology and the need to create more financially feasible projects are just some of the driving forces behind putting modular housing into the mainstream.
Buildings architecturally designed to be built in modules are highly adaptable in both form and function. The design can be as simple or as elaborate as a client requires – from single family homes and cottages to high rise apartment buildings and hospitals. For example, in 2011, the US Army Corp of Engineers decided to use modular construction methods to build the Fort Sam Houston Medical Education and Training Complex Barracks in San Antonio, Texas. The project consisted of 1705 modules – or 1.6 million square feet. There were five buildings in total, 4 storey’s high, each comprised of 341 modules and each building was completed in about eight weeks. (source: McGraw Hill’s 2011 Report on Prefabrication and Modularization)
Many commercial builders are choosing modular construction simply because the speed of the building process ensures a faster return on their investment. McDonalds Restaurants, for instance, uses prefabricated structures for their buildings and set a record of constructing a building and opening for business within 13 hours (on prepared ground works). (source: Department of Construction Industry Report 2001, Scotland) Petro-Canada chooses modular building processes for its new stores because of the speed to market, reduced site disruption and reduced project management requirements. It is also much more financially feasible and environmentally sensitive to disassemble and transport a decommissioned store to a new site than to demolish it. (source: Modular Building Institute Case Study Winter 2011)
According to a study done by McGraw Hill Construction in 2011, while reported uses of prefabrication/modularization are already quite high, by 2013 – it is expected that 98% of current construction industry players will be users of prefabrication/modularization.