For the construction of new schools, health care facilities, commercial office spaces, and retail showrooms, many developers, general contractors, and architects are now turning to the modular construction process.
In 2017, permanent modular construction accounted for 3.27% of all new construction starts in North America, and the Modular Building Institute states that the industry goal is for modular building to represent 5% of all new commercial construction by 2022.
Modular construction offers a range of unique benefits over traditional construction, including improved timelines, lower costs, a dedicated labor force, and increased safety. These four key advantages are discussed in further detail below.
1. Shorter Time to Occupancy
With the modular construction process. buildings are designed and constructed as individual modules that are then assembled into the final structure. The modules are built in an offsite manufacturing facility using an assembly line process, and then delivered to the build site for final assembly.
Time savings is one of the most significant advantages of modular building. During a traditional construction project, site development and building foundation must be completed before any actual building can start. But during a modular construction project, the building process takes place offsite and can be completed at the same time as on-site preparation is taking place. For this reason, project timelines can be cut by up to half, and modular buildings can be completed in two to three months.
2. Reduced Material Costs
The assembly line construction process used in prefabricated building processes allows modular builders to streamline the purchase and inventory of raw materials. As the cost of building materials continually rises, an efficient purchasing process can help offset these costs and keep construction budgets in check.
Also, because the bulk of construction takes place in a climate-controlled and protected manufacturing environment, the risk of material loss due to weather conditions and theft is greatly reduced. Plus, leftover building materials can easily be used for the next modular project. By comparison, excess materials on a traditional construction site are often trashed.
3. Mitigation of the Labor Shortage
In the economic downturn of the 2000s, nearly 2 million construction jobs were lost. Since then, economic conditions such as unemployment, consumer spending, and business outlooks have improved. When other industries prosper, the positive effects extend to the construction field. However, many workers have not returned to the industry, and the demand for new construction is resurging.
Modular construction, though, has ways of working around the construction labor shortage. The offsite building component allows modular manufacturers to continue to operate efficiently, even with a small labor pool, and while it can be a challenge to find construction workers willing to travel between traditional on-site projects, modular building processes allow qualified employees to centralize at a single offsite facility.
The labor shortage is even more problematic when construction is taking place in remote locations. Traditionally, builders, plumbers, electricians, and heavy construction equipment would need to travel hundreds of miles out of the way to reach job sites. Modular construction circumvents this problem.
4. Improved Construction Safety
The leading causes of fatal injuries in the construction industry have remained consistent over the past few years: falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and being caught in or between objects. Collectively, these are referred to as the “Fatal Four.”
When the majority of the construction process is moved offsite, as it is with modular building processes, unique safety initiatives can be implemented that would be impossible on a traditional construction site. The following is a glimpse of how alternative construction methods can improve safety conditions:
- Weather elements — Indoor modular construction minimizes the risk of weather-related injuries. When construction takes place in a weather-controlled environment, rain and snow can’t create slippery surfaces, cutting down on the risk of slips and falls. This also eliminates the risk of electrical lines being exposed to moisture, greatly reducing the chance of electrocution.
- Heights — With offsite construction, permanent scaffolding is used when workers are required to work from heights. The scaffolding used on traditional construction sites, on the other hand, is constantly being assembled and disassembled, opening up more opportunity for error and increasing the risk of injury.
- Congested construction activities — Using an assembly line-inspired construction process, offsite construction provides workers adequate space to perform their jobs. This also ensures less exposure to large construction vehicles moving around tight workspaces, meaning employees are less likely to be struck by machinery or caught between objects.
Getting Started With Modular Construction
To learn more about why construction professionals are increasingly turning to modular building methods, or to explore the first steps for your unique needs, contact a modular building professional in your area.
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