Modular construction is a process in which a building is ‘made’ off-site, under controlled factory conditions, using conventional and new building materials and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built buildings – but much faster and smarter.
Buildings are produced in “modules” that when put together on site, reflect the identical design intent and specifications of the most sophisticated site-built buildings, without compromise. Structurally, modular buildings are generally stronger than conventional construction because each module is engineered to independently withstand the rigors of transportation and craning onto foundations and onto each other. Once together and sealed, the modules become one integrated wall, floor and roof assembly; one integrated structural system. Building off-site ensures better construction quality management. Materials that are delivered to the factory location are safely and securely stored at the factory to prevent damage or deterioration from moisture and the elements. Factories have stringent QA/QC programs with independent inspection and testing protocols that promote superior quality of manufacture at all stages.
Beyond quality management and improved completion time, modular construction offers numerous other benefits to owners, builders and developers. Removing up to 80% of the building construction activity from on site significantly reduces site disruption, vehicular traffic, site waste, construction hazards, on-site costs generally and greatly reduces disruption to neighbourhood amenity. Prefabricated modular construction works for all levels of design and construction. It is both simple and sophisticated using both traditional and modern methods of construction and materials. For maximum benefit when exploring the various project delivery methods, prefabricated modular construction should be chosen early in the design development process and the project built around that methodology to avoid trying to adapt non manufactured building design.
Prefabricated modular construction is inherently a natural fit for sustainable designs for improved environmental impact. Building in a controlled environment reduces waste through avoidance in the total planning and design, which occurs before any manufacturing commences. Unlike on-site construction, materials and labour come and go at irregular intervals to site requiring multiple handling, storage costs, cranes and hoists, damage and eventually considerable waste removal. This, along with improved quality management throughout the manufacturing process, significantly less on-site activity and disturbance, inherently promotes sustainability. Prefabricated modular construction ‘builds’ off-site and ‘assembles’ on site.
MODULAR CONSTRUCTION, A BETTER WAY FOR GREEN BUILDING
Energy costs are very high and rising. Conventional on-site building construction using heavy masonry and ‘leaking’ buildings is struggling to meet energy Star Ratings as required by the Building Code of Australia. A close analysis and inspection of onsite insulation and construction methods can reveal the theoretically achieved energy ratings are actually not achieved and in fact decrease markedly over the first few years of a building’s lifespan. This is an invisible and growing cost in the running of buildings. Up to 90 percent of modular ‘construction’ takes place in a factory off site. Modules are shipped with interior fixtures, flooring, finishes and appliances in place leaving minimal site work left before a building is finished. Modular buildings must and do meet the same codes as site-built buildings and often exceed the building standards. Skilled tradespeople, unskilled labour, resources and materials are located in a single location during manufacturing and provide key benefits when it comes to green building.
Reduced Material Waste
With conventional construction comes significant waste. According to the Website constructionwaste.sustainablesources.com, 3.63 tonne of waste is typically thrown into a landfill for conventional construction of a 200m2 home. While waste recycling is gaining momentum for conventional construction, factories making modular homes consistently utilize leftover material from one project in additional projects in the factory. They also have less damage to materials, controlled storage and forward procurement planning. There are less handling and less transport and freight costs by delivering to the factory. This equates to lower fuel consumption and lower carbon footprint.
More Sustainable Living Upon Completion
It is an essential requirement to fully design and detail a building before manufacturing commences. The manufacturing process enables very high accuracy of fabrication, the use of modern insulation materials and high quality control. All services are installed in the factory – conduits, cables, piping and ducting. Air leakage is avoided and highly energy efficient buildings are created. Controlled ventilation ensures healthier buildings. The cost to run them is greatly reduced. On Modular.org, the official site for the Modular Building Institute, it states, “As owners and designers look for more sustainable designs for improved environmental impact, modular construction is inherently a natural fit.”
Prefabricated building systems
Accurate – small tolerances
High quality finish – at any level
Fully planned and documented
Manufactured NOT built
No weather delays
Reduced carbon generation
Very short site time
Safer way to ‘build’
Mainly low or semi-skilled labour
Fast on site assembly & installation
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