Cost and Time Advantages of Modular Construction
The cost and time advantages of modular construction are two of many benefits this style of building provides. While money and schedule remain at the top of people’s priorities, efficiency, style and amenities comprise a big part of any major construction decisions.
Clients are consistently surprised by the modern look and diverse, custom options – as well as specialty builds – possible with modular architecture. The industry continues evolving to become progressively more innovative, respected, researched and competitive. Green technology keeps advancing to include better and more efficient building materials, electrical options, windows, HVAC systems and other components including green-energy possibilities.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology appointed a committee to study the construction industry and identify ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Among the committee’s main findings was this declaration of what could be done: “Greater use of prefabrication, preassembly, modularization and off-site fabrication techniques and processes.”
Site-built construction certainly has its benefits, but is also being scrutinized by some industry experts for waste and inefficiency. Many construction clients want more control, less mess and higher environmental conscientiousness, and modular architecture gives it to them.
Basic Mechanics of Modular Composition
Skilled workers construct modular buildings for dozens of commercial and residential uses and do the work indoors within a factory-like, assembly-line setting. There are tight controls on processes, secure storage of materials and, more importantly, weather never affects project completion times or safety.
Typically, modular construction comes in options of steel, wood or concrete composition, with choices for standard wooden studs or, if making a structure floodproof, metal studs. Your options are extensive for customizing your building or group of buildings with the materials you would like.
Modular construction is fast, easy, less expensive than stick-built construction and kind to the environment. Much of the modern modular architecture is designed to be permanent and sits on a concrete foundation, while other types of structures can be easily relocated for maximum flexibility.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) features an article on its website that praises the advances of modular architecture: “Permanent Modular Construction (PMC) is a growing method of building facilities that is proving that modern manufacturing practices can revolutionize the construction industry.”
Cost Advantages of Modular Construction
What are the cost advantages of modular construction? The cost of a build depends heavily on the project and its size, the site, design complexity and options selected from basic to luxury. Naturally, since you need less labor and fewer materials, you will pay less money. Costs also vary widely by region, with the most expensive contractor-built homes being in the Northeast.
It isn’t hard to find prices that range anywhere from 25 to 60 percent when comparing the cost of modular construction to site-built projects. Again, so much hinges on the individual characteristics of a project and its owner’s needs, but you can expect for your project to fall somewhere within that range.
The modular options hold the potential to cut costs over a stick-built project by a wide margin, whether the project is small or large. For a hypothetical example, take a quarter-million dollar project, then pick a conservative pre-estimate guess of what you could save using modular, say 35 percent, and it works out to $87,500 in savings.
The best way to accurately gauge costs is to plan the project well and think through all the options before getting started. The old standard of “no change orders” for lower cost holds true in both modular and site-built construction.
Design Cost Data magazine lists the 2014 costs of a three-story oyster house in Florida with stick-built construction that cost $195 per square foot and on-site industrial-building projects with per-square-foot prices between $48 and $207. Price comparison site Cost Owl puts commercial modular construction at a price range of $35-$100 per square foot.
A preview of the 2015 Craftsman National Building Cost Manual gives per-square-foot construction costs for a basic six-corner house at anywhere from $90-$225 and luxury homes for about double that.
Multiple sources say people have reported a cost-of-living advantage with residential modular construction; in one couple’s case, a savings of $30-$70 per month for their 2,100-square-foot home.
Time Advantages of Modular Construction
Generally, most sources agree on the modular construction time advantages. You can save 25 to 50 percent of the time you’d spend with a site-built project. If a skilled modular crew only spends half the time building your structure than a site-built crew would, your labor cost also gets cut in half.
About 90 percent of the build activity takes place indoors, which means the building process is nearly guaranteed to stay on schedule. That predictability and reliability enable you to count on timely project completion.
Development deals happen faster than they used to. As soon as the financing is approved on a handshake and before the proverbial contract ink is dry, the people involved want to see dirt moving and something happening, whether it’s an office-building deal or a school referendum that just passed. People ask when the new classrooms will be ready to accommodate students or when the apartments or expansion will be ready for occupation.
Modular Measures up to Environmental Excellence
Modular construction comes with environmental advantages and enables you to choose the level of sophistication that fits you and your purpose. By choosing modular, you’re typically repurposing materials while simultaneously keeping stuffing out of landfills. Industry estimates say about one-third of the material in them comes from on-site construction projects, while modular generates practically none. Modular architecture meets the Collaborative for High Performance Schools’ criteria and can achieve net-zero operations.
Technology and evolving construction styles continue to improve modular architecture and your options for environmentally friendly design. Modular buildings achieve certification in Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) with such elements as alternative energy sources, geothermal heat, infrastructure to catch or filter water runoff from impervious surfaces, any of several conservation techniques and much more.
There are several LEED levels, and each one requires a certain number of points to achieve certification. For example, modular construction takes place indoors and therefore generates much less dust, which is worth points for pollution prevention. Solar technology, super-efficient windows, special design factors, recycling plans and much more can count toward LEED certification.
Modular Delivers Excellent Efficiency
The operational efficiency of modular buildings work to complement and augment their environmental benefits. At the same time super efficiency keeps the cold out, heat in and light optimal, it also saves you money in utility and other regular bills.
The Passive House Institute US offers a certification that signifies efficiency excellence, or as the PHIUS puts it: “An approach to minimize your losses and maximize your gains.” Passive design uses a set of design principles that include continuous insulation throughout the building, an airtight envelope, high-efficiency windows such as those with three panels, heat-and-moisture recovery to minimize conditioning needs and use of the sun’s energy for heat. PHIUS recently released new building standards adapted for each of the United States’ various climactic zones.
Passive building probably provides the fastest path to net-zero and net-positive buildings, which reduce the overall demand on renewable-energy sources. Since modular projects produce less waste and conform to high standards of efficiency both during the building process and as finished products, use of modular architecture also reduces the collective, global demand for raw materials.
Modular Provides Superior Flexibility
Modular architecture and construction not only saves time and money and provides environmental benefits, but it also adapts well to your needs both large and small. You can choose from a wide range of materials, configurations, layouts and other options to maximize functionality and appearance, whether you need one stand-alone permanent structure or a structure composed of many modular units.
Electrical work on a modular build usually consists of two phases, one inside the structure and one outside. Inside you might have a main panel with telephone, Ethernet and wiring for power and lights. Outside sits the infrastructure to connect your electricity source to everything in the building. Technology needs vary as much as business, industry and people do, so it’s another advantage of modular to be able to start from scratch and equip your building with the technology infrastructure it needs to serve your purpose.
Your construction project is sure to involve many decisions based on a mixture of requirements, including time, money, impact, quality, space and many other factors. Like any build, it’s beneficial to decide early what kind of construction you prefer so that the site and process can be optimized for your choice. However, if you happen to change your mind late in the process, modular architecture offers the flexibility to create a new development or expand an existing one, serve the functional purpose, complement the surroundings and meet the schedule.
Modular Evolution Features Style, Specialty
Another advantage of modular construction is its versatile style. In fact, some people can’t distinguish modular-architecture buildings or developments from the stick-built ones. From modern-looking offices and apartment buildings to schools and health care facilities, modular buildings manage to do a difficult balancing act. They blend in well with the surroundings but stand out in style, specialty and adaptability.
Realtor magazine dismisses any stigma or stereotypes about modular architecture and views the latest generation as “strikingly contemporary and even glamorous.” Proponents of modular construction have said they appreciate the standardization and uniformity of the buildings.
People also look to modular construction to add more space to their current buildings. Modular fits many needs with its ability to stack vertically and make more room without needing more ground space to do it. The options for modular wall finishes, energy solutions, wiring, windows, doors and paint color enable you to create a unique, clean, stylish and modern look where one or several structures are needed.
Modular Options Include Shipping Containers
New and repurposed shipping containers represent one type of specialty build and serve as ultra-durable building blocks for all kinds of projects. Builds that use custom shipping containers usually feature these characteristics or some combination of them:
- Standard ceiling of 8 feet 6 inches
- Taller ceiling height of 9 feet 6 inches available
- Usual widths of 8 feet or 16 feet
- Lengths of 20, 40, 45, 48 and 53 feet
- Stackable vertically for more space without increasing the footprint
- Stackable side-by-side for expanded area
- Options for exterior insulation and narrower studs to save space
- Buildings can be new, stand-alone structures or serve as add-ons
Shipping containers may be in conditions ranging from new to retired. For example, a new shipping container will have made just one trip across the ocean and will be free of dents or damages. It will cost more to buy but need less refurbishment down the road. Shipping containers are also perfectly useable and can have any rust issues resolved, while hinting an environmentally friendly character with some dents showing.
Versatility of Modular Architecture
The modular construction cost advantages lead many clients to use the buildings for a range of reasons, while the time advantages of modular construction help meet tight schedules. The modular construction process is seamless, takes place in a controlled environment and greatly reduces the chance of any errors in measurement, mechanical or structural components. Modular construction is also safer for the crews and helps create a reliable schedule that skilled tradesmen appreciate.
Modular construction has been increasingly used in many of the big-player industries:
- Health care
- Food service
- Emergency and security
- Multi- and single-family residential
- Science laboratories
- Power and energy
Additional options can get highly creative with rooftop bars or gardens, gyms and other additional living space, as well as storage areas or recreation rooms. Commercially, modular fills the need for high-quality buildings at reasonable prices among those seeking some type of community building like a nonprofit or a senior citizens group.
You’ll find plenty of companies vying for your modular-construction business; rest assured that BMarko Structures offers benefits you won’t find in many competitors. Besides some of the techniques and features covered above, BMarko partners with clients from the earliest planning stages with structural engineers and specialists who manage the permit process, typically a laborious and bureaucracy-filled task. Clients receive full modular-architectural services with advantages such as structural certification, a 3-D model of your project, detailed floor plans and installation oversight.
BMarko’s niche builds on the cost and time advantages of modular construction and creates even more benefits with this style of building. It solves the complicated construction puzzle that demands cost- high-quality fast builds. Any time there is a desire for new or more space, modular buildings create an array of benefits that make them a clear, logical, cost-effective and time-efficient choice – it’s a choice that is stylish, modern and environmentally friendly as well.
BMarko Structures can walk you through the modular construction and shipping-container options. Contact us today with any questions you may have about modular architecture and design, and let us turn your dream project into reality.