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Modular vs Traditional Construction

st marys school modular building

Not the most straightforward of topics and perhaps a little controversial, modular or prefabricated buildings have been in the forefront of the minds of those of us in the construction industry for some time.

Regardless of your job title, you (like us) would have been privy to the discussion on modular vs traditional construction. You may or may not have been involved in one directly, but you’re sure to have an opinion on the topic. So we wanted to give a quick outline of the all-important differences between the two construction methods, so that the discussions we all have on the topic are well-informed from the start.

What are they?

The term ‘traditional’ is often used to describe the types of linear construction, where each individual step is not only constructed entirely (or largely) on site, but also needs to be completed before the project can move on to the next phase.

An off-site based construction method, during which individual components are manufactured (or ‘prefabricated’) in a factory, transported to the site entirely (or mostly) complete and assembled on location.

The Process

Both construction methods start in the same way – planning, design, permits & approvals, site prep and development. From that point forward, however, the differences begin:

Infographic source: modspace.

Pros and Cons of Modular Construction

  • Thanks to the ability for the project to run simultaneously on-site and in-factory, modular construction is said to be up to 50% quicker than traditional construction, often times saving four weeks (or more) of construction
  • As major parts of construction are handled within a factory, weather conditions are often irrelevant during the majority of the project
  • The factory-based manufacturing process allows not only for greater quality control during the manufacturing process but for many health and safety risks to be considerably reduced (if not eliminated) as well
  • The process aims to minimise waste and reduce the project’s carbon footprint, thanks to fewer people travelling to the site and modules being produced directly to spec using Computer Aided Manufacturing
  • The impact on the community surrounding the construction site can be significantly reduced, thanks to much lower levels of noise and traffic during the project period
  • The methods employed in modular construction can often benefit the energy efficiency and airtightness of the final construction
  • Access to the site must be considered from the very beginning, as it will need to allow for the delivery of large modules
  • Traditional construction allows for later design changes, while modular construction is unlikely to be able to factor these in, so early complete design sign off is crucial with clients
  • The logistics and planning of individual module assembly will need rigorous planning to ensure a smooth project

What’s right for you?

Ultimately, although we feel that modular construction has the upper hand in a large part of the discussion, each project should be considered individually. The method that is selected should match the ultimate desired outcome and the individual limitations of each project on an individual basis. In saying that, it’s no secret that we at Reds10 are big advocates of modular construction, so why not take a look at some of our modular case studies here.

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