Modular construction offers benefits to builders and developers, especially when scale and repeatability can be achieved. It involves producing standardized components – either 2D panelized or 3D volumetric units – in an off-site factory and then assembling them on-site. Also referred to as “off-site construction“ and “prefabrication”, modular construction is gaining traction in the U.S. as material and labor shortages and demand for new housing persist.
Reduced Building Costs
Since part of the construction process occurs in a factory-controlled setting, there are fewer contractors involved, saving time and money. In addition, manufacturers can control the material used, thus reducing waste. Excess material can also be reused for other projects. This is especially beneficial on projects with repeatable components – or those that are consistent across structures. On the flip side, material and logistics costs can be higher. Proximity to a factory or plant can help keep transportation costs in check. Overall, McKinsey & Company estimates that modular construction should deliver cost savings of up to 20% if done right.
One of the main attractions of modular construction is its ability to boost productivity across building operations. It can accelerate project timelines by up to 50 percent due to less labor and equipment demands and optimized scalability. Unlike a linear onsite build, construction activities can be coordinated, repeated, and occur in parallel to each other. There are also increasing levels of automation in a factory setting, which reduces the number of skilled workers required to complete a project. After modular components are transported to the jobsite, onsite construction is also simplified compared to a traditional building process. According to McKinsey & Company, one team of five workers can assemble up to six 3D modules, or 2,900 square feet of finished floor area per day.
Improved Quality & Performance
Since components are manufactured in a controlled environment, quality control and consistency are greatly improved through automated processes and precise fabrication tools. Unlike outdoor construction, modular construction prevents exposure to the elements and will not be impacted by damaging weather conditions.
Modular homes are also built to withstand the rigors and stresses of being transported and assembled. In the same way, they can be designed to withstand extreme weather conditions with resilient building practices in mind. In a controlled environment, manufacturers along with researchers can evaluate foundations, building envelopes, and heating systems that can withstand climate-related threats. For example, in Japan, modular homes are often positioned at a premium price due to a strong focus on quality and earthquake resistance.
2D Panelized vs. 3D Volumetric
It’s important to note that benefits can vary based on the type of modular construction. 3D volumetric components are fully enclosed structures that are assembled in pieces onsite by lifting the modules into place and connecting electrical and plumbing services. Because the modules are enclosed, onsite construction can move much faster resulting in efficiencies and time savings. However, one drawback is the transportation costs; volumetric modules are larger and heavier than 2D panels.
2D panelized, Precut, or Flat Pack, solutions are precut components that ship flat to the jobsite. Panelized components required more time to assemble but can help builders optimize logistical expenses. 2D panelized solutions also offer greater flexibility than 3D modules. For example, 2D panels work well for high-end residential projects where layouts are typically more complex with larger open areas.
Henry® Can Help
At Henry, we recognize the value of this unique and highly efficient construction process and have had the opportunity to work with building contractors on off-site construction opportunities across the U.S., integrating our air and water barrier systems into prefabricated wall systems. From fully adhered Blueskin® VP100 systems to mechanically fastened water-resistive barriers, Henry has the right solution to help you proceed with confidence on your next project.
Contact a Henry weatherization expert for advice and support on your next job.
Bertram, N., Fuchs, S., Mischke, J., Palter, R., Strube, G., & Woetzel, J. (2022, September 23). Modular construction: From projects to products. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/operations/our-insights/modular-construction-from-projects-to-products