Modular buildings can vary greatly in terms of size, design, components, materials and applications they are suitable for. Some are modular boxes that are fully prepared off site and then craned into place on-site, literally ready for use immediately. Others are manufactured off-site in sections. For modular warehouse buildings, the frames are manufactured in the factory and transported to site where one frame section is erected at a time. The appropriate wall and roof panels are then added.
Essentially though, what these and most other modular buildings have in common is the majority of the work is done in a controlled factory environment with final assembly on-site.
Off-site construction refers to the process of buildings being prefabricated in a factory setting and then transported to site. It includes modular buildings that are wholly complete and ready to go once craned into place and buildings where all the components are built in the factory, transported to site and constructed in sections.
The benefits around this process are huge and focus around waste, speed, cost and control. Although the control of waste can be significantly improved with off-site construction, the benefits around speed, cost and control also contribute to the overall reduction of any environmental impact.
By building the modular building in a controlled factory setting, there is going to be less waste. In factories that use Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) machinery (computers used to control machine tools), there should be a much higher degree of precision, reducing the possibility of error and waste even further.
Any waste created during off-site production, will probably be easier to recycle as it can go straight into the company’s existing on-site recycling process. Not only might there be more waste produced in traditional on-site construction methods but it may need to be removed by a third party and might end up in landfill having a lasting impact on the environment.
Speed and Cost
Prefabricating a modular building off-site means a swift ‘standard’ and controlled manufacturing process in the factory. There’s also a short time carrying out the final construction on-site. In most situations, reduced time equals minimal disruptions to site activity and reduced costs.
Build teams, project managers, subcontractors, deliveries, equipment, suppliers and much more will all be significantly reduced, along with delays due to inclement weather or poor site conditions.
In fact, many modular building installations probably need one crew in one van with one site manager; job done.
All of the above will lead to fewer vehicles and general movement to and from site. This in turn will reduce fuel costs, transport time, noise, disruption and environmental impact through reduced emissions; not to mention disruption to the customer while the project is underway. Lastly, coming back to waste, less time will be needed sorting and removing it as there shouldn’t be much to deal with.
The controlled and systematic approach of off-site production doesn’t leave itself open to varying skill levels in workers, sub-contractors and the fluctuating standards from third party machinery, equipment, processes and controls.
This combined control of human workmanship with high tech machinery means errors and subsequent delays or waste will be minimal or even non-existent.
For many modular buildings there are usually not many different materials or components used often due to the standard/non-bespoke nature of them. The materials that are used, however, are used in significant quantity so any waste is going to reflect this in volume. Not only will this be a costly mistake but it could be difficult to remove and if sent to landfill, not very kind to the environment.
Thankfully however, modular buildings are likely to remain a product of off-site prefabrication and continue to leave little or no environmental impact in their wake. Perhaps they are something that will start to fill our domestic and commercial landscape more and more in the 21st century.