Popularly known as prefabrication (or prefab), modular construction is a mechanism in which the building is constructed in a factory environment under controlled conditions, with required design codes and standards, which are later assembled on site. The facility is constructed in "modules" having identical design and specifications and takes almost half the time as that of a conventionally built structure.
The construction industry has evolved remarkably over the years, and the role of technology is believed to be the major factor behind this transformation. Internet of things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, telematics, drones, etc. have been put to good use in multiple construction projects across the globe.
It is also expected that the construction software industry will be a $2.71 billion market by 2023. But the biggest game-changer in the upcoming years could be one of the earliest concepts of the industry—modular construction.
The construction industry is heading towards the techniques that facilitate faster construction. By delivering projects on time, builders are not only fetching more premium but winning the investor's trust.
Upcoming technologies like Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) and design for manufacturing approach (DFMA) in the modular construction market are exploring opportunities to enhance the strengths of prefabrication. The conventional system lags behind in aspects such as time, scalability, consistency, and productivity when compared with the modular construction.
1. Global Scenario
Multiple reports state that significant growth is expected in the modular industry in the coming years. It has been forecasted that the market size would grow up to $107.9 billion in 2025 and $130 billion in 2030. The rising space constraints and the need for affordable construction are going to bring in a demand surge in the industry.
One of the most iconic structures in the world, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, is a prefabricated structure. The 300-meter-tall iron structure was assembled within 22 months by 150 to 300 workers.
The first prefabricated high-rise building was a 32-storeyed tower named 461 Dean in Brooklyn in 2016. Currently, the 140-meter-high Clement Canopy is the world’s tallest modular construction (2019). The pair of towers made out of prefabricated concrete modules were constructed within 30 months and stand tall in Singapore. Another pair of 56-storeyed prefabricated construction is also under development. If executed and completed, the 200-meter tower would become the tallest prefabricated building in the world.
2. Perks of Modular Construction
The conventional construction method is often met with cost and time overruns. On average, 90% of projects of the $10 trillion global construction industry are late or/and over budget. The modular construction method will not only help overcome time and budget constraints but also provide benefits beyond these. With the use of high-end technology, modular construction projects can have an upper hand in productivity during an emergency situation.
2.1 Improved Schedule
In modular construction, work goes on simultaneously on the site as well as the factory. This facilitates early completion of the project by 30% to 50% than the conventional method of construction, as shown in Figure-1 below. The delays caused due to uncertainty of weather, too, are eradicated to a great extent.
2.2 Less Labour and Lesser Risks
By adopting the modular construction method, the need for labor is reduced by 65 to 80%. About 500 to 600 labors are sufficient to carry out assemblage and other necessary fixtures. As the site has fewer laborers, there is a reduction in the rate of risks caused due to accidents.
2.3 Material Control
Builders often use the same materials for each project. The materials can be purchased in bulk rather than making multiple smaller purchases for individual projects. Inventory control is possible as lesser material is lost on site due to theft or damage. The supply chain risks are also reduced as the exact quantity of materials reaches the factory premises on time.
2.4 Better Quality
Controlling quality is much easier in a factory-environment than on a construction site. All the modules are made in such a way that they meet or exceed the ascertained building codes and standards. Robotics and other technology will further improve precision.
2.5 Environmental Benefits
The modular construction method being a factory-controlled process, keeps the waste in check. Thus, the materials required are less and help reduce the overall carbon footprint and emphasize sustainability.
2.6 Lower Costs
Economies of scale are one of the key drivers of cost-saving. Production, which forms a major part of the construction, is done offsite in the workshop or factory. Moreover, the offsite manufacturing model drives the cost certainty for a project as higher efficiency is delivered.
Modular construction is a mechanism in which the building is constructed in a factory environment under controlled conditions, with required design codes and standards, which are later assembled on site.
In addition to time and cost benefits, modular construction also provides benefits such as less labor requirement, lower risks, better quality, and other environmental benefits.
Modular construction is also known as prefabrication and offsite construction.