Modular constructions are flexible and offer a high degree of efficiency, but they also need a lot of planning and collaboration in order to avoid potential problems and challenges.
Modular constructions are not new. They have been very popular amongst Americans during the 60s and the 70s. Nowadays, this type of construction is again in the spotlight because of the high efficiency factor it gives. Also, it is easy to assemble, which is another reason constructors favor this technique.
Let’s take for example the CitizenM Hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, one of the largest modular hotels in New York. The project concept was taken from Amsterdam, the materials were put together in Poland and the 210 pieces were shipped to Brooklyn, where it was assembled and found its permanent home in the Bowery neighborhood. The hotel has 20 stories and 300 guestrooms. And it is one the most prominent examples of the durability of massive modular constructions.
Dense urban settings are a challenge for the transportation and assembly of modular buildings.
Modular construction is the building process where components are produced off-site and then they are put together on-site. This method is well known in Europe and in the USA. But in the last years, this strategy begun to be used for larger buildings, such as apartment buildings, hospitals and even schools, not only small houses.
The CitizenM Hotel and other large modular buildings paves the road to more flexible constructions. Modular construction of large commercial spaces has increased five times in the last years in North America.
But every type of building strategy has its challenges. Modular construction is more flexible and is more efficient. But is also needs much more preparation in order to avoid on-site problems.
The advantages of modular construction
Because of the rise in popularity of modular construction, clients and investors are thinking more and more about using this strategy when they want to build new constructions. The advantages of modular building often outweigh the challenges.
One of the most important benefits of modular construction is that it has greater quality control. Because the parts are manufactured in factories it is easier to control the quality of the product. Therefore, there will be less errors in the field.
The creative factor is also maximized in modular construction. Developers, architects, and engineers are often pressured in creating large floor spaces. This type of strategy gives creative freedom for designers, as they are not limited by traditional means of construction.
The productivity is also maximized when it comes to modular building. Because the fabrication is done indoors weather is not a problem. Also, the work on-site is not disrupted because of the manufacturing process, as it happens in traditional building.
Another advantage of modular building is that projects are completed faster than the traditional ones.
Modular construction for commercial buildings is expected to double in the next five years
What are the challenges of modular construction?
Modular building is not difficult if the team is prepared to anticipate the challenges it might encounter on-site. For this they need and to spend more time planning the logistics. Here are some challenges the building teams might encounter when using the modular strategy.
Understanding the learning curves is essential to modular building. Even though modular’s popularity is increasing, not everyone is experienced in this building strategy. Furthermore, some authorities might not have the right approval process and inspections for this type of buildings. The key is communication and collaboration with all the parts that might be involved in the project. This way you can anticipate the challenges and find solutions.
Coordination is another challenge for designers as modular requires unique engineering considerations and a personalized design. CitizenM needed additional design coordination, which consisted of a 3D drawing in order to minimize conflicts and to ensure that all components fit together and they can be maintained with ease. The building has 15MEP shafts that are linked together in order to sustain the floorplates and the load of the guestrooms.
The height of the building is another challenge designers and architects need to take into consideration. They need to plan for additional space between pods, because each one has its own floor, ceiling and walls, unlike traditional construction where rooms share the same wall.
The transportation of the modules can be a real problem if it is not planned accordingly. The shipment of the modules needs to be synchronized with the speed of the construction. Also, in crowded big cities it is difficult to transport heavy loads. Therefore, you need to work with the local authorities in order to create a delivery plan.
You also need to create a space for assembly, which can be difficult in crowded urban areas where the space is limited. Also, storing the modules before they are set can be a problem.
Modular building is an innovative solution for developers who are looking for a building strategy that gives them grated control, efficiency and it increased productivity. Smaller hotels and residence buildings, which have stacked architectural layouts, can maximize successfully the vertical infrastructure.
With proper planning and communication, project teams will find that modular construction is a great opportunity for creativity and reduced delivery time.