Modular construction is a process in which a building is constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities. In this video, Jim outlines this process and describes the different types of modular construction currently being utilized.
- The first thing I think we need to do together here is agree on a definition. I find that's always more challenging than you would expect when we're discussing something that is relatively new to the industry, and that's certainly the case here. This whole modular, off-site, industrialized construction topic is new enough that the industry is still struggling to define it and to agree on terms and definitions. Now, there are big companies that have started out there, like Katerra, who have emerged on the scene and have really tried to steer the focus towards modularizing the entire structure, building complete rooms with fixtures and even appliances pre-installed. They have ideas for manufacturing the entire building, including the structural frame, in their factories, the idea being to reduce as much on-site labor as possible. Another example is the Marriott corporation, builders of hotels around the world. They've identified modular construction as critical to their future construction plans. One of their ideas for implementing this concept in New York is to use traditional in-place construction methods to complete site work and the structural steel high-rise frame for the building. Then they'll pre-build the rooms off-site, installing even the furniture in each room, then transport those rooms to the site, where they'll be craned into place and connected to that structural frame. I've seen a number of companies on projects like hotels and hospital construction, where the bathrooms are very repetitive in nature, but they're also a constant source of rework due to the number of different trades that have to complete work in such a small area. Weitz Company is one example of a general contractor that's modularized this one process and developed a way to prefabricate this portion of the work off-site and deliver completed bathroom pods to the project, where they can be lifted and set into place within the rest of the structure. Then we have other companies like Digital Building Components, who allowed us in their facility to view their concept, and they're more focused on modularizing traditional buildings, such as hotels, offices, and data centers, by identifying the components of the building that can be modularized and fabricated in their factory. For them, this includes panels for walls and floors, including structural elements, but they focus on manufacturing these panels and then assembling them on-site rather than trying to transport entire completed rooms. Now, none of these concepts are incorrect, and they probably all have their place. They're all examples of the types of modularized off-site industrialized construction that I'll explore here. What these different methods all have in common is that they involve building structures that meet the model building codes. For us here in North America, that's often the International Building Code, or IBC. In other words, we're not trying to change the building code to fit this method of construction, because it's just that, a method of construction, a way of getting the building built, instead of using many different types of tradespeople who are each skilled at a single craft, all working out on-site to build things in place, we're just trying to use some of the benefits of building in a factory setting to complete portions of the project. We still have to adhere to all the same codes and requirements for inspections. The things we build in a plant instead of on-site are still subject to review by the local building officials and inspectors that are involved in the rest of the project. That's really how I'll define what I'll be discussing in the rest of this course. I'll be discussing a different method of building pieces of a project. The resulting pieces or components still have to meet traditional building codes and are still subject to oversight by the local building officials that have authority over the on-site construction. This is as opposed to what some people talk about, which are manufactured buildings. These types of structures are typically manufactured to meet alternative codes, codes that are more aligned to the manufacturing industry. The factories may be subject to inspection, but the individual project assemblies are typically not inspected by a building inspector. These have their uses too, but they're not what I'll be discussing here in this course.
- What is modular construction?
- Advantages of modular construction
- Limitations of modular construction
- Combining on-site and premanufactured construction
- Benefits: Continuous improvement to sustainability