Modular Structures: The New Future of Construction?

6/22/2017 – Many think they understand the advantages of modular construction: They know that it’s pre-engineered, fast, quality-controlled and minimally disruptive to a job site. What some people don’t think about, however, is one of the most pleasant features of modular construction. It is, by its very nature, “green.” Off-site, factory-built construction is a more controlled building process. The centralized construction location also allows for much greater reuse and recycling of materials.  In-plant offices and mezzanines maximize existing space, which can eliminate the need for facility expansion, take up a smaller real-estate footprint, and maximizes usable area.

Unlike traditional construction, modular building systems can be moved, re-used, and reconfigured to meet changing needs.  If in the future, the owner of the modular structure needs to expand their facility or building, they can do so by disassembling the structure and simply adding on further paneling.  This eliminates the need to deconstruct or demolish structures by “recycling” the old structure, eliminating waste. Plus, the panel walls are made with gypsum, which incorporates recycled materials.

Since all the construction takes place in a centralized, factory location, the construction industry will see a medley of other benefits.  Traffic and air pollution are reduced as workers drive shorter distances to the factory versus traveling to various job sites. Material waste due to weather damage is decreased as the construction process occurs in weather protected facilities.  Plus, the materials for multiple jobs can be purchased in bulk quantities and delivered to the factory location, thus minimizing the cost of materials and the number of deliveries. In addition, responsible modular manufacturers can recycle waste products such as aluminum, steel, and paneling because even if they are over-purchased or not needed on a particular job, they can simply be used for future structures at the facility. 

Metal products can be powder coated, which not only increases the durability and lifespan of the products but is much more environmentally friendly. Liquid paints require the use of chemical solvents and can release petroleum, latex and other hazardous substances into the environment. With powder-coating, the unused or over-sprayed powder is contained within the production area and can be recovered, so that any waste is minimal and can be disposed of easily and safely.

Currently, the construction industry is facing many stresses in their evolving sector.  They have seen an overall decline in the number of skilled construction labor available, causing a labor crunch and an upward pressure on wages.  Yet, at the same time, the economy is seeing an overall increase in infrastructure spending and construction demand.  The industry is being squeezed from both ends and is running out of solutions.  However, modular construction, with all of its green benefits, allows for shorter completion times and improved quality control.  The shorter completion times will allow the industry to complete more jobs in a given timespan, which will hopefully alleviate the problems with the industry’s current labor supply problem.

 Overall, there are a lot of aspects of modular construction that can help the world’s green initiative, especially in relation to the construction industry.  However, with modular construction’s other benefits, it might just be able to revolutionize the construction industry as a whole. 

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