Ultimate guide to modular construction design, Building advice, Property guide
The Ultimate Guide to Modular Construction
4 August, 2021
Modular construction methods are rapidly becoming the choice of many sectors. Modular offers many benefits, including reduced costs, improved construction times, flexibility, and product consistency that is rarely emulated in traditional construction methods. It is also an approach to construction that is far better for the environment.
For nearly 70 years, experts have noted it to be the superior approach to construction, even while the wider economy has largely ignored it. Due to a lack of knowledge and preconceptions, people assume that all complex buildings need to be constructed using traditional methods. However, attitudes are beginning to change rapidly, and prisons and offices are joining early adopters in the healthcare sector.
Some background details
Modular construction is the mass production of modules off-site and in sections. They are built in a factory setting; the prefabricated units are cost-effective and quick to build – taking half the time of traditional modes. The modules are designed to be placed next to one another or stacked on top of the next. They are transported to the site separately and then connected to make larger buildings.
The modules are 80% complete when delivered to the site, with only the second fix of wiring and floor finishes left to do.
Modular construction is not new, having first been invented in the 19th century. Henry Manning designed and constructed modules that were transported to Australia to act as cottages. Even with this long history, modular construction has only recently been introduced as a form of mass construction.
Hospitals benefit most from the construction methods employed because of the minimal disruption on site. Only the groundworks construction needs to be done at the site, and the building is then delivered. This reduces noise, health and safety concerns and potential loss of functionality of part of the existing site.
Modules come in various sizes and can be joined to create buildings of different magnitudes. No matter how large the individual module is, the same principle of interconnecting with others stays the same.
So, how does this modular construction work? First, the building is designed by experts in this building technology. The modules are then constructed in a factory setting, with standardised and streamlined processes. With supplies and craftspeople at the factory, this method is more cost-effective for the client. The labour costs are reduced, and the chances of delays due to a loss of a subcontractor are removed.
On-site, traditional and modular construction both start with groundworks. The planning, design and engineering needed to prepare the area for delivery of the module are like those in traditional construction. This is then where the two methods diverge. After the foundations are laid, the builders would move onto the walls and then the roof. Once the foundations are laid for the modular construction, the modules are ready for shipping and installation. At the point traditional builders would be framing the property, the module building is almost complete.
Modular construction and healthcare
The NHS has been one of the biggest benefactors of the cost-efficiency of modular construction. In the face of the huge bed shortage, the need for quick and cheap construction was significant. Modular building methods offered many benefits. First, it was 60% quicker than traditional methods. Second, it was 30% cheaper and the possibility of running into a contingency budget much lower than traditional construction.
However, it is more than just time and money. As there was reduced activity on site, there was also minimal disruption to the working of the hospitals. There were fewer builders and less construction traffic. As a result, patients and staff did not experience the disruption of dust and noise.
The modular units are also flexible and can be easily adapted as an internal space as the demands on the space change. Healthcare is a sector that experiences rapid technological advances, and the building can evolve with this evolution.
Even though it is cheaper, quicker, and more convenient than traditional construction methods, modular construction is also seen to offer consistently high-quality design and engineering.
It is easy to see why modular construction a favoured method for healthcare is. Many wards, operating theatres, mortuaries, emergency rooms, scanning facilities and plant rooms are constructed using modular units.
When comparing modular building and traditional construction, it is easy to see why the NHS favour modules. There is a shorter construction time, with high-quality outputs, cheaper and with safer processes. There is a reduced disruption for the existing facility users, and the weather does not impact the build time. With experienced designers and engineers, there is flexibility to create the space required but in a way that is so much better for the environment. There is less waste material, reduced energy consumption, and parts can be recycled rather than in landfills.
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