Modular Design- Part One
Modular design and construction is an area in New Zealand’s design and development that is (finally) expanding within our country. For a long time, modular design has been an area full of passion and aspirational possibilities for our Director, André Kemp-Upton, and because of this, we will be exploring this area across a 2-week period. Much like Prefab, we hope you enjoy piecing it together!
So, let’s take a look at what exactly Modular construction is?
Modular construction is the process of creating prefabricated sections or ‘modules’ of a building in 1 location and then transporting these prefabricated modules to the construction site to piece them together for the final product. These modules are constructed in a controlled location, often a factory-like setting, and are built to the same standards of the building code, and the same level of quality as a typical build would be. ‘Modular construction’ is also somewhat of an umbrella term and encompasses a few different types of construction methods. Let’s understand the different types…
Volumetric Modular construction:
Volumetric modular construction (VMC) is a construction process in which entire complete rooms and/or sectors of a building are built off-site and then pieced together on-site. VMC is often used for construction projects such as “granny flats” or “sleep outs” or even tiny houses. VMC can be utilised for both permanent and relocatable structures.
Panelised construction is when both interior and exterior walls are built off-site and then pieced together at the construction site. Although panelised construction is not quite as all-encompassing as VMC, it can be more versatile.
Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS):
This type of construction is when panels are created offsite using either expanding polystyrene or polyisocyanurate rigid foam as an insulator between the two structural sides, which are generally made up of metal or a unique type of engineered wood. These panels can then be used on-site for walls, floors, and roofs.
Why choose modular construction?
The reasons to consider modular construction are plentiful and are both practical and sentimental. Here’s why you should consider a form of modular construction for your next building project…
-Faster ROI. Due to the nature of modular construction with much of the work taking place in a controlled indoor setting, projects can be completed MUCH faster. This means if you were created a building with lots of repeated spaces, you could have a business up and running much sooner than you would with a traditional construction method. In some cases, a modular built structure can start creating revenue 30-50% faster than a traditionally built business.
-Cheaper to build and better cost control. As mentioned a large part of your overall construction time takes place in an indoor controlled setting, meaning there are fewer variables to slow down production times. The number 1 variable in most construction sites is the weather. In New Zealand, weather delays and on-site health and safety issues cause considerable delays. By minimising the weather variable, it is easier to effectively predict how long your construction will take and therefore reduce costs.
-Improved productivity and worker safety. It has been found that workers are actually significantly happier working off-site in a controlled setting before the on-site work must begin. There’s less hanging from precarious heights, less exposure to the elements, and often less time spent commuting to various locations across the country. Because of this, it has been identified that they actually work FASTER. Happiness increases productivity.
-Modular construction certainly has the seal of approval from Worksafe NZ (aka OSH). The health and safety regulations being as strict as they are now, means that any less amount of time spent with things hanging from cranes and workers scaling precarious scaffolding is a good thing. This shift in construction methodology helps saves time and money on accessory costs.
-More sustainable options. Modular builds have many eco-friendly and sustainable benefits. It is estimated that construction and demolition waste makes up 40–50 percent of New Zealand’s total waste going to landfill. Modular construction can decrease the amount of waste created by up to 77%! How amazing is that!? There are also many opportunities to re-use a lot of existing resources, the notion of deconstructing and relocating structures means that there is the ability to re-use these structures in multiple locations across a variety of industries.
Keep an eye out for next week when we take a closer look at modular construction specifically in the context of Aotearoa.