Modular Construction Breaks Through Myth of Only ‘Boxy but Good’


Today’s modern modular construction is still misunderstood by the broader construction and engineering sector. However, this ‘image’ problem for the industry is starting to change as the latest in off-site, prefabricated construction methodologies is gaining traction with some higher profile projects. Among these are the Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom, and Marriott Hotels in the United States.

Up until a few years ago, the perception of modular construction was that it was largely just boxy, bare-bone structures to accommodate classroom overflows and office trailers on construction sites. While this is still a common use, offsite construction has started to really wow GCs, owners, and designers by delivering speed and flexibility without compromising on creative design and quality.

Marriott Hotels Goes Modular

One high profile brand now riding the off-site construction ‘train’ is the well-known hotel chain: Marriott Hotels International. Last month they announced a significant program to incorporate modular construction into over 50 hotels in their North American market, spanning several of its brands. This is about 13% of Marriott’s overall projects planned for 2017 in the region.

No longer just for use during the hotel project, modular construction will be part of the overall Marriot hotel design, and guestroom experience.

New Heathrow London Airport Terminal 85% Modular

We are also gaining traction across the United Kingdom, when it comes to modular offsite construction. This building methodology is expanding rapidly in the housing sector where 56% of new homes planned by 17 of the UK’s largest housing associations will be leveraging offsite methods like modular construction.

While the housing sector is commonly associated with modular in the UK, the off-site construction market is going well beyond residential and into the commercial construction sector as well.

A great example of this is the recently renovated airport Terminal 2 at London’s international Heathrow Airport. The builder of the new terminal was challenged with a tight footprint and heavy restrictions around site storage. They needed a flexible solution.

After looking at several options, it was decided to manufacture 85% of the airport terminal using offsite construction methods.

In both of these examples – the Marriott, and the Heathrow Airport, there were some common drivers as to why modular construction won the day.

  1. Fast and less disruptive: This is a big deal for most. Offering savings up to 50% in terms of compressing project delivery schedules – schools, hospitals, retailers, and other sectors put a lot of weight behind this benefit.
  2. Reduces project risk: With projects profitability often determined on the onset of the contract, any changes, delays, labor issues, and other related cost overruns as a result can erode the negotiated margins made upfront. Modular and off-site construction helps reduce these risks, where the environment, weather, wasted materials and labor productivity are less of a problem.
  3. More Efficient Methodology: Traditional building methodologies still have inherent waste in terms of multi-layers of management, inefficient and complicated project management processes, and quality control issues around materials and onsite fabrication. Opposed to this, modular buildings are constructed in a controlled environment, using the same skilled labor, with strict adherence to quality.

Modular is Ready for the Big Leagues

While modular construction is certainly not new, it seems to be getting noticed by commercial contractors in a serious way for the first time as evidenced by some big, high profile projects. At the end of the day, modular can look just as good as on-site construction, but can be delivered in a lot less time, with less risk and cost overruns, and all without compromising on quality.

If you are interested in learning more about modern commercial construction applications and off-site prefabricated structures, please contact us online or call 888-329-6600.

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