4 Tenacious Modular Construction Myths

28 February 2024AEC, Construction, ManufacturingBudget, Industrialized Construction, modular, offsite construction, prefab, prefabrication, quality, Schedules



Excerpted from the LinkedIn post on 12/28/2023 published by StrucSoft, GRAITEC Group

In the dynamic world of construction, there are those who may not yet have a favorable view of modular construction. From questions about quality and expense to staying power, it’s incumbent upon leaders in the construction industry to consider the common myths and misconceptions around modular construction, as well as the realities.

MYTH 1: Modular = Prefab = Offsite?

There is a common misconception that modular, prefabricated (prefab) and offsite construction mean the same thing. But that is not the case.

offsite construction comparison between modular and prefab

Graphic credit: StrucSoft

Offsite construction is a broad term that includes any construction process where significant portions of the final structure are manufactured away from the actual construction site in a controlled factory setting. As an umbrella term, “offsite” applies to both modular and prefab methods.

Modular construction refers to the method of building entire sections of a structure, complete with electrical finishes, plumbing and more, inside a factory. That may be an entire dwelling or individual modules that will be assembled together onsite.

Prefabrication refers to the process of manufacturing individual components, such as wall or floor panels, inside a factory as opposed to fully finished modules.

Today these methods are already being combined, so a building could be constructed onsite with mostly traditional methods, while incorporating prefabricated elements like wall and floor panels.

The modular construction movement has been gaining momentum in recent years, as are advancements in software tools that make modular processes more feasible.

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MYTH 2: Unproven Method?

Most disruptive ideas and processes are met with a degree of skepticism, and modular construction is no exception. When builders and home buyers are unfamiliar with the benefits of modular construction, they may have lukewarm interest in it. Although there is a perception that this is a new process, in reality it has existed for over five decades in its current form. It merely seems unproven in contrast to traditional construction methods that have existed for thousands of years.

The majority of concerns can be offset by learning about the advantages offered by modular construction methods, including:

graphic showing time savings of modular construction versus site built

Modular vs site built construction schedule, infographic: StrucSoft

  • The controlled factory environment in which modular construction takes place ensures consistent, high quality output.
  • In a manufacturing facility, inclement weather and scheduling conflicts can be nearly eliminated, removing two major delay factors that plague traditional projects.
  • According to Construction Industry Council, standardized and controlled modular processes are up to 50% faster than traditional forms of construction.

MYTH 3: Quality?

Some people mistakenly associate modular homes with mobile/manufactured homes. Both types are manufactured offsite in a factory setting, which can contribute to confusion.

Mobile/manufactured and modular homes are all built in controlled factory environments. As described on the Oak Creek Homes website, mobile and manufactured homes are “prefabricated structures built in a factory on a permanently attached chassis before being transported to the site.  A modular home, on the other hand, is built to the same local, county, and state building codes as a site-built home.”

Mobile home showing the chassis underneath

Mobile home showing the chassis – not modular; graphic credit: StrucSoft

In addition to local building codes, modular construction tends to adhere to the build quality specified in the International Building Code (IBC). In the case of multi-story buildings, construction materials are used that enable the modules to be stacked on top of each other using a crane that lifts them into place.

MYTH 4: Expense?

Builders may be turned off by the capital investment required for a modular factory. It takes a lot of profit to pay off a building. In addition, there are varying costs for specialized modular transportation and assembly needs, including the use of cranes for setup. Modular construction may require design and construction teams to upskill and alter the way they work. Fortunately, a factory setting increases safety for those teams, an intangible when it comes to cost savings.

On the plus side, most anything mass-produced in a factory setting is less expensive because of cost advantages reaped from production efficiency. In modular construction, economies of scale and standardization do result in lower costs, particularly for projects with repetitive designs compared to unique custom projects.

white modular apartment complex with brown window frames

Modular apartment building; graphic credit: StrucSoft

Housing prices have been increasing over time, while the average family’s purchasing power has not, making less expensive modular construction projects an attractive alternative to traditional site built structures. Design flexibility and variety need not suffer, as most residential modular builders offer buyers a ‘catalog’ of designs to choose from.

The reality is that, on average, modular construction is less expensive than traditional construction. While that in itself may not be a good enough reason for builders or home buyers to make the transition, when cost savings are combined with faster construction and dependable build quality, modular construction starts looking more attractive.

The reality of the modular construction movement is that it has been gaining strength in recent years. In spite of the myths, builders and home buyers alike are considering the cost savings, speed of construction, faster occupancy, and dependable quality and deciding that modular construction seems like a better and better alternative that does, indeed, having staying power.

Request your free trial of StrucSoft solutions for offsite builders. Contact GRAITEC today to talk to an expert about setting up your trial, including software orientation at no extra charge.




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