Prefabricated buildings or Prefabs, refers to the prefabrication or factory building of a structure, which is later assembled at the construction site. The materials used can include light steel, steel frames or flat pack and many different methods are used to assemble these materials.
In contrast, modular buildings refer to volumetric structures which are designed, prefabricated, and finished up to a certain standard and then transported to the building site. In summary, we can conclude that all modular buildings are prefabricated but not all prefabs are modular.
A modular building is a building which is constructed off-site in a factory or production facility where the quality of the building and components can be ensured. This ensures that waste and costs are minimised while quality and safety are maximised. The building is designed to be manufactured as a whole or as modules, which can be transported to the construction site. The construction is from high-quality materials, meeting all environmental and building quality standards which comply with all relevant Building Regulation and performance standards. After completion, the buildings are delivered to the construction site, where installation takes place and after being checked, tested, and inspected the building can be signed over.
Benefits of Modular Construction
Modular construction has several benefits above the traditional construction methods and we will briefly discuss a few.
This is one of the greatest attributes of a modular building which can be manufactured in either single-storey buildings or into multi-storey developments. The development of new and innovative design technology coupled with advanced construction methods and materials ensures that the modular construction industry stays at the forefront of innovation in the construction industry. The flexibility also ensures that the modular building can be used in virtually any environment for a range of different purposes and applications, with the list ever-expanding.
Cost and Time Saving
The manufacturing off-site allows for the simultaneous completion of the excavations, groundworks and preparation of the site, while the manufacturing takes place. This taking place concurrently lowers the on-site costs and reduce the time needed for completion of the project. When buildings are being added to existing development, the disruption to the client is reduced and allows normal activities to continue, while additions are being added.
The construction of a modular building with its innovative use of design, technology, materials and low carbon impact on the environment makes modular building a very environment-friendly building method. This is where the modular building industry plays a very important role, in the development of an eco-friendly modular building. The manufacturing process minimises waste, use more effective insulation which reduces running costs, lowers the impact on the environment and increases the ability of the building to better withstand the effects of climate change.
The interior and exterior can be designed to fit in with existing buildings and according to the client’s specific needs. The construction method allows for the expansion of premises in line with the needs. A bespoke design can be done when an addition to an existing facility is needed. The use of technology like Building Information Modelling provides the client with the opportunity to view the envisaged building before construction commences, allowing for the design and layout to be changed easily.
Future of Modular Building
There is an increased demand for modular building in the UK, and government in an announcement indicated, a presumption in favour of a factory-based building in all future public sector building projects. Modular construction is regarded as a viable solution to the housing crisis in the UK, to the extent that government wants to increase financial assistance which will increase the number of modular homes, being built per annum from the current 15,000 to 100,000 by 2020.
In a recent report by the Scape Group, the public sector procurement specialist it is envisaged that the UK will need 14,500 more classrooms to cater for the increased number of pupils that will be enrolled during 2020. The group recommended in their report the “Adoption of offsite/modular construction as the main method of construction for all school buildings to allow them to be built at a faster rate compared to traditional methods”.
The above recommendations clearly show that the traditional method of construction can no longer meet the demands and that modular building is viewed as the solution to meet the needs of the population.