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  • 5 Tips to designing a modular building project

    Craning modular building

    Though modular construction has been around for decades, it's only in recent years that it's being compared to traditional on-site construction for its capability to create beautiful and enduring buildings, with many developers embracing the contemporary esthetic and sustainable qualities it brings. In fact, permanent modular construction offers much greener and smarter buildings that can be built in a shorter timeframe.

    By manufacturing sections of a permanent building offsite, you minimize site disruption by reducing noise, dust and congestion. In addition, you get a more consistent quality by using the same materials as conventionally built facilities, designed to the same codes and standards, by a consistent workforce and in a controlled environment. 

    Not only do you get a better product with a less intrusive process, but you can limit project costs by reusing interior floor plans and designs while adapting the exterior to fit the community. You can reduce the construction schedule by as much as 40 per cent and eliminate seasonal premiums, so you can start occupancy and realizing revenue sooner.

    But there's more to starting an offsite construction project than just providing architectural drawings to the modular builder. To take full advantage of the efficiencies that permanent modular construction offers, special considerations need to be taken early in the planning process. Here are a few action items to keep in mind.

    1. Involve the modular design builder early in the process

    Designs aren’t just about esthetics when it comes to modular construction. Even seemingly simple design elements can potentially impact the types and number of modular units used, and the final finish of the entire building.

    Permanent modular buildings are capable of a range of styles, from a modern purposefully geometrical exterior to one that takes on a more traditional and natural design philosophy. Instead of thinking about modular as an element of the project, think of the project as a modular program and establish a common design philosophy with your modular builder, who can provide advice on critical design decisions.



    Many design decisions that traditionally occur late in the process for a conventional built project must be specified early for modular projects. Features like interior finishes (walls and floor coverings), keying and security systems need to be installed in the manufacturing plant before the units are assembled on-site and, as a result, must be specified and ordered early. In addition, some of these items can have a substantial lead time when ordering in significant quantities, so it’s especially important that they are planned ahead. The modular design builder will have line-of-sight on long lead items and will assist in identifying all critical path design decisions.


    3. Use an Integrated Design Process

    Whether or not you consult with engineers for the design, it's important to get the proper advice before the start of your project to avoid costly revisions. Get everyone on board early—modular builder, owner, and other stakeholders—to get advice from subject matter experts from the beginning. Material and equipment selection early in the process can also save you time on changes.



    In addition to the impact on the look and feel of the building, every design decision has a functional purpose. Efficient designs that take advantage of streamlined manufacturing processes are essential to a successful permanent modular construction project. This includes an efficient use of space like arranging the "wet" areas together so that they can be aligned vertically, and limiting the number of module types, which helps to speed up the drawing process as well as improve the rate of production at the manufacturing plant.



    Collaborative and regular design sessions not only facilitate a smoother decision-making process, it helps to generate solutions that are done to specifications and supported by all parties, shortening the overall approval process and expediting the design schedule.