Modular buildings are on the increase. Although a lot of people may not even be aware of just how many there are in everyday use, they are used for a wide variety of purposes, from office buildings to supermarkets, hospital wards to changing rooms. They are adaptable, economical and take much less time to construct than a traditional building. But what is modular construction? And how has it changed over the years?
Modular construction is the manufacture of an entire building using individual modules that have been assembled in a factory in controlled conditions, protected from the elements. They leave the factory fully fitted out with electrics, heating and plumbing, and with internal and external finishes, ready to be connected on site. They are then transported by road and delivered as a complete building which is quickly assembled on site.
This method of construction seems a fairly modern one, but modular construction was already being used at the start of the 1900s. It experienced something of a boom after the first and second World Wars after which there was a shortage of not only materials and labour, but also of housing. Houses that had been destroyed in the war needed replacing, as did slum dwellings and when these new houses were planned, emphasis was placed on using industries that had produced a surplus of steel and aluminium for the war effort.
Over the next 50 years there was an increased need for affordable housing with quality workmanship within a shorter time frame. Industries started to rely more on technology, using templates for more accuracy and allowing for alterations to be made before construction even began. Improved accuracy also results in less waste and any waste that is produced is controlled and recycled.
Many varieties of modular buildings have been developed over the years, using different materials, like timber and steel, and employing different methods. But the core ideal remains. Modular construction is economical and efficient and eliminates many of the problems associated with traditional construction methods, particularly with regards to health and safety, and it will be interesting to see where modular construction will take us next.