The Advantages and Differences of Modular Construction

Discover the benefits and differences of modular construction, including prefabrication, panelized construction, and volumetric modular. Learn why this method is gaining popularity in the construction industry.

The Advantages and Differences of Modular Construction

As an expert in the field of construction, I have seen the rise in popularity of modular construction and the confusion surrounding its various names. Broadly speaking, modular construction involves producing standardized components of a structure in an external factory and then assembling them on site. While terms such as “off-site construction”, “prefabrication” and “modular construction” are often used interchangeably, it is important to understand the subtle differences between them.


construction refers to the process of building components off-site in a specialized facility. This allows for greater efficiency and quality control as the components can be produced in a controlled environment.

Another term that is often used synonymously with prefabricated construction is external construction.


construction, on the other hand, involves building large modules off-site that are designed to be joined together. This method allows for greater flexibility in design and can result in a faster construction process. It is important to note that while traditional construction is the most common form of construction where most of the work is done on site, pole construction is an industrial term used to refer to traditional construction with wooden or metal structures.

Kit construction

is another term that is often used interchangeably with modular construction. This method involves pre-cut parts that require significant assembly, but with minimal waste, on site.

Another type of modular construction is temporary, which refers to a building that can be easily moved or dismantled and reassembled elsewhere.


construction is a more efficient form of construction in which walls, floors, and other flat components arrive in large sections that can be quickly placed in place. Finally, volumetric modular construction is the most complete form of modular construction with a minimum of on-site assembly required. While both prefabricated and modular buildings offer numerous benefits such as efficiency and cost-effectiveness, it is important to understand the differences between them. As mentioned earlier, all modular buildings are prefabricated, but not all prefabricated buildings are modular. A modular building is a prefabricated building that consists of repeated sections called modules. These modules are built away from the construction site and then delivered to the intended location for installation.

This method of construction often involves the use of a crane to place the modules side by side, end-to-end, or stacked to create a variety of configurations and styles. After placement, the modules are joined together by connections between modules, also known as interconnects. These interconnections link the individual modules together to form the overall structure of the building. Some popular modular companies include Clayton Homes, Champion Homes, and Boxabl. In addition to being efficient and cost-effective, modular construction has also been shown to be a sustainable option. RISE Modular, for example, has been able to help funds go further by anticipating cost savings of between 13 and 21% without compromising quality or aesthetics.

This is because permanent modular buildings are built to meet or exceed the same building codes and standards as site-built structures, using the same materials specified by the architect. One of the key advantages of modular construction is that it requires less on-site work compared to traditional construction methods. This is because each module fits into a predefined pattern, reducing the need for extensive assembly on site. In fact, modular buildings are at least 70% prefabricated before transport and sometimes even come pre-equipped with wiring and finishes. The success of modular construction also relies on the use of advanced technology such as CAD systems, 3D printing, and manufacturing control systems. However, there is still a lack of research on the response of modular buildings to transport and handling stresses. Modular buildings are not only efficient and sustainable, but they are also versatile in their applications.

They are often used in remote or rural areas where traditional construction may not be feasible, such as the Halley VI housing capsules used for a BAS expedition to Antarctica. In the United States, modular projects are governed by the same strict local building codes as those built with traditional methods. Projects such as student housing, hotels, and affordable housing are excellent candidates for modular construction. In Australia, there is even additional legislation in place for prefab house parks that does not apply to permanent modular homes. Stream Modular is a transportation logistics company that specializes exclusively in modular construction. To help illustrate the distinction between prefab and modular kits, think of IKEA as a supplier of prefab kit furniture.

In the UK, several companies have been created to develop modular homes as an alternative to traditionally built residences, including Ilke Homes, L&G Modular Homes, House by Urban Splash, Modulous, TopHat, and Lighthouse. While some of these companies have faced challenges in recording revenues quickly enough to cover the costs of setting up manufacturing facilities, it is clear that the demand for modular construction is on the rise. The generally accepted definition of volumetric modular is that more than 60% of the construction is completed off-site. This highlights the fact that modular construction offers numerous benefits over traditional methods and should be considered as a viable option for future building projects.

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