Over the past few months the world has been flipped upside down, experiencing changes to accommodate the pandemic and post-pandemic life. Now it’s time to re-evaluate architecture as well. With an ever-growing shortage of skilled workers as many retire without replacement, and an even greater absence in the foreseeable future, relying on this labor for new projects leaves holes and question marks. The solution: modular construction. In short, modular construction involves using pre-made modules created in a factory and brought to construction sites for assembly. Because the modules are not constructed on-site, this method allows for quicker and more efficient work with less skilled labor.
The efficiency and pace of modular construction makes projects significantly cheaper. For the same quality, if not better, modular construction can get a project done faster, and as many industry professionals know, every extra day on a project costs extra money. First, the manufacturing of the modules and the on-site work can occur separately and simultaneously, cutting down wait times. Furthermore, as the modules are constructed in a factory, weather delays will not play a large role in delays or inconveniences, making the process even more efficient and cost-effective. Because modular construction is meticulously planned and coordinated, it will save time, labor and money as opposed to the current methods being used.
During the pandemic and immediate post-pandemic world, modular construction can help remedy problems that both architects and cities as a whole are facing. Modular construction not only requires fewer skilled workers but fewer workers in general, allowing projects that otherwise would not meet safety regulations to continue working. Furthermore, for those running these projects, modular construction will greatly reduce the labor costs involved.
Modular construction also offers disruption-less expansion for those working on healthcare facilities. Because on-site construction often interrupts day-to-day hospital activities, building modules off-site and later transporting them is convenient for all parties. During the pandemic, expanding without disrupting healthcare facilities’ activities is especially important. Another Coronavirus-related benefit to modular construction is the movability of the modules. These modules can be created for hospitals in advance, shipped off wherever they are needed most, and then sent to another location or stored as necessary.
The expedited construction time is especially helpful for those working on healthcare facilities or affordable housing projects as it creates the opportunity for additional buildings to be constructed in a short period of time and in an affordable manner. Stephen B. Jacobs Group is currently working on multiple affordable housing projects throughout New York City proving that this method is completely manageable and accomplishes the desired results.
Even for larger projects, modular construction offers benefits that the current system simply cannot match. Better cost-performance and a high positive impact rate make modular construction the convenient, affordable, and efficient choice. Stephen B. Jacobs Group recently finished constructing the tallest modular building in the world: citizenM Bowery Hotel. The hotel boasts 300 guest rooms over 15 floors of modules and a rooftop bar supported by the strong internal structure. The first four floors were designed conventionally with wide-open spaces, but above that lie the guest rooms, designed strategically with modular construction.
The combination of the two creates a unique and memorable space for guests while also being affordable and efficient to build. This being said, the building was not lacking challenges to overcome. Working with modular construction, it is important to be acutely aware of building codes and restrictions on the modules themselves. But, as Stephen B. Jacobs Group did, with some creativity and innovation, these challenges can be overcome and the cost, building time, and product will be well worth the in-depth planning stage. As seen with the citizenM Bowery Hotel, modular construction is the future of the hospitality industry offering strong and efficient spaces.
Aside from hotels, restaurants and bars will also be revolutionized by modular construction, especially as we enter the new normal of eating out, or lack thereof. The pandemic has shifted restaurant focus from indoor dining and serviced eating to take out and delivery, and it will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future. This shift in focus provides a unique opportunity to rethink, redesign, and renew the food industry. Current restaurant architecture highlights dining spaces, but their money is invested and coming from out-of-restaurant sales.
Modular design allows restaurants to quickly and cheaply open new locations to make food more accessible for customers who do not require the indoor dining aspect of the original location. The size of each module provides restaurants with the opportunity to decide how large of a space they need and choose a location where a full-scale restaurant would otherwise not be able to fit. This flexibility in space and size will allow restaurants to expand their consumer base and place themselves somewhere more convenient to capitalize on customer wants.
On top of the other advantages that modular construction provides, such as efficiency and affordability, it also has some inherent environmental benefits. Generally, there are fewer emissions, less raw material waste, and reduced environmental impact associated with modular construction in comparison to other construction methods. Moving into a more sustainability-focused society, the environmental advantage of modular construction definitely makes it stand out as opposed to the other cost-effective construction solutions which often leave a negative impact on the environment and do not meet the same quality standards.