Brief History of Construction
Activities involving constructing something for shelter etc. can be said to have been around for as long as human beings have.
Historians believe traditional construction as we know it began in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt with the pyramids being incredible structures which have withstood the test of time and can be visited today.
Move forward several thousand years to the 18th century, iron was first used in construction and brick production was increased – then during the Technological Revolution, inventors improved the manufacturing process and with help from the Bessemer process, America mass produced steel. With the availability of cheap steel came projects such as bridges and railroads. Steel is a material still widely used in the construction industry today primarily because it is versatile, durable and affordable.
Mass produced glass and steel in the 19th century enabled buildings to be built at height and with aesthetics in mind. The 20th century then brought about cranes, elevators and skyscrapers among other seemingly gravity defying innovations.
The 21st century has brought about the rise of Offsite Construction, although (in 2016) this contributed 7% to the construction industry, as the benefits of this method continues to grow as does its share of the industry.
What is Offsite Construction?
Offsite construction is the prefabrication, modularisation and standardisation of construction processes which is done in a controlled factory setting or more simply put, refers to structures or components which have been built at a different location to where they will end up.
Methods of Offsite Construction
There are several areas of offsite construction, these include:
Structural Insulated Panels
Often used in residential and light commercial construction, structural insulated panels (SIPs) are a high-performance building system consisting of an insulated foam, which is sandwiched between two structural facings.
SIPs are manufactured in factory settings and can be made to fit almost any building design and is a strong, energy efficient and cost-effective solution.
Pre-Assembled Building Components
Pre-assembled (or pre-fabricated) building components consists of pre-fabricating building components such as doors, stairs, window walls and wall panels, among other things in a controlled factory setting before transporting the components to the construction site.
Modular or Volumetric Construction
Modular construction, although becoming a trend in recent times first originated in the 1600’s with the first reported modular building being that of a colonial American fisherman who moved from England and wanted a building built with English construction method. The solution was to have a disassembled home shipped by boat across the Atlantic Ocean. Modular construction then become more prominent in the 1800’s and today is an area which has huge potential.
A study by AMA Research suggests prefabricated volumetric building systems will grow by 14% between 2020 and 2024.
This involves creating whole or parts of a building offsite before transporting to the location of the site. The same materials are used, and the buildings are built to the same codes and standards as conventional construction.
The buildings are put together by connecting these sections or “modules” on site and is also referred to as prefabricated construction. It can be achieved in a number of ways but is commonly done by stacking or joining together the modules which have been built in a factory to create a broadly finished construction, typically leaving just minor works to be completed like wall finishes, installing mechanical and electrical systems and roofing for example.
Five Benefits of Modular Construction
Improves Build Times
As modular buildings are typically constructed inside a factory away from the building site, it can be done at the same time as laying the sites foundations. By using a controlled construction environment makes the process a lot more efficient and the overall design is typically broken up into pieces (modules), with each of these being built separately before being shipped to the construction site either as one finished module or multiple modules. They are then assembled to complete the final building.
Often modular construction, although completed with the same codes and standards as traditionally built structures, saves up to 50% the time spent building these structures using traditional construction methods as modular buildings have the potential to be completed within as little as 12 weeks (this varies project to project).
In addition to the cost and time savings attributed to modular construction, there are also a number of benefits for the environment, including:
Eco-Friendly Building Materials
As modular units are often constructed in a controlled environment instead of at a traditional site project location, there is a drastic reduction in wasted materials. Materials which would typically be sent to landfill when no longer required on a traditional site are recycled and used for future projects and other purposes.
Also, materials used within modular construction are often eco-friendly – FSC approved timber and sustainably sourced steel are commonplace within modular construction projects. This is a result of modular construction companies in recent times adopting an environmental approach throughout all of their processes.
Reduced Energy Consumption
Another benefit of modular companies operating in a controlled environment is the reduction in energy consumption due to the assembly process being very similar to a factory line. This reduces the time spent on building individual parts, improving efficiency, subsequently requiring far less energy than other traditional assembly techniques.
As prefabricated sections within modular buildings can be easily dismantled and relocated, when a site becomes obsolete or is no longer used, then modular components can be used for new projects.
As modular construction continues to grow and become the norm, recycling of materials over sourcing fresh materials could very well become the norm – substantially reducing waste with regard to knocking down old buildings and sending most of these materials to landfill and reducing the need for new raw materials.
A primary advantage modular construction has over traditional construction is the degree of control that comes as a result of the manufacturing processes used. By employing production line techniques enables quality control management systems to be applied and adhered to, as a result of this taking place in a highly controlled environment. Having this level of control over every element within a traditionally built development can be difficult.
Every stage of the production line within modular construction is subject to stringent quality checks with a quality inspection report being logged at each stage and checked prior to being dispatched. This affirms all additional components have been included with each unit and that each stage has been completed accurately; this is usually accompanied by a signature (or something similar) for accountability. Once these have arrived at the site they are typically checked for accuracy and when they are installed are checked again for quality.
As they are quicker to build, modular buildings can and often do bring about cost savings.
Due to the nature of offsite construction including modular, being in a factory setting, this is said to improve productivity related efficiencies. The more offsite/modular construction a build requires, there is typically an associated positive impact on overall productivity and subsequent costs.
No Weather Delays
One of the more common issues with traditional construction is delays due to poor weather.
Modular construction reduces this risk of delays and the health and safety risks associated when poor weather is present on building sites – such as being too cold, too wet, too hot, windy etc. – all of which naturally create a more dangerous environment for construction workers.
With offsite modular construction being done within a factory setting, indoors, there is therefore little to no direct impact from weather reducing delays and minimising health and safety risks associated with this.
At ADS Laser Cutting, we have undertaken many modular building projects and have invested in a dedicated assembly unit to enable us to carry out modular building projects from concept design right through to completion.
ADS Laser is the premier metal laser cutting, folding, fabrication and metal finisher.
Providing bespoke to volume solutions.
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