Modular – Hype Or Revolution?
Recently Paul and I have been talking extensively about modular construction. When it was first brought up, the image of modular mobile homes from the 80s and 90s came to mind. Modular in the past has carried a bit of a stigma for cheap, mobile, cookie cutter housing product. Today’s modern modular couldn’t be more different.
The modular products of today are high end, high quality, efficient, and in many cases uniquely custom designed. There is a new wave of modular construction hitting the North American market, largely inspired by a movement that has been taking Europe by storm. Driven by a desire to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, avoid the headaches of cold climate construction, and increase efficiencies in the construction industry as a whole, modular construction has gained popularity exponentially over the last few years.
When I first started working in this industry I couldn’t help but think time and time again, project after project, that there has to a better way to do this. I continuously saw change orders plague the construction schedule and budget, and weather delays from building in a cold climate. I clearly remember losing it one day after hearing that a particular project had suffered 3 weeks in delays due to “winter climate conditions” . Are you kidding me? You mean when you were creating the construction schedule that you forgot you were building in northern Alberta where “winter climate conditions” occur 6 months out of the year??? Frustrations mount on all sides and relationships dissipate when those conversations have to be had halfway through a project.
Now modular isn’t without it’s own set of headaches and problems. It requires ALOT of coordination and front end effort from all parties involved. There are transportation concerns and costs in order to move the modules from the factory to the site. There are craning issues. etc. However, most of those issues are just logistics, that with enough management and effort can be mitigated fairly easily. So I am finding that when I start adding up all the perceived benefits from going modular, with the ability to avoid cold weather construction issues, I am sold. And it’s not just about the constructability aspect of modular – some of the designs I’m seeing in the market are just downright cool. One of my favourite companies right now is Karoleena Homes out of Calgary. They are changing the perception of modular building in the marketplace and making it accessible to the average consumer. I love their designs and can’t wait to see the innovative projects coming out of their factory in 2013.
So is modern modular construction just a hype, or is it a revolution. My vote is the latter – what do you think?