Modular vs Traditional Construction: What’s the Difference?
Stick-built or traditional construction has long been the standard within the construction industry. However, factory-built or modular construction is growing in popularity every day. With this growing popularity, a common question arises: How can we compare modular construction vs. traditional?
After reading this blog, you’ll have a greater understanding of the key differences, and major benefits to choosing modular construction for your next project.
Traditional vs Modular Construction: Weather Delays
No matter where the construction is taking place, if you’re working on-site, you can expect some sort of delays. Whether that’s because of weather, permits, or labor shortages. However, weather delays are a fairly common issue, as almost half of construction projects experience weather delays worldwide.
Whether it’s intense snow, dangerously hot temperatures, or periods of heavy rain, seasonal construction delays can cause several issues that impact a project’s timeline and budget. And when this happens, there can be a domino effect of errors or delays.
Listed below are some examples of problems that can arise from weather delays.
- You may be required to purchase additional materials and equipment if things are ruined on-site due to weather.
- If one phase of the project gets pushed back, it’s likely to create a domino effect of delays.
- When crewmembers are working in intense weather conditions, they are more likely to make careless mistakes or make haste decisions to quicken the process. (We’ll discuss this further in the blog.)
- Various weather conditions may create a less-than-ideal working environment for your crew and increase the risk of injury on the job.
On-Site Construction Delays
Extreme temperatures, high moisture, and irregular weather conditions can cause a host of issues to your construction site. Not only can it cause production delays, but it can also create an unsafe working environment, and damage building equipment or supplies.
Below, we’ll outline how various weather conditions negatively affect your building’s materials and overall quality.
There are quite a few ways rain can damage the look and condition of your structure.
- When paint is stored or applied in a very moist environment, there can be issues with the adhesiveness, color, and drying time.
- Overexposure to moisture can cause mold in drywall, wood, and insulation.
- If you’re building with brick in rainy or wet conditions, moisture can build up in the bricks. This results in condensation collecting in interior walls, which down the line can cause swelling or bloating.
- Finally, high winds and hail, which often are associated with rainstorms, can damage building materials as well as cause dents and break glass.
Not only is extreme heat uncomfortable and potentially unsafe for your crew, but it can also cause lasting damage to the strength and durability of your building.
- As crewmembers are working in intense heat all day, they are susceptible to dehydration and heat strokes. Even just being outside in hotter weather can affect their judgment and reaction time, which can lead to dangerous situations.
- High temperatures can affect the strength of concrete and result in premature settling.
- When paint is applied in high heat it can crack, wrinkle, or blister.
- Bricks that get too hot cannot adequately adhere to mortar paste.
On the other hand, extreme cold can cause equally negative effects on your construction site.
- In intense cold climates, the water and solvents in the paint can freeze.
- Masonry materials, including concrete and brick, can weaken when ice crystals form.
- Mortar and grout also weaken in these weather conditions. They won’t be able to properly absorb moisture and will be less resistant to water later. Which can ultimately cause costly damages down the road.
How Do Modular Construction Weather Delays Compare?
Now, let’s get into the modular side of things. The driving advantage of modular construction compared to traditional is that a majority of production is done within a controlled environment. This means weather conditions that are uncontrollable, and unpredictable, are virtually limited.
By having more control over the construction process, there’s also a reduced chance of unexpected costs and prolonged timelines.
All modular buildings are made with the same materials as traditional construction. As a result of the controlled environment, you can expect a higher quality building that won’t be exposed to the various weather conditions mentioned above.
Modular Construction vs Traditional: Is One More Sustainable?
The benefit of modular construction being completed in a controlled environment goes beyond reduced logistical errors and overdrawn timelines. Modular construction is also much more sustainable compared to traditional construction.
Our processes mean less material is wasted, reduced energy consumption, and less noise and air pollution.
Modular and Traditional Construction: How Are They the Same?
There are quite a few notable differences between modular construction vs traditional. However, there are instances where they are treated the same.
A common myth or misconception about modular construction is that you can bypass the process of applying for and obtaining building permits and inspections. But this isn’t true. In this sense, your modular construction is treated the same as any other traditional construction process.
Your modular structure will meet the appropriate federal and state building codes. Which also provides you assurance that the building will be as structurally sound as its stick-built counterpart.
Building Permits for Modular Construction
Just like within the traditional construction realm, permits are required for new modular construction and major renovations. Even though modular construction is known to have quicker timelines, these regulations are not omitted from the process.
Each region of the country is different, and the required permits depend on your project type, necessary approvals, and variances. For example, in some areas, you may only need local approval but in others, you need county approval as well.
Listed below are categories of permits which your modular construction services will likely fall under.
- Foundation and Building Permit. This permit type is necessary for projects that enlarge, repair, change, add to, or demolish a structure; including new construction and additions to existing structures.
- Mechanical Permit. This permit is required for any structure that is replacing or installing a heating/cooling system. As well as when you’re installing, altering, or repairing gas piping between meter and appliances; or installing appliances that are required to be vented. Some examples include bath fans, dryer exhaust, and kitchen ranges.
- Electrical Permit. If you’ll be installing, repairing, or altering electrical and communication wiring or equipment, including lighting, you’re required to obtain an electrical permit.
- Plumbing Permit. Modular buildings that have restrooms, kitchens, or even sinks, will be required to obtain a plumbing permit. This is necessary for building upgrades or a new modular building installation.
Other permits that your modular construction services may require include:
- Road Opening Permit
- Water/Sewer Tap
- Fire Suppression Permit
Meeting Required Building Codes at an Accelerated Pace
Not only is your modular structure required to obtain the appropriate permits, but it also requires building codes and a building inspection. Just like traditional construction, your architectural or factory drawings are going to be approved for federal and state codes.
However, because of the alternative construction method used in modular buildings, the inspection process is much more streamlined. With on-site construction, once each step of the building process is complete, an inspector must visit the site to approve the work.
This ultimately slows the process and may cause a domino effect of delays. On-site inspections and permit approvals typically last between 6 and 12 months. And can be a hefty chunk of your budget.
So, how does this compare to modular construction? During the modular construction process, these specialized inspections are still completed at each stage of the process. However, this type of building process is more simultaneous, so if one section is waiting for approval, we can still work on other areas of your project.
Not only does this mean your process isn’t delayed or slowed down, but it also means that issues in the structure are caught early on and are fixed with minimal project disruption. These factors give a huge advantage to modular construction vs. traditional.
When the project is ready to be assembled on-site, each module will carry proof of compliance along with it, ensuring that additional inspections are not needed.
Is the End Result Different Between a Modular and Traditional Structure?
A common question in the modular world is, how does a modular building compare to other structures? And the answer is, the physical structure is relatively the same. In fact, a modular structure can last just as long as its permanent counterpart.
Because of the precision within the modular construction process, it’s likely that a modular building won’t require as many costly maintenance repairs down the line.
Have additional questions about the differences between modular construction vs traditional? Our modular experts are here to help!
This blog was originally published on May 4th, 2018 and was updated on September 1st, 2023.
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