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Modular Construction – The next big thing in the construction world? (Part – II)

Contd. from Part-I …..

Don’t be surprised to see someday lavitating buildings that not only can float but also would be capable of moving from one location to another with ease. Can’t rule out flying buildings either – buildings capable of taking off and fly like airplanes enabling it’s dwellers to move to other areas along with them. No doubt such crazy ideas would cost astronomical sums yet never discount the spending power of all those boys out there capable of affording all sorts of astonishing and expensive toys.

Coming back to more realistic matters – let’s begin from where we left in the previous part of this article. As already mentioned in Part-I, in pursuit of better time & cost efficient techniques, the avant-garde of the engineering realm too keeps producing fresh ideas from time to time and modular construction technique also is an outcome of such efforts. This piece of writing on this topic will be beneficial especially for those who may not have the first idea of modular construction approach.

Some basic forms of modular construction have been existing for quite sometime. However, it’s effective use in the construction of multistoreyed buildings is relatively new which has delivered some spectacular outcomes. A piece of news was once published in this very blog itself about a 15-storeyed building that was erected at the site in just about 2 weeks time using modular construction technique. There are good number of other examples that are even more spectacular.

So, what are the distinct advantages that render the modular approach a growingly sought-after one. The modular construction package comes with a whole lot of concommitant benefits if chosen and implemented properly – that is, if the points discussed in Part-I are taken into account well while opting for and implementing it. That’s important as all situation may not suit this approach. Mentioned below are some of the salient takeaways from the modular way of building things:

* The cardinal benefit comes in the form of reduction in the time schedule of a project. With the quantum of on-site activities getting reduced drastically and replaced by activities in well controlled off-site facilities such as factories, there comes much better control over the time factor. That’s primarily because many of the on-site contingencies or disadvantages do not arise in an well managed off-site environment. Besides, site work comprising usually of site development and foundation work only, can progress simultaneously with off-site module making work. This too results in substantial saving of time. A well planned & managed modular approach can squeeze the time schedule to as much as half of that of an in situ construction work for a similar project.

* Modular construction method requires lesser manpower as compared to conventional on-site construction methods. This, coupled with the reduction of time schedule of a project, leads to reduction in cost and better ROI.

* Another very important aspect of modular construction technique is that structures of both permanent as well as temporary types can be built with equal ease. While the permanent ones are on a par with any other similar structure built using other methods, the temporary or relocatable buildings can be moved to other locations and reused with ease as and when required. This is an unique advantage and can be of immense benefit in certain situation such as temporary accommodation & office facilities in industrial and mining projects, retail outlets along roadsides that might have to be removed during road expansion work or for other commercial reasons and so forth. This can save substantial amount of time and money.

* Modules built in off-site facilities can meet all the architectural and technical requirements as any on-site construction work. Aditionally, they are often fortified to reder them capable of withstanding transportation & handling related stresses. Stronger products are the end results.

* Since, most of the construction work is performed in a well controlled off-site environment, better control over quality is possible resulting in products of higher standard.

* Since, most of the construction work is performed in well controlled off-site facilities, unforeseen events like flood, rain, storm, extreme hot or cold climate, etc have little or no impact on the overall schedule.

* Considerably lesser wastage of construction materials is possible through proper optimisation of procurement & usage.

* The requirments of vehicles and equipment at site get reduced considerably.

* Since, on-site activities are kept to the bare minimum, impacts of a modular project on the surrounding environment such as noise & dust pollution, traffic obstruction, etc are minimal.

* Modular construction method is excellent for projects involving repetitive construction work, ie construction of multiple structures of similar type. Examples are identical apartment blocks, retail outlets, educational buildings, sector specific office buildings, etc. Since, multiple modules of similar size, shape and design can be built in the factory without many changes to the arrangements, it becomes even more convenient and economic.

* Can be an excellent option for providing quick and economic accommodation facilities in disaster-struck or even in disaster-prone areas. Such situation often calls for promptly available temporary facilities until better means are available. Once permanent facilities are built or restored, the temporary modular structures can be relocated and reused somewhere else. Thus, the entire process becomes quite effective and economic.

* As already mentioned, modular approach of construction ensures lesser amount of time, work and labours at site which in turn results in higher degree of safety.

* Plenty of flexibility is available regarding to what extent a structure or a project would be modularised. Depending on specific conditions one has sufficient leeway to decide whether the entire structure or only a portion of it would be modularised in order to get the best results.

Disadvantages of the modular construction system are few and lie primarily in the choice of the construction technique for a particular project itself. That is, the decision on whether to go for modular approach or not needs to be made carefully and at a very early stage. Otherwise, the cons may outweigh the pros.

The challenges and the intricacies involving transport logistics is another area calling for proper knowledge and planning as the same can be substantially different from those involving conventional building methods. Shortcomings in this aspect can cause considerable damage to the overall schedule of a project.

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About clazcons

B. Tech. (Civil Engineering)

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