Modular Vs. On-Site Construction.

A deep dive analysis into construction methodologies.

The building industry is static.
It’s time to change that.

The proliferation of the digital era has changed the way we design and build cars, airplanes, and ships -- but the building industry has largely remained unchanged. We’re continuing to use methods that were familiar to us hundreds of years prior, before the invention of the iPhone and the computer.

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Faster. Fullstop.

The most obvious advantage to modular construction is the ability to parallel process. There aren’t any weather delays, but at VBC we’ve added additional innovation to make our production line faster.

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Increased certainty.

Certainty isn’t an adjective typically associated with the construction industry, but that doesn’t have to be the case. VBC has de-risked our supply chain by partnering directly with commodity manufacturers.

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Better buildings.

High end performance comes standard with modular construction. The integration of advanced technologies  may reduce total energy use by 50 percent when compared to comparable site-built construction. Just 30% improvement could mean savings of $1,000 per unit annually.

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More sustainable.

Since few materials are wasted, stolen, or damaged when stored in a factory this reduces waste and make things greener, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

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Improved efficiencies.

Enhanced reliance on machinery naturally increases efficieny. Machines can be set and programmed to perform the same act repeatedly and deliver with a consistency and accuracy that humans can’t match.

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Flexible designs

VBC offers a productized approach to housing development with a standard catalog of units. This not only expedites design time, but allows VBC to continually innovate and improve our product offerings.

MODULAR VS. ON-SITE CONSTRUCTION

We’ll pit our construction crew against yours. Want to take that bet?

Here’s why an off-site construction crew will always be faster than an on-site crew:

In our factory environment, we’re kitting and building sub-assemblies continuously, while construction of the main line continues.  This manufacturing method is known as a fishbone flow.

Rain or shine, sleet or snow, our factory keeps building. In geographies with harsh weather conditions and a short building window, this drives big benefits.

With on-site construction, you can’t sheet rock and pour the foundation on the same day. There are significant time savings from parallel processing site work and modules simultaneously.

MODULAR VS. ON-SITE CONSTRUCTION

Can certainty and construction exist in the same sentence? Absolutely.

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Greater supply chain control and purchasing insights.

VBC has partnered directly with commodity manufacturers to cut out the distributors and representatives. This not only keeps costs more affordable but allows VBC greater control over the supply chain and better insights into purchasing. 

This is only possible because VBC has brand standards that are consistent across projects. VBC orders in high volumes of supplies, for example, VBC, has partnered directly with a gypsum manufacturer to utilize their boards and our assemblies directly. This allows us to cut out distributors and manufacturing reps. 

When you’ve manufactured more than 6,000 units that’s significant savings and increased supply chain certainty.

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Modular tolerances so precise it’s like putting together 40’ Legos.

Enhanced reliance on machinery naturally increases certainty. Machines can be set and programmed to perform the same act repeatedly and deliver with a consistency and accuracy that humans can’t match.

Automation and robotics can also deliver a level of efficiency impossible to achieve otherwise. We can produce one wall every 7 minutes with 5 people. On site, the same wall would take 32 minutes to complete.

WHY IS OFFSITE CONSTRUCTION SUSTAINABLE?

We recycle like the earth depends on it.

Keeping 1 ton of lumber per day out of landfills. VBC is working with a circular economy partner to upcycle lumber cutoffs into studs and engineered wood.

We recycle 420 tons of drywall annually. That’s the equivalent of 10 herds of elephants. Drywall offcuts go to a drywall producer who grinds it up and reuses it.

We recycle all our steel scrap. A single project can generate up to 10 tons of steel scrap. None of that goes to waste with our recycling process.

Frequently asked questions

Is there a minimum size of development where modular makes sense?

It depends on the company. Larger projects allow you to tap into economies of scale that make developments more profitable for modular factories and the developers leading them. Generally, VBC looks for projects at least 75,000 square feet (7,000 square meters). Generally, the more repeatable the development the better fit for modular.

Can you customize units when going with modular?

This also depends on the factory you’re working with, but modular construction can be customized. For example, Volumetric Building Companies has a catalog of units that can be altered to allow a developer to maximize square footage and rental price per square foot yet still enable speedy implementation. All the interior finish packages are fully customizable.

How does location impact modular projects?

Generally, modular projects are most competitive from a pricing standpoint in urban areas with a high cost of construction. Modular has the added benefit of offering minimal site disruptions in dense urban areas. There are lots of situations where it would be far more ideal to have a construction crew on site for 8 months rather than 19, like building student housing for busy college campuses.

How do labor shortages affect modular construction?

One of the reasons owners/builders are struggling to keep up with the demand for affordable housing is the lack of qualified labor. Labor shortages were compounded with the passage of the November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The act created great demand for construction workers, many of whom work in multiple sectors.

Factory-built apartments and other housing built off-site require less skilled labor across all trades. Again, machines and technology can be a greater part of the process.

Construction within a factory is done primarily on an assembly line. The workforce can be trained more quickly and easily because they’re responsible for only one section of a building.

In addition, factories are in centralized locations and can draw workers from the surrounding population. Onsite building takes place everywhere, including some locations where few people live. A remote location can make it difficult to form a work crew which can drive up labor costs and reduce efficiency.

How do I understand the entire cost of a modular project?

When the Pre Con team issues a ROM cost (Budget) we accompany this document with a clear scope of works that details what’s included and importantly what is not. Our Team makes sure to highlight any assumptions made so you can compare like-for-like pricing schedules.

How do fire ratings and approvals work?

Every building will have a fire strategy and our buildings are designed to ensure we achieve these standards. Regardless of the fire standards in a given region or country, we adhere our assembly process to meet the codes required. Since we manufacture in a controlled environment it is easy to inspect work in progress to check for compliance and adherence to the design standards. Inspection of assembled modules is often done in the factory by the client’s inspectors which could be a Building Control Officer or Fire Officer.

Can you build a modular construction project in high seismic zones?

Yes, the products offered by VBC are constructed to a specific design according to the seismic zone where the building is to be situated. For more information on specifics relating to your project please speak with one of our specialists.

Can you build a modular construction project in hurricane zones?

Yes. The products offered by VBC are constructed to a specific design according to the hurricane zone where the building is to be situated. For more information on specifics relating to your project please speak with one of our specialists.

What impact does transportation have on the overall modular cost of the project?

Transportation does have an impact on the cost of the project but the benefits of faster construction periods and less disruption on site generally offset those cost increases, within reason. VBC has three global factories located on both American coasts and centrally within Europe to ensure that transportation by land or sea is cost-effective. You can talk to our business development team and get a sense up front if the transportation costs will be prohibitive within your development zone.

What codes apply to modular construction?

Anything VBC builds will meet the requirement of any local codes. There are no specific codes relating to MMC, more so general building codes/standards that are to be achieved.