Modular Construction Dispelling the Myths

Jan. 1, 2008

There's more to modular construction than just the time advantages

By Tom Hardiman

Commercial modular construction is an accelerated form of construction that provides quality buildings in a reduced timeframe. Most people are familiar with the time advantages of modular construction - buildings can be delivered in as little as half the time of site-built construction - but many myths still persist:

Myth: Commercial modular buildings only meet temporary needs.
Reality: Modular construction provides permanent space solutions.

Many people think that modular buildings only address short-term needs; this is not the case. Advances in technology, materials, and transportation have allowed many modular manufacturers to develop and deliver permanent, multi-story, modular solutions.

Myth: Commercial modular buildings offer limited utility.
Reality: Modular construction provides flexibility.

Modular buildings offer owners increased flexibility not only in the application of the building, but also in the acquisition itself. Owners have the option of utilizing capital or operational budgets because modular buildings can be either purchased or leased. And, more purchasers are turning to modular construction because of its relocation features. In many cases, an owner is in the process of looking for a permanent facility site, but needs to start utilizing new space right away. Modular buildings can be placed at a temporary location and moved to the permanent site at a later date.

Myth: Commercial modular buildings  are low quality.
Reality: Modular construction provides quality assurance.

Commercial modular structures are built to the same local building codes as their stick-built counterparts. Additionally, modular builders have quality-assurance programs in place to guarantee that production standards, methods, and materials have continuity. In fact, most states require that the building manufacturer have an approved quality-assurance program and that it be monitored by an accredited, third-party agency. These third-party agencies make inspections on both the modular builder's plant and the building under construction. Where a third-party agency is not a local requirement, building department officials and/or certifying engineers typically assume the same inspection role.

Myth: Modular buildings allow few design choices.
Reality: Modular construction provides traditional aesthetic choices.

More and more architecture firms are teaming with modular builders on buildings such as banks and restaurants (pictured in the sidebar). These projects deliver traditionally furnished buildings in about half the time. Success on these types of projects speaks to a level of customization you can expect when you choose modular construction. Owners can have the traditional finishes they have come to expect from site-built construction. The key advantage, however, is the speed to occupancy in the modular building. To view case studies of some of these award-winning buildings, visit (  

Tom Hardiman is the executive director of the Modular Building Institute, based in Charlottesville, VA. Founded in 1983, the Modular Building Institute is the only international, non-profit trade association serving nonresidential modular construction. Members include wholesale manufacturers, direct manufacturers, and dealers of commercial modular buildings, while associate members are companies supplying building components, services, and financing to the industry. For more information, visit (

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