Ebook: The Increasing Benefits of Modular Construction on the Environment

Modular Construction

As the world’s urban population expands, architects and planners are mapping out ways to make cities more sustainable. Cities produce a vast amount of emissions and waste, putting a strain on both human and ecological health. But our buildings themselves may hold a solution. High-density urban areas—especially those built using green methods in design and construction—can be more energy efficient and pollute less.

(Kelsey Nowakowski, environmental journalist)

Between 2015 and 2016, the level of “commercial housing” built through modular construction in the US rose significantly from 2.32% to 3.02%. Modular construction can be simply defined as a procedure of building large sections in a factory setting, before they are transported to and quickly put together on a prepared site, forming a building such as a home or an office block.

Some of the reasons for its’ growth include lower costs required for construction occurring over a shorter time, needing fewer workers to carry out the job in a familiar, sheltered and safer location. The positive effects that modular construction can have on the environment is one of the most important reasons why it needs to be encouraged. Research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that the US construction industry is responsible for 25% of the non-industrial waste produced each year.

Buildings account for 30% of landfill waste and 38% of CO₂ emissions in the US and some of the benefits that modular construction can have on the environment, include:

  • Less waste produced in a controlled factory setting
  • Shorter time for construction, requires less energy and lower level of onsite pollution
  • Less daily traffic and machinery required
  • Lower level of noise pollution
  • A large increase in recycling materials often discarded as waste on-site  
  • The reuse of complete structures, reassembled at different locations  

Some interesting examples of projects that have benefitted from modular construction include the Merced County Office of Education which turned to modular construction to accommodate overcrowding for Atwater Valley, an alternative education school in California. This was constructed to form a four-wing building holding 18 classrooms with a separate library, science labs, and gymnasium. This building took 60% less time to build, first estimated at two years, but only taking 10 months in the end.

Although there are fewer workers required for modular construction projects, a lack of training and education in modular construction still makes it difficult to find qualified contractors for the different positions. Contractor management is the temporary hiring of contractors for their own specific skills and experience and often requires sufficient contractor orientation and the collection of personal data before work begins.   

Click here to find out:

  • The Importance of Building Green
  • How the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rates buildings
  • The Main Benefits of Modular Construction on the Environment
  • Case Study: The Reassembly of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Village, Stratford