Deciding to Go Modular

An increasing number of engineers and architects today are discovering the numerous benefits of modular construction. The decision to build using modular construction should be made after careful consideration by both the architect and the client. Modular construction is not right for every project. Architects must understand the specific implications and benefits of modular construction for each individual project. By describing the process of modular design and construction, this page can work as a guide for deciding if modular is appropriate for a given project.

Open vs. Cellular Plan

In the past, only buildings which employed a repetitive cellular plan were built using modular construction. However, this boundary has been pushed by advances in the techniques of building and assembling modules. Modules can come together in a number of ways to create an incredible variety of spatial forms including large span spaces. As well, open-sided modules can be combined to create buildings of near-infinite length and depth. These capacities expand the design possibilities for modular construction.

Repetition vs. Customization

Although almost any building can now be divided into modules, certain project types will receive the greatest economic benefit. Today economies of scale can be achieved through mass customization. The term mass customization describes the ability of certain products with pre-designed facets to be customized. Until the very end of the last century, exact repetition was the only way to achieve economies of scale. Modular construction, as compared to commercial construction, can more readily utilize this type of economy. As a result, exact repetition dominated the modular industry during this period, leading to buildings which were, in many cases, banal. Digital design, computer numeric control (CNC) fabrication technologies, and various systems approaches allow mass customization to replace exact repetition as a means of achieving economies of scale.


Craft – Quality

  • The factory setting allows for the improvement of building craft.


  • Creates the possibility of moving the structure to a new location

Factory efficiency

  • Methods of production reduce task time.


  • The client and architect can oversee and preview parts of the structure in the factory. This enables conflicts to be identified and resolved early, eliminating the large costs associated with discovery of such conflicts in the field.

Sustainability and energy efficiency

  • Improves project sustainability and viability of LEED® rating.


  • Minimizes disruptions to adjacent buildings and occupants and increases cleanliness.


  • Greater ability to manufacture components with a high degree of technical complexity.


  • Eliminates various site constraints such as staging, weather, transportation, etc.

Financial – cost control

  • Lowers hard costs, soft costs, financing costs, out-of-service costs, and provides a faster return on investment.


  • Increases in the predictability of quality, cost, and time reduces the risk assumed by the client.

Construction schedule

  • Reduces construction time up to 50%.


  • The factory environment improves conditions for construction workers

Design process

  • Wide-ranging benefits of increased collaboration and flexibility.


  • Reduces the possibility of job-site vandalism or theft.


  • Increases the ability for collaboration and single point of responsibility.

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