Modular construction solutions provide many answers to builder challenges, but there are environmental and sustainability benefits as well. According to the Q1 2018 USG + U.S. Chamber of Commerce Commercial Construction Index, half of all contractors using prefabricated and modular approaches expected to increase their use in the next three years. These offsite measures are impacting our planet in many positive ways; we just need more general contractors to understand the impacts and benefits of this form of construction.
A key area where modular and prefabricated building systems provide environmental benefits is manufacturing. Materials that were once discarded on site are now being reused in the build process. Many manufacturers are choosing to use sustainable materials like recycled wood, steel and aluminum, along with oriented strand board (OSB) that is sourced from wood. There is also less energy consumption during construction by using machine learning to assist in the build project. The machines are programed to make precision cuts, resulting in less product waste.
Modular allows workers to make fewer trips to the build site, reducing emissions from trucks. Less energy is being used by generators, tools and workers because the modules come fully built to the site. Other popular solutions include LED lighting, solar panels, high-efficiency appliances and triple-paned windows, all of which reduce energy consumption.
Another prefabricated solution is structural insulated panels (SIP), which typically combine two exterior layers with insulated foam, creating a seal that is more airtight than fiberglass insulation. This build system allows temperatures inside the home to remain consistent.
According to Charlie Chupp, CEO of Fading West Development, which is starting to build its modular manufacturing plant in Buena Vista, “There have been numerous studies showing how modular construction can improve sustainability over traditional construction. Three major areas can be improved: raw material waste, energy efficiency and transportation impacts. First, by building inside a production facility, raw material wastes can be reduced by more than 50%. Value-engineered standard products can be designed to optimize materials sizes and reuse drop. Second, fabrication inside a controlled factory allows for greater control over energy consumption, and allows for investments in centralized renewable energy sources. And finally, modular construction can reduce the total number of deliveries to a construction site by 90%. In addition, by not having to drive to various construction sites, workers’ commutes are reduced by up to 75%. Modular, offsite construction will have a major impact on improving sustainability in the construction industry.”
Big solutions for prefabrication and modular constructions are clearly being proven in the overall build process. Using less energy, reusing materials, reducing emissions and having less material waste are all benefits needed for our planet. It’s up to our general contractors to start considering this form of construction to change the way building is done.