The modular industry is expanding quickly, as was apparent at the Offsite Construction Expo in Denver in September. I have never seen so many people excited to listen to the speakers, learn more about modular construction, and interact with product solutions for the offsite construction industry. Individuals were asking questions, taking notes and challenging the speakers on their approach of modular design compared with traditional construction.
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The conversation circled around the “modular mindset,” which ultimately means starting a building project with a modular approach to all aspects of planning, designing and construction. It’s thinking outside the box, exploring the similarities and differences associated with modular design. You could hear the excitement in between presentations as exhibitors were in long conversation with the general public. They spoke about the process, the experience with increased production over the last 24 months and the benefits of offsite products.
Speakers covered topics like “an architect’s role in modular commercial building design” and “from foundation to roof in a week: The multi-story modular stack.” Irontown Modular Company presented an entire project scope of modular cabins used for a five-star lodge near Yosemite National Park. They presented step-by-step details from the inception of budget, to modular cabin design and placement, along with the costs savings compared with traditional construction.
Matt Chiodini of OZ Architecture was a part of the team that designed a brand new apartment complex across from the Broncos football stadium this year. This commercial project took four years to develop, and was placed onsite in several weeks, instead of months. He explained how important the preplanning process was for this development. He showed how the team added to livability through exterior and interior product selections, and how this box system is duplicatable for future building design.
I spoke with exhibitors, including both established businesses with 20-plus years of experience and newcomers to the modular market. They all are passionate about the industry, it’s growth and new technologies that are emerging. Dan Coss, the terminal manager in New York with Management Services Transport Inc., has been in the industry for over 30 years. His company transported 930 pieces for one of the world’s largest New York modular skyscrapers, which stands 32 stories high. He was so proud of putting together the transportation logistics. His involvement with this one project created several new business relationships, making MST one of the largest modular transporters.
Commercial modular factories are booming, with business all over the United States, and several single-family factories are now expanding to multifamily production and creating commercial divisions. Marriott Hotels anticipates that 40% of their hotels will be built modular over the next five years, which is bolstering construction in the hospitality market. Rise Modular is a brand new factory located in Minnesota. Their goal is to fulfill the hospitality niche. Wes Carter of Rise Modular explained that there are many areas to consider when designing a factory, from the logistics, technology, staff, production line development, product purchasing and storage. The biggest consideration is identifying your market and what product you want to offer the public.
[Related: An inside look at a modular factory]
Dave Sikora, business development director for the Modular Building Institute, the event sponsor, said, “We are so excited to be a part of this event in Denver. We have been getting inquiries and know there are future opportunities in this market. We are definitely coming back next year.” The “modular mindset” is what’s changing the process in which predevelopment, planning and design are being practiced in modern construction. The buzz was apparent, as well as the business owners’ interest in embracing this new approach to construction.
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Do you think modular is just tough as custom built?