Architecture & Design

Welcome to the modular construction era

Modular construction is one of the big trends in the building sector, with an expected growth of 51.9 billion dollars by the year 2025. Still, its bright present, with milestones such as the Croydon London –a 135m-high residential tower to be finished in May 2020­–, is already eclipsing its promising future forecasts.

Modular construction is a building process through which the component elements (also called modules) of the final building are not built in the construction area but in a factory. They are later delivered and assembled on site, reducing development times while keeping the same standards of quality and materials as well as complying with the same construction regulations as any other regular building. Like a 3D real-size puzzle, but ready to live in when finished.

Even though modular construction is not new –first references of pre-built constructions date from the nineteenth century–, this building process is currently entering a new golden era. Tech solutions have optimized the design of components and their assembly process; materials have reduced their weight while increasing resistance; worldwide cargo transport has developed in a way that allows bigger components to move faster from factories to construction sites. And, last but not least, increasing awareness of sustainability in the construction processes has brought modular construction into the spotlight.

Source: Modular Building Institute

Faster, cheaper, cleaner

Gone are the years when modular construction was just used in fairs and majors as a quick and temporary construction solution. Permanent Modular Construction (PMC) is becoming more and more a feasible option to build iconic dwellings or even skyscraper-hotels which dare to challenge heights. Nowadays, the limit for modular construction is just the sky.

The Croydon tower is a great example for that. Not only this 135-meter-high double tower will offer its future residents 546 build-to-rent apartments to live on the outskirts of London; it will provide the opportunity to live inside the highest modular construction ever made. Here, the bet for modular building was able to cut the expected conventional construction time in 26 months, going from 4 to 2 years and causing a consequent reduction of the total cost. Faster, therefore, cheaper, but with the same quality results as if conventionally built.

Another excellent example is the New York Marriot AC NoMad, the about-to-become highest modular hotel of the world. This $65 million, 110 m-highmodular tower is nowadays getting constructed at a rate of an entire floor a day, which will allow the hotel to welcome its first guests in the fall of 2020. According to the Marriot hotel architect, Danny Forster, “we wanted to demonstrate that modular building can do more than just harness the efficiencies of the factory. It can produce a graceful and iconic tower, too.” Each of its 168 rooms was built in a factory in Poland, transported by cargo ship and truck to Manhattan and finally lifted into its place by a crane. Thanks to this construction method, the project was able to notably reduce its waste production and to lessen its noise disruption over the surroundings, resulting cleaner for the environment.