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Modular construction: innovation or well forgotten old?

Today foreign professional media are literally full of information on a broad introduction into the practice of modular construction technology.

Even at the recent Moscow forum “Cement. Concrete. Dry mixtures” speaker from the UK told me about this method the participants of the conference Block Read.

Why is this technology so popular abroad today?

The modules in our

Here is what is the definition of modular buildings in Russian Wikipedia.

“Modular buildings — buildings made of prefabricated modules, assembled from one or more of the blocks — modules (mainly from block-containers). Modular buildings are temporary buildings can be installed without foundations (mainly three floors), can easily be dismantled and transported to another place. Are made in different designs for various climatic conditions and meet all fire and health requirements, have a system of heating and ventilation, plumbing and electrical equipment.

Modular buildings have proven themselves during the crisis, while capital construction is not possible due to insufficient amount of funds and high risks.”

That is, the vector is clear — pre-fabricated container “outhouses”.

However, Wikipedia doesn’t know — or remember — about once existed in the Soviet Union the technology of volumetric-block construction. One of its flagships — the Krasnodar plant of volumetric-block construction JSC “HBS” is alive and well today, builds houses from ready-made reinforced concrete rooms, bathrooms, stairwells, etc. in the Krasnodar region. But in Russia about the HBS specialists do not even remember — very much pronounced “Tipova,” they said. Well, if we talk about the products that the plant produces Krasnodar, it’s true.

But why, then, jumped at this “typowego” advanced builders in foreign countries?

Krasnodar HBS

Fedot, Yes not the

or is”theirs”

Let’s take a look now, as we formulate the concept of modular construction in professional periodicals “they”.

“Modular construction is a process in which the building is made out off-site in factory conditions, using the same materials, the same rules and standards as usual on construction sites, but are produced and built about twice as fast than normal. The building, constructed in modules, expresses the same design concept and technical characteristics in comparison with the most demanding facility built in the field.”

What is called, feel the difference: not temporary structures, built without foundations and up to three storeys, and the buildings, indistinguishable from the “most demanding” of the objects at the construction site!

For example, the Chinese built a 15-storey hotel Ark Hotel in China in just… of 46.5 hours! This is without finishing. And 90 more hours left on outer skins and interior trim. 15-storey hotel “turnkey” in less than a week! As it occurred in real time, you can see in the video . published on our website. (That is, the Chinese are now able not only to rapidly increase the population, but also rapidly build for this population at home).

Today’s modular construction is based not only on the installation of the building from finished “box rooms” or other large building elements, but also from smaller structural elements manufactured in factory conditions. Moreover, not only and not so much from concrete, how much of other materials — mostly metal (the case of the Ark Hotel), as well as wood.

Modular construction abroad

Pros “modulization”

Foreign experts cite the benefits of modular construction are many reasons. Let’s name some of them.

Structurally, modular buildings, they believe, as a rule, stronger than usual built, because each module is engineered to independently withstand the sometimes harsh conditions of transportation to the construction site and installation by crane into place. Collected and secured, the modules are transformed into prefabricated walls, floors and roofs, finally, the whole building is as rugged and reliable as their constituent modules.

Construction outside the site provides the best control of quality of construction. Materials that are delivered to the plant is stored safely and securely in the warehouse to prevent them from damage or defacement from moisture and other adverse weather conditions. Manufacturing companies have a rigorous programme of quality control, which contribute to high quality of construction at every stage.

In addition to quality management and reduction of construction time, modular construction offers many other benefits.

Destruction of production and construction activity from the facility significantly reduces the likelihood of accidents on construction sites, reduces the traffic on access roads (one thing that each building material are imported separately, taking time ready modules) and increases overall safety.

How it’s done

Modular construction in the West today is often called, loosely translated, “the construction in a tough economy”. It allows to reduce the construction time by 30-50% (excluding the aforementioned “Chinese case”, where the shortening is measured in tens of times) and to provide alternative effective solution in today’s tough market conditions. However, “economical” in this case does not mean “primitive”.

In today’s understanding of modular construction, it is a method of construction and not a building type . It’s very important! This is quite different from those of temporary buildings and structures, which we said at the beginning, and even technologies such as volumetric-block construction as it is practised in the Krasnodar plant HBS.

Is a specially designed commercial buildings are the same as their on-site built counterparts, says Phil Slingerland, Director of Warrior Group, a company specializing in modular construction. — The use of modular structures does not change the design of the building, the structural system, or versions of materials, available to the customer and the architect. The only difference is in the method of construction.

Modern technology of modular construction looks like.

After the building project will be completed by the architect, it is sent back to the factory. Pre-fabricated structures at the plant are used to the extent possible. Almost everything from the walls and engineering systems to painting and carpets can be made in the factory.

The difference is that from 60% to 90% of modular buildings are manufactured in factory conditions, in a controlled quality of work, including interior finishing, installation of fixtures, etc. — said Tom Hardiman, Executive Director of the Institute modular buildings (Modular Building Institute MBI).

While the modules are made at the factory, you can go work on site, such as a Foundation or preparation for installation of engineering networks. This significantly reduces the total time required to complete construction. That is why modular buildings are constructed much faster than normal.

Once the modules are ready, they are sent to the construction site and assembled. The final stage includes external works such as cladding and roofing, and finishing of the interior, installation of lifts etc.

Try to distinguish…

Looks ready buildings so that the residents can hardly tell how it was built.

— The art of modular construction to “modularity” disappeared as soon as you complete the construction, says sue Johnson, Director of business development Warrior Group.

The only limitation in size are the ones that dictate the materials and building codes. For example, the world’s tallest modular building in the UK is more than 25 floors. Such buildings can be of any size and can be easily extended. In addition, the modular design allows to easily expand the existing building, and it does not matter what technology they were built.

So overseas modular construction on the rise today. It is used to build high-rise residential buildings in new York, for dormitories at Yale University, for hotels, hospitals… in short, all over the world. And although this technology initially had some problems with the “image”,, according to foreign media, 98 percent of contractors, 98 percent of architects, and 99 percent of engineers abroad are trying to use prefab and modular construction methods.

If there is some exaggeration, let’s leave them to the conscience of the apologists of modular construction!

Mikhail ZIBOROV

This material is published in the December issue of the trade magazine “Construction”. The entire log you can read or download here .