Modular Construction: From Shabby Dwellings to Luxury Multi-Residential Buildings

Change may not always be good, *climate change, looking at you pal*, but when it brings progress to society, we should welcome it with open hands. Ever since it became apparent that the construction industry is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution, landfill waste, and water pollution, it was clear that we need to change the way we build, design, and create. Some home builders immediately understood the assignment and got down to business, doing their part one module at a time.

With more and more modular buildings and houses popping up on the streets, you’re probably wondering what makes these structures different from their traditionally built counterparts. Well for starters, modular buildings, also known as prefabs, are designed and produced off-site in a factory. Although modular construction is seeing a huge rise in popularity nowadays, this way of building is everything but newly discovered.

How and Why It All Started

Modular construction has a long and rich history that dates way back to the 1600s, but we’re going to take the first documented prefabricated home as a time reference. Interestingly enough, the first documented prefab was brought here, in Australia in the 1830s. Back then, London carpenter John Manning built an easy to assemble home in several components for his son who was moving from England to Australia. Manning’s portable cottage was probably the first advertised prefab and one of these structures still stands in Adelaide – it’s the Friends Meeting House that’s still in service.

Where Does Modular Construction Stand Today?

Although brick and mortar homes are still the most popular choice for homeowners, Mordor Intelligence estimates that by 2025 the prefabricated market will represent 15% of the Australian construction industry which is a major increase compared with the 3% from 2019. What’s more PrefabAUS predicts that by the end of 2030, around 10% of Australian homes will be prefabricated.

It’s only logical for people to opt for prefabricated building systems since they’ve come a long way through the years. If the first thing that pops to mind when it comes to prefabs is a shabby dwelling where it’s scorching hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, you have some catching up to do. Modern prefabricated modular building systems are dubbed the future of construction for a reason. 

Just have a look at this luxury multi-unit accommodation complex in Glen Iris. Be honest now, if you weren’t told that this is a prefab, would you have guessed it? I know I wouldn’t. This contemporary modular design consists of 48 modules all built in a factory in less than four months. 

Another great example of how far modular solutions have come is the Adina Hotel in St Kilda. Imagine yourself walking by a building that has 6 stories and you go there the following day only to find that it magically has 8. That’s exactly what happened to this hotel, except there wasn’t any magic involved, but rather a team of innovative modular builders and architects. The Adina Hotel has 8 modular apartments on top of the existing building installed in just one day. 

Why Choose Modular Over Traditional Construction?

The first reason is quite obvious. There’s no way on earth in which you can erect a traditional brick and mortar building in less than 4 months. By utilizing modern design principles, technologies and materials, modular builders nowadays are able to deliver durable, safe and affordable homes in less time. 

What’s more, some companies also offer a fixed time frame for construction, delivery, and installation which means you can start planning your life the moment you sign the contract without any unexpected delays interfering with your plans.

Then, not only that prefabs cost up to 20% less than their site-built counterparts, but the company can also work backward from your budget to make the most out of your financial constraints. So if you’re not a fan of hidden costs and surprises, by all means, go modular.

It’s also worth mentioning that modular construction offers greater flexibility. You can add, repurpose or remove modules to suit the ever-changing needs of your household or business without disrupting your day-to-day activities.

How Is Modular Construction Sustainable?

Since you often hear that modular construction is the most sustainable way to build, you’re probably wondering if this is for a fact or is it just another green-washed marketing campaign. Well, first of all, modular builders use standardized material dimensions to reduce off-cuts and oversupply materials which significantly reduces landfill waste.  

Then, since around 90% of the work is done in a centralised off-site location, modular builders reduce their carbon emissions by a whopping 60% compared to traditional building methods. 

Next, modular structures of today are designed to be permanent, but they can still be easily moved to another location if such a need arises. This eliminates the need for demolition and construction of another building in the new location. 

Last but not least, modular buildings are designed in accordance with passive design principles such as orientation, location, layout, and insulation to be as energy-efficient as possible. They are also often designed to run on sustainable solar power. This means that in the long run, you’ll be doing your pockets and the environment a favour. 

Closing Thoughts

All things considered, it’s clear why modular construction deserves all the hype. If you’re thinking of buying a house or building a commercial multi-residential unit, make sure to check out some of the beautiful residential and commercial prefab projects across Australia to get inspired. Believe me, they aren’t hard to find.

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