Build Faster: How Modular Components Turn Time into Money

By Stuffey | January 8, 2020

How many times have you heard the phrase “time is money?” Probably enough that you don’t really give much actual thought to it anymore. The relationship between time and money is as crucial in the design and construction industry as any industry out there. If you have any interaction with architects, construction managers, or a CEO who is leading the charge of a new building or major renovation project, then you are well aware these individuals live in a world governed by time management and deadlines. For them, time has everything to do with money. The architect has a limited window to prepare construction documents, and any overage could be disastrous to already slim profit margins. The construction manager is juggling a lot of balls in the air to keep a project on schedule, or otherwise suffer steep penalties for delayed project delivery. The CEO knows that any decrease in speed to market gives his or her competition an edge. It opens the door for competition to dominate a product or service line, even if inferior in quality, simply by winning the race to consumers.

Project planning, design and construction timelines continue to shrink in today’s market conditions. Increasingly competitive markets and building owners are driving the need to draw, build and open the doors faster. But how? There was a time when construction documents were beautiful, time-consuming, hand-drawn ink on mylar sets that looked more like works of art, but then computer-aided drafting technology was born from the need to draw more efficiently. In recent years, building information modeling (BIM) software such as Revit has further advanced design speed and capabilities with whole-building modeling. From a construction perspective, contractors are increasingly looking toward integration of BIM capabilities with prefabrication and modular components to help them build leaner and faster. Building owners reap the benefits of faster design and construction methods by getting their products or services to consumers quicker.

modular casework

Modular construction is a process of fabricating building components in an offsite facility and transporting them to a project site for final installation. They can greatly reduce construction timelines, as factory-produced components are fabricated concurrently with other site built construction. Modular components are a widely varying and ever growing list of products, from exterior curtain wall units to piping assemblies to interior casework. As with any new method or technological advancement, there have been skeptics. Often times the reluctance to look at modular construction as a viable option has come from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the process. One challenge has been a stigma associated with modular, originating from a history of cheap and poorly manufactured modular buildings. Originally, the modular industry was geared at building temporary solutions for immediate needs. Unfortunately, temporary solutions sometimes turned into permanent installations which they were not designed to withstand. When failures occurred from poor durability, users without a full understanding of the solution’s intended purpose naturally developed negative perceptions.

In recent years, the construction industry realized an opportunity to advance the modular market to durable, permanent installations. Construction professionals saw the opportunity to reduce labor costs and speed up construction timelines, all while fabricating certain building components at a higher level of quality than could be achieved if built on site. If you have performed a punch list on a project recently, you know that craftsmanship among the construction trades is declining. Built in factory controlled environments, modular components are subjected to higher quality control checks using superior materials, so durability is often better than that of site built components. With interior elements like casework where consistency and uniformity is highly visible, end users can rest assured that a modular installation in one room will be identical in quality to the next. The same generally cannot be said for site built millwork, as there will likely be noticeable variances in craftsmanship from room to room.

Modular construction is still overcoming its share of preconceived challenges. When talking with design professionals and building owners about modular casework, much misinformation still remains. Many people cite higher initial cost as an excluding factor when looking at modular casework as part of their interior planning. While it is true if you hold a site built millwork bid next to a modular casework bid, modular is likely the loser in the game. However, what is often missed is that you aren’t really comparing apples to apples. Modular casework elevation production and drawing review times are reduced with the availability of BIM families. Parallel construction activities reduce the overall construction timeline, thereby reducing labor costs. Less workers on site reduces risk of costly construction injuries and ensuing litigation. So, drawings get completed quicker, the construction schedule is reduced, and the owner gets building occupancy that much faster. Time is money. If you only look at a bottom line number without understanding the process, how much are you wasting?

Like any prefabricated building component, the value of reduced timelines and labor costs are just one of the many advantages of modular casework. You can read more here to learn how modular casework increases building flexibility and adaptive reuse over the lifetime of a structure. Modular construction encompasses an entire process, and the benefits are simply too valuable to ignore. Design professionals owe it not only to building owners but also themselves to seriously investigate modular building components as part of their design solutions.

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About Stuffey

To say that Stuffey was made for this role would be an understatement. A life long hoarder, Stuffey understands how the Laws of Stuff can wreak havoc in the real world of an organization’s space. Now as part of his reformation, he is committed to passing on to you his secrets in our battle against the tyranny of STUFF.

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