On today’s show we’re taking a closer look at modular construction and we’re going to be live on location at a modular construction plant.

Modular construction comes in two principal methods. The first is where the manufacturer complete entire modules of the buildings. These modules are fully finished. They are fully painted, with flooring, utilities, and even the appliance fully installed and strapped in place to prevent them from shifting during transportation.

Since these boxes can often be transported hundreds of miles from the factory to the final construction site, they have to be of extremely high build quality and extremely rigid so they don’t have lots of cracks in the finishes happen during transportation.

The site work for these projects consists of the foundation and the rough-in of the utilities to a single connection point through a centralized utilities duct. The extra lengths of pipe and wires are all coiled up to enable the plumbers and electricians to complete the final utility connections in the basement level.

The cost of modular box construction is usually on par with stick build. The savings come from the fact that the work performed in the factory environment is much more efficient from a labor standpoint. They don’t need licensed or unionized trades for the factory work, and the most expensive trades like plumbers and electricians are only needed for the final service connections.

The total cost of construction involves adding together the site work with the factory construction and the much higher transportation cost for the finished boxes. These will be wide loads and will often require a carefully planned route with special permits and sometimes police escort. You will require heavy cranes on site for the final assembly of the modules.

The second form of modular construction consists of panels. These panels can be flat packed on a flatbed truck on put in a shipping container. Transportation is much simpler. But understand that this form of assembly is much further from completion. You’re basically accelerating the framing portion of the construction. Everything else, the utilities rough in, mechanical systems like heating, ventilation and air conditioning all need to be installed onsite. The construction follows the usual permit process with all of the inspections happening onsite with the building inspector. There will be a foundation inspection, framing inspection, a rough-in inspection, insulation inspection and so on.

The main benefit for panel construction is by saving time onsite. You get a much higher quality assembly. You don’t need very heavy equipment. Most of the onsite assembly can be done with a boom truck or even a forklift. This can be particularly important if you’re trying to build new construction in the winter months. If it’s -20 degrees outside, you can’t always count on the framing crew to be super careful with their measurements, ensuring the proper spacing of fasteners. You tend to get a bit of chain saw carpentry happening. When measurements are not accurate, then you will have gaps in the building envelope because things don’t fit together properly and the insulation of your property will be compromised.

On today’s show we’re onsite with Dylan Sliter at Deka Pro Panels in Almonte Ontario. I’ll warn you in advance that we are in a very noisy factory environment with plenty of pneumatic tools firing in the background. So the audio quality is not the best. But we will be doing a small walking tour of the factory environment.


Host: Victor Menasce

email: podcast@victorjm.com