Off-Site Construction in Commercial Real Estate

Last week, we covered Modular Housing. This week, we bring you 'Off Site Construction for the Commercial Sector”. We will give you an overview of how prefabrication and modular construction will change real estate as we know it.

'The building industry is refabricating architecture through prefabrication'

What is it?

Commercial Modular Buildings are code-compliant, non-residential structures 60% to 90% completed offsite in a factory-controlled environment then transported or shipped to a final destination where the modules are then placed on a concrete foundation to form a finished building.

Many construction projects have a reputation for being completed late and over budget. Modular construction changes all of this.

Off site construction promises transformative improvements across the asset lifecycle in:

  • Health and Safety
  • Predictability
  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality

Traditional construction models continue to under perform in these 4 areas:

  • Productivity
  • Certainty in delivery
  • Skills shortage
  • Data transparency

Similar to Modular Housing benefits, here are the benefits of this construction type:

  • Quality – Higher-quality finishes with defects eliminated prior to completion.
  • Safety – Safer working environment under factory conditions.
  • Cost – Repeated use of moulds through standardisation reduces formwork materials, preliminaries, site storage and on-site facilities.
  • Waste – Reduced off-cuts from formwork and the introduction of prefabricated reinforcement bars.
  • Programme – Increased predictability due to reduced external factors such as weather.
  • Local disruption – Less environmental impacts such as dust and noise pollution.
  • Accuracy – Increased accuracy with templates produced using Computer Aided Design(CAD) systems.
  • Timescale – Components built off-site leading to reduced on-site construction time.

An interesting history

The History of Modular Construction for Commercial Use

The earliest prefabricated cases was recorded in 1624, when houses were prepared in England and sent to the fishing village of Cape Ann, in what is now a city in Massachusetts. The two world wars stimulated research into newer methods of construction, with time and cost being major driving forces along with shortages of skilled labour and building materials. This ultimately led to the construction of hundreds of prefabricated concrete tower blocks and thousands of schools in the 1950s and 1960s which were often low cost and poorly designed. Volumetric construction, the construction technique involving the production of buildings as a number of boxes connected on site, was used throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

The most extensive early example, of prefabrication is Britain's Great Exhibition of 1851, featuring a building called the Crystal Palace. Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in less than two weeks, the building used light and cheap materials: iron, wood, and glass. The construction period lasted only a few months and consisted of assembling the prefabricated components. After the exhibition, the palace was taken apart, piece by piece, and moved to another location.

How Time Flies

Chinese build 57-storey skyscraper in 19 days. If you can believe it, this happened three years ago! This is only the beginning of this construction type.

Did you know that London's Iconic 'Cheesegrater' Building was Prefabricated?

Open Data and Modular Buildings

There are now open sourced architectural plans for Modular Buildings!

Architects are already sharing architectural plans for modular housing openly. As a result, developers get access to free, world-class plans.Prefab manufacturers can re-engineer many conventional architectural plans, open-source blueprints and models for prefab construction.

Here are some great websites offering free modular architectural plans!

For your inner engineer!

For the ones who are curious about the engineering behind the high rise modular constructions – watch this detailed and easy to understand 45 minute lecture. You will know more than you ever wanted to know about this type of construction!

We at FUTURE:PropTech believe that companies building environmentally friendly buildings this way should be property taxed at a lower rate. This would be a good incentive to change the mindset and lower construction costs as well as saving time! What do you think?

Watch out for the special list of UK Modular Housing Companies to watch out for (compiled be an expert in this field!)

Coming next week!

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