Modular vs Traditional Construction: Which is Better?

In the last decade, construction methods have advanced thanks to new technology, better quality materials, and an increased focus on sustainability. Traditional construction methods are consistently outperformed by modern and modular construction.

If you’re considering a new cleanroom, controlled environment, or in-plant office, you’re likely looking for the highest-quality, most cost-effective way to build that new space. So, should you stick with traditional methods or go modular? Let’s look at the differences between modular vs. traditional construction to help you answer that question.

Comparing Modular vs. Traditional Construction

What separates modular from traditional construction?

Modular construction refers to the process of building modular panels and components off site to be assembled according to detailed instructions. Modular construction considers all factors of the room design and construction up front, and builds out each component according to exact specifications in a controlled, off-site facility. When every component is completed, they are shipped together directly to your job-site. The advantages of this approach include: a more comprehensive process, consistent quality, shorter lead times, faster installation, and greater lifetime value, among others.

Traditional construction, on the other hand, doesn’t take advantage of prefabrication. Every layer of the room design is built upon the previous. The traditional construction process can take longer to complete, especially if you have to wait on materials or specialized technicians, and leaves more room for error. Traditional construction also means that the bulk of the construction process happens on-site, which can be disruptive for those facilities who plan to keep work moving throughout the construction process.

Modular vs. Traditional Construction: The Breakdown

To help illustrate the differences between modular vs. traditional construction, let’s compare key factors of price, design, process, sustainability, and other important factors when building an office, controlled environment, or cleanroom.

Cost of Construction

Strictly looking at cost, both modular and traditional are comparable upfront, but modular construction is likely to offer significant value over time. This is partially due to the higher quality materials used in modular structures. The real difference lies in the consistency of quality, however.

In modular construction, every part and component is prefabricated according to high standards and a detailed design plan. When the structure is installed, each piece fits together like a complex puzzle. Because of the attention paid during planning and fabrication, structures built with modular construction are longer-lasting, requiring much less maintenance on average compared to traditional construction.

With traditional construction, there are likely many different tradespeople working on different aspects of the build, and more mistakes are likely to occur.

Since consistency is not a key factor of traditional construction, these structures are more susceptible to wear and tear. Costs to maintain and upgrade the structure may cause this approach to be more costly in the long run.

Tax Benefits

Another cost consideration is the tax benefit of choosing modular construction. Offices, cleanrooms, or controlled environments built with modular construction can depreciate in 7 years. When compared to the typical depreciation of traditionally constructed buildings — 39 years, modular construction offers much greater tax savings.

Financing Availability

Another lesser-known advantage of modular construction is comprehensive financing options. When you choose to have your structure delivered in sets of modular components, you have the potential to make payments to use the materials. Since modular panels can be easily repurposed, when you’re done using them, you can send the components back or purchase them to use on your next project.

When you start traditional construction, what you order is what you pay for. There’s not much flexibility in financing. A construction loan may help with initial costs to build your structure, but high interest rates and a short loan term mean you’ll end up paying more for a lower quality space.

Design and Customization

Modular construction offers superior design options. The durable, all-aluminum panel construction means you’ll never have to worry about rusting or corrosion. And, all modular offices, environments, or cleanrooms can be built to fit any space. The strong supporting grid has significant loading capabilities to maximize use of vertical space.

Traditional construction using drywall frames can’t compete with the strength and design flexibility of aluminum. It’s also more vulnerable to environmental degradation. Maintenance and repairs will likely eclipse the cost of modular construction over the lifetime of the space.

Building Process

Modular components are built offsite, where they do not disturb your daily operations. Each component is precision-engineered to your specs. Contrctors prefer modular construction because installation takes 75% less time than building a traditional office.

Traditional construction requires on-site building, which can take months of dust, dirt, and noise. Because you’re at the mercy of suppliers and specialists’ schedules, traditional construction also takes more time. If you’re not on a strict timeline, the extra wait may not matter to you. If, however, like most companies, you’re eager to start using your new facility, the sooner it’s completed to spec, the better.

Flexibility and Future Growth

Modular construction makes future adjustments simple. Each modular panel and component fit together interchangeably, so they can be disassembled, reassembled, and reconfigured as needed. Need to make your facility bigger? Just add more panels. Need to change your office layout? Move panels and components to the desired shape. You can even move your entire modular structure to a new location with ease.

Traditional construction is here to stay. Adjustments can be made, but they are more complex. For any building change, you’ll need a contractor, and potentially a list of subcontractors, to design and build those additions or reconfigurations. If you expect your facility needs to change, you don’t want to build an entirely new room for every project. Modular construction will allow your facility to grow with you.

Sustainability & Waste Reduction

When you choose modular construction, every element of your construction project is ordered to your exact specifications, thanks to a detailed planning stage. This helps reduce the many jobsite deliveries often required with traditional construction down to just one delivery.

Because traditional construction often requires the piecemeal ordering of building components — lumber from one supplier, drywall from another, etc. — it produces a lot of waste that you and the environment pay for. In addition to requiring multiple shipments, traditional construction orders materials in estimated quantities, which means there are always some overages of materials that go unused and wasted.

Modular construction helps to eliminate both the waste associated with shipping, as well as the waste that accrues on the jobsite. If sustainability is important to your project, modular construction can offer greener margins than traditional methods.

Modular vs. Traditional Construction: Which is Best for My Project?

Due to its low lifetime cost and minimal maintenance requirements, as well as exceptional construction and flexibility for the future, modular construction is best suited for most commercial building projects, from offices to cleanrooms, equipment enclosures, portable buildings, and beyond. While traditional construction still has its stronghold in residential markets, it’s no longer the best option for many commercial and industrial projects.

If you’re interested in modular construction, but aren’t quite sure how to get started, talk to Starrco today. We’re here to help deliver the building solutions that save you time and money. Contact us today to request a free quote.

Previous ArticleHow to Redesign Your Office for More Space Next Article4 Ways to Reduce Construction Waste