Expert Interview Series: Tom Hardiman on Why Modular Building is More Than Just a Trend

Modular building

Why does modular building seem to be everywhere now?

Modular construction is a building method in which homes may be constructed off-site in approximately half the time that it would otherwise take to build a home. Tom Hardiman, who has been the executive director of the Modular Building Institute for 11 years, spoke to us about why modular building is more than just a trend, the most rewarding part of building modular, and more.

On the Modular Building Institute website, it claims that your business is “changing the way the world builds.” How do you accomplish this?

The construction industry for the most part still builds the same way it did 100 years ago. There have been a lot of studies regarding construction industry productivity over the past fifty years and the fact that it has not improved much (if at all) compared to significant gains realized in other industries.

Modular construction is simply a process whereby larger components (or modules) are prefabricated at an offsite location in controlled settings, then transported to the site and installed. The end product is the same; it’s just a more efficient way to get there.

Why should people build modular?

The primary advantage is speed (i.e., a reduction in the overall construction schedule). This is accomplished because the work on the building can occur simultaneously to the site work. It is not unrealistic to cut 20 to 30 percent off the overall schedule.

Additional advantages include reduced site disturbance, which is critical for educational facilities or dense urban locations. Schedule predictability and cost certainty are other advantages as a result of early communication and collaboration.

Worker safety is also a big advantage, as there is a much lower chance of accidents resulting from falls and from inclement weather. Additionally, with modular construction there is less material wasted again as a result of the controlled building environment. Lastly, the quality is typically higher in a facility constructed in a controlled setting versus a traditional project exposed to the elements.

What are some of the main things you’ve noticed about the modular building trends?

I wouldn’t refer to modular construction as a trend, rather an evolution of the construction industry. It is inevitable that more work is going to be shifted “offsite” as owners and developers demand greater efficiency from contractors.

What is the most challenging part of building modular?

Early communication and collaboration is the key to a successful modular project. It is much more challenging to bring a modular contractor in after the project has been designed, as the design may or may not optimize the modular/offsite construction process.

What is the most rewarding part of building modular?

At the end of the day, if the building looks like a building constructed conventionally, but done in less time, with less materials waste, and less disturbance to the surrounding neighborhood, that’s a successful project.

Follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are interested in becoming a residential or commercial contractor, start your courses now and be well on your way to an in-demand career.

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