Traditional production methods are not particularly efficient and they lead to lost time as well as wasted materials, so it’s no surprise that attempts have been made to overcome these issues. One solution that has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years is that of pre-fabricated, modular systems that are being used to reduce the amount of construction work that actually takes place on a construction site. Architectural partitions are a good example of one such system and they are being adopted by more and more organizations due to the wide variety of benefits that they offer (they are able to list cost effectiveness, environmental friendliness and convenience as just a few important benefits). But it’s the way that modular systems such as architectural walls are able to increase productivity in the construction industry that we want to focus on in this article.
A New Improved Version of an Old Construction Process
Pre-fabrication and modular construction is actually nothing new or ground-breaking; it’s a type of construction method that has been in existence for many decades. Traditional construction methods that resulted in the creation of fixed/permanent structural elements largely dominated the construction sector throughout the 20th century due to the poor quality of modular components. However, there were periods during the last century where the use of modular construction fluctuated spectacularly due to relatively sudden bursts in demand, such as those experienced during World War II, whereby large volumes of mobile structures were required. It wasn’t until the last two or three decades that manufacturing processes became more advanced and the variety of materials that could be utilized in the production of modular construction systems increased. This has significantly improved the aesthetics of modular building systems and has allowed more complex structures to be created.
It’s these relatively recent developments, coupled with the ever decreasing upfront costs (which will only decrease further as demand increases) that have now established modular construction systems, such as architectural walls, as a realistic option for construction contractors all over the world.
How Do Architectural Walls and Modular Construction Improve the Construction Process?
For those professionals involved in the construction sector such as contractors, engineers and architects, architectural walls and other forms of modular construction are able to offer a number of benefits as a result of streamlining the construction process, the most important of which is increased productivity levels. Below we are going to discuss some of the main ways in which modular wall systems achieve that goal.
- Efficient Project Completion – Modular construction elements such as architectural partitions are not prepared on the construction site; they are manufactured off site and delivered in a near ready-to-install state. Since the delivery dates can be calculated and little to no extra work on the walls is required once they are delivered, the installation site can be prepared beforehand and installation can be completed immediately upon delivery. This streamlined process can reduce project schedules significantly, boosting productivity and allowing all professionals involved to get more done in less time. McGraw-Hill Construction Research & Analytics conducted a study and found that 66 percent of the participants indicated that the combination of pre-fabricated construction elements and modular systems has a positive effect upon project schedules. A total of 35 percent also stated that modular construction can shorten the length of a project by as much as four weeks. Modular walls systems also lessen the impact on the rest of the construction site; other tasks can still be accomplished even while the installation is taking place, further increasing productivity.
- Improved Safety – Construction is historically a very dangerous occupation and even today fatalities at construction sites are reported every year. There are strict regulations that govern construction site safety and any innovation that can help to add extra security should be investigated and, if found to be useful, implemented. Architectural walls and other forms of modular construction have been found to consistently reduce the amount of risk that contractors encounter at the workplace by lessening the use of both scaffolding and ladders, in addition to reducing the amount work that is completed in confined spaces.
- Quality Control – Delays can be encountered during traditional construction projects due to the unsatisfactory completion of a specific task at the first time of asking. In other words, there’s no standardized level of work that can be consistently replicated as a result of the work being carried out onsite in an often chaotic environment and by many different contractors. Many people are now beginning to see the benefit of building elements being pre-fabricated in a controlled environment, with the McGraw-Hill study we mentioned earlier finding that 65 percent of firms that are currently not using modular construction do recognise the positive impact that this construction method can have on the overall project quality. When architectural walls are pre-fabricated in a manufacturing facility, they are produced to exacting standards and this, combined with strict quality control measures, reduces the chance of substandard quality construction elements (and the complaints and possible delays that accompany it). Being able to rely on receiving high quality solutions time and time again is another reason why many property owners are choosing to utilize architectural walls over onsite construction methods. Unlike with traditional drywall construction, it’s very rare that any unexpected costs are incurred when modular construction methods are used.
- Reduced Exposure to Poor Weather Conditions – With traditional building methods large volumes of raw materials (many general contractors will order in larger quantities to avoid the delays that can stem from material shortages) are typically stored at the construction site. Not only does this require the construction site to be far more complex, with facilities to store these materials, but it also increases the risk that these construction materials could be exposed to poor weather conditions and become damaged. Many of the air quality issues experienced in newly constructed buildings develop as a result of the materials that were used being exposed to moisture and dampness while they were stored at the site. If materials are damaged and cannot be used, this could lead to delays and hamper the progress of a construction project. Effectively allocating and then managing these material storage areas also drains more time and labour resources, further impacting upon productivity levels. This is in stark contrast to modular construction elements, such as architectural walls, which aren’t stored onsite and in many cases are delivered directly from the manufacturing facility and installed, with zero “down time” in between. Additionally, because architectural walls are produced and assembled in a secure, temperature controlled environment, the chances that the materials could be damaged by moisture before they are installed are virtually zero.
- Pre-Made to Meet Local Building Codes – Local building codes serve as a guide to make sure any new construction meets a certain required level of safety and quality. However, some construction projects can be slowed down considerably as inspections must be arranged and permits must be obtained. If drywall is installed that doesn’t meet local buildings codes, it may have to be torn down and rebuilt to the required specifications, causing delays and increasing the overall project cost. Architectural walls help to further streamline the construction process in the respect that they are pre-fabricated to the specifications mandated by local building codes, meaning there will never be an issue once the project has been completed.
- Improved Site Conditions – Labour congestion and poor site conditions are two of the primary factors that can have the biggest impact upon the level of productivity at a construction site. A large workforce that is uncoordinated can cause a significant dip in output and modular construction elements, such as demountable wall systems can help to solve both of these problems. Firstly, the need for a large workforce to complete the installation is dramatically reduced since the majority of the work has already been done offsite. This reduces the need to coordinate many different tasks and lowers the probability that time will be wasted spent doing this. With architectural wall systems there is a very clear process that needs to be completed during the installation, often involving just one set of tradesmen, thus making it possible to carry out the work in a very time efficient manner.
Modular construction allows for a much more calculated, well planned approach to completing a construction project. Many of the processes that are so often a drain on time, finances and manpower can be removed from the equation altogether and all efforts can be concentrated fully on only what is absolutely necessary to meet the end goal.