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The Shift to Modular Contruction
Modular construction is making a comeback. Although it has been tried with varying degrees of success in many countries over the years, it has never gained a solid foothold within the construction industry. For many, modular or prefabricated construction is usually associated with post-war architecture, when housing and commercial premises were required quickly as countries re-built what was lost. However, this is changing.
“Modular construction offers a way to potentially address some of the key challenges the industry is facing,” explains Scott Fisk, President of MEVA Formwork Systems USA. “These include increased pressure to deliver projects faster and for less money, the skills shortage in most trades and disciplines – as well as the limited availability of labour – and the need to construct sustainably,” he continues.
In the past, the focus of modular construction was on providing buildings at a fast pace. Today, the aim is similar, but with the flexibility to create customized buildings and spaces sustainably, easily and at scale.
“With the technological, environmental, and economical climate changing, there are many reasons why modular construction is more than just the latest trend, and fast becoming an accepted method of modern sustainable building,” Scott asserts.
The design software that exists today can enable much better visualization and simulation of the design, construction sequencing, and site conditions. For example, the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and 3D design means that projects can be planned with extraordinary accuracy and detail. This not only supports better decision making and improved project outcomes, but also provides the perfect platform for modular construction.
With 3D modelling software, it is much easier to identify and quantify common elements that are used multiple times across a project. Each element can be visualized from any angle, and its interaction with adjacent building components can be determined from the model. This makes it much easier to plan modular pieces and determine how they will fit together. In addition, the 3D design can be sent directly to fabrication machinery to be manufactured exactly as seen within the model.
There will always be pressure to deliver more with less, but for the construction industry, this is becoming increasingly important. Fewer people are entering the industry, and there are skills shortages in many areas. Achieving more with fewer staff and resources is therefore a challenge that many construction companies are facing.
Modular construction helps overcome this by enabling a large proportion of the work to be done in factory-controlled conditions, where inclement weather and poor site conditions will not affect progress. On site, it is much easier to train staff to assemble prefabricated or preassembled elements, as well as being much quicker to construct.
Constructing sustainably is another major issue. Natural resources must be used as economically as possible, and material waste avoided. In addition, reducing carbon emissions from sites is a global concern.
With modular construction, materials can be optimized prior to production and waste can be minimized much more easily within a factory setting. In a permanent facility – unlike a job site – setting up methods to control and reduce carbon emissions is also more viable.
MEVA is supporting this shift to modular ways of working with our preassembled formwork. Usually, forming systems arrive on site in hundreds of pieces that need to be put together – taking up extra time, labour, and equipment. With our preassembled formwork, the contractor saves time and money with every pour, and a wide range of situations can be accommodated.
Oregon Water Treatment Plant
For example, the Oregon Water Treatment Plant in Lucas County, Ohio, USA scheduled to build a new water treatment tank with an 80-foot (24.8-metres) radius, and walls that were 20 feet (6.1 meters) high. The construction schedule was ambitious, but with added pressure due to the unfavourable weather conditions on site. Therefore, any activities or methods that could save time were welcomed.
The MEVA Adjustable Radius (MAR) system was chosen as the radius formwork because of its time-saving benefits. The system was delivered to site in preassembled units with the radius already calibrated. Once on site, the contractor needed to merely remove the preassembled formwork from the truck and stand into position with a crane, all with a team of just five staff members. This not only provided significant time savings – which helped the project stay on track despite the weather – but also considerably reduced on-site labour costs.
Mansfield Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion
Similarly, the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant in Mansfield, Ohio, USA presented an unusual challenge – a one-sided concrete pour lining the inside of an existing water tank. The MAR system was again chosen for its ability to arrive preassembled, ensuring that the formwork was easy to install within the existing tank.
Sundre Raw Water Supply Reservoir
In Minot, North Dakota, USA, a 140-foot (42.7 metre) diameter raw water reservoir was constructed using the preassembled MAR system. With walls 24-foot (7.3 metres) high, using the MAR preassembled formwork allowed 60 feet (18.3 metres) wall lengths to be poured at a time. Since the formwork was delivered in 8-foot (2.4 metre) wide sections, the 24-foot-tall units that were ready to stand and quick to assemble. An added saving was the return freight costs, which were much less than expected because the system was dismantled upon being returned to MEVA. As a result, the return freight costs were reduced by a third.
Support for Modular Construction
“MEVA fully supports and continues to look for opportunities to expand the preassembly of modular formwork, therefore supporting the trends pointing to modular construction and the advantages that it offers – both economically and environmentally,” explains Scott. Our team will work with you to determine what system and preassembly options will best suit your needs and help you achieve your goals – simply contact our friendly sales team for tailored advice and support.