Modular architecture: design and sustainability in record time

By 30 October, 2020 No Comments


Why is modular architecture on the rise? Why are ever more architects working on modular projects? And why is modular architecture cheaper? All these questions can be answered with two simple words: time and sustainability.

Modular architecture v. prefabricated architecture

Before delving into the extraordinary world of modular architecture, we need to set it apart from prefabricated architecture—a point that many in the industry still have questions about. Modular architecture represents the next stage in prefab architecture. The latter uses single pieces that are prefabricated in a workshop and then require onsite assembly (like traditional construction). Modular architecture, meanwhile, involves installation and assembly in the workshop, with buildings arriving fully formed to their final plot, which also means its environmental impact is considerably lower.

Quick, appealing, practical and ecological

Modular architecture is both quick and technological, meaning it reduces timeframes and costs, whilst optimising resources. Moreover, in most cases there are no limits on styles or size, as long as compliance with all regulations and codes is assured from the very beginning of the design process to the final interior design stage. This is why it has started to become one of the most acclaimed aspects in architecture according to experts. High-quality results can be achieved that fully comply with energy efficiency standards. In addition, as the construction process generates hardly any waste in comparison to traditional approaches, it has a much lower environmental impact.

Time: a priceless asset


How much is your time worth? This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially in terms of building processes, where its value can be enormous. The building process itself is the great challenge in all architecture projects. Delays are more common than one would like and come down to a variety of factors: planning, human resources, bureaucracy, etc. And they can lead to even more costly consequences, such as casting the project in a negative light. Modular architecture offers a way to cut down on the entire process, all whilst maintaining quality and increasing sustainability.

According to forecasts from the Modular Building Institute, modular architecture could cut building time by 50% compared to conventional methods. Moreover, it states that despite being a process where a building is constructed off-site, it will always be designed to the same codes and standards as traditional construction.

Modular architecture and sustainability: a perfect match

Is modular construction more sustainable? The answer is a definite yes. One of the reasons is the lower waste produced during construction. As modular projects are all built in a factory, all waste can be recycled and there is real control over it. Another positive aspect to this type of construction is reuse: In most cases, modules can be relocated or renovated, thus cutting out any energy or resources that would be required to build new elements.

TOP projects: modular houses built with sustainable materials

Wood and steel are just some of the sustainable materials preferred by modular architecture. Prefabricated wooden homes are lighter and can use recycled or sustainably grown timber with FSC certification. They are also ideal in terms of heat insulation, meaning energy waste is considerably lowered.

Wood was chosen by the architects Tom & Danielle Raffiel to create their modular home in Cornwall (United Kingdom), where they say they feel a true connection to nature. One of its standout features is the use of curved wood.

Modular architecture: wooden house

Another outstanding example of a sustainable modular home is the Casa Vita – Egoin, designed by the architect Iñaki Aspiazu Iza. This housing project represents bioclimatic architecture where energy use is ten times lower than in conventional buildings.

Steel is another common material in sustainable modular homes as it is 100% recyclable and helps cut down on energy use. One of the best examples of modular designs featuring steel as the main element is the Hotel Vipp Shelter. It is portable, transparent and completely in tune with nature.

Modular architecture: steel house

Wood and steel in the same project

One of the most outstanding projects in modular architecture is the mountain refuge in Asturias. It was designed by Estudio Baragaño—the practice run by Sergio Baragaño. The building is made from galvanised steel and cladded in wood and slate. It is also fully integrated into the marvellous natural setting.

Modular architecture: wood and steel house

Designer modular homes: magic happens on the inside too

Prefabricated architecture focuses its most striking aspects on building exteriors, although the construction process with connected modules means designs can offer large, spacious interiors. Modular homes can also be equipped with the same materials used in conventional homes.

Modular architecture offers huge possibilities for all interior design professionals who love creating large elegant spaces.

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