Modular Construction: Types, Applications, and Attributes

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What is Modular Construction?

‘Modular construction’ is a term used to describe the use of factory-produced pre-engineered building units that are delivered to site and assembled as large volumetric components or as substantial elements of a building. The modular units may form complete rooms, parts of rooms, or separate highly serviced units such as toilets or lifts. The collection of discrete modular units usually forms a self-supporting structure or, for tall buildings, may rely on an independent structural framework.

Habitat 67, Montreal Canada

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Application of Modular Construction

        • Private housing
        • Social housing
        • Apartments and mixed-use buildings
        • Educational sector and student residences
        • Keyworker accommodation and sheltered housing
        • Public sector buildings, such as prisons and MoD buildings
        • Health sector buildings
CZECH PAVILION at Expo 2015 Milan

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Types of Modules

The following types of modules may be used in the design of buildings using either fully modular construction or mixed forms of steel construction:

      1. 4-sided modules
      2. Partially open-sided modules
      3. Open-sided (corner-supported) modules
      4. Modules supported by a primary structural frame
      5. Non-load bearing modules
      6. Mixed modules and planar floor cassettes
      7. Special stair or lift modules.

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4-Sided Modules

In this form of construction, modules are manufactured with four closed sides to create cellular type spaces designed to transfer the combined vertical load of the modules above and in-plane loads (due to wind action) through their longitudinal walls. The cellular space provided is limited by the transportation and installation requirements. Depending on location and exposure to wind action, the height of buildings in fully modular construction is in the range of 6 to 10 storeys.

Modules are manufactured from a series of 2D panels, beginning with the floor cassette, to which the four wall panels and ceiling panel are attached generally by screws. The walls transfer vertical loads and therefore the longitudinal walls of the upper module are designed to sit on the walls of the module below.

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Partially Open-Sided Modules

4 sided modules Can be designed with partially open sides by the introduction of corner and intermediate posts and by using a stiff continuous edge beam in the floor cassette. The maximum width of opening is limited by the bending resistance and stiffness of the edge member in the floor cassette. Additional intermediate posts are usually square hollow sections (SHS), so that they can fit within the wall width.

Two modules can be placed together to create wider spaces. The compression resistance of the corner or internal posts controls the maximum height of the building, but 6 to 10 storeys can be achieved, as for fully modular construction.

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Open Sided (Corner-Supported) Modules

In this ‘hybrid’ or mixed form of construction, long modules may be stacked to form a load-bearing serviced core and floor cassettes span between the modules and load-bearing walls. The modules are constructed in a similar way to that described for open-sided modules, but the loading applied to the side of the modules is significantly higher.

Therefore, this mixed modular and panel form of construction is limited to buildings of 4 to 6 storeys height. It is typically used in residential buildings, particularly of terraced form, comprising modular ‘cores’ for stairs, and highly serviced areas. The modules are arranged in a ‘spine’ through the building and the floors are attached to it.

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Mixed Modules and Floor Cassettes

Modules may be designed to provide fully open sides by transfer of loads through the longitudinal edge beams to the corner posts. The framework of the module is often in the form of hot rolled steel members, such as Square Hollow Section (SHS) columns and Parallel Flange Channel (PFC) edge beams, that are bolted together.

A shallower parallel flange channel (PFC) section may be used to support the ceiling, but in all cases, the combined depth of the edge beams is greater than for 4 sided modules. Modules can be placed side by side to create larger open plan spaces, as required in hospitals and schools, etc.

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Modules supported by a Primary Structure

Modules supported by long spanning cellular beams to create open plan space at the lower levels.

Modular units may be designed to be supported by a primary structure at a podium or platform level. In this case, the supporting columns are positioned at a multiple of the width of the modules (normally 2 or 3 modules). The beams are designed to support the combined loads from the modules above (normally a maximum of 4 6 storeys).

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Stair Module

Modular stairs may be designed as fully modular units and generally comprise landings and half-landings with two flights of stairs. The landings and half-landings are supported by longitudinal walls with additional angles or SHS members to provide local strengthening, if necessary.

The stair modules rely for their stability on a base and top, which leads to use of a false landing. The open top and base of the wall may be strengthened by a T, L or similar members to transfer out of plane loads to the landing. SHS posts and bracing can be introduced in the walls to provide for overall stability.

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Non Load Bearing Modules

Non load bearing modules are of similar form to fully modular units, but are not designed to resist external loads, other than their own weight and the forces during lifting. They are used as toilet/bathroom units, plant rooms or other serviced units and are supported directly on a floor or by a separate structure.

The walls and floor of these ‘pods’ are relatively thin (typically <100mm). The units are designed to be installed either as the construction proceeds or slid into place on the completed floor.

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Attributes of Modular Construction

The use of modular and other lightweight forms of building construction is increasing. The benefits of modular construction, relative to more traditional methods, include:

          • Economy of scale through repetitive manufacture
          • Rapid installation on site (6-8 units per day)
          • High level of quality control in factory production
          • Low self-weight leading to foundation savings
          • Suitable for projects with site constraints and where methods of working require more off-site manufacture
          • Limited disruption in the vicinity of the construction site
          • Useful in building renovation projects, such as roof top extensions
          • Excellent acoustic insulation due to double layer construction
          • Adaptable for future extensions, and ability to be dismantled easily and moved if required
          • Robustness can be achieved by attaching the units together at their corners
          • Stability of tall buildings can be provided by a braced steel core.

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References

https://www.steelconstruction.info/Modular_construction

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Keywords

  • modular construction stocks
  • modular construction services
  • modular construction homes
  • modular construction companies

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About the Author

This article is written by Engr. Muhammad Ijaz.  

Who is a Civil Engineer by Profession.

The author keeps himself busy with Content Writing, Movies Watching, and in Fitness Activities during his leisure time.

Email: muhammadijaz162786@gmail.com


(c) Some Rights Reserved.

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