Construction Worker

How Does Modular Construction Sustainability Work?

Rachel Lark - November 23, 2023

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Modular construction has been around for years. One of its most significant advantages is that it helps the building sector produce less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Learn more about modular construction sustainability and how it works.

What Is Modular Construction?

In modular construction, buildings are constructed at a factory instead of onsite. The structure is assembled in models and installed later at the desired location. They follow the same rules and regulations as traditional construction, but the process is completed in a controlled environment.

This procedure benefits the planet, the client and the construction sector. With this method, construction companies can drastically reduce the emissions they generate, save time on their projects and create safer working conditions for workers.

How Does Modular Construction Sustainability Work?

While modular construction still produces GHG emissions, it is a much more sustainable method than traditional construction. This is due to several reasons. At an onsite location, workers require many heavy vehicles and equipment that burn fossil fuels.

However, at a factory, these machinery and vehicles are less needed. This, in return, produces less emissions and lowers the organization’s carbon footprint. Additionally, companies can also make this technique more sustainable. The way they do this is to use a smart building as the factory where they assemble the modules.

Often, these smart buildings are equipped with renewable energy sources. Meaning the facility can use clean energy to complete their operations. Another reason why modular construction is sustainable is because it produces less waste.

At the factory, the organization can use more eco-friendly practices such as recycling. After a job is completed, they can recycle many of the materials or decide to store them for other construction projects. This reduces the amount of waste in junkyards where they cause pollution.

Additionally, many construction companies design module buildings with recycling in mind. In other words, the structures are built from recyclable materials. This means that instead of dismantling the building and sending most of the materials to a landfill, the organization can use them again.

This can drastically reduce the amount of new materials needed for a project. Modular construction also follows guidelines that help create more energy-efficient buildings that aid in lowering the operational CO2 levels of the structure.

The Effect Traditional Construction Has on the Environment

Every year, construction releases a lot of emissions into the environment worldwide. According to Architecture2030, the building industry is responsible for 40% of annual CO2 emissions. They state that of those total emissions, 13% accounts for embodied carbon and 27% for constructing operations.

Additionally, the sector also produces a lot of waste. Not all of the materials delivered to a construction site are used. Many of them result in offcuts that are then sent to landfills. ScienceDirect estimates that about 30% of building materials that arrive on construction sites end up as waste.

Another thing to note is that while some of these items can be recycled, in many cases, they are not. Instead, they go to the local junkyard and contribute to pollution.

Lastly, the physical cutting, grinding and welding of materials onsite contribute greatly to air and noise pollution. Whereas with modular construction, buildings are made in a factory where noise, air and even chemical pollution can be monitored as well as controlled.

What Sustainable Benefits Does Modular Construction Provide?

Modular construction offers many sustainable advantages. Here are a few of the benefits:

1. Reduces Material Waste

As mentioned, modular construction takes place in a controlled environment. Because of this, companies can drastically reduce the amount of waste they produce. For example, after they have finished a project, they can store many of the materials left over for future jobs.

This decreases the amount of waste construction companies send to the landfill. Additionally, because modular construction takes place in a controlled environment and uses procedures to ensure efficiency, fewer mistakes are usually made. This means that less waste is created due to human error.

2. Produces Fewer Emissions

Traditional construction generates a lot of emissions. One of the most significant contributors to this is transportation. Construction companies transport building materials, heavy machinery, workers and large construction vehicles on a regular basis.

On some days, they can take multiple trips to an onsite location. However, modular construction drastically reduces the time spent on site. The reason for this is that everything is constructed at the factory.

In other words, modular construction sustainability means companies make fewer trips to the construction site. Other factors contributing to the release of emissions are the manufacturing or processing process alongside the use of heavy machinery.

However, since the building is only assembled on site and not completely built as with traditional construction, there is less of a need for these machinery and vehicles.

3. Allows For the Use of Recycled Materials

Modular construction allows for the use of green and recycled materials. Because organizations use these materials on projects, it reduces the need for processing and manufacturing. Thus contributing to the sustainability of modular construction.

4. Decreases Pollution

As mentioned, traditional construction creates a lot of pollution. In modular construction, the organization can better manage and control the pollution they generate. In other words, it allows them to implement measures that reduce the pollution they cause.

Additionally, the materials used in modular construction are usually lightweight. This means during transportation, the vehicles that carry them generate less air pollution compared to the heavy materials they deliver in traditional construction.

On-site locations can produce a lot of noise that can disrupt surrounding communities. However, with modular construction, this is less of a problem.

This is because the factories that assemble the projects are usually located away from residential areas. Thus the amount of noise that takes place on-site is drastically reduced.

5. Energy Use Is Lower

In traditional construction, it is challenging for organizations to manage their energy use onsite. However, with modular construction, this becomes a lot easier. This is because buildings are constructed at the factory where workers can control the power usage.

Thus the organization can better manage its energy requirement and, in return, produce less emissions. In addition, the factory can also use renewable energy sources that further lower its carbon footprint.

The Importance of Modular Construction Sustainability

Every year, the building sector plays a massive role in generating emissions contributing to climate change. In order to address this issue, a holistic approach alongside sustainable practices is needed.

While modular construction is not 100% eco-friendly, it is a lot more sustainable than traditional construction. With more organizations implementing this model, they can drastically lower the impact they have on the environment.

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.