Modular Buildings Buyer’s Guide

In 2020, the global modular building market price reached about $82.3 billion, which is impressive in and of itself. That projected price is estimated to reach an astounding $108.8 billion by 2025, which is even more impressive. 

This promising compound annual growth rate of 5.75% has been fueled mainly by worldwide government support, the desire to lessen environmental impacts, and elevated interest in safer work environments in general. 

All around the world, population growth and higher levels of rapid urbanization have created a demand for modular buildings on numerous construction projects. This has caused the modular building market to flourish. 

Read on to find out all about modular buildings, what sets them apart, and whether you might want to try this innovative construction method for yourself. If you are thinking about making this important purchase, you can find all the information you might need to make a decision. 

Modular Building Use Cases

There is almost no end to how many ways to utilize modular construction and build various spaces. While permanent modular buildings have their uses, temporary modular buildings are more versatile because of their ability to travel. 

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Below is a list of many possible ways a modular building can make dreams come true or help you start a lucrative business. With modular building projects, the sky’s the limit!

Modular Offices

For those looking to find more efficient and less expensive office spaces, modular office buildings might be the solution for you. These customizable, transportable offices are an easy, fast way to get your office up and running. 

modular office buildings grid

Starting a small business is hard enough without having to figure out where you and your team can get to work. With a modular building as your office, you could be hard at work behind your death in no time. 

There are many different types of modular office buildings that can provide upgrades and add ons to suit your unique modular office needs, so whatever your business is, you can find a modular office that fits the bill.


Modular Classrooms

Modular classrooms are prebuilt school buildings with standardized unit sizes. The manufacturers craft them in an off-site facility then send them out to school districts. Teachers may use them as extra space to hold more students, host conferences, or work on extracurricular activities. 

modular school buildings grid

You can transport them anywhere quickly and easily, even in the most remote locations in the world. Modular classroom units come in many different sizes to accommodate all the square footage you might need for K-12 school districts as well as colleges and universities.


Modular Medical 

Modular medical buildings can become temporary or permanent medical facilities. You can customize them to suit an endless amount of modular medical buildings. You could use it for a doctor’s office, a minute clinic facility, or a general healthcare facility. 

modular medical buildings grid

You can provide a calming, healing atmosphere for a fraction of the price and in record time. You’ll be able to have a fully functional medical practice with the help of a modular medical building. 


Modular Daycare

Providing low-cost childcare can be difficult, especially when you can’t find a space for a reasonable price. A modular daycare building can be a cost-effective solution for childcare professionals who want to offer their customers a safe, healthy atmosphere.

modular daycare buildings grid

Modular daycares are yet another example where modular buildings can help you give back to your communities while still running a lucrative business and saving lots of time and money in the long run. 


Modular Warehouses

Yes, you read that right! You can even find modular warehouses! These giant structures can be installed and built quickly. They can serve as a permanent structure as well. You could have a warehouse space up and running so much faster than finding a preexisting warehouse or building one using conventional means.

modular warehouse buildings grid

You can create whatever kind of warehouse space your heart desires! You can find features like HVAC, electrical, plumbing, steel walls, and even wall-to-wall windows for maximum visibility. 


Modular Churches

Whether the church uses the modular buildings for Bible study classrooms, community outreach, fellowship meetings, or Sunday school meetings, the extra space can benefit so many members of a church congregation. 

modular churches grid

They can act as counseling centers, temporary housing, conference rooms, and administrative spaces. Modular buildings are a quick, easy way to add new space for whatever a church might need. 

With modular church construction, you do not have to be extremely rich to start a church or to add on to one. Investing in modular buildings allows you to focus on what matters: giving back to your communities through faith-based means. 

You can create whatever kind of warehouse space your heart desires! You can find features like HVAC, electrical, plumbing, steel walls, and even wall-to-wall windows for maximum visibility. 


Modular Restaurants

You might be surprised at how great a choice of modular buildings can be for all sorts of kitchen concepts. Instead of buying an existing property and fixing it up to your specifications, you can find a custom modular space for your unique needs. 

With a modular building for your restaurant, you can still enjoy the comfort and luxury of top-tier appliances and interior design for less money and in record time. Spend less of your precious resources and get your restaurant full of hungry customers before you can say Bon Appetit.

While it might seem strange at first, much like taco trucks, portable restaurants could be just what you need to get your food out to the hungry masses. 

Modular Locker Rooms

Whether used for a work softball team, an away game for high school students, or a PTO league, modular locker rooms and change trailers are pre-assembled with plumbing fixtures and spacious lockers. 

Many modular locker room models can be furnished with a moisture-resistant finish to provide easy clean-up. They can also be equipped with hazardous spill wash-down rooms and can even be used as changing rooms for non-sports occasions. 

Modular Retail

Pop-up stores are a cultural phenomenon where stores, brands, and entrepreneurs open temporary shops to sell their wares. Modular retail buildings can be set up and dismantled within a few hours. 

You can use a modular retail building indoors, in a mall, or outdoors at an open-air market. For the most part, you would only need one employee to run a modular retail store. 

Modular Multifamily Housing

Modular building technology has advanced enough that multi-story construction projects for multiple families can be created quickly, safely, and for a portion of the price of traditionally constructed apartment complexes. 

Modular construction technology utilizes both on and off-site construction techniques to help cut down on build time and budget without sacrificing safety or quality. 

Modular construction could potentially open doors to affordable housing for underprivileged families around the world in the future, providing housing for those who might never have been able to afford it otherwise. 

Modular Commercial

Using modular buildings for commercial spaces and non-residential structures means more than half of the building will be fabricated off-site and shipped on-site once completed. 

Unlike temporary retail buildings, these commercial buildings are designed to be permanent and last as brick and mortar locations for many years. 

Since there is not as much overhead cost involved with modular buildings and a quicker turnaround to boot, you’ll be making a profit from your new store much quicker than you would with a typical brick and mortar operation built the traditional way. 

What Is a Modular Building?

Simply speaking, a modular building is a premade structure built and constructed off-site under controlled conditions. Modular buildings use the same materials and standards as structures made on-site in a more conventional manner. 

The big difference between conventional and modular buildings is that the latter can be constructed about half the time and for much less money. Plus, some modular buildings can be set up and closed down over and over again with ease, making them perfect for travel.

Modular building is more a method of construction than a specific type of product. Most of these construction projects are designed and built in the next town over, three states away, or even halfway across the globe. 

Once finished, modular buildings are then shipped to a job site for the final part of the building process or to simply be assembled and made ready.

This modular method is also referred to as “prefab construction.” While some modular buildings consist of just the walls, floor, and ceiling, some contain finished flooring, appliances, and built-in furniture. 

Types of Modular Buildings

While modular buildings are very versatile, there are two main types of modular buildings used in this specific type of construction. 

Temporary

Temporary modular buildings are durable if well maintained. They are only referred to as temporary because of their relocatable nature with no permanent foundation.

These buildings are for a shorter duration – from months to a few years – as they are designed for relocation. Temporary modular buildings primarily have common materials like wood and vinyl. You can rent, lease, or buy them outright.

Permanent

Unlike temporary modular buildings, permanent ones can be added to an existing structure or as a stand-alone structure. They are usually purchased instead of rented or leased.

While they can also use wood, permanent modular buildings often have components like steel and concrete. These buildings can last for decades, much like conventionally constructed buildings. They are fastened to their foundations, unlike temporary units, because they are not designed to move from site to site. 

Why Modular Building?

There are plenty of reasons you might want to consider a modular building instead of a conventionally constructed one.

Modular buildings’ innovative design and production process foster unique opportunities and benefits when you forgo conventional means of on-site building and construction. Below we have listed a few of the biggest reasons modular buildings have grown so popular in recent years. 

Speed

As creating a modular building is so much more streamlined, there is a much faster timeline from start to finish than traditional construction methods. 

It is a much more efficient route to go with modular buildings, given that all the components used to make them are crafted at the same time as the plumbing and electrical elements. 

Some manufacturers even premake their modular units ahead of potential orders so they are ready to ship as soon as a buyer can pay for them. This early manufacturing means you could find a modular building that’s perfect for you and have it delivered and assembled in record time.

Aside from speed and convenience, choosing a modular building can also lead to a quicker return on your investment, which is always welcome. 

Environmentally Friendly

As we will cover later in this article, modular buildings provide an excellent opportunity to recycle, cut back on transportation, and reduce waste of resources.

Seeing as the United Nations Environment Program reported that construction accounts for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon emissions, the benefits of switching to modular buildings are numerous and widely recognized.

High-Quality Standards

On-site construction jobs cannot have the same quality as manufacturing plants and factories for modular buildings. Off-site construction allows for builders to ensure that quality materials are consistently used and maintained. 

Choosing a modular building reduces waste. It also lets crew members and building materials steer clear of bad weather and harsh elements like rain, snow, sleet, wind, cold, or heat. As a result, they can quickly achieve high productivity and a safer work environment.

Enjoy a more stable timeframe for construction work with modular buildings because completing the job will not depend on good weather. 

Flexibility

Modular buildings are an amazingly flexible option for those who want structures built quickly, with limited disruptions, minimal effort, and timeframes that are much more feasible than traditional building methods.

Since most of the more detailed work gets done off-site, you will get to enjoy various final finishes while avoiding the accumulation of debris and pesky paint overspray on your site. The versatile selection of materials and floor plans available can suit any and every unique taste. 

Cost Savings

Though it might not be apparent, traditional means of construction can be very wasteful. The process frequently wastes the materials needed and time spent, not to mention that this construction can be a waste of hard-earned money

The careful planning and preparation that goes into modular buildings will save you a lot of financial waste in the long run. The costs won’t change or fluctuate, and you’ll enjoy a certain level of certainty with the modular method.

More Favorable Depreciation

According to the IRS, depreciation of assets reduces the amount of taxes a business has to pay through tax deductions. The more depreciation expense you incur, the lower your taxable income, which means the lower your tax bill will be. 

You will find a more favorable depreciation timetable with temporary modular buildings of about seven years. Conventionally constructed buildings are depreciated over 39 years, as are permanent modular buildings.

Pros and Cons

As with any purchase, it is always good to look at the positive and negative aspects of spending your hard-earned money on any given product or service. Here is a quick list of the pros and cons for any buyers thinking of paying for a modular building. 

Pros

  • Never worry about on-site weather conditions with a controlled, factory setting
  • Better quality assurance for materials and building methods
  • Utilize curb appeal and resell value in your favor, just like traditional buildings
  • Crafted from high-quality materials  
  • Energy-efficient construction process and final product 
  • Less expensive than traditionally constructed buildings 

Cons

  • Finding a property to place your modular building can be tricky due to zoning and permit requirements. 
  • Transportation damage to your construction components is highly possible. 
  • Once construction begins, it is tough to change design plans. 
  • Procuring financing can be more complicated than with traditional means of construction.

Modular Building Options?

There are all sorts of different sizes and design specifications that you can choose when creating and buying your modular building of choice. Below we have outlined the most common modular building design options. 

Typical Widths

Generally, you can find three separate widths available for most modular buildings. Temporary and permanent modular buildings have widths of 12 feet, 13 feet, or 13 feet and 9 inches. 

You can also find quite a few modular buildings with widths of 14 feet 9 inches or 15 feet 9 inches. Depending on different modular production setups, widths will commonly vary, but only by a few inches. 

Typical Lengths

Length measurements of modular buildings are going to be a bit more standardized. The majority of modular buildings will measure about 60 feet long. You will find this to be the case throughout the industry.

You might find a few manufacturers who construct their modular buildings at 72 feet long, but they are the exceptions and not the rule. The extended length can cause transportation issues as many states do not allow objects of that size to travel on the open road. 

Typical Heights

To avoid damage that modular buildings could inflict on overhangs, ramps, and overhead bridges, they must meet a standard height to travel the road. A modular building cannot exceed 13 feet 6 inches in height if it has to travel. 

Custom Designs

You can customize sizes, colors, building materials, designs, and almost anything you can think of to make your modular building fit your needs and wants for a new space.

You can also construct your modular buildings with individual modules instead. This method can bypass size restrictions as well. That way, you get just the build you’re looking for.

Exterior Design

Just like traditionally constructed buildings, modular buildings can have great curb appeal and add to a property’s resale value. You won’t have to go looking for the perfect looking property – you can build it yourself!

All sorts of materials and design options are available for your modular building’s exterior, like stucco, stone, brick, and vinyl. You can find all these materials in a variety of different colors and styles to suit your taste. 

Foundation Type

When looking at a modular building, you will find two different types of foundations: raised foundations and on-grade foundations. 

On-grade foundations are predominately for permanent modular building projects. Creating an on-grade foundation involves filling a foundation wall all around the modular building’s perimeter. Like a traditional foundation, this creates a basement space for the modular building. 

A raised foundation is suitable for use with permanent and temporary modular building projects. The modules are placed on concrete blocks and are equally easy to install and remove.

How Much Does a Modular Building Cost?

No one set price exists for any modular building project because costs vary depending on several factors. 

While the average price per square foot of a modular building is $55 to $60, including installation, that price can be higher or lower based on the following possibilities. 

Size

Adding any extra square footage to your modular building design will accidentally raise your price. Think of it this way, any material needed to build your building has to be made wider, longer, or taller or needs to cover more space, thus raising the price tag. 

If you want to use wood or linoleum flooring – or even carpet – every bit of space will increase the price. The more floor you need to cover, the more expensive your project is. Plus, with a more expansive building, you may need to add doors or windows, which will increase your overall price tag. 

Quality of Materials

Because they must be built strong enough to withstand long trips on the road before they reach their destinations, modular buildings are designed to be strong and durable. If you want to use higher quality materials, this will figure into the price. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for!

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Additional Factors to Consider

When trying to pinpoint prices for a modular building project of your own, here are a few more things to keep in mind.

Site Location

Location, location, location! No matter how things change, some things will always remain the same. Where you plan to put your new modular building will mean a great deal to its success or failure.

Property pricing will vary from region to region, and even if you find a cheaper supplier in another area, you might see other costs go up in the process. Always consider factors like this when comparing prices and setting your own. 

Shipping

Though it might be cheaper to choose modular buildings on many fronts, the majority of your construction budget will go towards transportation. The cost of transporting modular units to their final assembly places will increase for longer travels. 

They usually travel by truck or by boat. Depending on the shipping method, your bill may increase exponentially or lower to an affordable number.

Complexities

The price of any modular building project is going to vary a great deal for every unique situation. When a project only needs a simple layout before construction, it will naturally be less expensive to build. 

It will be more expensive if you want a highly sophisticated modular plan that requires more skill to construct. No two modular buildings are made alike. Likewise, their prices vary depending on the structure, materials, additions, and style included in that build. 

Read More: How Much Does a Modular Building Cost?

FAQs

If you still have questions about modular buildings that we have yet to answer, read on to see if any of these frequently asked questions can help you get to the bottom of all this valuable information.

  • Do All Modular Buildings Look Alike?

    Though you might think a modular building will look the same as any other modular building, that is not the case at all. There are no limitations to what you can design with a modular building – they are the furthest thing from boring or cookie-cutter. You can customize each modular building to meet your requirements both functionally and aesthetically.

  • Do Modular Buildings Look Temporary?

    While they can be constructed more quickly and cost less to build, modular buildings are also designed to stand the test of time and overcome the challenges of everyday life. You can enjoy permanent or temporary comfort, support, and high-quality modular buildings.

    Modular buildings are not strictly temporary options for construction projects. In fact, they are specifically for people looking to make the most of their dollars. Modular construction ensures that companies and clients waste less time and money during the building process. 

  • What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing a Modular Building Supplier?

    • Design: Does the supplier offer design specifics that you want for your project?
    • Quality: Make sure your supplier is using only high-grade materials for their products.
    • Costs: Do not always go for the cheaper option, even if it is tempting! Always research and get quotes from other places first.
    • Customization: If you have specific ideas for your modular building and want input, be sure there are customization options you can exercise.
    • Duration of need: Figure out how long you will use your modular building before shopping for one.
  • How Is Modular Construction Different from Traditional Construction?

    Traditional construction, or linear construction, is where each step in the construction process is worked on while builders are on-site.

    With modular projects, some parts are built separately and shipped to the construction site at the end of the process.

    The overall process is much quicker since modular buildings can be constructed all at once, either off-site and on-site. Efficiency, dependability, and durability are the main focus of modular buildings, just as they should be with traditionally constructed buildings.

    Traditional and modular construction are similar because you need to make sure you have a permit for building before you go ahead with either project.

  • What Is the Difference Between Modular Buildings and Prefab Buildings?

    Prefab refers to a general term that encompasses all sorts of prefabricated building methods. Anything built separately in a facility or factory then shipped to the construction site would be considered prefabricated.

    Modular buildings are a type of prefab, but they are built and shipped in self-contained units that resemble building blocks and are their category entirely. For reference, all modular buildings are prefab buildings, but not all prefab buildings are modular buildings. 

  • How Long Does It Take to Construct a Modular Building?

    It is much quicker to have a modular building constructed than to have one built from scratch on-site. You could have your building finished in as little as 16 to 31 weeks.

    Your specific construction timeline will vary based on a few things. Depending on how much preparation is necessary for the building site, the size of the project, and the nature of the modular building in question, you will find time frames can change.

    Whether you’ve chosen a standard or custom design will also influence how much time each project takes. You also need to know which type of foundation you want and whether you have all the proper permits and permissions to buy a modular building.

    Standard modular building plans can make the process go by a lot faster and keep things uncomplicated. Still, if you want a custom design, don’t let that preference stop you. Modular buildings are still quicker than traditional construction methods. 

  • Can a Modular Building Be Eco-Friendly or “Green?”

    Of all the benefits one can find in choosing a modular building instead of a traditionally constructed one, perhaps the most important and impactful is the eco-friendly nature of modular construction projects and how much better they can be for our environment.

    Manufacturers usually construct multiple modular building modules simultaneously. In traditional building methods, people would often need to discard a large amount of materials to create these structures. However, modular construction allows the materials to be reused and recycled, thereby cutting back on waste and pollution.

    As a rule, the construction industry generates 56 million tons of debris and trash annually, so reducing this waste and pollution would end up having a huge, positive impact on the environment around us.

    Manufacturers often build modular buildings with sustainable or recycled materials like aluminum, wood, and steel. The overall energy usage is lower for a factory or warehouse setting than most on-site construction jobs. 

  • What Are Structured Insulated Panels?

    Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs for short) are a highly durable type of building material with excellent thermal performance. The compact, flat panels are made by sandwiching together different, composite materials to create a product that is robust and air-tight, thus providing superior insulation. Being lightweight, Structural Insulated Panels can be put together to create the walls, floor and roof of a modular building off-site before being transported to their final location.

    BENEFITS OF STRUCTURAL INSULATED PANELS

    Why use SIPs over more traditional types of building material? Here are some of the advantages of building with Structural Insulated Panels:

    • Thermal performance. The composition of a SIP means that it is exceptionally air-tight, providing excellent insulation to your building. Rooms built using SIPs will feel warmer and take less energy to heat.
    • Compact and lightweight. Structural Insulated Panels are thin and compact, so they take up less space than regular walls. That means you can get the most out of the space available to you, freeing up extra room within your interior that would normally be taken up by thicker walls.
    • Environmentally friendly. The superior insulation properties of Structural Insulated Panels mean that they are an excellent choice for the environment. With virtually no heat lost through the air-tight panels, the use of SIPs makes for an energy efficient building that minimizes waste.
    • Resistant to damp and cold. Buildings made from timber or other traditional materials may be susceptible to problems such as compression shrinkage (where wood shrinks in humid conditions) and cold bridging (where a poorly insulated part of the building lets in the cold and increases the likelihood of condensation). Buildings constructed from Structural Insulated Panels are immune to these issues.
    • Highly suited to off-site construction. In contrast to more traditional building materials, Structural Insulated Panels can be put together off-site. Because they are lightweight they can be transported after the main construction work has already been done, and installed at their intended site only when the building is almost complete. This is a big advantage for projects that would otherwise be delayed due to adverse weather (as the off-site construction can take place indoors) and for sites where disruption from building work needs to be kept to a minimum.

    SIPS AND MODULAR BUILDINGS

    Structural Insulated Panels are often used in the construction of modular buildings because they offer all the advantages mentioned above:

    • Often prefabricated off-site, modular buildings require a lightweight material that can be easily transported.
    • SIP panels also allow modular buildings to be taken apart and moved again as required.
    • As standalone structures that are susceptible to the elements, modular buildings also need to be constructed with durable and well insulated materials.

    SIP SPECIFICATIONS

    What are SIPs made of? Structural Insulated Panels consist of two outer layers of panel board (the bread in the sandwich) that encase insulating foam, either made from closed-cell polyurethane (PU) foam or expanded polystyrene (EPS).

    SIPs are available in a variety of sizes to suit all building projects, from commercial spaces to modular buildings for schools.

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