What Is Volumetric Construction?

What is Volumetric Construction

The United States has a housing shortage. While there is not one solution, volumetric construction can and should be part of the response. The advantages of volumetric building make it an industry primed for growth.

A recent study found that the United States needs to build 4.3 million new apartments by 2035. However, since 1997, the largest number of multifamily housing units built in a year was 287,000 (in 2020). Even if the industry met that peak production between now and 2035 there would still be a shortage of nearly 900,000 units.

If the construction industry were able to push past its limits and increase building, it would face other severe challenges, mainly the shortage of construction workers. Other challenges relate to materials shortages and supply chain snarls, which may moderate as the effects of the shutdowns fade. 

Volumetric construction can help with the housing crunch. So, let’s take a deep dive into volumetric building.

What is Volumetric Modular Construction?

Volumetric modular construction involves stacking and joining prefabricated modules to create a complete building. The modules are developed off-site in a volumetric construction factory.

The level of completion of the modules varies. At a volumetric building’s most complete level, the only work done on-site involves connecting the modules to various building services such as electricity and plumbing.

Advantages of Volumetric Construction

Let’s look at a few of the many advantages to volumetric construction.

Green in More Ways than One

Studies show that approximately 30% of construction materials delivered to construction sites are wasted. Greater material need means more money spent on materials and less profit for owners.  

The excess materials end up in the trash, and fill up landfills.

With volumetric construction, building takes place in a volumetric construction factory rather than on site. It has been found that modular construction reduces the weight of waste by over 83%.

Volumetric building companies can easily store extra materials for use on future projects. Because materials are used more efficiently, the cost of construction is reduced.

Volumetric building’s more efficient use of materials also means fewer materials are produced and shipped. This lessens the burden on the supply chain and enables minimal use of limited materials.

Faster is Better

The saying “time is money” is true about many industries but perhaps none more than construction. Volumetric construction is faster than traditional stick building. Results indicate that construction progresses up to 50% faster. That speed can translate into significantly higher profits for owners.

Why is volumetric building faster? Constructing modules inside a factory adds certainty. Construction can take place every day as weather conditions are eliminated from the equation. Plus, there are no extremes of heat, cold, or wind inside a factory. Because crews work in a comfortable environment, they are fresher and more productive.

Reliable conditions in a volumetric construction factory enable work to proceed as scheduled. Project schedulers are better able to predict when a project will be completed. When working outdoors, schedulers need to factor in potential weather issues, and lag time can mean projects take longer (or crews have to work overtime), and fewer projects can be completed.

Steady Labor Force

Because of the lack of variable weather conditions inside a volumetric construction factory, employees can be more productive. They are not fighting the conditions. In addition, there are fewer safety incidents inside a factory than on a job site.

Construction workers typically go through work stages, with downtime between projects. Modular building work is steadier, so employees of volumetric building companies are likely to retain their positions instead of looking for work during downtimes.

Volumetric Construction Factory

Disadvantages of Volumetric Construction

There are pros and cons to most things. Let’s look at the disadvantages of volumetric construction.

Transportation

Moving modules from the factory to the land where they will reside is costly. The farther the factory from the building site, the greater the transportation cost. Therefore distance limits the number of volumetric building companies that can be built. In addition, some areas of the country have few module factories, so volumetric building may not be feasible in all locations.

Size Matters

Moving the modules requires specialized large vehicles. The size of modules is limited to what volumetric building companies can fit on the biggest truck on the market.

Though owners and designers could create more modules to make up for the size, this solution means more work on-site and more trips to the site, both of which are costly.

Limited By Landscape

Very often modules are rectangular because that is what construction requires. If a site that will house a building is shaped irregularly i.e., not rectangular, a modular building is not a good choice.

In addition, factories are set up to produce a specific product. They can’t change a product without incurring massive costs associated with new machinery or altering current machinery. 

Volumetric Construction Transportation

Things to Consider with Volumetric Construction

Building via volumetric modular construction is growing in the United States. Reports show that 23% of volumetric construction in 2021 was for the multifamily market.

Despite the growth, owners need to recognize there are some misconceptions in the market. Some have a perception that volumetric construction leads to drab, low quality, cookie-cutter buildings.

None of these perceptions is true. Volumetric construction leads to stronger buildings and higher quality construction. In addition, buildings constructed via volumetric building can have all kinds of high-quality unique finishing touches. (Such touches need to be determined before design.)

Another consideration is banks are more familiar with working with conventional builders. Loans are often approved while projects are in progress. However, many banks don’t approve loans for modular buildings until they are complete. This can make financing tricky.

Villavo Volumetric Construction

The many advantages of volumetric building are bound to make it more common moving forward. As volumetric modular construction becomes more common, the misperceptions will be disproved, and people will grow more comfortable with it.

Because of the severe housing crunch in the United States, many solutions are required. Using volumetric modular building companies like Villavo to create multifamily housing will help ensure the United States has sufficient housing.

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