Why Modular Matters in Urban Areas

Why Modular Matters in Urban Areas

Housing price rise or fall. Home sales grow or decrease. Mortgage rates increase or decline. Housing news is viewed as a big story. Rightfully so. Everyone needs somewhere to live, and for many people, their home is their most valuable asset and biggest expense. These days news about housing includes a focus on the housing shortage and what can be done to increase the stock. 

The U.S. has had a housing shortage for a while, and some say it’s getting worse. “There doesn’t appear to be any end in sight” to the housing crisis as the demand remains despite rising mortgage rates and elevated home prices, according to Nadia Evangelou, the director of forecasting for the National Association of Realtors.

The USA Today adds that there is insufficient housing production in many states and several major metro regions, including urban areas. One answer to both problems is an increased role for modular construction, including in urban areas.

What is Modular Construction?

Modular construction, unlike traditional stick building, takes place in a factory. After a module is constructed it’s delivered to a job site. In the case of multi-family residences (and other multi-story buildings), modules are stacked (think LEGO) to create a complete building.

The degree of completion of a module varies. In some cases, the only on-site work involves installing and connecting electricity and plumbing.

Modular construction has proven to be up to 50% faster than stick building. It also requires fewer (and less skilled) workers – a real benefit in today’s market that is facing a shortage of skilled construction workers. 

Modular construction is also more environmentally friendly. Its weight of construction waste, according to one study, is 83% less than with stick building. This is especially significant because construction and demolition activities are some of the biggest contributors to solid waste in the country.

These factors have led to growth in the modular market. The benefits of modular construction can help solve the multi-housing crisis in urban areas. 

Modular Apartments in the City

Why Modular is a Great Fit for Urban Areas

Urban areas are densely populated; they include a variety of structures such as multi-family residences, commercial buildings, retail, etc. Typically, urban areas have few pockets of clear land. In a nutshell, an urban area has many activities and people packed into a small space. 

When a multi-residential building is developed via traditional stick construction, materials are stored on site. Therefore, they are quickly and easily accessible when needed. Developers also typically purchase materials early in the process to gain price certainty. Considering today’s market, the price of construction materials fluctuates wildly, making it difficult to budget.

It’s challenging to find space to store materials in an urban setting. Construction teams resort to creative means to store materials (and keep them safe from the elements and theft). Some teams may also need to store materials off-site. This storage is time-consuming, which results in higher project costs.

This challenge disappears with modular construction because few materials need to be brought to a job site since most of the construction occurs in a factory. While it may be challenging to get the modules to the site and set them up, once this step is complete the process is much simpler.

Finding a safe and secure space to store materials is easier since less space is needed with less material to store. Concerns about theft and damage are also lessened.

Disruption is another major challenge associated with building in an urban area. Because urban areas are full of activity, a construction project gets in the way of residents and others in the area. Construction teams need to spend time planning detours for motorists. And no one likes to be inconvenienced.

When traditional construction occurs, the construction team is on-site from the time the first shovel goes into the ground till the final walk-through. Residents and users are impacted by detours, dust, and other elements associated with construction the entire time.

Urban area residents and users are impacted for a shorter period with modularly constructed buildings. Urban dwellers can continue their daily routines while construction occurs in the factory. Because less work needs to be done on-site, the building is completed more quickly, and people can return to their routines quicker. Less public inconvenience helps to create a positive attitude toward the construction.

Modular Benefits Urban Communities

How Modular Construction can Benefit Urban Communities

According to the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and National Apartment Association (NAA), approximately 4.3 million apartments need to be built between now and 2035 to meet demand. Apartments and other multi-housing options are typically found in urban environments.

Multifamily housing construction boomed in the 1980s. By the mid-1980s a bubble formed, and starts have yet to consistently reach (or surpass) the same level. However, they have been trending up and approaching levels not seen since their heyday.

With the overall housing market underbuilt, the construction of multifamily units may not stay at their current highs. One of the main challenges to meeting the vast demand is the shortage of construction workers. Some put the shortage in the 500,000 range and say it could increase due to the massive 2021 federal infrastructure bill (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act).

Using modular construction helps ease the challenge of worker shortages. Factory construction is more efficient; it takes fewer people than in traditional construction to produce the same number of multifamily units. In addition, fewer skilled workers are needed, which further widens the pool of potential employees.  

So, the production of needed multifamily units can remain at its elevated level and modular construction can ultimately meet the need in urban areas.

Modular construction also benefits urban communities because it results in less noise pollution. Building in a dense area means noise is trapped and reverberates, impacting all those around it. Besides being disruptive and annoying, loud noise can cause health issues. Hearing loss, stress, and blood pressure spikes may be experienced by urban residents and users due to construction.


Meeting the demand for multifamily housing in urban areas is a tall order for everyone involved in the construction industry. The benefits of modular construction make it a perfect fit for urban projects. That’s big news!

Learn more about modular building companies like Villavo, which creates multifamily housing. 

Suggested Posts

What are Smart Apartments
Apartment Tips

What are Smart Apartments?

From smart homes to smart watches to smart cars, it seems everything is wise these days, including apartments. Smart apartments are connected to the internet,

Read More »
What is Volumetric Construction
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

Read More »