When it comes to the modular design, there is a noticeable lack of regulated guidelines. If you are facing a modular project, you will find total freedom of options that, although good sometimes, will also bring uncertainty on what to do, how to act, or what to choose. There is indeed no such thing as the right option, as it mostly depends on the particular features of your project and the specific needs of it, but here you will find ten general (yet useful) guidelines to take into consideration and apply when designing modular architecture.

1. Optimize The Design | Modular architecture

The modular architecture is a step forward in construction efficiency. It is highly adaptable and quick, and you need to bear these principles if you want to make the most of your modular project and optimize the resources and possibilities.

To succeed in it, simplicity is essential. Modularity – hand by hand with prefabrication – makes multiple solutions available from a single module, so the smart choice would be to choose and simple base module and achieve complexity through the arranging game, rather than diving into complex initial pieces that may make arranging more difficult, as well as increase a price that should naturally be affordable.

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Source: ©Room of Possibilities

2. Know The Modules

As obvious as it may seem, do some research! Before undertaking any project, it is important to spend some time looking up for different options and material properties, but that task becomes even more important in modular construction since the module is (figuratively) everything.

Containers, for instance, are one of the most common prefabricated modular pieces, and knowing the different sizes available, their structure, or how the loads work on them is the only way to a successful solution.

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Source: ©Giant Containers

3. Calculate The Cost | Modular architecture

Modular equals cheap. That is probably all you know by the time you start your project. However, that is not completely accurate. When designing modular architecture, you need to think of it as an inversion in the long run, as you will make a lot of payments before you see any actual physical result.

This is how it works: a strong initial inversion will be required at the beginning, doesn’t matter if you choose to buy the modules and adapt them for construction, or if you choose to build them from scratch. However, the further you move in time, the less money you will need to put into it. Labor times (and therefore, rates) and on-site costs will be noticeably low than in traditional construction.

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Source: ©Evoke Solutions UK

4. Plan Your Times

Just like it happened with the money plan, the timing diagram for modular architecture will be pyramidal.

On the base, initial progression will be slow, designing, choosing, and producing the modules “within a factory” for months. Then the transport process will begin, all restricted to regulations and large sizes. But, once the on-site work starts, you will see your project come together in a matter of weeks.

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5. Lay The Foundations | Modular architecture

Foundations are essential to any construction, but they might go unnoticed when constructing modular: the outcome is so unique that people often tend to oversee the fact that it is constructed as any other and, as such, it needs to be tied to the terrain. 

Choosing the right type of foundations can become a tricky task. It is a matter of matching the options to the requirements of your land and local regulations, but there are always multiple choices available. How to make the right one?

The main thing to keep in mind is: you have time to do it right. Yes, you are on a modular journey of construction speed, but in fact, that speed will not begin until the last stage, so take advantage of all off-site work time, and keep developing some steady and firm foundations for your project.

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6. Plan Your Transport

The fact of modular construction is that transportation will probably be the most complicated step. Or, at least, the most restrictive one.

To reduce cost and assembling time, the size of your modules will be defined by the maximum large you can transport to your site. Those large and heavy volumes will require specific transportation machinery: a delicate and time-consuming process that needs to be carefully planned for in advance.

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7. Mind The Joints

In an architecture type where the identity lies in the module, all the hard work is done by the joints in the shadow. How are all the modules holding together? What type of joint allows for the addition or removal of modules according to the changes in the building program?

With a modular design, it would be quite difficult to design a module with an internal structure that can suit any possible final position. Thus, the easiest and most common solution is to opt for an external frame that will hold all the modules together, allowing for the right gaps and the perforation of the modules once they have been freed of a structural feature. 

Now, you only need to think of what material suits your project best, and how the possibilities will work together with your own modules’ materiality.

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8. Think of The Insulation | Modular architecture

Thermal bridge. That is the main risk of modular construction.

How can you insulate a construction as a whole when it is made of smaller modules? How do you deal with the joints? How do you achieve insulation efficiency when there is no continuous façade?

Thinking of modular architecture as something changeable, full of re-positioning possibilities, it is easier to insulate each module individually. This might require a smaller investment at the beginning for every module, but will save you from complex and more expensive on-site solutions and will allow for future changes, which is one of the main advantages of modular design.

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Source: ©Modern Contractor Solutions

9. Deal With The Roof

Modules are designed the same, even if they are going to be placed on different stories, so how do you deal with the top-level ones to conduct the water? In other words, how do you deal with the roof?

Adding up is always easier than modifying, so the easy solution is to simply add a roof piece on top of your highest module. Luckily, there are some solutions for this, and you can easily buy these already-made pieces for single or multiple modules.

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10. Study The Plumbing | Modular architecture

When it comes to plumbing, you have two options in modular construction: you can decide to create specific modules that already include any necessary installation, or you can opt for external installations.

In any of the cases, it is essential to plan it in advanced, as any cuts and insulation modifications will be much easier to carry out off-site, and you will also be able to plan for the right positioning of the modules, allowing gaps to happen for the pipes to go through, hiding what needs to be hidden, and showing what is interesting.

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The modular architecture is full of possibilities, but you need to have a deep understanding of its details and possibilities to make the most of all of them.