Building Types that Want to be Modular

Modular is just one tool in the construction toolkit – so how do you know it’s the tool that will lead to greater simplicity on your job?

While any project with the right dynamics can benefit from modularity, we find that the following six building types typically see big gains in project efficiency and cost savings when modular construction is incorporated into the project:

Workforce Housing

Workforce housing, with its smaller footprint unit sizes can contain an entire apartment unit within the walls of a single module. From a cost and complexity standpoint, this means that after stacking a module, workers aren’t entering a unit except to install an occasional fire sprinkler pull or appliance. Keeping the modules singular and unbroken will retain the cost and quality benefits of prefabrication.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing projects often look to modular construction to relieve burdensome regulation and site construction costs that accompany their financing vehicles. Typically, if 60% or more of an affordable housing project’s cost is comprised of its modular contract, it will see both a cost and schedule benefit.

Affordable housing projects are more complex, however, because they often require small numbers of unique unit footprints that don’t economize factory production, such as a small quantity of two-bedroom units or communication units within a 50-unit building of 1-bedroom or studio apartments. Careful design consideration can sometimes mitigate the production impact of these requirements during schematic design.

Permanent Supportive Housing

Throughout history, modular construction has been used by governments to temporarily accelerate housing production and stem homelessness. Hence this program type has the widest variety of modular solutions to choose from, including temporary structures, permanent modular systems, single-story modules, stacking modules, and relocatable modules.

Similar to workforce housing developments, permanent supportive housing developments can often tolerate smaller footprints that maximize installation economy.

Student Housing & Co-Living

Student housing and co-living developments present an opportunity for modular construction because much of a resident’s living square footage is contained within public amenity spaces, creating the ability to economize individual apartment sizes. And since student housing construction reaps greater economic benefits than most with respect to construction speed, the ability to shave 25-50% off a construction schedule may be reason enough for some projects to consider embracing a modular design.


Hotel programs, with their small and highly repetitive room types have always been the poster child for modular economy. Hotel chains reap great economic advantage from the schedule savings, quality control, and the ability to pre-install furnishings that modular construction affords, hence the hotel industry has been a huge driver of modular method adoption.

Still not sure if modular construction is the right fit for your project? Here are a few litmus tests:

  1. Repetition:  Is there sufficient repetition of unit type to warrant a factory run? 50-100 is a good starting place.
  2. Unit Size:  Can the walls of a single module contain the entirety of program space (or living space) for housing?
  3. Critical Schedule: If a project prioritizes schedule acceleration over other factors, modular offers a clear advantage.

If at least two out of three apply, there is a good chance that a well-executed modular solution will deliver meaningful advantages to your project. Still not sure or want to better understand some of the details?  Reach out and let’s discuss!