It’s a great question for those of us considering modular buildings for a major investment when purchasing a modular office, storefront, classroom, or workforce housing. How long will that initial modular building last, and how do I make sure it lasts as long as possible?
How long a modular building will last depends on three key factors:
Across the web, you’ll find the response to this question to be about 25-30 years for a temporary modular building. Temporary or portable buildings are designed to give the customer a quick working space.
They’re a cost effective strategy to ensure your business has a working office, a retail shop, or a school portable. Customers understand upfront that this building is designed to meet code requirements, but factors such as quality of materials, foundation type, and whether or not the building is in “used” condition impact the lifespan of the temporary building.
It should be noted that many temporary buildings will last longer than 20-30 years given proper maintenance and updating like any type of commercial building or home. By updating the roofing, flooring, siding, etc., these one-time temporary buildings can last a lifetime.
Choosing permanent modular buildings is a different story when it comes to their average lifespan. They are built on permanent foundations and to the local and state codes required of any type of modular building type you might be interested in. It’s important to know that multi-story apartments have different codes than a single-story office double-wide has.
Most permanent modular buildings can last 35 years, 50 years or even centuries given the care and building type. To construct longer lasting modular buildings, developers and architects engineer more robust buildings with thicker, stronger materials designed to stand the test of time, weather and seismic activity.
Almost all of the answers to these questions depend on the quality of the company you are working with. Properly constructing and installing a modular building requires an understanding of how to properly fabricate modules, transport materials, weld components together onsite, and develop a strong foundation on which to build the modular structure.
Maintaining a modular building requires frequent inspection of the buildings major components. This includes flooring, roofing, exterior sidings and decks, plumbing systems, HVAC systems, and mechanical systems. Typically tasks and updates should be completed every 10 to 20 years depending on the quality of the materials and the system being discussed.
The folks over at Modular Genius have broken down the necessary service lifetime of various building systems and exterior construction elements.
One common misconception associated with the terms modular, prefabricated, mobile, and portable buildings is that they mean the same thing. Some may assume they are weak and won’t last as long. Others may be considering the image of a mobile trailer home that is falling apart from decades of neglect.
First of all, a modular building is different from the mobile trailer that you and I grew up with.
A modular building is a manufactured structure, built out into volumetric modules and assembled in a controlled environment such as a warehouse (sometimes referred to as “factory built modules”). Modular buildings must meet the same strict local and state building codes and permit requirements as conventionally (stick built) constructed buildings.
A mobile home trailer is a term used to refer to manufactured homes built prior to June 15, 1976. Due to HUD policy changes, these homes are no longer used. While the mobile housing industry is still around, it has evolved to ensure it meets the strict guidelines for appropriate housing criteria.
When asked the same question, our friends at the Modular Building Institute had this to say about research into the durability of modular building construction:
“Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, FEMA commissioned a study called Building Performance: Hurricane Andrew in Florida comparing site built, modular, and manufactured housing. In that report, FEMA found ‘Overall, relatively minimal structural damage was noted in wood framed modular housing developments. The module-to-module combination of the units appears to have provided an inherently rigid system that performed much better than conventional residential framing.’”
Give us a call if you think that choosing modular buildings might be the right fit for you. We’d love to answer any of your questions and install the proper building type for your budget and timeline needs. Click below to get started with a quote or continuing reading our blog to learn more about modular construction.