Around the world, carbon emissions are exceeding the maximum levels scientists say we need to stay under in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change. To help tackle this crisis, businesses in various countries, organizations and industries have stepped up to try to reduce global carbon emissions.
One of the key industries that is fighting for some positive change is the construction industry.
Sustainable construction techniques have started to become more common in an industry that, according to the United Nations, contributes to almost 39 percent of carbon emissions around the globe.
The modular building industry, in particular, has been a shining example of how to promote sustainability in construction. In this post, we examine some benefits of modular construction and five green construction practices we can all learn from the modular building industry.
For help with your modular building project, reach out to the experts at VESTA Modular.
There’s a common misconception about any process that’s more sustainable than an older or outdated version of that process — that it is somehow of lower quality, less durable, not up to industry standards, less reliable and so on. In sustainable construction, that’s simply not the case.
Eco-friendly modular buildings must meet exactly the same standards as traditional buildings during and after construction. There is no wiggle room inserted in the name of going green. And because modular units are built in controlled factory environments, they can even be higher quality than some traditional buildings.
Want to learn more about modular construction? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Understanding Modular Construction and Modular Buildings.
Any process that involves people is susceptible to human error. And while factory environments do involve people, they involve fewer people than the crews on traditional construction sites. That means fewer chances to introduce a mistake that could reduce the overall quality or integrity of the building in the future.
Factory environments are highly controlled. Materials are dry and safe from extreme temperatures. So when modular building units come together inside factories, they have less of a chance of allowing in moisture that could lead to moisture damage or mold.
In traditional construction, many parts of homes and commercial buildings are put together at the construction site. This environment is much less controlled. If it’s humid or raining, moisture is hard to avoid. Inevitably, some moisture is trapped inside certain parts of the building. And often, mold and moisture damage find their way in.
With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at five green construction practices we can all learn from the modular building industry:
We look at each of these green construction benefits in detail below.
On traditional construction sites, cutting the various construction materials isn’t exactly an exact science. Odds and ends from imprecise measurements typically end up on the trash heap.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States alone generated more than 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste in 2018. These long-lasting materials, such as plaster, wood, drywall, concrete, asphalt shingles and steel, sit in landfills and harm the environment over decades or centuries.
The majority of modular construction, on the other hand, happens in a controlled environment. Because the units that make up modular buildings are made in factories, the measurements for the materials used are exact. And anything extra gets used in the next unit or project.
The modular construction industry isn’t just the poster child for green construction practices on the factory floor. On the contrary, the green benefits of modular construction extend well into the life of a modular building.
How? By being so easy to dismantle and reuse. Modular units fit together easily and can be taken apart easily. That means you can take down modular buildings without demolishing them. That prevents the waste of the building materials and the possibility that toxic or harmful debris or dust from the demolition will enter the environment.
It also means that you can move the deconstructed modular units to a new location and put them back together to make a new building — meaning you don’t have to use the high amount of energy it would take to construct a new building from scratch.
Modular units start their lives in controlled factory environments. Then, they travel to the destination where they will become a permanent building. Often, the units get to the construction site on a flatbed truck. And once they get there, a crane lifts and stacks them in place.
Compare that to traditional construction. More or less raw materials are delivered to the site and assembled there. Trucks bring in concrete. Plumbing and electrical crews and vehicles come in and out of the site. It’s busy. And all that activity means you have vehicles buzzing back and forth and releasing environment-choking carbon dioxide into the air.
According to BuildingGreen, modular construction can reduce the number of deliveries made to a construction site by 90% when compared to traditional construction methods. Who knew that learning how to promote sustainability in construction would involve simplifying the construction process altogether?
Energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling can come baked into modular construction. Instead of adding LED lighting, energy-saving HVAC systems and triple-paned windows after the building is constructed, modular manufacturers can build each modular unit so that it already contains those items and capabilities. Adding high-efficiency insulation to each unit makes it even greener.
The result of implementing green construction practices like this early on is long-term energy and emissions savings over traditional construction.
Modular construction is fast. In fact, it can be up to twice as fast as traditional construction. While traditional construction can’t start until the building site is fully prepared, modular construction can begin in the factory while the building site is being prepared. And factories, with their fine-tuned machines and speed-optimized workflows, can put together modular units fast.
That increased speed is great for reducing costs, but the benefits go further than that. Spending less time on construction means spending less time emitting carbon and other greenhouse gases. That’s always a win for the environment.
For those wondering how to promote sustainability in construction, the answer is clear: Go modular. Modular construction offers key sustainable construction techniques that save on emissions and waste — not to mention the cost savings for contractors and the people who will eventually own the modular building.
Interested in moving forward with a modular construction project? VESTA Modular has helped countless clients, from the Arctic to the Caribbean, bring their modular buildings from concept to reality. To discuss your project with a modular construction professional, reach out to VESTA Modular by calling 817-663-8527 or contacting us online.