Modular vs Prefab: Which is the Better Option?

As an expert in the construction industry, I have seen the rise in popularity of both modular and prefab buildings. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two different types of construction. In this article, I will clarify the difference between modular and prefab buildings and discuss which one is the better option.

What is Prefabricated Construction?

Prefabricated construction is a general term used for any building or construction component that is manufactured in a factory before its final assembly at the construction site. This includes both modular and prefab buildings.

However, prefab buildings tend to have more problems and are not as energy efficient as modular structures. One of the main advantages of prefab buildings is that they are better for the environment during development and assembly. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are environmentally friendly to live or work in. This is because prefab buildings are not as durable and long-lasting as modular structures.

Understanding Modular Construction

Modular construction refers to something built or organized into separate units, similar to building blocks. These units, called modules, are built in a factory and then assembled on site.

A modular structure is at least 70% finished at the factory before delivery to the construction site. All modular buildings are considered prefabricated, but not all prefabricated buildings are considered modular. This is because modular construction is just one type of prefabricated construction. The terms modular and prefab are often used interchangeably, but it's important to understand the difference between the two.

The Benefits of Modular Homes

If you're looking to build a house on site but want a more cost-effective and efficient approach, then a modular home might be the best option for you. Modular homes are subject to the same zoning laws as site-built homes, making them more similar to traditional homes than prefab ones. Once a modular home is assembled, it's treated exactly like a house built on site.

This means that it can be financed through a regular mortgage. Most banks and mortgage lenders offer financing for modular homes, giving buyers a wider range of options when purchasing their home. I remember hearing the term modular for the first time in the mid-1970s when my uncle built a mobile home park. Since then, modular construction has come a long way and is now being used in innovative ways, such as the 97-room Fairfield Inn & Suites at the Marriott Hotel in Folsom, California. This hotel used modular construction methods to build rooms and bathrooms, which were built in an external factory and shipped to the workplace.

Important Considerations for Modular Construction

While modular construction offers many benefits, it's important to carefully plan the process.

Once construction begins, it can be difficult to make changes and customizations. Additionally, there is a difference between applying for a mortgage to buy a modular home and a prefab home. The legal definitions of real estate and personal property play a role in this difference. If you're looking for a home that will appreciate over time and has many options for improvements and extensions, then a modular home could be the perfect option for you. Like standard site-built homes, modular homes fluctuate in value with the traditional real estate market.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, while both modular and prefab buildings are built in factories, they have distinct differences.

Prefab buildings are better for the environment during development and assembly, but they lack stability and longevity compared to modular structures. On the other hand, modular homes offer the same benefits as traditional site-built homes and can be financed through a regular mortgage. As an expert in the industry, I believe that modular construction is the better option for those looking for a durable, long-lasting, and environmentally friendly building.

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