Modular construction has been on the rise over the last 5 years, growing from a concept used largely for demountable classrooms in schools, to now a significant and specialised area of the construction industry.
At Manteena, our experience with modular construction continues to grow, especially in the security space where it is now recognised as a core capability of Manteena Security.
So, what is modular construction?
The terminology involved in modular construction can sometimes be confused, so let’s start at the top.
Prefabrication is the general offsite construction of materials for onsite construction. For example, wall structures can be prefabricated offsite and joined together onsite to create the structure of the building.
Modular construction is the overarching term used to describe offsite construction, and prefabrication is likely to be involved in modular construction. In general terms, the process of modularisation involves the construction of an entire building, significant components of a building, or smaller sections of a building in factory like conditions off-site. These elements are often pre-tested and commissioned in these factories to the same standards and codes as traditional methods. The ‘modules’ are then brought together on site to create the whole facility, typically in an accelerated program compared to that of traditional construction techniques.
Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) is the design philosophy behind prefabrication that stresses a holistic view of the prefabrication and modular construction processes. It takes into account the design of individual elements and the completed structure, but focuses on how the elements will be connected to make the structure.
There are a few key ways in which modular construction tends to be adopted. 2D modular construction is essentially the equivalent of a flat pack. The components are prefabricated to specification offsite and then installed onsite, this is the type of Modular construction that Manteena regularly utilises.
3D, or volumetric, modular construction is where the systems are fully assembled offsite and transported as a finished product to the final location, generally in modules which are connected together onsite. This includes the modularised shooting ranges delivered under the Zeroed capability.
There are also hybrid models that take the best from both 2D and 3D, which we employ in remote locations where there is a trade-off between shipping cost and the efficiency of sending finishing trades to site.
The key benefits of modular construction over brick-and-mortar builds tend to vary based on the context of the project. However, the major benefits are as follows:
Time on site
The prefabrication and DfMA nature of modular construction means the average time on site is significantly reduced. This results in less overall impact to a site, especially where sites are still operational (such as offices, schools and operational Government facilities). It also allows for activities to be undertaken simultaneously i.e., offsite module manufacture occurs in parallel to onsite preparation activities such as civil or service works, overall leading to a net reduction in project duration.
An example of this benefit is the COVID-19 hospital in Canberra, which was designed and built in 36 days. This was a hybrid between offsite and onsite construction where wall structures and other key elements were prefabricated offsite to save as much time as possible during onsite construction.
With most of the construction occurring in controlled factory environments rather than insitu onsite constraints, safety is better able to be controlled including use of factory lifting facilities, ready access to tools and other input resources to minimise lost labour time and safety.
In a number of circumstances, modular construction can be more cost effective. This is especially true in regional and remote areas where costs of having trades on site for extended periods of time can be cost prohibitive to a project.
The redeployable nature of modular facilities creates additional advantages over conventionally constructed facilities. The ability to temporarily set up a facility where and as required, and move it upon completion, creates a level of accessibility and offering that has not been available in the construction industry before. It also provides significant benefit in a changing operational context such as high security and Defence applications, where a use-case will change relatively quickly over the building’s lifecycle, and continued ability to reconfigure a building is a significant value add and capability enhancer.
Since modular construction is completed within a controlled and dedicated manufacturing environment, and every aspect of the build is pre-planned and pre-tested, there are fewer variables to account for i.e., inclement weather or site conditions, and a higher degree of certainty on achieving operational readiness on site. This leads to a higher level of quality control overlay and management compared to conventional construction techniques.
In the Security space, Modular construction plays an integral part to guaranteeing highly complex and secure outcomes, especially in remote and international locations. The components of modular construction ensures high quality security solutions that meet Australian manufacture and trade requirements are available, regardless of where the project is located.
“Manteena Security have delivered highly complex modular solutions to some of the most remote locations around the world in support of Australia global strategic footprint. Our ability to meet tight-time frames, to the highest level of quality, and guarantee operational readiness in support Australia’s national interests has led to our role as a leader of modular solutions in this space and a partner of choice to many Government clients and our international partners.”
Peita de Boer – Director
As the requirement for secure facilities to support Australia’s strategic interests grows, so too will the need for modular construction in this space. Manteena has several modular solutions for the high security space which offer pre-validated high security solutions which are cost effective and minimise disruption to clients premises by minimising onsite installation time.
When it comes to supporting Defence and law enforcement capability, the ARCAS Modular shooting range was launched in Australia in 2021. On top of the key benefits of general modular construction, benefits of modular shooting ranges include:
- Fully scalable design to accommodate full tactical training environments
- Meets all of the Australian and International standards for live-fire training facilities.
The ARCAS solution offer by Zeroed | Australian Shooting Range Solutions in Australia, in collaboration with Action Target, is further supported by other modular capabilities in the Defence and Police training space including 2D modular shoot houses and containerised armoury and ammunition storage systems.
“Modular ranges, shoot houses (CQB’s) and armouries provide an advanced capability for the growing requirement within Australia when it comes to deployable infrastructure to meet the needs of Defence and Police end-users.
Dan Knight – General Manager of Zeroed
Our focus on supporting Australian Government capability in the Defence and security space with modular solutions has naturally grown to other areas. Any project that has either a high degree of complexity, time pressures, or logistics challenges may benefit from modularisation. We have developed modular heath facilities in short time-frames, modular data-centres, accommodation to support mega projects such as the Snowy 2.0 project, and Australian Aid projects across the Pacific and SE Asia.
With growing labour challenges across the industry, the increasing time pressures and the incorporation of more complex services and automation in buildings, the benefit of off-site manufacture of all or most of a building’s elements will continue to increase.
Manteena and Zeroed will be at the forefront of this as we continue to support our clients’ requirements around Australia and the world.