Are Modular Homes the Future?

Are Modular Homes the Future?

“Modular homes” are not necessarily new. Look at any long-term construction site, military complex, or industrial spaces, and you are likely to find a few. But is that the only use they have, or could they be the homes of the future for a growing human population?

March 10, 2019, Bruno Jacobson

“Modular homes” are not necessarily new. Look at any long-term construction site, military complex, or industrial spaces, and you are likely to find a few. But is that the only use they have, or could they be the homes of the future for a growing human population?

Are Modular Homes the Future?

 

As the world population grows, housing supply often seems to fall short of demand. This often causes housing prices to rise over time, or to be too high at times of short supply and exceptional demand. “Housing crisis” has become, unfortunately, too commonly heard or read across news’s channels and newspapers.

 

Modular homes can help with this problem (and others) for various reasons. Some of them are obvious. Modular homes can be built quickly and the processes and units can be standardized. This means construction delays and budget increases are less likely.

 

Since these factors are well-known, it also means that costs can be kept down, resulting in houses that are much cheaper to build. Indeed, you’d pretty much know exactly how much you’re paying after “ordering” one.

 

They are also flexible. Built in “modules,” these homes can be assembled in different ways, allowing you to customize it according to whatever design preferences you have. Perhaps you can add more modules, fewer modules, or just choose from different standard designs. Of course, this is assuming the end-user is the one purchasing them directly. But even if they’re not, municipalities, companies, and governments can still make use of this flexibility.

 

These modular homes also have the added benefit of reducing the impact that local construction has on daily lives. It's probably safe to say that most people don't enjoy the sight of construction sites around them every time they are going for a stroll - and they certainly don't appreciate it when these are situated right next to their homes. With modular houses, since most of the work is done in a factory, only to be assembled then at the construction site, the time it takes for any project to come to fruition is significantly reduced, in this way also reducing disturbances to the local communities.

 

There are other benefits, albeit smaller. But for all their benefits, what are are modular homes, really?

 

According to Interesting Engineering, modular homes are built in indoor factories, but not in manufacturing lines. Instead, you have modules that are made separately and then just assembled to make a complete home (imagine a kitchen module, a living room module, and so on).

 

So theoretically you would be able to on to a website, look at different standard modules, choose configurations that you like best, and order it. 

 

This sounds great. But, of course, it wouldn't be just to overlook some of the shortcomings of modular homes too.

 

For one, there are state transportation rules in most countries, which means there will be a maximum size that can be transported by trucks. As reported in The Washington Post, it can be challenging to get delivery trucks past trees and power lines to reach the building site. On top of that, figuring out where to store these prefab modules over night can be tricky too.

 

And moreover, when you're looking for large, open spaces in your home, building one of these modules and transporting them to the site can be very difficult. According to Abramson, of Method Homes, in such a scenario we might then have hybrid homes, with some modules built in the factory, while larger open spaces are built on site.

 

Nevertheless, there is definitely substantial interest in modular homes. In fact, the market size for modular construction currently sits at 92.18 billion US dollars, and it is expected to reach 128.67 billion dollars by 2023, which is a compounded annual growth rate of 7.1%. 

 

According to MarketsandMarkets, the main drivers of this growth include an increasing demand for complex structures at affordable rates, rapid urbanization, and industrialization. Especially in emerging economies, there is a higher need for sustainable construction methods - a need that could very well be fulfilled by modular homes. 

 

But all this is only one side of the coin. Going forward, human beings could very well have different plans for modular homes. 

 

One such plan is, you might have guessed it, the use of modular homes in space colonies. 

 

In fact, in 2015, NASA announced one of its Centennial Challenges, the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. According to NASA, the goal of the challenge is to "advance the construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond."

 

Now in its final phase (phase 3), teams are competing in the On-Site Habitat Competition, which tests the teams ability to advance the technology they already developed and construct a habit autonomously.

 

While this challenge refers specifically to 3D-printed homes, one can also imagine that modular units will have a role to play in any space colonization we choose to undertake. With the constraints that exist around construction in space or on planets like Mars, it seems reasonable to expect that a lot of housing units would be built in modules, and then transported to desired sites.

 

In the end, while we might be seeing less modular construction than we previously thought would exist by now, this is still a growing trend. Often cheaper, more affordable, and quicker to build, modular homes could very well be, not only the foundation of residential spaces in developed and emerging markets alike in the future, but also of the space-colonizing ambitions of the human race.

 


 

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