Glossary – A Modern Construction Lexicon

Glossary of Modern Construction Terms

BIM (Building Information Model/Modeling)

The National Building Information Model Standard Project Committee defines BIM as: a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility. A BIM is a shared knowledge resource for information about a facility forming a reliable basis for decisions during its lifecycle: defined as existing from earliest conception to demolition. According to Building Design + Construction magazine, more than 100 top design firms identify revenue from BIM projects and in the top 10, BIM is used in 58-85% of projects. Practically, BIM is about information management, which is shared by all project participants, using technology to advance creativity, productivity, and team empowerment.

Miletus Group utilizes BIM in its workflow and believes it is a superior way to bring greater design, documentation and construction efficiencies to the architectural and modular building process.


Components are sub-assemblies of larger parts and are typically manufactured off-site. Once shipped to the construction site they are then assembled together to form a larger whole. The strategic design of components is a vital part of the manufacturing and assembly process. The idea of components has been used in buildings for some time. A pre-mounted door and doorframe can be considered a basic component. In more recent years, the idea of components has become much bigger. Entire plumbing manifold sub-assemblies built off-site, for example, are becoming more common in large buildings. Once on site, these components make up the entire plumbing system of the building.

LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system. It provides third-party substantiation that a building or community was designed and built to be sustainable by establishing metrics for energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. Founded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is an open process that is publicly reviewed and provides a framework for identifying and implementing measurable and practical green building solutions.

Miletus Group is a member of USGBC and endorses the LEED program as a powerful tool to bringing the built environment to higher levels of sustainability.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)

MMC is a broad category that encompasses a wide variety of building approaches. These approaches all emphasize the efficiencies and benefits of manufacturing processes for building construction over more traditional and less efficient methods. MMC almost always involves a high degree of off-site construction. Some examples of MMC include prefab, component, panelized, and modular (aka volumetric) construction.

Modular (aka Volumetric or 3D)

This is a method of construction that utilizes off-site construction to manufacture and pre-assemble very large three-dimensional components, usually consisting of one or more entire rooms, or parts of rooms. These components are often finished on the interior, and may even be furnished off-site at the manufacturing location. Once the volumetric component has been manufactured, it is transported to the final building site. The size of a module is typically dictated by its ability to be shipped. A common module size in the US is 14’ x 60’. Once on-site, modules are assembled into a building. Building size is essentially unlimited and can be made from one module or more than 500, and from one story to 25 or more. Once on-site, the modules usually only require minor finishing and utility connection work. Modular buildings are normally designed to be permanent, but they can also be designed to be temporary, easily deconstructable or relocatable.

Net-Zero Energy

Net-Zero describes buildings with zero net energy consumption from non-renewable resources and zero carbon emissions annually. Zero energy buildings do not need to be reliant on a traditional energy grid supply. Energy can be harvested using Solar, Wind or Geothermal technologies while also reducing the overall energy consumption. The zero-energy design principle is becoming more practical to adopt due the rising costs and negative impact of fossil fuels as well as the advent of efficient alternative energy sources. There is some debate in the design community as to whether or not renewable energy sources must occur on site to be considered true net zero. At Miletus Group we believe that it is more efficient to have the energy source as near to the point of use as possible, but it is not always the case that the best solution has the energy source on site. The location of renewable energy sources should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Off-site (also Off site or Offsite)

A building that has a majority of its construction built at a location that is some distance away from and shipped to its final location. Off-site in a factory and then brought to its final location to be assembled and installed on a foundation that was likely built on-site. These buildings are designed and built to meet all codes and, if designed to be so, can be indistinguishable from a traditional on-site building. Advantages of this type of construction include an increase in construction efficiencies that leads to a reduction of costs and waste leading to an increase in sustainability and quality control.

On-site (also On site or Onsite)

This is the traditional building method and refers to a building that is constructed principally at the final construction site. The process is inefficient as it requires the virtual creation of a product (the building) in open weather under ever changing conditions. It requires that all materials and labor necessary be brought to and coordinated at that location. This traditional method of construction is subject to a number of unseen and unpredictable variables and can lead to increased waste, down time and cost with a potential reduction in sustainability and quality control.

Prefabrication (Prefabricated Building or Prefabricated Component)

Prefabrication is the process of using manufacturing (i.e. fabrication) techniques to build a major or minor piece of a building offsite prior to the final construction of a building. Once fabricated, that and other pieces are then brought to a construction site and assembled into a final building. The process of prefabricating building parts has been used in building construction for centuries. More recently the pieces being fabricated have gotten much larger and may now include multiple subassemblies (structure, finishes, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, waterproofing, etc) or even the entire superstructure of a building. See also Modern Methods of Construction.

Renovated Reuse (in modular buildings)

Renovated reuse can be defined as a reconfiguration of an existing modular building or modular building component to meet the needs of a new configuration, use or location. Renovated Reuse can be applied to all modular buildings whether temporary or permanent. Renovated Reuse is a very green process in that whole buildings and large building components can be diverted from the landfill. In the case of reuse of modular buildings and modular components, the green process is still further enhanced, as direct reuse requires far less embodied energy than recycling. Because of their component nature, modular building components can be designed in advance, as a part of their life cycle, to be deconstructed and reconstructed so that Renovated Reuse is a strategic part of a new building’s business model.

In 2009 a Miletus Group renovated reuse modular project won an MBI Award of Distinction for its design conversion of a modular office building to a sustainable modular climate controlled warehouse.

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011-2014

Leave a Reply