Posts tagged “Modular Design

Modular and Prefab Library Working Group

AIA San Diego Modular Architecture
Brown Bag Meeting Sept 24, 2013

This will be a working group session to build shared knowledge base resources regarding architecture and prefabrication. Bring information about your favorite books, magazine articles, blog posts and other references to share on the AIA’s KnowledgeNet Modular and Prefabricated Architecture Group website (http://network.aia.org).

We will upload what we can and prepare a bibliography for the rest.

Brown Bag Roundtable: Modular Architecture
Tuesday, Sept 24, 2013 — 12:00 – 1:30PM
AIA San Diego Chapter Office
233 A Street, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92101
http://www.aiasandiego.org

 

 

 


Modular Architecture Q&A: Modular Shapes

Below is the next post, number 6, in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

Question:
How can prefab modules be designed so that they are not only rectangular or limited to prefabricated looks like stacked blocks?

Answer:
That is an easy one. Owners and developers who want to build prefab or modular architecture should hire an architect. There is no question that the supply chain in the US has been stuck with boring boxy forms. However, this has more to do with a lack of creative pressure than anything else. While the analogy to Lego® blocks can be fun, there is nothing that requires prefabrication of building components to be as repetitive in form as rectilinear blocks. Blocks do have some efficiencies, but they are minimal. A creative architect who understands how prefab building is done can come up with non-rectilinear forms that can be built as easily as common box forms.

Related link: http://www.newschoolarch.edu

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2012


Modular Architecture Q&A: Population vs Construction

Below is the next post, number 4, in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

Question:
How do you think increasing populations and decreasing jobs will effect construction and what role will prefab play in this environment? World Populations: 1938 2 Billion, 2006 6.5 Billion, 2030 8.3 Billion.

Answer:
This is an interesting question. I think that if you look at China and India right now you will see two countries that are experiencing a great deal of population growth pressure. In these countries, you can already see some of the answers that occur in these kinds of resource stressing situations. Because of the prefab benefit of speed to occupancy, both China and India are becoming bigger and bigger proponents of prefab construction. They are already implementing these methods at a greater pace than most other countries. They have learned that when the complete supply chain is in place, prefabrication can be used to turn out a great deal of building square footage very fast.

While quick building does move toward ‘solving’ the problem of housing shortages, it is typically being done with generic buildings, not architecture. Unfortunately, just creating housing rapidly means there will be a lack of consideration for how people live and how that housing works within a cultural context. This will naturally lead to significant social problems down the road. This is, though, not a problem caused by prefabrication, but prefab may wind up taking the blame. The problem, at its root, is caused by societies reacting to the past and not planning or designing for the future. This is one reason I am such an advocate for architects becoming more knowledgeable about prefabrication. If architects do not, good design will be ignored for speed. In the end, nothing good will come from that.

Where is the architecture?
- Video of 15 story Chinese hotel built in 6 days:
http://youtu.be/JtdorKaOSQk
- Video of 30 story Chinese hotel built in 15 days:
http://gizmodo.com/5873962/amazing-timelapse-of-30+story-building-made-in-only-360-hours

Related link: http://www.newschoolarch.edu

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2012


Modular Architecture Q&A: Project Size vs Economics

Below is the next post, number 3, in the continuing series of prefab/modular Q&A asked by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA and answered by James B. Guthrie, AIA, President of Miletus Group, Inc.

Question:
Is there a minimum size for a project to make prefab economically viable?

Answer:
No. Prefab is a generic concept that has been used to make buildings as small as garden sheds (1 small module) and as large as a 24 story apartment building (500+ large modules). Viability is determined by all the factors that go into making the building, including understanding the supply chain that produces the factory made components and the efficiencies inherent in that chain.

In the case of the garden shed, the sheds are standard designs produced by the hundreds, if not thousands. In the case of the 24 story building, the resulting building is a single architectural structure. One commonality that lead to the economic success in both examples is the use of repetition where repetition made sense. In the case of the garden shed, repetition is probably obvious as each shed is a copy of a singular design. In the example of the 25 story building, the architect cleverly exploited repetition in the layout of the apartments so that very few unique modules were used yet an overall creative architectural solution was achieved.

The fundamental lesson of economic viability here is that if you want to use prefab for a small building, make many replicas of the same building. If you want to use prefab for a large building, make it from many similar components.

Related link: http://www.newschoolarch.edu

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011


Modular Architecture Q&A: Time and Money

James B. Guthrie, AIA, the President of Miletus Group, Inc, was recently approached by Norman Gray, a graduate student at the New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego, CA regarding an architectural project he was working on. As a part of his research, Mr. Gray sought our expertise in answering several questions regarding prefab and modular construction. We thought the questions were very good ones and worth sharing with a wider audience. We will post each question and answer as a separate blog post. Readers who have their own questions about modular architecture are encouraged to ask us as well.

Question:
What percentage of time and money do you think prefab can save a project?

Answer:
When it comes to prefab, generalized questions can be difficult to answer. In general, on a direct apples-to-apples comparison, I would say that you could expect that a prefab project can be 0-15% less per square foot than a traditionally built project of the same design and specifications. There are too many variables, though, to allow a hard and fast rule as to discounts.

It is also important to keep in mind that when we are talking about prefab, we can be talking about prefab architecture or prefab building. When I talk about prefab architecture, I am using the idea that architecture is a high quality building designed by a professional and it is always site specific. This means that each prefab architecture project will be unique to the site it is being placed on. The quality of the end result will be high quality, and the owner will be a ‘client’ of a professional architect. Prefab building, in contrast, is a generic ‘product’ that can be non-site specific. The quality can vary dramatically from project to project and the owner of this product is a customer of a building company.

The other important thing to consider is the definition of “project”. Architects tend to think of a project as the specific building they are working on. Building owners, however, think of a “project” as the entire business model related to that building. This includes the architecture plus: land acquisition and development, operations and maintenance, financing, cash flow and other business considerations. To answer the question about prefab architecture from the architect’s side, at this time a prefab architecture project has no inherent time or money advantages to the architect except as it may add value for their clients. To answer the question from the owner’s perspective regarding prefab architecture, it can have significant time savings, which to the owner can translate into a huge financial savings to the non-architectural aspects of the project. The amount of savings is, of course, dependent on the project.

Typical Modular Home, USA
2 Offsite Stories, 1 Single Family House, 4 Modules

On the small scale, in the US right now it is very easy for a homebuyer to buy a house much like they buy a car. The homebuyer can go to a sales lot of a manufactured home builder, tour model homes, pick out their model, pick out colors and finishes, and have their new home delivered in a very short amount of time. These homebuyers are buying a prefab building, not prefab architecture. The opportunity for this kind of building to become architecture is very limited. Because prefabrication is a method of construction that takes advantage of manufacturing processes, the economic side of prefab is most successful when there is volume on the production side. One single family home does not afford current manufacturing processes the kind of efficiencies needed to be cost effective. In the case of a home or small commercial building, volume is achieved when many of the same design are produced. In this situation, the efficiency is dispersed among many buyers. This means, naturally, that each individual buyer looses the opportunity to influence the design and quality of their purchase.

Modular Housing, England
10 Offsite Stories, 162 Apartments, 630 Modules

On the large scale, the prefab building buyer is also buying the convenience of speed to occupancy, but the larger scale can allow the project to be more architectural. Fundamentally the building process is relatively the same between prefab and onsite construction, except that the offsite components can be built simultaneously with much of the onsite work. The onsite assembly of the offsite components can then occur very rapidly. On a large project this can save a lot of time, and thus a lot of money to the owner. This is important, as even if the square footage costs of onsite and offsite construction are nearly identical, the cost savings to the owner can be very significant and far exceed the 0-15% savings in square footage costs. Unlike a single family home, the size of a large project can allow the design to take on far more significant role than is possible in small projects. It is the large projects that create the greatest opportunity for all the benefits of prefabrication and the application of real architecture to meld. This is the future of prefabrication in architecture.

Related link: http://www.newschoolarch.edu

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011


Is Modular Design Really Greener? Exploring Construction Waste Reduction.

© James B Guthrie, AIA 2011

Yes, there is no question that modular construction is greener. Take the example of construction waste – off-site methods are far more efficient in terms of construction waste reduction than on-site construction.

Here is one example; many on-site contractors will include up to a 10% material contingency in their projects to cover, among other things, damage from weather and trades damages during construction. Because on-site contractors do not normally store excess materials for future jobs, even if there were no damages, this 10% contingency winds up in the waste stream.

Off-site factories are naturally more efficient with their materials. At Miletus Group we own our own modular factory. When we calculate materials for a job we use a factor of 0% percent for weather and trades damages to materials. This makes our overall waste stream very small. Because our facility is organized and weather tight, it is very easy for us to handle materials and waste. Throughout our facility we have separate bins for various construction materials that we can not use again. This means recycling is easy for us and we wind up recycling over 95% of the limited waste we do generate. Very little of our construction material winds up in the landfill. It would be great if on-site builders could make similar claims, but it is highly improbable that on-site construction could ever meet these numbers due to the very nature of the environment in which they work.

Visit AIA’s new KnowledgeNet Modular and Prefabricated Architecture group. There are a couple of documents from the UK on this very subject. They are a few years ahead of us on this issue. It is good reading.

If anyone reading this has further data to support the efficiencies of off-site construction, please do feel free to let us know directly and we will post it.

 © Miletus Group, Inc. 2011


Miletus Group Develops an Architecturally Appealing Rescue Strategy for New Orleans’ Post-Katrina Housing Crisis

The modular design experts at architecture firm Miletus Group, Inc. have been selected by a prominent housing developer and landowner to develop their Shotgun House Project—a historically and architecturally sensitive approach to quickly address New Orleans’ post-Katrina housing crisis. After extensive project prototype work, the first Shotgun House model has been designed for an Uptown lot and is slated for completion this year.

Miletus Group’s Shotgun Homes are architectural-quality, permanent modular buildings designed to fit into New Orleans’ neighborhoods as if they had been there for a century or more. These ingenious modular structures are substantial homes, fully compliant with current building codes and FEMA standards, offering a sustainable, permanent solution to the current and near-term housing needs of New Orleans.

“Hurricane Katrina’s lasting effects have created a massive housing deficit in New Orleans,” states Miletus Group president James B. Guthrie, AIA. “This housing dilemma is exacerbated by labor shortages and the high price of available building materials. Our premise was to build high quality, and architecturally sensitive homes off site, away from the stresses of New Orleans’ building environment. These modular buildings could then be put in place quickly, reducing time to occupancy, and alleviating much of the inconvenience and noise pollution in the neighborhoods where they are being constructed.” Miletus is renowned for their sustainable building expertise, particularly in modular structures.

The Shotgun Project offers a variety of home options, from fully completed and ready-for-occupancy, to fully customizable homes that are left partially unfinished as a more affordable choice for more handy do-it-yourselfers in need of immediate shelter. “The innovative Shotgun House design recalls the past, while providing comfortable, modern housing for its occupants,” states Guthrie. “It is a durable and permanent solution for a desirable housing type that is based on generations of New Orleans history and precedent.”

For more information, contact Miletus Group, Inc.

© Miletus Group, Inc. 2011