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Permanent Modular Construction: Process, Practice, Performance

Permanent Modular Construction: Process, Practice, Performance

July 24, 2015

Ryan E. Smith, Associate Professor and Director of the Integrated Technology & Architecture Center (ITAC) at the University of Utah and the Modular Building Institute Educational Foundations are pleased to present Permanent Modular Construction: Process, Practice, Performance, a best practices study encompassing a wide variety of markets served by modular building. 

Meet the Researchers: 

Ryan E. Smith is an Associate Professor and Associate Dean at the University of Utah College of Architecture + Planning. He is also Director of the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC), where technical research concerning construction productivity and energy efficiency and education is conducted. He is Chair of the National Institute of Building Sciences Off-site Construction Council and a fellow of the Centre for Off-site Construction at Edinburgh Napier University. He has also been a speaker on modular and prefabrication globally. 

Research Associate Talbot Rice is also in ITAC and performs market-based research in the housing and off-site sectors. He has worked for construction companies regionally and is co-author of several research reports.

Seven additional student staff researchers aided in collecting data for the project.

Two to four researchers worked on the study, led by Professor Smith, at any given time during a two year period from January 2013 - 2015. The Report was published in May 2015. Critical peer review was provided by the NIBS Off-Site Construction Council and the Centre for Off-site Construction + Innovative Structures at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, UK. Companies that provided data for the project are listed in the acknowledgements sections of the report. Gathering and analyzing the data was an iterative process that required the collaboration of many industry partners on their built case studies. Cumming Corp, a cost consulting firm, provided the benchmark comparative projects and developers in Salt Lake City provided the data for a return on investment modular analysis portion of the study. Finally, the NIBS OSCC in partnership with ITAC ran the off-site industry survey which was sorted for permanent modular construction data illustrated in this report.

Who should read this report:

This report is aimed at the traditional construction sector. Many claims have been made by permanent modular manufacturers and the Modular Building Institute that are substantiated in this third party report. Architects, engineers, contractors, and especially owners can benefit from the performance data demonstrated therein. Also, modular builders and dealers can utilize the report to provide convincing evidence to the traditional construction sector of the value that permanent modular can potentially create. Researchers can gain knowledge about how to gather this type of data and methods for analysis in the future.

The goal of the research and resulting report are threefold:


·         Substantiate the claims by the modular sector about cost, schedule and general performance in construction

·         Test and provide models for comparing off-site construction data to the construction sector and researchers

·         Create a set of permanent modular case studies and lessons learned

ITAC has been working on off-site product development and consulting support to manufacturers and designers working in the off-site sector. During this more technical research, questions about the claims of the off-site modular builders and other manufacturers came to the fore. The research team desired to demonstrate the successes and challenges of this mode of delivery in order to increase the productivity of the construction sector. The report demonstrates the value of permanent modular construction for its performance in building delivery. 

ITAC is currently working on the development of an off-site implementation guide for the traditional construction sector and a report on the construction performance of solid timber.

Sponsors for the research included:


·         American Institute of Steel Construction

·         Associated General Contractors of America

·         Edinburgh Napier University

·         The Modular Building Institute Educational Foundations

·         National Institute of Building Sciences

·         PCL Construction

·         Triumph Modular

·         Whiting-Turner Contracting Company

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