MMC vs Traditional Build

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

A building sized smart phone delivered by an F1 Pit crew. Why we need to tear down the assumptions around Modern Methods of Construction

Traditional and modular construction is very different from one another. Here are some points of comparison:

The traditional method of construction has been the accepted norm for a long time. By its very definition, the word traditional means conventional, customary and established. Modular construction, on the other hand, revolutionises everything, from cutting time to changing attitudes.

Challenging thinking

“Good buildings come from good people, and all problems are solved by good design.” -Stephen Gardiner.”

Think of this – Cars are modular construction – you would not dream of someone coming to your garage and building you a car from scratch that looked just like your neighbours. Yet somehow we accept that this has to be this way for houses. The construction industry has yet to embrace the possibilities offered by the latest technology and materials. the tech sector knows how to produce products at scale, but still with the design, utility and beauty that have people scrambling to buy them. The automotive industry is quick to adapt to the opportiunity to integrate technology and adapt to a brand new primary power train. So what about buildings and construction? #MMC #Technologyforbuildings #avernco #sgmodularuk

Modern technological advances in materials; construction methodology, quality and environmental sustainability mean that modular buildings can be flexible, beautiful spaces and with the pressure on to be more sustainable and eco-friendly they are the future. A factory design an build neables us to integrate the very best technology and exploit the emerging IoT ecosystems better than ever.

Both traditional and modular construction begins in the same way: Planning, design, approvals, site preparation and development are all required. But, from this point onwards, everything changes.

Traditional Construction

Foundations are laid, walls are built, roofs are added and then the interior of the building begins to be created. Finally, before being handed over to the customer, the snag-list is drawn up and tackled – all those small issues and tasks that need addressing. Then, and only then, is the building officially complete.

Modular Construction

“A world which sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the world as a whole.” - Professor Sir Edmund Happold

As the foundations are being laid on site, construction of the building is already taking place in a factory by skilled craftspeople, including interior and exterior finishes. Before the building is delivered to the site, the snag-list is completed at the factory. The building is then transported, fixed in place and final fixes made before the keys are handed over.


Time: On average, a modular building is constructed 30 - 50% quicker than one using the traditional method, resulting in an earlier return on investment.

Budget: Modular buildings can be more affordable than site-built buildings. There are many less expensive options. Depending on specification the materials used in modular construction for strength, insulation, soundproofing and weather resistance may actually be more expensive, but shorter build time tends to mean significant cost savings. Also, there are no dead spots in the process waiting for materials and sequential tradesmen.

Financing: There are ways to finance modular buildings for business which involve extended payment terms allowing rapid construction and early utilization of a facility to generate revenue prior to repayments starting.

Quality: Modular buildings gain value over time just like traditional builds. Building in laboratory conditions, enables rigorous testing, trial builds and incorporates the latest materials. Modular buildings can be stronger and better quality than stick built alternatives and are capable of meeting even the most stringent architects requirements. They are designed specifically with the environment in mind. Passive housing can result in ZERO energy requirements and lowers TCO. At the end of its life (which can be the same as a traditional build) the building can be recycled and reused.

Weather: As the major parts of construction are carried out in a factory, modular builds don’t run the risk of being rained off or suffer from the effects of moisture/dry heat. Vandalism/theft too is far less of a problem.

Health and safety and quality: Factory conditions allow for far greater control and improvement of all three compared with the traditional building site.

Sustainability: Modular builds are more energy-efficient, create less waste and increase the use of sustainable materials. There is also a reduction in the carbon footprint of the build as fewer people are travelling to and from the site.

Community friendly: Traditional builds traditionally create more noise, traffic, mess and disruption.

Affordable living: Once completed, modular buildings cost less to live in – they’re cheaper to heat and maintain, eg no repainting or surface repairs required.

There are Challenges:

Access: As they come ready to put in place, modular construction requires careful consideration to be given to access for delivery, not just the site itself but approaching roads.

Change: Traditional building methods allow for late changes in design to be made, whereas modular construction is less likely to be able to factor this in and requires client sign-off far earlier.

Rigorous planning: The logistics of individual module assembly demands far more rigorous planning to ensure a project goes smoothly.

The benefits would appear to directly outweigh the pitfalls. However, every project needs to be considered individually. The pros, cons and limitations of both traditional and modular construction should be carefully assessed to ensure the ultimate desired outcome is achieved.


  • Quality – Same or better than traditional builds depending on specification. Architects specification for aesthetics, design quality and innovation can all be met.

  • Speed – 50% Reduction in build time. Disruption and waste are minimised

  • Cost – TCO is reduced by rapid build speed, energy efficiency and reduction in maintenance costs. There is less need for multiple trades on site or for travel and subsistence of staff.

  • Finance – Innovative finance and commercial structures can enable early RoI and ease cashflow.

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