Modular vs Traditional Construction Cost: Which is Cheaper?

There’s a lot of buzz around modular versus traditional construction costs. Some swear up and down that modular is both cheaper and better, and others cling to the traditional tried and true ways of building. Instead of attempting to settle this debate, we’ll stick to the facts and lay them out so you can decide which method is best for your project.

The first thing to note is that it’s impossible to say one building method is always cheaper than the other because cost comes down to project specifics—location, design, material, and more. Take it from us; we’re a shipping container manufacturer that’s participated in both traditional and modular projects. Our advice is to do your research and make an informed choice before proceeding. To determine the least expensive route, see if your project is a good fit for modular construction.

Modular vs Traditional Construction

Modular construction projects utilize offsite manufacturing to create standardized building elements. Picture real-life building blocks! These elements are then shipped to the building location—where the prep work has already taken place—and assembled to form a larger structure. Traditional construction, on the other hand, follows the workflow many of us are already familiar with. It begins with site prep, building the frames, and then the team finishes out the project entirely onsite.

Modular construction is becoming increasingly popular, but in terms of project cost, it has its right time and place.

When is Modular Construction Cheaper?

modular construction with shipping containers

To benefit from a modular build, your design requires repeatability. The systematic creation of multiple enclosed units is essential to modular construction. Modular also requires you to commit to the design before manufacturing, as it doesn’t provide wiggle room for change orders. Once you’re sure your project aligns with these qualifications, the cost benefits kick in. 

Modular construction timelines are often quicker than traditional construction timelines, making them more cost-effective. The data shows that teams can complete modular projects 30% to 50% sooner than traditional construction projects. 65% of building professionals can lower the cost of their projects using modular construction.

A quicker schedule means reducing time to revenue and less money spent on labor. The offsite approach to modular allows companies to reduce and reuse materials. All these factors come together to help make modular an economic choice, but projects that can implement the use of standardized units reap the most benefit. Learn more about modular construction here.

When is Traditional Construction Cheaper?

traditional construction building a house

Traditional construction projects are best suited for more complex designs. Traditional construction allows you to start your design from the ground up, whereas modular utilizes multiple pre-engineered elements. If complexity is a priority for your project—or even the use of unusual materials or anticipated change orders—traditional construction practices will often be the best solution to keep costs low.

Of course, complex builds are never “cheap,” but traditional practices might still be the right path forward since it would be difficult to fully utilize pre-designed elements.

For What It’s Worth

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s best to determine what style of construction most closely aligns with your project. That may look like a combination of both modular and traditional construction! To get an even better understanding of what’s right for you, contact construction project management companies with experience in both, or turn to specialists in each sector for advice.

Falcon Structures is a shipping container modification manufacturing company working to build a better world by pioneering the use of container-based structures. Falcon modifies boxes to become storage unitsworkspacesbathrooms & locker roomsliving spacesindustrial enclosures, and multi-containers.

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