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Modular Efficiency

August 14, 2012

By Brian Stecyk

Everyone involved in the factory-based construction business knows about the efficiencies of in-factory construction. A recent study conducted by University of Alberta researchers proves the point.

When the Sturgeon Foundation—a not-for-profit seniors housing organization in Alberta—needed to add to its housing inventory in St. Albert, it turned to Integrated Management & Realty Ltd. (IMR) of Edmonton for professional assistance. Gordon White, President of IMR, proposed modular construction—an approach that would allow the group to design, plan, coordinate the construction of and ultimately deliver the keys to a completely new seniors housing facility within a much shorter timeframe than would be possible with conventional on-site construction.

The resulting project was an overwhelming success. Forty modules were built in a factory in Barrhead, Alberta and transported to the site in St. Albert. The Sturgeon Foundation received an occupancy permit for their 4-storey, 48-suite facility in just 7.5 months.

“Along the way we wondered whether or not the modular method of construction made sense from a CO2 perspective,” says White. “We thought it must, but we wanted to know for sure. We commissioned a study by Dr. Mohamed Al-Hussein at the University of Alberta.” The study compared carbon dioxide emissions between factory and on-site construction.

“The factors we considered,” says Dr. Al-Hussein, “included the type of dwelling, multiple vehicle types for material deliveries and crew trips, equipment usage, and winter heating. Embodied energy CO2 from building materials was not considered. Benefits of factory construction such as material waste minimization, safety, quality and scheduling, were also considered.”

The study concluded that factory construction results in time savings of 55.0% and a 43.0% reduction in CO2 emissions in comparison with on-site construction. Conventional construction would have taken 14.3 months and created 98.9 tonnes of CO2 emissions while factory construction took only 6.3 months and resulted in 56.3 tonnes of CO2.

“We were right,” concludes White. “Not only is factory construction more efficient, it also significantly reduces the construction’s CO2 environmental footprint. This approach worked so well we have already started a 125-unit modular housing project in Fort McMurray in cooperation with and at the direction of our client, Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation. It is good news every way you look at it.”

Brian Stecyk is a registered Manufactured Housing Consultant (MHC)® and President of Rose Country Advertising & Public Relations, a marketing and communications company based in Edmonton, Alberta.