The modular houses add productivity to construction

You may not have heard much about industrialized modular homes. However, you certainly know that building more in less time is a huge challenge, right?

The difficulty becomes even greater in view of the need to guarantee predictable costs, high quality and sustainability.

In addition, you may also have seen many experts comment on the urgency of abandoning artisanal production methods. In Brazil and in the world, the tendency is to put aside the traditional construction, which is labor intensive, has long execution times, inaccurate budgets and still generates delays, higher than expected costs and waste.

If you want some references, I can mention two:

The first is the engineer and consultant Luiz Henrique Ceotto (ex-Inpar and Tishman Speyer). In an exclusive interview with Buildin, he stated that “the low productivity and the variability in the quality of Brazilian civil construction are directly associated with artisanal construction”. That is, it is necessary to invest more and more in civil engineering.

Who also defends industrialized and modular construction is the engineer and consultant Jonas Medeiros, director of Inovatec and CEO of Cubicon. According to him, “this is the only way to break the cycle of technological backwardness we are currently experiencing”.

Are modular homes cheaper?

Modular houses emerged as a response to the need to rationalize resources and increase construction efficiency.

However, it is necessary to understand the cost issue and all the benefits inherent to modular houses in a broader way to arrive at an answer to this type of question.

After all, when talking about this house type, we think of industrialized buildings assembled from modules. These, in turn, are produced industrially and under strict methods of production control.

By itself, this is already an indication that modular houses tend to have a lower incidence of constructive pathologies. In other words, the cost of maintaining modular homes is generally much lower. This is due to the fact that, since the conception, there is a concern with the way all interfaces existing in the building will be processed.

More than this, these interfaces are previously tested in the laboratory and, thus, have guaranteed performance. In other words, there are no improvisations at the construction site. Likewise, the quantities of materials and components to be consumed are accurate and previously known.

Predictability and constructive efficiency


With this, there are no additional costs that may surprise manufacturers, assemblers and customers. In addition, because they are less dependent on labor — and on all their productivity variables — the modular houses provide more predictability with respect to deadlines.

The construction of modular houses does not present, for example, cost variability.

The indirect costs are lower and there is total predictability.

Considering all these associated factors, it is possible to say that modular houses can be cheaper than the conventional ones, as long as there is scale, an important condition for obtaining productivity gains in an industrial process.

Industrializing is a trend with a view to gaining productivity

According to Turner and Townsend’s study  Turner and Townsend, the expectation is that this construction type will increase globally by 6% by 2022. In Sweden, about 84% of the houses built are already modular. In the case of this Nordic country, the components essentially used are made of wood.

For Brazil, the construction industrialization is one of the main points for reducing the housing deficit of more than 7.7 million homes.

After all, it is possible to build more in less time with the industrialized construction. In addition, the industrialized construction has predictable costs, with gains in quality, performance and, consequently, sustainability. This is also due to the fact that it reduces waste and debris generation.

Why invest in modular construction?

It is a final product with pre-tested and guaranteed performance;

Substantial reduction in lead times and overall cost. The modular construction is less susceptible to climatic factors, since each module manufacture takes place in an industrial environment (off-site);

Better cost and term predictability. The standardization ensures that the house can be built with high efficiency, with clear steps and processes.

Significant reduction of direct labor at the constructon site and use of specialized assemblers and, consequently, reduction of insurance and legal liabilities;

Generation of better quality jobs. In other words, much of the work moves from the construction site to be carried out in an industry;

Material losses close to zero;

New technologies allow mass production, but customized, flexible and expandable;

Reduction of post-construction and maintenance costs.

More sustainable production processes. Considered as a clean construction, the modular construction reduces the debris generation and the waste of materials by up to 80%.

Source: Buildin – Construção e Informação (

Um novo impulso para a construção modular no cenário global

A new boost for modular construction in the global scenario

The modular construction has the potential to generate cost savings of up to 20%, depending on the competence of engineering, design and logistics solutions.

In June 2019, McKinsey published an interesting report on modular construction, entitled: “Modular Construction: From Projects to Products” that points to a new wave, highlighting the significant growth in attention and investment in several of the world’s largest economies.

Comparing the Construction Industry with the more developed sectors of the industry, it is more than evident that there are relevant limitations for Civil Construction to provide products with equivalent productivity, quality and performance standards. In order to overcome this huge inconvenience, it is necessary to adopt best engineering and design practices, exploring the most of the preconstruction concepts and tools. The usage of project management concepts and best practices are also essential, according to the guidelines of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

These changes need to be led by experienced professionals, integrating collaborative, competent and multidisciplinary design teams, working on advanced BIM models, exploring at least the 4D and 5D dimensions. In this context, the broader technology usage and the sector’s steady march towards mechanization and industrialization are obvious guidelines, but they have been neglected or discontinued by the industry fragmentation, lack of scale due to the inefficiency of policies that encourage production and industrialization and also lack of attractive credit lines for investment in inovação.

Also included in the list of justifications for the Construction Industry stagnation, it is possible to mention the cultural barriers of the consumers who buy products like “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (a Government’s housing program, “My House, My Life”) and who have not yet managed to perceive quality and durability in new construction systems and, above all, the conservative “mindset” of most sector leaders.

The impact of technology and industrialization

The evolution of technology and digital tools has enhanced the modular construction advantages, facilitating and speeding up the design, construction and assembly of modules and products. The logistics optimization for manufacturing and assembly and the tools for process control and management of the projects’ entire life cycle also registered considerable gains. This includes concept design, project development, planning, budget, manufacturing (off-site), assembly (on-site) and post-construction, and can extend to supporting operators, owners and users, in the use and maintenance stage.

New material and component options have improved the performance and architectural impact of industrialized buildings, which are also designed to be more sustainable, generating greater consumer adherence. In turn, these come to understand the benefits of purchasing an industrialized product, with greater certainty of meeting costs and deadlines, and the advantage of compressing the construction schedule, which can reach 50% compared to that of a traditional construction. On an adequate production scale, the modular construction also has the potential to generate cost savings of up to 20%, depending on the competence of engineering and design solutions, the materials and components used, and on the logistics. These percentages are based on the same McKinsey report previously mentioned.

As if that is not enough, the industrialized modular constructions provide relevant gains in the lifetime of the buildings, with lower costs of operation and maintenance. If the project is careful and well planned, other possible advantages are the reduction of waste and debris generation, as well as the reduction of energy and water consumption. This generates significant savings for the consumer, since the building cost, throughout its life cycle, can be subdivided into just 15% for the design and construction stages and 85% for the use and maintenance stage.

This means that, from a financial point of view, the savings possible over the lifetime of a well-designed and constructed modular building are substantial. The cost per square meter and per year of lifetime is significantly lower than that of traditional constructions. A challenging goal would be to combine some economists, engineers and architects to model this equation, with the objective of extracting quantitative results. Certainly, the economic and social impact generated by the “leftover cash” resulting from the model change is high. The savings obtained could be invested to generate greater wealth and improve social well-being, in structured programs, aimed at education, housing and health.

Advantages and benefits of modular construction

In summary, some clear benefits and advantages of the modular construction are:

Compression construction deadlines of up to 50% (design, manufacturing and assembly);

Greater cost predictability and a potential reduction of up to 20% in the overall cost;

Activities carried out by a low number of specialized professionals (versus a large contingent of direct labor in the traditional construction);

Standardized processes, simplified management and greater control of the project and construction (manufacturing and assembly);

Improvement in the quality, durability and performance of buildings;

Production of more efficient buildings, with less energy and water consumption and greater sustainability;

Reduction of risks, waste and rework;

Reduced operating and maintenance costs.


In the USA, Japan, China, Scandinavian countries and part of Europe, the recent acceleration and volume gain in the modular construction business are strong indicators that the path to construction industrialization and to the modular construction is more mature, rising levels, and that it will reach more representative volumes in the coming years. This scale gain will gradually replace much of the volume of traditional buildings. This is of great importance since the scale is what allows maximizing the advantages of this operation type, through the real benefits generated in the cost reduction and in the quality, performance and productivity gains.

Despite its high potential, regrettably the modular construction is not yet a business with a relevant critical mass in Brazil. There are good initiatives in progress. New players are specializing in the manufacture of components and in the products’ design, manufacture and assembly, understanding the potential and benefits provided. However, there are important precautions and details that need to be thoroughly studied, according to a holistic and systemic view, such as the implementation of smart solutions for the projects’ rationalization and optimization, the appropriate choice of materials and components and the supply chain management.

Another point of great relevance is the development of the project integrating the several skills, through competent and multidisciplinary professionals, exploring BIM software and tools, in order to generate a unique and effective three-dimensional model. This work must be carried out collaboratively and at an advanced level of detail (LOD), with the reasoning facing the logic of how the modules should be manufactured, transported and assembled. Speeding up steps, eliminating interfaces and finding the right combination of elements that allow speed and efficiency throughout this process are essential. This type of action, advancing towards the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) concept, will be essential for the development of more complex projects, in shorter deadlines. Supporting this trend, joining this movement, is a wise decision, so that the construction world rises levels and that we can, in fact, deserve the classification of Construction “Industry”.


Source: Blog da Liga (