Modular construction: An important alternative approach for new hotel development projects

Modular construction is a constantly-growing market, with all sorts of projects from student accommodation to hotels being built offsite and then formed components shipped to the development site. For hotels particularly, there are numerous advantages to this type of construction.

Yet even as modular construction becomes more commonplace, further adapting this method necessitates substantial rethinking and making changes to the practices traditionally adopted in new hotel development. No doubt, modular construction can be an important contributor but may not be a complete solution to building better hotels that are more sustainable. Accordingly, it needs to be supplemented by other changes to traditional hotel development methods.

The modular construction method involves a hotel being built room-by-room in a factory, with modular units transported to the final site and assembled to create the hotel building.

There are compelling reasons for hospitality brands to consider industrial prefabrication, and set out below are some of the key benefits of this relatively new and improved approach to construction. Some of the advantages which hotel owners, designers, architects and developers can obtain when they make the transition to modular working practices are also indicated.

  •  More efficient, faster construction timelines

Amongst the better-known benefits of the modular approach for hotels is shorter construction timelines, in some cases by several months. Obviously, this reduces  cost and quickens the time to market and future revenue generation. The repetitive elements which make modular construction scalable are particularly well-suited to hospitality projects and may mean that only one set of easily replicable drawings, specifications, budgets and contracts are required. In addition, an offsite construction plan means that more modular units can be built, leading to a far more successful build schedule for hotel projects.

Other advantages include significantly improved soundproofing and acoustical controls as, unlike a traditionally built hotel where rooms share walls, ceilings, and floors, the modular format means that each room module is acoustically separated with its own steel frame.

  • Enhanced quality control and safety benefits

The modular building approach also provides a higher degree of product quality control and, for any hotel brand, a consistent level of standardisation is a significant advantage. The almost guaranteed consistency of production (without, for example, disruption from bad weather) can help overcome potential construction and specification challenges which come with entering new markets or working in confined city areas.

Modular construction is also an excellent way to streamline supply chains as parts of hotel modules can be built in different places; it may that, in one country, the module workers install furniture, fixtures and other equipment before the prefabricated room modules are then inspected and signed off by an inspector and weatherproofed and shipped to the construction site in another country.

As there is no onsite dusty, dirty work involved, modular production facilities are invariably, cleaner and safer than traditional construction sites, with a highly controlled working environment.

Such advanced methods allow builders to ensure safe working conditions, as well as requiring fewer construction workers on the actual building site, reducing the chances for accidents and further boosting safety.

  • Benefits for the environment

 In modular construction, all fabrication work is undertaken offsite and in a controlled factory environment, adhering to eco-friendly best practices. On the other hand, a conventional building site can be a major source of pollution, as building with concrete, for example, is resource-intensive and can damage the wider ecosystem.

The environment also benefits as there is less waste, and it is estimated that the latest modular approaches employing parametric prefabrication, reduces supply chain costs and construction waste to just 2%–down from 10-20% for a traditionally built hotel project.

Shortened project timeframes have a knock on effect and also reduce carbon emissions.. Indeed, recent studies show that the modular approach outperformed traditional hotel construction by 68% over a 60-year lifecycle.

Associated environmental benefits include fewer lorry deliveries and shorter timeframes for crane work, which mean dramatic reductions in vehicular emissions compared to those involved with a traditional, fully site-built hotel project.

  • Flexible design and redesign

When it comes to renovations and modifications for modular hotels, these can be done easily, with minimal fuss and disruption by simply replacing the existing pods and modules.

Even building extensions can be  constructed offsite, then assembled in a timely manner, thereby avoiding months of loud construction noise disrupting guests.

  • Safety from the elements

Inclement or severe weather can cause not only delays but other problems to a construction project. This might be due to rain making key components damp or intense heat disrupting outside work or even snow or other weather elements preventing supplies from being delivered on time. With modular manufacturing weather elements will not be able to affect the project’s completion date.

  • Quieter building sites, reduced noise pollution

As the modular building process focused on putting together pre-assembled pieces, onsite processes are, naturally, much quieter, resulting in a lack of noise pollution which could otherwise affect the environment.

Modular construction may not universally be the best solution for a hotel property at this point in time, and specific market conditions will always play a factor in the future.

However, processes will become even more streamlined as more modular units are built and used and as the approach becomes normalised. Continued growth in modular construction can only become more popular as sustainable building solutions are increasing in demand. Indeed, taking the vast majority of a hotel’s construction offsite has the ability to truly disrupt the hotel sector for the better – offering quicker and greener builds for all.

What’s more, even though prefabrication means that around 80% of a project might be repetitive elements, there is still plenty of room for custom and creative design and there is plenty of scope for better buildings, a reduction in carbon footprints and significant efficiencies which scale up across a hotel brand’s hotel collection.

In short, there is a definite correlation between innovation and growth and success when using modular construction for hotel projects.

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