Steel Shots: Modular Construction Best Practices

Brooklyn’s modular B2 project (see “Building Blocks” in our June 2014 issue). 

Traditional construction is a lot like baking cookies from scratch. Both require numerous individual materials, time spent “mixing” them and finally assembling everything in one place. And after all the work is done, leftover materials must be cleaned up and stored or discarded. Modular construction, on the other hand, is more akin to buying premixed, precut cookies from the refrigerated section at the supermarket. The ingredients are mixed prior to arriving on-site, using a precise, uniform amount of each material, and the process typically incurs less cost, time spent and waste/additional materials at the end of the process.

What is modular steel construction? Modular steel construction is a broad term typically applied to the following three types of steel prefabrication. Projects can use a combination of these three methods for additional schedule and material benefits:

  • Kit-of-parts method: In this method, the same columns, beams, girders and connections are used throughout a majority of the project to speed both fabrication and erection of the steel. Think of this method as the “Erector Set” approach.

  • Panelization method: Panels are used for the floor, walls, roof and/or lateral systems and are assembled off-site, or onsite at ground level, then put into place. This approach is very similar to the way flat-pack furniture is assembled.

  • Modular (volumetric) method: Individual 3D modules — often in “building blocks” including framing and interior components provided by other trades — are assembled off-site, shipped to the site as completed modules and then erected on a module-by-module basis. This is essentially the same way manufactured housing is assembled on a residential lot.

Why use modular construction? The three biggest benefits to using modular construction are faster erection, improved quality and reduced waste.

To learn more, read the article “Modular Construction Best Practices” in our March issue (available now!), which is one of seven articles previewing sessions from the 2017 NASCC: The Steel Conference, taking place March 22–24 in San Antonio. Learn more about the conference at