One of the biggest benefits of using off-site construction sites to build modular multi-family dwellings is its lower cost. Manufacturers report cost savings of 20 percent, as well as time savings of 40-50 percent. “Savings on construction materials cost, on-site labor, and abated interest is a key motivation for the growing anticipation of this building technology,” Edmonds said.
FBH also provides developers with a reduction in wasted materials, improved construction safety and predictability, assembly line quality control, and reduced strain on the construction site neighborhood.
“FBH does not require additional or special considerations for environmental site remediation, nor does it impact the way environmental remediation would be carried out,” Edmonds added. “Therefore, FBH is at least as appropriate for brownfield sites as conventional site-built construction, and likely would provide developers new sites for consideration by virtue of its lower costs.”
However, he noted that these benefits do come with some risks.
“While perceived risk is somewhat exaggerated, risk nonetheless exists,” Edmonds said. “FBH has technical limitations due to site size, shape and context; economic limitations of the immature business model; and social limitations related to stigma and labor politics.”
In addition to laying out the current status of the market, the paper identifies challenges and ways forward for financing and building codes and permits; how these can be challenging for FBH projects; and strategies stakeholders can apply in order to move forward.
“FBH is not the silver bullet, and no project is wholly without risk,” Golden said. “Plus, it can take decades of repetition for new technology to become a standard in the construction industry. While the differences between modular and conventional construction may appear risky for some projects, the possibility of cost and resource reduction may be well worth the risk.”