Building Blocks: Prefab versus Modular Construction

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When it comes to building a new structure, two popular options are prefab and modular construction. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to two distinct construction methods.

What is the difference between Modular vs. Prefab Buildings?

Prefab construction is walls, roofs, and floors manufactured off-site. In contrast, modular construction is complete rooms or self-contained units. Both are shipped and assembled on location.

Prefab Construction

Prefab Construction

Components Made Off-Site

Prefab, or prefabricated construction, involves manufacturing components off-site. These components include roofs, floors, and walls. These components are shipped to the location and are designed to fit together like puzzle pieces. Before prefab construction, building contractors would “stick-build,” where everything was framed and built onsite, which was costly and slow.

Modular Construction

Modular Construction

Completed Sections Made Off-Site

In modular construction, the building components are complete rooms or sections manufactured in a factory and then transported as large units to the building site for assembly. Unlike prefab, these large modules require less onsite assembly and construction, which is cost-effective and need less on-site construction time, especially for larger buildings.

Advantages of Modular Construction

With its increased popularity, efficiencies, and ease of build, modular construction is gaining market acceptance and gaining traction for commercial, industrial, and institutional projects. The modular market was valued at $131.1 billion in 2021, and analysts estimated a CAGR of 6.1% from 2022 to 2031 with a $234.7 billion value.1

Modular construction can be for permanent and temporary uses and is commonly used for school classrooms and military housing but gaining popularity as healthcare facilities, churches, fast food restaurants, and commercial offices.

Modular building has several benefits, such as being environmentally friendly, creating less waste, being of higher quality, and being accessible to remote locations.

  • Saves Money – Unlike traditional building methods, modular buildings are less expensive because the units are produced in bulk and delivered nearly completed.
  • Less maintenance
  • More sustainable – Reduced material waste and energy consumption.
  • Save Time – avoid common construction delays caused by weather or schedules and, in many cases, can be delivered 30-50% quicker2 than traditional methods. Site preparation occurs simultaneously with the production of modular units. However, some drawbacks can be a limited service area and unclear zoning.
  • Less impact at the job site – built off-site, modular construction has 80% less disruption at the job site.
  • Quality control – The manufacturing process offers greater quality control than on-site, stick-built construction methods.

1Allied Market Research, 2Modular Building Institute

Stairs and Ramps for Modular Construction

Upside Innovations manufactures access solutions ideal for modular buildings such as schools, hospitals, churches, office trailers, construction sites, etc.

Our modular, prefabricated line of ADA and IBC stairs, ramps, and canopies are industrial-grade aluminum components that bolt together to create infinite configurations, eliminating custom fabrication and time-consuming engineering while reducing costs, installation time, and complexity.

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APEX System

Stairs, Ramps,
Canopies & Awnings

APEX stair ramp system components

The APEX System is a modular, prefabricated line of ADA, OSHA, and IBC-compliant stairs, wheelchair ramps, and canopies. Industrial-grade aluminum components bolt together to create infinite configurations. The System eliminates custom fabrication requirements and time-consuming engineering while reducing costs, installation time, and complexity. The Apex System is manufactured in the U.S. using advanced engineering techniques and industrial-grade aluminum.

modular building step

Portable Stairs

OMNI Portable step graphics

The Omni Step, Upside’s portable stairs, has a pivoting riser assembly to adjust the step to any height within the two outer limits as the individual step heights grow or shrink equally. Set the adjustable platform at the threshold, attach the step riser to the platform, and let the step pivot down to the ground.