What do Modular Buildings and Electric Cars have in Common?
Just as electric cars seemed to die in the 70’s, so did the concept of modular or prefab buildings. As trends are changing, both are making a resurgence for similar reasons. People are looking at reducing their daily operating costs as well as reducing their environmental footprint.
It may come as a surprise, but Tesla Motors, a leading maker of electric vehicles, just won the prestigious award of Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. This would have been unthinkable, even a few years back. Although it is still at a higher price point than an average vehicle, it is still well within the reach of the general buyer. The main driver (excuse the pun) for this change is most likely gas prices. Simply put, people hate paying for gas. And with prices at the pumps on the increase, this continued forward momentum towards electric vehicles will continue. Modular building on the other hand hasn’t reached this point yet, but they are on their way.
People are not as affected by the amount of money they spend on heating and cooling their homes as they are by the money they spend at the pumps. This behaviour may seem strange, but there is some logic to it. Every time you pull up to a gas station, you are aware of the gas prices to the penny and since people fill up several times a month they are more aware of their spending. Utility bills, on the other hand, are billed monthly and sometimes even less frequently. Furthermore, people just accept that utility bills have always existed and continue to exist. This is starting to change however. With the resurgence in green building, people are starting to look at building with more energy efficiency. LEED, BOMA , Energy Star are just a few of the green certification programs that are used to measure the energy efficiency of buildings. The problem is, building green comes at an added cost in most cases and people don’t like to pay more for something where they won’t see the return on investment in the short term.
One way builders are cutting costs while offering a better overall building is by building modularly. With increasing labour costs and inclement weather, building homes on site just doesn’t make sense anymore. By building components of a house indoors in a factory, better quality control can be reached, buildings can go up a great deal faster, and since there is cost savings there is money left over to put into insulating a home better to reduce energy bills. Prefabricated walls, windows, floors and roofs can all be done in controlled conditions while reducing the amount of construction waste on site. Bottom line – green building is now becoming competitive with conventional construction.