Modular solutions for population growth

With the global population having surpassed 7.7 billion, one thing is becoming clear: the world isn’t getting any smaller. As a result, land is more valuable than ever — both in densely populated cities, and rural communities with miles of potential. On both ends of the spectrum as well as on a hyper-local level, modular construction plays an important role: it can give people all over the country (and world) alternative spaces to live, work, and play.

Hyper-urban: building up

Typically, we think of overpopulated cities as not having much room to grow. But that’s ignoring one important growth area: vertical. Multi-story modular buildings are a practical alternative to serve a lot of people on a small footprint. And like any modular project, customization is a key factor. We can “stack” units, one on top of the other, to create more space. Here at SMM, we’ve done a lot of two- and three-story buildings, but really, we can go up to 10- or 12-stories — and even higher than that. Building up just requires that we start with a solid foundation than can hold its share of weight. From there, construction boils down to basic materials like concrete and rebar, and smart engineering.

Urban: dormitory-style

Educational institutions are just one example of an industry that’s significantly affected by population growth. Especially in the past few months, we’ve met with quite a few clients seeking dormitory facilities for expanding student populations around the country. Many of these future modular buildings will be four-story units, serving 400 students. In these cases, going modular is saving these educational institutions a lot of time: they’ll be able to open their new buildings 30 percent faster than typical stick-built construction. We typically estimate 9 to 10 months from initial design to completion, so for buildings contracted this month, Summer 2020 is a realistic goal.

Rural: room to grow

On the flip-side, if you look at rural areas of population bursts — such as border-sharing where the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are actively trying to establish housing and office structures — modular construction is a smart solution. If you’re based in an area that can’t necessarily get standard construction materials in a reasonable amount of time, modular is a great way to go. Because it’s prefabricated construction that’s completed in weather-safe plants, it’s shipped ready to assemble, irregardless of local weather. Plus, not having to source contractors or materials in a rural area means cutting down on construction time, as well as cost, since local manufacturers tend to charge higher markups based on supply and demand. We bring a prefab structure to the site ready to assemble, and build it in a matter of a few days or weeks rather than months.