The history of modular construction dates back to ancient times. However, it was not until the 20th century that prefabricated housing became popular. Especially after World War II in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Northern Europe.
Today, modular construction has become a popular choice for a wide variety of needs, from residential housing to commercial structures to healthcare and educational facilities.
As a result of being faster and more efficient than traditional construction methods, allowing for greater flexibility and faster completion, modular construction has become an integral part of the construction industry.
In this article, we will explore the history of modular construction and its evolution. We will look from the origins of modular homes to the modern techniques used and their potential for the future.
If you are wondering why choose modular construction join us on this journey as we delve into the fascinating world of modular construction.
The origins of modular homes
Prefabrication has been used since ancient times. For example, it was used in the Sweet Track Road built in England around 3800 BC.
In ancient Egypt, creating carved blocks that were transported to the final site for the construction of pyramids.
And in ancient Sri Lanka, where giant structures were built more than 2,000 years ago, with sections that were prepared separately and then assembled.
Also in the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci designed prefabricated houses with a modular type of construction to create new settlements in the Loire Valley.
Likewise, after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, this city was rebuilt using large-scale prefabrication techniques.
However, if we refer strictly to modern modular homes, we must go back to 1833. That was the year in which the history of modular construction changed forever. In that year, the London carpenter Herbert Manning designed the first modular house to meet the housing needs of settlers in Australia, and the concept quickly spread around the world.
With the arrival of the California Gold Rush, between 1848 and 1855, modular construction offered a solution to the demand for housing. It was triggered by an avalanche of more than 300,000 people arriving in the United States from all over the world.
In 1854 the British and French engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was commissioned to build the first modular hospital in Scutari. Its construction took only five months.
Prefabricated kits by mail order from Sears, Roebuck, and Co.
Reviewing the history of modular construction closer in time, the commercial idea of modular homes dates back to the early 20th century. At that time Sears, Roebuck, and Co. began offering modular homes by mail order, delivered in prefabricated kits to buyers across the United States.
It is estimated that the catalogue had 300 models of prefabricated houses. They could be assembled in only 90 days, even by inexperienced people. More than 500,000 prefabricated houses were sold.
Their packages contained pre-cut and numbered components, providing a more affordable and available means of acquiring a home.
The buyer would assemble the house on-site using the detailed instructions provided.
In the 1920s, other companies such as Alladin Homes and Pacific Ready Cut Homes emerged. These also provided prefabricated homes that could be purchased by catalogue.
The progress of modular homes triggered a new period of housing construction, which continues to this day. This has allowed the modular construction market to grow in recent years astonishingly.
Post-World War II boom
Continuing the history of modular construction, during World War II, this construction method was widely used to build military housing, barracks, and other structures quickly and efficiently.
The use of modular construction in military applications continued after the war because the need for temporary housing for soldiers and their families remained high. So it was really after the war that modular home construction exploded and evolved tremendously.
The demand for homes was so great that traditional home manufacturers were unable to meet it, leaving the way open for new entrepreneurs dedicated to modular housing.
By the 1950s, the prefabrication industry had advanced, producing complete modular homes. These structures were often larger and more complex than earlier models. In addition, they were built to meet higher quality and reliability criteria.
In the 1950s and 1960s, modular construction began to be used in the commercial sector, mainly for low-rise buildings.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the technique was refined and became popular for building hotels, apartment buildings, and other structures.
Modular construction in recent decades
Over the past forty years, this sector has grown enormously. Today, modular construction is a widely recognized construction method and is used to build a wide range of structures, including residential homes, hotels, hospitals, and schools.
The process has been improved over the years to allow for greater efficiency, higher quality, and more complex designs.
With the growing demand for sustainable and affordable construction, modular construction is likely to continue to play an important role in the construction industry for decades to come.
Modern modular construction
In recent years, modern modular construction has experienced a surge in popularity. This has been a result of its many advantages over traditional construction methods.
Faster and more cost-effective, this construction technique is made possible by automation and real-time monitoring of tasks within a controlled environment.
In addition, it allows for easy customization and flexibility, making it a popular choice for those looking to create a distinct structure.
Unlike other times in the history of modular construction, modern modular construction today not only offers practical advantages but is also an environmentally sustainable solution.
The high-quality materials and the reduction of waste during the construction process make it an environmentally friendly option compared to other techniques.
In addition, modern modular construction offers the possibility of integrating energy-efficient technologies, thus reducing the carbon footprint.
As technology and design continue to evolve, modern modular construction is set to become even more efficient and sustainable.
Its ability to reduce construction time and costs, as well as being environmentally friendly, make it an increasingly popular option for builders and homeowners alike.
History of modular construction in Spain
Modular construction is a concept that has been gaining popularity in recent years in Spain, a country that has become a leader in this sector, with several innovative and sustainable projects developed in recent years.
In the early 2000s, some companies began experimenting with modular construction in Spain, mainly for the construction of affordable and prefabricated housing.
The concept was still relatively unknown in the country, and there were some concerns about quality and durability.
However, as technology and modular construction methods continued to improve, they began to gain more importance. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which affected the Spanish construction industry, there was a renewed interest in more efficient and cost-effective construction methods.
Today, modular construction is increasingly used in Spain for a wide range of applications, including residential and commercial buildings, hotels, schools, and hospitals.
As the country expands and progresses, it is clear that modular construction will play a crucial role in meeting the housing needs of the population.
History of modular construction in Germany
Modular construction has a long history in Germany, dating back to the 19th century. It was back then that the first prefabricated buildings were constructed. However, it was not until the post-World War II period that modular construction began to gain widespread use in the country.
In the wake of the war, there was a significant need for affordable and efficient housing. And modular construction proved to be an effective solution.
In the 1950s and 1960s, a large number of prefabricated homes were built using modular construction techniques.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, modular construction continued to be used in Germany, mainly for residential and commercial buildings.
The initial houses were simple in design, but their affordability and quick assembly made them popular.
In recent decades, the country has been a leader in the development of energy-efficient modular buildings, with many buildings incorporating sustainable features such as solar panels.
Overall, the history of modular construction in Germany has been marked by a commitment to innovation and efficiency. German modular homes are built with superior materials and advanced technology, making them not only environmentally friendly but also reliable and durable.
To ensure safety, the German government has implemented strict regulations for prefabricated modular housing, fostering a competitive and innovative environment.
History of modular construction in the UK
The history of modular construction in the UK goes back a long way. Prefabricated housing has been a staple in this country.
However, it was in the 1950s and 1960s that large numbers of prefabricated modular homes were built to address the severe housing shortage after the war. The government commissioned more than 150,000 of these temporary homes.
Some of these houses are still standing today, which demonstrates the strength of this construction method.
In the 1960s and 1970s, modular construction continued to be used in the United Kingdom for housing, as well as for schools, hospitals, and other structures.
During the 1980s and 1990s, modular construction in this country saw a decline in popularity due to concerns about quality and durability.
However, in recent years, there has been a renovated interest in modular construction, driven in part by the need for more affordable and sustainable housing. Also, because of the proven high quality of modern modular construction.
Today, modular construction is increasingly used for a wide range of applications, from housing to commercial buildings and even high-rise structures.
With the UK currently facing a significant housing shortage and the need for more sustainable building practices, modular construction is likely to play an increasingly important role in this country’s construction industry in the coming years.
Conclusion: History of modular construction and its evolution
In conclusion, the progress and transformation of this construction method through the ages have been remarkable.
From wooden pavilions for soldiers in the 16th century to the use of cast iron, this type of modular architecture has gone through many changes.
And, in recent decades, with the help of computer-aided design, more innovative designs have become possible with an emphasis on sustainability.
Today, the modular manufacturing process offers a wide range of high-quality designs and materials. This makes modular construction an attractive option for those looking for quick installation and easy customisation.
The history of modular construction has taught us valuable lessons about the importance of adaptability and efficiency.
As society continues to focus on sustainability and cost-effectiveness, this form of architecture is likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the future of construction.
Baird Home Corporation. (January 19, 2022). A Brief History of Modular Homes. Recovered from: https://bairdhomesleesburg.com/a-brief-history-of-modular-homes/
Clayton. (May 22, 2020). History Unwrapped: How Modular Homes Came to Be. Recovered from: https://www.claytonhomes.com/studio/history-of-modular-homes-and-construction/
Interempresas (June 30, 2021). A journey into the past: history of modular architecture [Un recorrido hacia el pasado: historia de la arquitectura modular]. Recovered from: https://www.interempresas.net/Construccion/Articulos/355283-Un-recorrido-hacia-el-pasado-historia-de-la-arquitectura-modular.html
McKinsey & Company. (October 24, 2019). Modular construction: Priorities for real-estate developers. Recovered from: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/operations/our-insights/modular-construction-priorities-for-real-estate-developers
Modular Building Institute. (September 19, 2019). The Modular Construction Industry Around the World. Recovered from: https://www.modular.org/2020/09/19/the-modular-construction-industry-around-the-world/
OiRealEstate (April 23, 2021). History of prefabricated houses [Historia de las casas prefabricadas]. Recovered from: https://www.oirealestate.net/noticias-inmobiliarias/historia-de-las-casas-prefabricadas/
Thurston Group. (January 2018). Modular buildings UK: The rise to prominence. Recovered from: https://thurstongroup.co.uk/history-of-modular-buildings/