Modular Offices, A Viable Alternative to Conventional Construction

Jay Stockman

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Constructing an office from scratch is a daunting task that brings visions of high costs, weather related delays, and irresponsible contractors. However, alternative construction methods can be employed to lessen this frustration. A modular office, also referred to as a prefabricated construction, is a quicker, and more cost effective method of erecting an office.

Basically, modular offices are built in a factory using the same materials utilized for traditional construction. The entire office is not built in one piece; rather it is broken up into individual modules that can be transported to any site. Typically, up to ninety percent of the office is built at the factory; walls, ceilings, carpeting, electric, and HVAC. These modules are then assembled at the site to form a professional looking office that is functional, as well as expandable. Each module ranges in size from 10 to 18 feet wide to 36 to 76 feet long, with the module width depending on state shipping regulations.

Unlike conventional offices, modular offices have several design constraints. Since the modular office will be shipped via the road, there are maximum height constraints. Typical ceiling heights are around 8 feet vs. 9 to 10 feet for traditional construction. Further, modular office entrances are usually located up to 30 inches above the ground necessitating the use of ramps and steps to reach the entrance. On the other hand, it is possible to have brick, stucco or another exterior finish to customize the otherwise “sterile” look of a modular office. Additionally, numerous options exist for finishing the interior office as well.

The most compelling reason why companies turn to modular offices is the speed of construction. A standard modular office can be constructed in significantly less time than it takes for conventional construction. Faster construction translates into quicker cash flow for the business. Modular offices are also less expensive than conventionally built buildings. A typical construction might cost $100 to $130 per square foot, modular pricing can range from $55 to $60 per square foot, including installation. Further, modular offices can be relocated, allowing for expansion, and site relocation without starting construction from scratch. There are also tax savings related to owning a modular office, as opposed to leasing office space.

The primary hurdle to modular offices relates to their look and feel. If a more custom designed office is desired, modular offices are probably not well suited for you. However, it should be noted, that there has been an increasing trend to permanent modular offices where a portion of the construction is done on site. Basic modular building limitations like the elevated entrance and shorter ceilings can make the buildings look less stylish. While there are certainly ways to address these design elements, doing so can increase the overall building expenses.

In spite of the complexity of the final product, buying a modular office is a fairly straightforward process. Contacting a project manager, and discussing all the specifics is the best way to get started. Even though a modular office may be ready for shipping as soon as a week after it is ordered, it can take several weeks for the appropriate permits to be issued.

Careful, and serious consideration should be taken when planning a startup business, or expanding an existing one. After all factors are considered, modular offices are a cost effective, sound means to maintaining a healthy business, and should be inclusive in any business model.

Jay B Stockman is a contributing editor for Modular Office Systems Visit for more information.


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