Architecture in modular construction

All you need to know about planning, floor plans and facade design

As solid as "brick by brick" building but much faster and more flexible – this is how modern modular construction can be described today. Basically, new buildings of all types can be constructed using m modular construction methods. When it comes to facade design too, it can do anything that conventional building methods can – large-surface glazing, plaster on composite thermal insulation systems or back-vented curtain facade elements in wood, metal, ceramics or glass. Attractive architectural designs can be realised using modern modular construction methods that are no different from those used in conventionally built structures. In addition, architects can make specific use of the possibilities that modular construction offers – with cantilevered balconies and loggias, for example, or an offset arrangement of the modules. Find out what design opportunities modular buildings have to offer in our answers to the most frequently asked questions about architecture.

What planning grids are available in modular construction?

The planning grids in modular construction are very varied and versatile. The grid dimensions vary in width between 2.625 and 4.00 m, in length between 7.75 and 16.75 m and in height between 3.20 and 4.00 m. Special sizes can also be produced. For every building project, the aim is to find a grid that takes the aesthetic, financial and technical requirements into account equally.

Am I tied to one particular planning grid?

The question of which planning grid is used for the design of a modular building is determined largely by economic viability in terms of production and logistics. For example, it has been found that the best grid dimensions for the offices in the building are 3.875 m x 12.750 m, which allows two offices to be created according to the Workplace Regulations plus a linking corridor between them. Basically, the grid dimension can vary between standardised widths of 2.625 and 4.00 m and lengths of 7.75 to 16.75 m. Other lengths and widths are possible, depending on the project. A combination of different grid sizes within a floor plan is also conceivable, if this is necessary or economically viable.

How flexible can I be in designing the floor plan with a modular construction?

Basically, we can say: In the module grid, the architect can be as free as he or she likes in the design of the floor plan –and it can be independently varied from floor to floor. Almost any design for a solid building can also be realised in modular construction. Even if the floor plan is based on a fixed module grid, this grid is still very variable. The commonest module sizes range in width from 2.625 to 4.00 m, in length from 7.75 to 16.75 m and in height from 3.20 to 4.00 m. Special sizes can also be supplied – the dimensions of the individual room modules are only limited by their ability to be transported. Modular construction is based on a three-dimensional steel frame structure with non-loadbearing inside walls. This gives maximum flexibility as regards the layout of the rooms and thus meets the various different requirements of owners and developers.

What is the spatial efficiency like with modular construction in comparison with conventional building methods?

Resource-efficient building design – this is the current challenge facing engineers and architects. The steel structure of the room modules combines lightness with a high loadbearing capacity and reduced component dimensions. The relatively filigree construction of the modules gives a higher level of spatial efficiency with modular construction than with comparable conventional building methods.

What are the maximum dimensions (length / width / external height / height inside building shell)?

The maximum module length is around 20.00 m. Module widths up to 6.00 are possible, but dimensions of 3.875 or 4.00 m are the most practical and economical. The maximum module height is 4.00 m, which corresponds to a height inside the building shell of approx. 3.50 m.

What are the spans of the modules, or to what extent is construction without supports possible?

When designing interiors, modular construction allows large spaces to be created without interior walls breaking the design. The corner supports of the room modules should either be treated as a design element or "disappear" into the side walls. Compared with structurally similar building methods using concrete, however, modular buildings have the advantage of providing considerably slimmer support cross-sections.

How many storeys can be built using modular construction?

ALHO has specialised in the construction of buildings below the high rise building limit. Just as with conventional building methods, multi-storey buildings can also be built as modular constructions up to the height defined as the limit in the High Rise Building Guideline, which is 22 m above the surface of the site, where the height of the floor slab of the top storey is the determining factor. This means that 6 to 7 full storeys can be built using modular construction.

What cubic volumes are possible?

Attractive building structures can be created by aligning and stacking the three-dimensional room modules based on an orthogonal grid. Planners who are fond of clear forms or the Bauhaus style will feel particularly at home in the world of modular architecture. If the possibilities offered by modular construction are specifically exploited, buildings with cantilevered bay windows, balconies and loggias can be produced, or exciting facades with offset layout of the modules. As regards the geometry of the building, however, one thing has to be accepted: Organic building volumes can be realised, but only as special applications or using hybrid building methods.