The History of Prefab Commercial Buildings
Believe it or not, modular construction has been around since at least Roman times. As long as people have been building structures, there’s been modular construction.
This blog will shed some light on the history of prefab commercial buildings and how different societies used them. We will also discuss how these structures have evolved and become part of modern day industries.
A General History of Modular Construction
Modular structures have a richer history than people realize. While most people associate them with Sears Roebuck houses or the World War II housing boom, their origins stretch back further in time.
The Roman Empire
At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from modern-day England to the coast of North Africa. To help consolidate the empire, the Romans built forts at strategic locations. Some of these structures were pre-built at one location and then carried to the desired destination for the final build.
This allowed for an easy expansion of the Empire since commanders could quickly build structures to house their troops and could easily expand buildings as needed.
The Gold Rush
When the Gold Rush boomed, people flocked West to seek their fortunes. With the influx of people, whole towns needed to be created overnight. Prefab structures were built in factories on the East Coast, particularly in New York City, and sent out West for final construction.
Modular structures allowed for towns to be constructed quickly and buildings could be expanded if necessary. It was also easy to move these towns when the gold veins stopped producing and the population moved on to new locations.
The Crystal Palace was built for Britain’s Great Exhibition in 1851 and remains one of the most famous examples of early modular construction.
Designed in less than two weeks, it utilized lightweight and inexpensive materials such as iron, wood and glass, and was constructed in only a few months. After the Exhibition closed, the palace was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt at another location where it survived until 1936.
Crimean War Hospital
During the Crimean War, it became apparent that the field hospitals were overwhelmed in caring for the wounded and sick soldiers. In 1855 the UK War Department commissioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design, and create, a state-of-the-art modular hospital that would be produced in the UK and then transported to the front lines.
The Hospital at Renkioi provided a solution to a common healthcare problem–how many patients would it hold? The final design was an “endless” hospital where it could be increased indefinitely. The wards could be linked together so the hospital could grow with demand.
A landmark that people might be surprised to learn is a modular structure is the Eiffel Tower. It’s considered modular because of how it was made. The Eiffel Tower was originally built for the 1889 World’s Fair and was constructed in sections in Parisian suburbs and then transported to the final building site.
It was given a 20-year contract by the City of Paris and was supposed to be torn down in 1919. However, people realized its potential in regard to weather forecasting and telecommunications and it’s still standing today.
The Modular Structure of Today
As a society, we have continued using modular structures in commercial sectors. While most people think these structures would only be used on construction sites, they’ve proven useful in other industries.
One of the biggest industries in British Columbia is aquaculture. It provides jobs to 14,500 Canadians and earns over $4 billion annually. Fish farms have several uses where prefab buildings are helpful, including offices, first aid stations, and storage facilities.
As the population in British Columbia keeps expanding, the space in classrooms keeps getting smaller. School administrators must weigh building new infrastructure with the fluctuating student population. By using modular classrooms, schools can save time and money while creating a learning environment that’s beneficial to students.
For example, in just 40 days Britco created an innovative classroom design for an elementary school in Whistler, BC, that won first place in the 2019 Modular Building Institute's Award of Distinction in the Modular Classroom category.
Prefab structures have been an integral part of the entertainment industry, especially on movie sets. Since these structures are cost-effective and have a short construction period, entertainment companies have used them as production offices, storage for props and wardrobes, and customized dressing rooms or makeup trailers.
Like during the Crimean War, modular structures are still playing a role in healthcare. They’re being used to create first aid stations at various job sites, including construction, oilfields, and agricultural sites. They can be used in an administrative capacity as offices or secure storage for medical records.
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, PARC Retirement Living contracted Britco to create areas where residents could meet and visit with their loved ones since they were in isolation. The result was the Safe Family Meetup Centres.
Why Work With Britco
Just like not all businesses are the same, not all modular structures are the same. There are several benefits to using a Britco modular structure that differentiate us from our competitors.
Built to Code & Safety Standards
It’s essential to be compliant with the most recent Canadian National Model Codes, for not only your workers' protection but for yourself, too. You could be opening yourself up to liability in an accident if your structures aren’t up to code.
All our prefab structures are built in adherence to all current safety standards and codes, so you can have them delivered and set up knowing that building safety is taken care of.
Quick Delivery & Assembly
At Britco we are used to working in all different kinds of terrain, from city centres to rugged rural areas. And even taking these challenges into account, our process is still faster than a traditional build.
Another benefit of choosing a modular structure is that fabrication and site prep takes place at the same time, shortening the installation schedule. And weather delays aren’t an issue since our buildings are built in a factory setting. An additional benefit of this method is that your structure is also environmentally friendly.
They're Customized for Your Needs
When you’re thinking about starting your building project, wouldn’t it be nice to find a structure that you can customize while it is being built?
With a Britco modular structure, you can choose what layout you want, whether it’s an open-concept layout or not. You can customize cabinetry to create built-ins for whatever storage fits your needs. Then you won’t need to worry about retrofitting any additional storage into a design.
Learn more about prefab commercial buildings by contacting our team today for a quote.
Ready to solve your space needs?
Modular buildings are the way to go. Request a quote or contact us today to get the conversation started. We’d love to talk to you about how modular can meet — and exceed — your needs.