Modular Construction: Growing Methodology and its Legal Implications

  • January 07, 2022
  • Karen Groulx & Dragana Bukejlovic (with special thanks to Hala Abdul Ghani, articling student at Dentons Canada LLP)

  1. Introduction

Modular construction is a process in which a building or structure, or components thereof, are constructed off-site, in a factory-like setting.  According to TWI Global Technology, the first recorded instance of modular construction came about in the 1830s, when a carpenter from London, England named John Manning constructed a prefabricated home for his son. This home was made in parts and shipped from England to Australia, where it was assembled.[1] While modular construction has existed for some time, today it remains an under-utilized building or construction process in Canada, comprising only 3% of North American new builds.[2] 

In a recent survey of construction project stakeholders, including: owners, developers, private corporations, governments, healthcare and education institutions, and commercial real estate owners and operators, among the various technologies and changes identified as being adopted to improve productivity and to attain the benefits gained by moving from manual processes to digital approaches - was the use of modular construction.[3] It is clear that modular construction will have a place in the future of building in Canada. 

What is Modular Construction?

Modular construction involves prefabrication of various standardized components at a factory away from the ultimate installation site, and involves the fabrication off-site of repeated sections or components called modules, which are then transported to the building site by road, rail, sea or air, and then assembled on-site to form the pre-fabricated building or structure. 

While traditional construction involves only one site, where the building is erected, modular construction involves two sites, being the factory where the various components are constructed and a second site where the components assembled and where the building is ultimately erected.