The Language of Modular Construction: Understanding the Terms

Modular construction is a growing trend in the building industry, offering a more efficient and cost-effective way to construct buildings. However, for those who are not familiar with the terminology, it can be confusing to understand the different terms used to describe this method of construction. In this article, I will break down the various terms used in modular construction and explain their meanings.

Off-Site Construction

The terms “off-site construction”, “prefabrication” and “modular construction” are often used interchangeably. Essentially, they all refer to the process of building components off-site in a specialized facility, rather than on the actual construction site.

This allows for more controlled and efficient construction, as well as reduced waste.


Prefabrication is a broad term that encompasses any type of building component that is manufactured off-site. This can range from individual elements that are joined together using standard connections and interfaces, to three-dimensional volumetric units with complete accessories.

Modular Construction

The term “modular construction” specifically refers to large modules that are built off-site and designed to be joined together. These modules can be stacked end-to-end and one on top of the other to form complete buildings without the need for an additional superstructure.

Traditional Construction

Traditional construction is the most common form of construction, where most of the work is done on site. This includes pole construction, which is an industrial term used to refer to traditional construction with wooden or metal structures.

In practice, it is synonymous with traditional construction.

Kit Construction

Kit construction involves pre-cut parts that require significant assembly, but with minimal waste, on site. This is a popular method for DIY projects, as it allows for more customization and control over the final product.

Temporary Construction

Temporary construction refers to buildings that are designed to be easily moved or dismantled and reassembled elsewhere. This can include modular buildings that are designed to be relocated, as well as other types of temporary structures.

Panelized Construction

Panelized construction is a more efficient form of construction in which walls, floors, and other flat components arrive in large sections that can be quickly placed in place. This method is often used in conjunction with modular construction to create a hybrid building.

Volumetric Modular Construction

Volumetric modular construction is the most complete form of modular construction, with a minimum of on-site assembly required.

This method involves building large modules off-site that are designed to be joined together to create a complete building.

Frame and Framing

The terms “frame” or “framing” generally refer to the schematic structure of a building. However, they can also describe support structures for modular buildings.

Building Systems

Building systems are a general term used to describe any pre-designed construction method with predefined scope and configuration limits. This can include modular construction, as well as other types of prefabricated building methods.


The slats are attached to the metal or plastic frame of an external wall panel with glue and are normally used in permanent modular buildings. They provide additional support and stability to the structure.

Volumetric Modular Buildings

Volumetric modular buildings are large structures that consist of individual modules joined together end-to-end and one on top of the other to form complete buildings without the need for an additional superstructure.

This method is often used for larger, more complex buildings.


Models are created that contain not only the geometry of the building, but also contain a lot of data in terms of relationships, physical attributes, time, costs and quantities. This allows for more accurate planning and execution of the project.


Prefabrication is not limited to modular modules and buildings, but is applied to a wider variety of products. In the context of modular construction, it refers to any type of building component that is manufactured off-site.

Modular Modules

The modules are individual sections of a modular building with enclosed functional spaces that can be joined with other modules to form a complete structure. These modules are designed to fit together seamlessly, creating a cohesive and efficient building.

Volumetric Modular Definition

The generally accepted definition of volumetric modular is that more than 60% of construction is completed off-site.

This means that the majority of the building is constructed in a controlled environment, resulting in higher quality and faster construction times.

Quality Control

Quality control is very important in volumetric modular buildings, as all accessories and interior finishes of the modules will be installed in the factory. This ensures consistency and high standards throughout the construction process.

In Conclusion

Modular construction offers many benefits, including reduced construction time, less waste, and potentially lower costs. However, understanding the terminology used in this method of construction is crucial for successful planning and execution. I hope this article has provided some clarity on the various terms used in modular construction.

Kaitlin Schwisow
Kaitlin Schwisow

Avid zombie ninja. Award-winning bacon specialist. Passionate music buff. Evil coffeeaholic. Total tv geek. Lifelong food specialist.