As the use of technology and a mobile workforce grow, modular architecture and design offer businesses a flexibility that will allow them to grow and change with their workforce.
What Is Modular Architecture?
Modular design is a system that subdivides a structure into modules, which can be independently fashioned and then used to create other structures. Universal modules are produced in a manufacturing environment, then transported to a construction location to be assembled onsite. Module components can include everything from the structure itself to interior partitions and even furnishings. These components allow a space to be changed, relocated and resized without altering the entire structure.
A Brief History
Since the early 1900s, office designs have evolved to reflect society’s shifting requirements and attitudes toward the workplace environment.
One of the first known office designs, credited to engineer Frederick Taylor in 1904, combined efficiency with oversight in an open floor plan so managers could keep a watchful eye from private office space. This open concept remained popular until 1968 when Action Office introduced the first modular systems — predecessors of today’s cubicles — which continued strong until the mid-1990s.
As technological mobility grew, the trend circled back to the more open concept of the early office. The need for flexibility to encourage collaboration while still allowing for private personal space was the inspiration for the modern office.
The Modular Office
Modular offices create an adaptable workspace that can keep up with the rapid changes taking place in today’s labor market. These versatile business environments offer a multitude of benefits for a forward-thinking company with the need to maintain flexibility in their market sector. Listed below are a few of the rewards a company can realize when employing modular spaces:
Reduced Construction Times
With modular construction, the prefabricated components arrive onsite, ready to be installed. They can be easily reconfigured to accommodate changes during construction. Modules are pre-finished, including glaze and wiring, which decreases waste and clean-up. Delivery is quick, and units can be installed during other phases of the construction, cutting man hours and speeding up construction time.
Growth, Versatility and Innovation
As the nature of the work environment changes, modular designs can be reconfigured without altering the main structure or causing undue disruption to regular work schedules. Growing companies can take advantage of added work locations without the need to relocate by creating multi-purpose areas. Shared collaboration space encourages personal interaction and team productivity, with a modern office culture that supports increased employee retention. Using modular furnishings allows for a workspace makeover, changing the entire aesthetic and flow in a matter of hours.
While the initial investment may be higher than traditional brick-and-mortar construction, the ability to move walls, adapt spaces and re-purpose entire systems makes the long-term investment much more attractive.
Another savings factor is the fact that modular wall systems can be depreciated much like furniture over a period of seven years rather than the 30-year period of traditional stud and drywall buildings.
When it comes to environmental impact, modular systems are sustainable design naturals. Materials used in construction of these systems are durable and produced for longevity. Waste is reduced in the initial construction phase as well as each following phase, as materials are continually re-used and recycled. Natural and repurposed materials can be incorporated into the space along with energy-efficient utility systems. There are even modular structures available that use reclaimed shipping containers as building components.
The Future of Modular Architecture in the Modern Office
News surrounding modular design has decreased in recent years, and it may be because it is no longer the novelty it once was. Cubicles and modular furniture have become mainstream furnishings, employed to some degree in almost every office. Landlords use moveable walls in tenant spaces to attract a wider selection of renters, while tenants use modular systems to adapt rental spaces to meet their specific needs.
As the face of the modern office continues to change, modular architecture and design will likely be key in transforming the traditional office into a versatile, environmentally friendly workspace. With growing mobility comes the need for less space and a more multi-functional approach to the work environment. Because modular architecture provides a workable solution, chances are it will not only have a place in the modern office of the future — it may actually be the future of the modern office.