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February 7, 2017

Innovative Modular Design Trends

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From the work of Architects in Sweden, Norway and Germany to infills in Manhattan, and recent calls for proposals from Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency and BC Housing, there seems to be a big shift taking place in the way that buildings are designed and assembled using pre-fabricated modular components.

Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 was an early adopter of the idea of assembling buildings out of pre-fabricated elements but, as buildings become more complex and code requirements more demanding, it seems that the concept of pre-fabrication is really gaining traction.

Moshe SafdieHabitat 67

There are a number of reasons why this is the case:

  •  a high level of quality control is easier in a factory environment
  • careful building envelope detailing to achieve standards like Passive House is more cost-effective on an assembly line
  • building installation times are drastically reduced because of the pre-fabricated parts

An interesting result of this movement to prefabrication is a shift in the design of buildings. As an example, a number of recent developments in New York are visually highly reflective of their modular construction… a sort of form-follows-function where the building system becomes the architecture.


Here are some recent examples from Europe: A proposed modular addition at Lund University in Sweden, modular student housing near Amsterdam, and a prefabricated hotel concept in the Netherlands.


Metric Modular recently proposed a temporary 3 storey prefabricated low-cost rental housing development for an unused site near Downtown Vancouver. The project is designed to be installed and used for 3 to 5 years and then disassembled and moved to another under-utilized site in the city. This 40-unit “pop-up” development can be quickly assembled out of pre-built micro-dwelling apartment modules, bolted onto a removeable foundation system (utilizing pre-fabricated steel stair systems), plugged into nearby utilities and made ready for occupancy in a matter of a couple of months.

It’s interesting how this more industrialized approach to the development process is changing the design of buildings and, ultimately, the way city spaces may be used.

For more information on innovative modular design trends, give me a call today.


Tom Faliszewski

Senior Manager, Innovative Solutions





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