Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

June 7, 2019 Know How

Is a traditional or modular build better?

When planning to build a cleanroom, companies may not realize they have a choice: a traditional stick built constructed on site or a modular facility largely constructed inside and then transported to its final location.

Bryan Clark

While one type isn’t necessarily better than the other, each has pros and cons.

Space use. The space’s intended use can help determine whether modular or stick built is best, particularly if your company is on the smaller side and has only one location. If your goal is to set up long-term manufacturing operations, a more permanent facility may be your best bet. If your cleanroom will need to be considerably customized, stick built will typically provide you with much more flexibility than modular units, particularly in accommodating design changes.

However, if there is a likelihood the cleanroom’s designated use will change in the future, modular will offer you more flexibility in that aspect. Components can easily be relocated and reconfigured, or removed from the building altogether. Being able to anticipate future needs can help you make the best decision in the long run.

Construction schedule. This one really depends on the size and complexity. Even though a stick-built facility is much more permanent than a modular one, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will take longer to build. This route may be more advantageous in terms of schedule. Some modular systems may have long-lead times. These delays can cause a domino effect in the overall sequence of work, delaying other tasks.

However, once on site, modular systems often take less time and labor to build than permanent cleanrooms, which not only benefits the schedule, but the project’s budget. Subsequently, any periods of disruption to building occupants during construction – noise, vibration, distractions, alternate traffic patterns – are reduced. The amount of construction debris generated tends to be less, which is obviously critical when dealing with a cleanroom.

Cost. Last but not least, is cost. For many organizations, this is the most important factor when deciding to go modular or stick built, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. A modular facility may be less costly, as savings can be recognized through a quicker installation process. There are tax advantages to modular systems, too. These facilities are typically not considered part of the building and are viewed as capital equipment, which can be depreciated at a faster rate than a stick-built facility. Companies may recoup some of their initial investment by selling the modular components if the cleanroom is not needed in the future.

Upfront cost shouldn’t be the only cost consideration, though. It’s important to evaluate cost over the facility’s lifecycle. Building it is one thing, but maintaining it is another. Regardless of cleanroom type, building materials higher in quality and provide a high level of cleanliness can cost more upfront, but over time, the cost to maintain these materials is low.

If you’re not sure which is the best route to take, weigh the pros and cons against your company’s unique needs. If you know you need a cleanroom right now, but aren’t sure you’ll need it in the future, modular may be your best option, particularly if your schedule can accommodate long lead times for the materials.

If, on the other hand, your business needs require a highly customized facility, stick built can give you more flexibility and can accommodate changes on the fly more easily than modular.

Bryan Clark is an estimator at Maynard construction management firm JM Coull, Inc.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners


Order a PDF