High-Rise Modular Construction

Modular construction helps respond to societal challenges such as urbanization, the availability of affordable housing, and skilled construction labour.

With rapid urbanization and population growth, more people live and work in cities. This has led to an increased need for taller buildings in urban environments and a lack of affordable housing in cities. The construction industry continues to grapple with rising labour costs because of shortages in skilled labour and persistently stagnant construction productivity. These market dynamics present an opportunity for innovation.

Modular and off-site construction can help to address these challenges. Modular construction has origins dating back to the 17th century beginning predominantly with single-family homes. Today, modular construction is used in many applications, including residential, commercial, health care, and others. Most existing modular buildings are low or mid-rise, however there have been several high-rise volumetric modular buildings constructed in the last decade and demand appears to be increasing.

This research report explores the current state, drivers, benefits, and barriers to the growth of high-rise volumetric modular construction. The report includes findings from a workshop and interviews with modular manufacturers, designers, regulators, and industry trade groups, as well as existing research in modular construction.

North American model codes and standards organizations, including the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the International Code Council (ICC), have recognized the need for codes and standards to be developed or tailored to respond to the specific challenges of modular construction. A review and gap analysis of codes and standards related to modular construction has yielded several recommendations for the Canadian market.

The following are the four highest priority items that were identified with respect to codes and standards development for modular construction (see Section 7 for more information):

  1. Develop a new standard for off-site/modular construction.
  2. Increase and expand adoption of CSA Standard A277 by the provinces.
  3. Review and update CSA Standard A277.
  4. Develop guidance for Authorities Having Jurisdiction for off-site/modular buildings.

There are many factors that contribute to the uptake of modular construction. The above recommendations will support growth in modular construction by providing a more comprehensive and consistent regulatory environment for the design, construction, and approval of modular buildings.