Passive, Prefab and Modular: the Architecture of the Future is Here


As people seek more control over their carbon footprints, they think differently about how their home life affects the planet. Traditional residential construction produces waste that harms the environment, so future homeowners and commercial building owners are getting ahead of the pollution by choosing sustainable and innovative architectural solutions. Read more about passive, prefab and modular structures to understand how they're helping people go green.

What Are Passive Buildings?

Passive, Prefab and Modular: the Architecture of the Future is Here

Photography by Brydon McCluskey on Unsplash

People build passive buildings to create structures that use minimal electricity. They tend to be residential houses because the Passive House Alliance (PHA) first launched its movement for homes. However, the trend has become so popular that the PHA works with architects and interior designers for commercial buildings, too.

Benefits of Passive Buildings

The PHA trains professionals to construct sustainable buildings with components like high-end insulation, optimized ventilation and green windows. These features conserve as much electricity as possible while supporting a comfortable daily lifestyle.

After a PHA-approved home or commercial building finishes, it provides these benefits for the property owners and the planet:

  • Natural ventilation reduces electricity consumption by 18-22% by integrating wind and outdoor temperatures with minimal HVAC usage.
  • Filtered air conditioning provides cleaner breathing while minimizing airborne home pollution like aerosol chemicals, particles and allergens.
  • Air-tight windows and doorways reduce how often HVAC unit fans turn on and keep out extra sunshine that would otherwise heat a home.
  • Improved insulation reduces noise pollution from nearby roadways.
  • Modern sustainable construction materials provide more options for property owners who want more choices in the finer details.

What Are Prefab Buildings?

Passive, Prefab and Modular: the Architecture of the Future is Here

Design by Chybik + Kristof - Photography by Alex Shoots Buildings

Some architects and interior designers work with eco-friendly clients to include prefabricated or prefab components for residential and commercial projects. Prefab parts come from manufacturing facilities that build the roof, walls or flooring in their entirety before shipping them to construction sites.

The finished parts arrive ready for installation, reducing build time and potential waste. When teams order supplies and construct everything on-site, excess materials can become landfill waste. Prefab components arrive with custom measurements so the project doesn't create extra trash.

It's a beneficial step for any client who wants a green construction process — especially if their building will use sustainable energy to contribute to their state's decarbonization goals in commercial sectors.

Benefits of Prefab Buildings

When significant portions of a building — like a roof or walls — arrive ready for installation, the on-site construction passes by faster. There won't be weather or construction delays while those segments come together by hand. Eliminating an unpredictable element like weather leads to faster builds and less waiting for clients who want to move forward with their commercial or residential projects.

The environment also enjoys these benefits when people choose prefabricated parts for their construction projects:

Less electricity usage due to shorter build times minimizes CO2 pollution from local electricity plants to power construction equipment.

Prefab parts can move to other properties when a temporary structure gets disassembled, reducing the use of natural resources to build.

One trip to deliver prefab parts creates less CO2 pollution than traveling back and forth from suppliers to construction sites for traditional construction timelines.

Reducing construction material purchases means the overall project costs less than traditional build sites.

Fewer tools on the property make the site safer for the property owners and construction crew while touring or working on the project.

What Are Modular Buildings?

Passive, Prefab and Modular: the Architecture of the Future is Here

Kasita Modular Stack

People sometimes confuse modular and prefabricated buildings, but their construction is significantly different. Prefabricated buildings contain components assembled off-site.

Modular buildings require little construction after arriving at a commercial or residential property. Teams assemble the minimal parts that need last-minute work, like connecting HVAC systems, electrical wires and sewage pipes. Those parts may also be on site when the modular building arrives, reducing the construction timeline even further.

The manufacturing facilities for modular buildings are efficient and held to high standards. Some even use only sustainable materials, depending on which manufacturers a client prefers for their construction project. Clients can choose which manufacturing companies will participate in creating their modular building based on things like brand values, standards and their usage of eco-friendly materials.

This innovative construction option also saves clients money. Whether they're using a modular building for residential or commercial purposes, they save $150-$250 per square foot by avoiding traditional site builds. Construction teams can use fewer people to install the final building instead of hiring more team members for months of construction work. The streamlined manufacturing process reduces the overall cost per square foot, making modular buildings a beneficial option for clients with a budget.

Benefits of Modular Buildings

Besides saving money and speeding up their construction schedule, modular buildings offer other environmental benefits that make them a significant resource for sustainable builders. Construction teams and clients often prefer modular units for these benefits:

  • Prefabricated internal components like structural insulated panels provide superior insulation to conventional methods like fiberglass or foam insulation, reducing long-term electricity consumption.
  • Modular buildings are easy to transport and reinstall at other sites for new use.
  • Streamlined manufacturing processing guarantees minimal material waste, eliminating the significant landfill pollution created by on-site construction work.
  • Manufacturing facilities can operate around the clock so consumers get the building they want without an extensive construction timeline or weather delays.
  • Modular buildings give clients more customization options when they select the internal and external parts of the building before or during construction.

The Future of Architecture Is Green

Passive, Prefab and Modular: the Architecture of the Future is Here

People can browse passive, prefab and modular architecture options when drafting residential or commercial construction plans. They're the architecture of the future because they reduce the carbon footprint and waste for each build. They also save clients time and money, making them long-term options for anyone who wants a more affordable and customizable construction process.

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