31 December 2020
What Is Modular Construction for Bathrooms?
Function and aesthetics must merge flawlessly in bathrooms. To enable this, bathroom design needs thought, expertise and seamless execution. Prefabricated bathroom modules or bathroom pods are a convenient alternative to constructing bathrooms in the traditional manner. When the right design partner can deliver accurate and high-quality and detailed fabrication shop drawings and other modular construction services, much of the design-related tasks are easily taken care of, and the prefabrication of bathroom pods and their installation can take place with minimal stress.
So, how are bathrooms traditionally built?
Basically, from the ground up. Components from the floor to the ceiling are carefully chosen, and each component is installed individually by the contractor, who will use plumbers, electricians and mechanical engineers to comply with local codes and regulations. An interior designer can design the desired interior look and feel. For a project with many bathrooms that need to be installed, this can be a lengthy and costly affair.
When bathrooms are built through modular construction, the lion’s share of the design and assembly is completed in a factory, and the bathroom pods are transported fully intact for installation at the site. The basic procedure runs this way:
- Bathroom modules are custom designed according to the individual features of each room unit and created at a factory.
- They are packed into flat packs and transported to the construction site by trucks, raised to the required floor and eased into position smoothly.
- Installation technicians may install the modular bathrooms quickly and efficiently and test them easily.
What are bathroom pods or modules and what makes them different?
Bathroom pods are a factory-made bathroom unit that is fully fitted and plumbed, which can be delivered to the construction site and installed. On-site teams simply need to connect them to the main mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the building above and below.
- Using bathroom pods replaces the traditional process, which needs on-site coordination of many materials, components, processes and workers.
- Bathroom pods are useful for projects, such as hotel, hospital construction, where many identical bathrooms are required.
- The efficient production lines of prefabrication can result in reduced time and costs and improved quality.
What makes them different is their flexibility. Though modular, they can also be used in a traditionally built project when properly planned.
Modular bathrooms come in a variety of different, customisable styles, with different features and options that fit individual customer requirements. Options include:
- Sizes & Shapes: There are several sizes, from small rectangular suite, large square or rectangular disabled bathrooms, each with a suitably sized shower, toilet and vanity placements.
- Fittings: These include the toilet, sink basin, tapware, etc.
- Optional: These may be a sliding or pivot door, vanity cabinet styles, lighting and fan options, sink basin styles, etc.
What are the main advantages of modular bathrooms? Modular bathrooms are:
- Delivered in flat packs and include walls, ceilings and floors
- Consolidate more than 10 construction trades into one product, reducing the need for trade workers on site
- Designed for quick and easy assembly, with minimum joints to ensure water-tightness
- Useful where bathrooms are repetitive and need consistent quality and finishes
- Easy to clean and durable
- Modern, economic and stylish
- Large repeatable components are placed in a stacked configuration, which increases the efficiency of installation and connection.
- Production precision results when individual parts or components are created and assembled by specialists.
- Wastage, material deliveries and on-site labour is decreased, helping to keep the site clean.
- Modular bathroom units are easy to lift, place and connect, reducing project time and costs while improving quality for users.
- It reduces errors and defects, as several teams need not coordinate in small spaces.
Increasingly, architects and contractors are recommending their use for apartments, condominiums, hospitals and hotels.
How are they delivered and installed?
Bathrooms fit into the schedule by being delivered and set in the building before the exterior facade comes up. They can be transported on open-air or enclosed trucks. The mode of transportation will be decided by the location of the site and its restrictions. They can be delivered all together or in phases, floor by floor or section by section. Once delivered, they are offloaded with cranes and hoisted into the building for installation.
Bathroom pod manufacturers can provide special equipment for staging the pod before installation. Bathroom pod wrapping protects the pods from the effects of framing or other site activities. Mechanical connections and partition walls can be installed before the bathroom pods are placed correctly.
Integrated and pre-tested connections in bathroom pods makes it easy for plumbers and electricians to connect them to the MEP lines in the building. The domestic water piping will be pre-installed with the fitted bathroom fixtures. A single hot/cold connection will be needed for water supply.
Electrical components are wired to a single lighting/GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) whip. The whips can be uncoiled and wired to corresponding panels/junction boxes in the building. After the MEP connections are complete, the pod is framed in and drywalled into the building. The pod can be transported on a pallet mounted on a skid.
On-site coordination between multiple trades is reduced, and pod installation is easy and repeatable.
Where are bathroom pods most useful?
Bathroom pods can be a smart solution for the following industries:
Hospitals, hotels and housing use repeatable components and bathrooms, so it makes sense to use bathroom pods in such settings.
In the traditional building process, multiple trades must organize and collaborate to deliver the bathroom design. Careful supervision and management on site is needed to ensure proper task sequencing and quality from plumbers, electricians, tilers, floor layers, sealant applicators, decorators, glaziers, carpenters, etc. Using bathroom pods eliminates this extra work, saves time and saves materials.
Customised for Healthcare
Hospitals need a zero-height transition from room to bathroom, as they must have a no-threshold barrier for wheelchairs and rolling IV trees. Bathroom pods can help. Sometimes, a steel plate can be added to the bottom of the pod to help adjust the height. Accommodations must be made for nurse call, medical gas and fire protection, all of which must be coordinated into pod design to provide conduits, raceways and other needed spaces for the specialty systems. Bathroom pods for hospitals can accommodate bariatric lifts and waste vent stacks built into the bathroom configuration. Additional features may include a recessed area for TVs and fully equipped nursing station connections.
Typically, bathrooms cost at least 6-10% of the capital cost of a hotel, depending on the site, type and schedule of construction. Bathroom pod costs will vary according to specifications. With a growing trend of high labour shortages, bathroom pods may reduce costs.
Costs of modular bathrooms and traditional builds can be compared by factoring in:
- FF&E specifications
- Material delivery costs
- Installation charges
- Local labour affordability
The use of bathroom pods can also result in benefits in other project spheres, such as in purchasing, design, production, quality control, reduced completion time, overhead savings, reduced labour requirement and sustainability.
Purchasing: Purchasing agents can purchase in bulk, especially beneficial for repetitive clients who want to discuss bathroom design and details only once and with one manufacturer, saving time, expenses and frustration.
Design: Changes to the framing, dimensions, materials, etc. may result in an overall increase in expenses if carried out throughout the project, but working with a bathroom pod minimises these expenses. A sample bathroom pod can be created, approved by the client and easily ordered.
Quality Control: Following best practices in manufacturing, in a controlled factory setting, where processes can be monitored and checked for consistency, results in high quality.
Reduced Completion Time: While other site work continues, bathroom pod manufacturers can produce and finish a bathroom. Properly packed and routed units can be quickly and easily connected to the building.
Overhead Savings: In the traditional build process, the general contractor coordinates 5 specialty trades, each inter-dependent, which can lead to some amount of on-site damage. Modular construction of bathrooms avoids this damage as well as the waste of electricity, material handling equipment and other resources.
Reduced Labour Requirement: In situations with a shortage of trained labour, the use of bathroom pods can have significant benefits.
Sustainability: As bathroom pods result in less waste than traditional construction, it is also more sustainable. A factory can recycle waste more reliably than on site.
Lastly, there is the question of inspection. Local inspectors and bathroom pod manufacturers review fabrication shop drawings and other submittals so that all requirements are met.
The high levels of expertise required to create accurate modular construction drawings, 3D models and provide other modular construction services are increasingly sourced in offshore destinations for a number of reasons. Large banks of technically qualified staff, sound infrastructure, with authorised software and the necessary hardware, and Western-style work processes make offshore companies the preferred choice to provide precise fabrication shop drawings for prefabricated bathroom modules.
XS CAD has valuable experience providing modular construction drawings and other modular construction services for MEP engineers, general contractors, consultants and fabricators/manufacturers. Our range of services for structural, architectural and building engineering firms, such as consultants and contractors across the world, include modular construction models, prefabricated construction drawings and fabrication shop drawings for prefabricated bathroom modules and other units. We create these models and drawings by using Revit, AutoCAD, Inventor and BIM 360 Design for cloud collaboration.