Architects combat the increasing cost of construction by choosing to incorporate alternative building methods into their designs. The NAHB reported that in 2011 the cost of construction was $80 per square foot. In 2013, it increased to $95 per square foot. The reasons for increasing construction costs include rising material costs, labor shortages, stricter building codes, and lack of affordable land. 

Architects are turning to alternative and less expensive building methods so to sustain an acceptable profit margin when building new homes and buildings. Here are 4 alternative building materials trending for architects in 2023.

1. Modular and Prefabricated Homes

In the 1970s, modular and prefabricated construction gained popularity as an alternative building method over traditional construction methods; however, most were basic and boxy. Today, with improved methods, it is possible to off-site construct nearly any structure an architect designs, from tiny homes to modern mansions, and transport them to the building site. In 2017, prefab or modular homes made up two percent of new single-family houses.

The may advantage of modular and prefab construction is that it saves time and lessens labor costs because the majority of the building process occurs in a factory. Modular homes typically cost 10 to 15 percent less than traditional on-site construction. 

Several factors make modular and prefab a cheaper building method over traditional onsite construction.

  • Construction of modular structures occurs in a climate-controlled factory, which protects the structures and the building process from weather events, which increases the costs and construction time of on-site construction.   
  • In the controlled setting of a factory, the modular and prefab building method is more efficient in gauging material needs, which results in much less waste than on-site construction, which saves money and is good for the environment. 
  • Building materials kept inside a factory instead of on-site, are less likely to be damaged by outside elements, which saves in replacement costs. 
  • Most prefab projects are finished in around five months or about one-third the time needed to construct a site-built home, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

2. Precast Foundation Walls 

An alternative building method architects can incorporate into a structure’s design is precast foundation walls, rather than laying block or pouring concrete. Precast foundations are made in a factory and shipped to the building site, which can reduce installation time and labor costs. There are two precast foundation types.  Each of these pre-cast systems requires engineering for proper reinforcing, a crane to set the panels. and the installation of an appropriate water management system.  

  • One precast foundation system consists of rigid foam insulation sandwiched between two wits of 5000 psi concrete. It is finished by taping the joints and painting the walls. The system does not require framing or drywall.
  • The second precast system combines high-strength concrete with rigid insulation in a single panel. The panel includes a cavity on the interior for wiring, plumbing and more insulation if needed. The panel also may come with metal or wood framing to attach drywall. 

3. Building Information Modeling 

Building information modeling (BIM) is an alternative building method that generates and manages 3D model-based computer representations of construction projects, including the structure, roads, and utilities. BIM gives architects the tools and insight to efficiently plan, design, predict job costs, construct, and manage the construction process. Many architects have found that utilizing BIM reduces the cost and time of a construction project. 

  • BIM saves money by ensuring closer collaboration with contractors which reduces tender risk premiums, lowers insurance costs, and lessens overall variations and opportunities for claims. 
  • Because BIM provides a better pre-construction overview of the project, it allows for more off-site prefabrication, which saves money, time, and reduces waste.
  • BIM lessens the documentation of work and miscommunications, which saves time and money. 
  • BIM significantly reduces construction scheduling setbacks, which further saves time and money. 

4. ICF Wall System

An ICF Wall System is an alternative construction method that saves money both during construction and over time. An ICF Wall System is a lightweight concrete material, with built-in insulation and a self-anchoring stay-in-place system; all these features ensure easy and fast installation.

An ICF Wall System saves on long-term expenses because ICF Blocks are energy efficient, low maintenance, and durable and long-lasting because they are fire-resistant, disaster-resistant, and pest-resistant.

An ICF Wall System saves building owners on upfront construction by reducing time, labor, and construction costs. ICF Blocks saves money over time by reducing energy use and lowering if not eliminating replacement, repair, and maintenance expenses. 

In 2020, four alternative building methods architects can utilize to battle the increasing cost of construction are modular and prefabricated construction, precast foundation walls, building information modeling, and an ICF Wall System. Architects that choose these alternative construction methods will contribute towards reducing building costs and ensuring a reasonable profit margin for the builder.

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Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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