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What Are the Different Types of Modular Design?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Modular design is basically a method that is used to allow a specific type of unit to be broken down into smaller, easier to manage units. There are several different types and applications. This method can be applied in numerous areas to create efficiency in everything from other types of design to manufacturing and construction to computer programming. When you hear the term modular design, you may immediately picture a modular home, a prefabricated construction trailer, modular furniture, or an office cubicle. There are other types of modular design that may be less familiar.

Modular design in construction offers great convenience in many applications. From residential to commercial, there are options to help create new spaces quickly and affordably. This design also decreases the amount of time, mess, and stress associated with building a home, garage, or commercial structure. The same holds true for building certain types of additions. The bulk of the construction is done at the plant rather than on site.

You may not readily think of modular design when it comes to things like manufacturing automobiles or other products. By breaking the whole down into more manageable parts, the process becomes more efficient and generally more cost effective. Quality may also be higher in many areas as each part is specifically focused. Automobile manufacturing has long utilized the assembly line process, one aspect of this type of design, where each technician is trained to manage and focuses on a specific part rather than the whole. This also applies to other types of manufacturing.

Modular design allows for greater output and efficiency with less overall expense. Customization is also more efficient, as one part can simply be changed for another as the process progresses. For example, as automotive needs change, one part can potentially be replaced instead of redesigning the entire vehicle. In modular construction, an extra closet or even an extra room can be added fairly simply. Such changes would be difficult and expensive, if not impossible, with a typical construction project that is already in progress.

When it comes to computer programming, this type of design tends to reduce the frequency of errors. Each unit or module is programmed or maintained by those with precise understanding of its makeup and function. When an error does occur, it’s simpler to locate as well as to correct. It is contained in a specific module instead of being easily overlooked in a massive application.

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Discussion Comments

By win199 — On Sep 19, 2010

@WalrusTusk - You can find modular shelving units at most retail chains like Walmart, K-Mart, Target, etc. The best outlet for me, however, has been IKEA. There are several different mix and match options for modular shelving. Perhaps you could furnish your custom modular design home with your modular shelving?

By WalrusTusk — On Sep 19, 2010

@turtlez - Modular building design is most prominent in custom modular designed homes - you're right. However, on a smaller grade, there are modular shelves and stuff just like what win199 was referring to. I have been looking for a while now for a certain type of modular shelving system. What retailers can you find those at?

By turtlez — On Sep 19, 2010

The best example of modular design right now would be all of the modular buildings out there, like modular design homes, like Palm Harbor and Clayton Homes. These houses are easily broken down for transport, but look like a regular home. They are normally called "block and beam" homes because they don't sit on a foundation. The good news, though is that you can choose to pour a foundation for them if you so wish.

By win199 — On Sep 19, 2010

I absolutely love modular design. You can find it at a lot of major retailers now a days and thankfully aren't limited to hardware design anymore.

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