Reasons to choose Prefab & Modular Buildings

Why brick and mortar buildings are not the answer.

When in the process of developing a mine or infrastructure project that’s in need of a workforce camp or other facility buildings, the typical consideration is that of traditional brick and mortar buildings. In many occasions this is because the engineering Firm or architectural firm that designs these buildings do so using the traditional Brick & Mortar.

Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t use traditional brick and mortar when constructing your site facilities in remote locations:

1. Faster Construction

Prefabricated and Modular Buildings can reduce your construction time by up to 50% when compared to traditional brick and mortar Construction, this will allow your project to commence faster. With majority of projects running over the time frame, the simple construction of site facilities shouldn’t be one of the reasons your overall project gets delayed. Modular and prefabricated buildings are the solution to projects with strict time constraints.

2. Less People onsite

Prefabricated and Modular building systems require up to 90% less people for onsite installation. This is because these building systems are merely assembled onsite, the components are factory made and designed to easily fit together, therefore requiring less labor.

3. Reduced onsite waste

Building components are designed, manufactured and delivered in such a manner that it allows for a 95% less material wastage on site when compared to your traditional construction methods. Since the assembly only takes place onsite the overall material wastage is kept to a minimum, allowing cost efficiency as well as a reduction in environmental pollution.

4. Less Defects and high-quality finish

Building components are manufactured in a strict quality-controlled environment and undergo numerous checks before being dispatched to site. This production process eliminates the possibility of material defects and ensures a high-quality finish.

5. Lower Cost

As building components are pre-engineered and designed to have a specific function, the material transportation to the site is reduced as well as onsite labor, plus material waste is kept to a minimum. Making Prefabricated and Modular building relatively cost-efficient saving around 25-50% in costs compared to traditional brick and mortar buildings.

6. Health and safety

As previously mentioned, Prefabricated and Modular buildings require less onsite labor and physical activity creating less opportunities for health and safety incidents.

7. Less hassle

As a Prefabricated and Modular building company we provided our clients with all architectural and engineering designs, saving not only money, but time as well. Because we design the buildings and erect the buildings any communication errors or misunderstandings between designers and contractors are eliminated. We are accustomed to working in remote locations, relieving you of the hassle to find creditable local contractors.

8. Easy demobilization and demolishing

Upon overall project completion, the challenge of demobilizing or relocating buildings arise. By using Prefabricated and Modular systems, buildings can easily be dismantled or relocated, allowing you to commence with the rehabilitation of the area. The cost of demolishing brick and mortar buildings on the other hand, is extremely expensive and poses significant health and safety risks.

9. Environmentally friendly

Due to the reduction of onsite waste and labor, site pollution is kept to a minimum including onsite traffic and noise which is virtually non-existent. Being able to dismantle or relocate buildings for site restoration, ads to the echo friendliness off these systems. Furthermore, Prefabricated and Modular buildings require up to 90% less in transportation, when delivering material to the site as opposed to brick and mortar buildings, where contractors typically receive material onsite every day, adding to increased vehicle emissions.

10. Low Maintenance

Prefabricated and Modular wall panels require little maintenance, beyond the occasional surface cleaning.  This eliminates the cost and hassle of repainting buildings every few years as well as other maintenance aspects associated with conventional brick and mortar construction.

These are the top reasons to choose modular and prefabricated buildings.

Flat Pack Containers to be Manufactured in South Africa

Best alternative to Convert Containers, 100% South African Manufactured

Introducing the Transpaca locally manufactured Flat Pack Container system.It has taken us 3 years to get to this point and we are the finally on the verge of offering Flat Pack Containers to the market that are 100% locally manufactured.It is important to keep in consideration that we have made a significant effort to abolish the tarnished reputation that Flat Pack Containers have in the industry as being cheap and unreliable. This has been accomplished by using only top-quality materials and through innovative design and testing.We can guarantee that the Transpac Flat Pack Container is a far superior product to what you have seen in the past.

By sourcing and manufacturing locally we are able to start delivery of Transpac’s within 2 weeks, if we didn’t already have stock.
Our current production capability is 25 complete Transpac’s per week. This however can be increased to meet client demands.CUSTOMIZATIONBecause we manufacture locally, we can customise your Flat Pack Container to your needs and specifications.We can even make Flat Pack Containers in 3 meters wide and even up to 12 meters long.

Understanding Sandwich Panels

used in Prefabricated & Modular Buildings

Polystyrene Sandwich Panels (EPS) vs Polyurethane Sandwich Panels (PU)

When enquiring about Prefabricated or Modular buildings, many people simply look at the issued architectural drawing and price of the building. The assumption is that all the suppliers offer the same thing.  But they don’t. Not all Prefabricated & Modular Buildings are the same. One of the key components that differ is the panel type used for the walls and in some cases the roof.

Two sandwich panels widely used for Prefabricated & Modular Buildings in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa are:

  1. Expanded Polystyrene Sandwich Panels (EPS) and
  2. Polyurethane Sandwich Panels (PU)

Have a look at the key differences below and then decide which sandwich panel you would want in your Prefabricated & Modular Building.

1.Expanded polystyrene Sandwich Panels (EPS)

EPS  sandwich panels consist primarily out of pre-cut polystyrene sheets glued between two galvanised steel sheets and fed through a roller press. This process is fairly cheap and can be done by hand.

EPS Panels come in various thicknesses and densities, primarily a thickness of 40mm and density of 15DV is used in SA. The 15DV density is an important factor, as this provides the building with its thermal properties.  When compared to the density of a PU panel (discussed later) this is very low.

EPS Panel Specimen Thumb Test

A simple thumb test proves that EPS panels are neither strong, nor vey dense.  Have a look at  how easily the polystyrene breaks under the pressure of my thumb.

EPS Panel Specimen Joining

Other issues found is the joining of panels.  Most sandwich panels have a Male and Female joining system that allow multiple panels to slot into each other and form a single wall.

The panels used below are not new, and each EPS panel manufacturer may manufacture better quality panels than shown below. However, the specimen used, is manufactured by one of the largest EPS panel manufacturers in SA.

From the side, the panel wall seems relatively sealed, but looking from the top you can see that there is no real weather and thermal seal between the panels.

  View from inside  

  View from outside

EPS Panel Specimen Adhesive Test

Peeling the steel sheet away from the polystyrene sheet was easy.

You are able to see from the pictures below as to how the adhesive is applied but notice as to how little of the adhesive is stuck to the EPS Core.

2.PU Polyurethane Sandwich Panels

Polyurethane Sandwich Panels are made by injecting PU Foam under high pressure in-between two galvanized steel sheets within a heated press. The foam is left to cool and set which in turn glues the two sheets together.

The PU Panels we use have a Core density of 40Kg per m³ which produces a strong panel and that has a much higher R Value than that of a EPS 16kgs/m3 Panel.

PU Panel Specimen Thumb Test

As you can see from the thumb test done on the PU panel, it is much stronger than the EPS panel test.

PU Panel Specimen Joining

As you can see from the joint between the male & female joint of the PU Panels in the picture above, there is a clear seal which is both weather tight and much cleaner joint on the side.

PU Panel Specimen Adhesive Test

Trying to pull the steel sheet away from the PU core didn’t work, the only way I would be able to separate the steel sheets from the PU core is to cut it open.

Thermal Insulation Properties of EPS & PU Sandwich Panels

Table comparing the R-Values of PU and EPS panels

Data supplied by an EPS Panel Manufacturer and a PU Panel Manufacturer in SA.

The  R-Value of EPS panels is far below that of PU panels, to such an extent that you would have to use a 80mm EPS panel just to compete with a 40mm PU panel if the supplier is using 15DV (Density Value). Therefore EPS panel suppliers, should be offering a much higher polystyrene sheet density or use a much thicker panel than a 40mm in order to compare with the attributes of PU panels.


Although the tests done are rudimentary and not scientific, they certainly do show some of the key differences between using an EPS panels and PU panels for Prefabricated and Modular Buildings. In my opinion the PU panels are far more superior than the EPS panels in all aspects that was tested. This is why we only use PU panels for our Prefabricated & Modular Buildings at Cube Modular.

The Difference between Modular and Prefabricated Buildings

Modular Vs Prefabricated Buildings – What’s the difference?

I often come across companies in South Africa, advertising Modular Buildings as Prefabricated Buildings and Prefabricated Buildings as Modular Buildings. Yes, I know it’s confusing, but that’s because a lot of Companies that sell Prefabricated & Modular Buildings themselves don’t know the difference between the two.

So therefore, I would like to set the record straight and attempt to explain the difference between Modular Buildings & Prefabricated Buildings.Just think about this, after reading this article you will know more about the differences between Prefabricated Buildings and Modular Buildings than what the companies that make and sell them do.

Let’s Start:

Modular Buildings:

  1. Modular Buildings are generally six sided boxes called Modules, they can be joined side by side or on top of each other. The Modular buildings should have a Roof, Floor, Walls etc. These Modules are constructed in a factory to various levels of completion from Basic Modules to completely fitted rooms that are fully functional.
  2. These Modules are then transported to site and lifted into place by a crane, and joined together or stacked on top of one other in order to make a Complex Building, which can come in a wide variety of configurations and styles.

*no copyright infringement is intended*

In the pictures above you can see the Modules being produced in the factory and in the image on the bottom left the modules are being installed and put into place using a crane.

So, remember a Modular Building, is a 6-sided Box, which is made in a factory and installed onsite and in place.

So, then what are Prefabricated Buildings then:

A prefabricated building is informally known as “prefab buildings”, these are buildings that are manufactured and constructed using building components that are Prefabricated in a factory to various levels of completion but are then transported to site and assembled on-site to form the completed building.

Prefabricated Buildings should be Pre-engineered & Designed to a high level and they should also come with Assembly Drawings or instructions. The Prefabricated Buildings are made from Prefabricated Components such as walling, roofs, etc. This allows for Rapid Assembly onsite because most of the components should fit together smoothly as they were engineered to fit together in such a way. Another point about the Prefabricated Buildings are that they can be dismantled and moved to another site.

Below are a few pictures of a previous Prefabricated Buildings that we “Core Modular” Produced

This picture represents how the Walls are Installed onto a concrete foundation first.
The picture above shows how the Roof Trusses are installed onsite
The picture above illustrates a completed Prefabricated Building. The time required for installation of this completed Prefabricated Building is 3 weeks.

Therefor it is quite simple, Prefabricated Buildings are very different to Modular buildings. But then why is it that so many of the companies that sell these do not actually know what they are selling ? The answer well I will leave it up to you to make for yourself.

Prefabricated or Modular Building System?

Know which system is the best solution for your project.

Knowing when to choose prefabricated buildings or when to go with modular buildings

With so many different Prefabricated & Modular Building Systems around, it can be quite confusing to know which option is better suited for your Project.
It is due to this confusion that I felt as though I would explain which Prefabricated or Modular Building System provides the best solution for your project. I have based this explanation on a scenario form a Mining Project which will help both the mine owners, EPCM companies as well as contractors.
Mine owners, EPCM Companies and contractors
When a mine is expanding its operations or building a new mine, which is in a remote location. There will inevitably be a need for accommodating mining staff, engineering consultants and contractor employees.
There are a few options to consider from here such as:
A Mine Village for Permanent Mine Staff
This is typically for the permanent staff of the mine, which will be a place of living for the miners and is it is usually separate from the contractors camp.
A Contractors Camp for the Project
A contractors camp is typically used for a shorter duration of time, typically not for longer than a period of 5 years, as this camp will only hold the contractors.
A Combined Mine Village with a portion for the Contractors
This option is typical for very remote mines or area’s that are hard to reach, as there is a reduction in the amount of resources that are required to operate two different camps. This can be a good option to consider if you are looking to reduce the project establishing costs.
The mine owners will have to look at either establishing a new mine village or expanding an existing mine village, that will be able to accommodate all the mining staff.
This typically will consist of:

  • Accommodation Buildings
  • Houses for Senior Staff
  • Kitchen & Canteens
  • Clinics
  • Gyms & Recreation Buildings

When to choose what

Long Term Requirement

10 years plus life of mine and NO requirement to move buildings

If the mine has a long life span, say over 10 + years, and there is permanent staff who are needed to be housed by the mine then my suggestion would be to go with our SiteMajor Prefabricated Building system which can either be placed on a concrete slab or on a steel sub-floor system.The SiteMajor Prefabricated Building System has a life span of over 20 years. The building can also be dismantled if the mine does not extend its life and the rehabilitation of the mine is required.The buildings can be dismantled, and the steel components can be recycled. These components however are not easy to relocate to another site.The SiteMajor Prefabricated Building System offers a higher level of comfort and less restrictions in terms of design parameters and they have the look of a “Traditional Building” by using roof trusses and sandwich panels for walls.So, if you don’t require the Buildings to be Relocatable and need them to be on a site for 10 years or longer then I suggest in using the SiteMajor as it would be the best option to choose.

Short Term Requirement

Project with 1-10 years span, with the requirement to relocate buildings 

When Constructing a contractors camp or a Building for a short duration of time between 1 and 10 years and you would like the option of being able to relocate buildings from one project to another project or site.Then I would suggest the Transpac Flat Pack Container System as it gives you the ability to relocate buildings from one project to another as it is easy to scale the capacity when required.This is a great option for contractors who must provide their own camp as the Transpac Flat Pack Container Systemallows for you to invest in the buildings once and then to be able to relocate the camp to other projects when required.Mine Owners and EPCM Companies should consider this option as it great for providing facilities for contractors for a project that have a short life span as it and can easily be moved between projects when required.

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