11 examples of modern construction methods and their uses

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Construction methods are the strategies that construction professionals use to create major structures, such as offices, supermarkets or houses. Depending on the structure in question, the most suitable construction strategy can vary significantly. By reading this guide, you can learn how to differentiate between varied types of building processes to work out which process best suits your current project. In this article, we define the term 'modern construction methods', before providing 11 examples of such processes and explaining their practical uses.

What are modern construction methods?

Modern construction methods differ from traditional methods as they put greater emphasis on flexibility. As modern methods often involve constructing individual panels, slabs or columns in an off-site factory, they're often easier to both construct and demolish. This allows building contractors to complete a complex building project more quickly, reducing their labour and material costs. As firms can produce building materials using production lines, they can also increase the supply of homes without experiencing an equivalent rise in costs, reducing consumers' living expenses.

These construction strategies may also deliver greater sustainability, as building contractors may more easily monitor their use and waste of resources. For example, they could prioritise using renewable energy sources to fuel factory production lines, limiting the construction industry's negative effect on the environment. They could also find it easier to limit raw materials wastage by creating stock plans for pre-fabricated buildings. As each plan has the same specifications, contractors could more easily plan future production, only purchasing materials that they may actually use.

Related: How to make a construction plan: a step-by-step guide

11 examples of modern building strategies

The following section outlines 11 examples of modern building strategies:

1. Precast foundations

Precast foundations are mass-produced concrete structural foundations that construction firms build using a reusable mould. Construction professionals may then attach these foundations to major supporting objects, such as steel columns or panels to provide structural integrity. Contractors can also discuss the foundations' minimum load capacity with architects before starting construction to ensure that the building remains safe throughout its working life. As manufacturers develop precast foundations in a controlled environment, they can implement stringent quality controls, minimising the risk that these foundations become unstable under pressure.

Related: The difference between quality control vs. quality assurance

2. Twin wall technology

Twin wall technology involves using two parallel prefabricated concrete panels when constructing a new wall. Before installing these panels, construction labourers connect them together using either steel lattice girders or fresh concrete to provide structural integrity. You could use twin walls when constructing varying types of buildings, such as schools, homes or hotels. As contractors can detail their preferred height, width and weight restrictions when ordering twin walls from manufacturers, they can instal them much more quickly, reducing production costs. As these walls include two separate panels and a connecting space, they're also effective at resisting sound and fire.

Related: How to become a construction labourer: a step-by-step guide

3. Heavy steel framing

Heavy steel framing involves using steel beams to build a structure's skeleton to provide a clear image of the dimensions of future stories or interior rooms. After installation, builders usually encase these frames with a layer of concrete to prevent the steel from softening during large fires. They may also coat metal beams and columns with zinc to prevent corrosion. As contractors may determine each steel component's size, location and load capacity before placing an order, heavy steel framing makes it easier to create large structures in a relatively short time period.

Related: What does a construction engineer do? (With salary)

4. Timber framing

Timber framing follows the same principles driving the production of heavy steel frames, though this process uses wooden components rather than steel ones. This method involves connecting large wooden beams and columns to create a skeleton, before fitting an exterior layer of concrete, glass or steel cladding. This material insulates the structure against corrosion and high temperatures, while also enhancing its structural integrity. As this method uses renewable raw materials to create the building's frame, you could also introduce greater sustainability to building projects by using this method.

Related: Types of jobs in carpentry (with role and responsibilities)

5. Flat slabs

This process involves constructing flat slabs of concrete in a factory, which you could then use to create walls, floors and ceilings in a building. To hold these slabs together, you may construct a series of concrete columns both along the walls and in the middle of the room, eliminating any need for steel beams. As you place most of a slab's weight upon its support structures, you might also place a drop panel atop each column. These panels strengthen the column's resistance against pressures caused by heavy usage, boosting both its load capacity and lifespan.

6. Precast cladding panels

This building process involves designing precast cladding panels on a production line, often using concrete or glass. As manufacturers usually follow contractors' guidelines when producing cladding, these panels could contain varied features, depending on their future location on a building. For example, an exterior wall panel may include window spaces or door openings. For larger building projects, manufacturers might also include steel reinforcement cages within a panel to protect the concrete from splitting under pressure. For aesthetic purposes, manufacturers can attach multicoloured metal panels or glass panes to an exterior cladding panel.

7. Raft foundations

Raft foundations are single concrete slabs that you can create directly below a structure, designed to spread pressure across a wider surface area. You may fit steel edge beams to hold a slab in place, while also placing internal stiffening beams within it to evenly transfer pressure across and into the ground. After installing the slab, you can place insulation atop its surface, as this can limit structural damage by regulating the concrete's temperature. By using this building method, you may create more solid foundations in shallow soil, reducing extraction costs.

Given the technical nature of this process, you may recruit a structural engineer help you to design and instal raft foundations. This colleague may assess the depth and solidity of the ground, before designing blueprints that account for this factor and the building's required load capacity. They can then monitor the construction process to ensure that junior labourers stringently follow the initial plan.

Related: What is a structural engineer? (Qualifications and salaries)

8. Tunnel form

Tunnel form involves producing concrete slabs or walls required to complete a specific stage of construction in a single production cycle. The manufacturer then delivers these components from an off-site factory to the construction site, where you can use them to build part of a structure. During construction, the manufacturer may begin producing slabs required for the next stage of construction to minimise potential delays. As these panels are often identical, you can use this method to build structures in which most rooms have a matching appearance, such as hotels or student flats.

Related: What is a production schedule? (With stages and benefits)

9. Cross-laminated timber

Cross-laminated timber structures are made of wood planks sourced from pine, spruce or larch trees, which are produced and kiln-dried in an off-site factory. Manufacturers can then stack the planks into layers, before vacuum pressing them to create a solid wooden panel. Depending on a building's expected load capacity, the manufacturer often customise these panels to contain a set quantity of planks. Unlike timber frames, cross-laminated timber structures typically forego external cladding, as these panels provide fire resistance, sound proofing and airtightness. Depending on each panel's width, they can often resist fires for 30-90 minutes.

10. Hybrid concrete

Hybrid concrete construction options combine precast and in-situ concrete to build a structure that includes the varying benefits of both options. As manufacturers create precast concrete under controlled conditions and based on a standard formula, you can rely on this process to provide both high-quality and affordable components. Conversely, as you can adapt in-situ to fit a project's immediate requirements, you can resolve problems as they emerge, rather than waiting for deliveries. By combining these methods, you can choose whether in-situ or precast concrete may best fulfil a task, rather than relying on rigid instructions from senior colleagues.

11. Design for manufacture and assembly

Designing structures for manufacture and assembly involves drafting standardised building plans that make it easy to produce and build high-quality structures. This process often focuses on large-scale projects, such as building a residential estate, as contractors can repeat identical design and construction stages for a large number of buildings. You may then streamline repeat costs over a larger quantity of buildings, boosting your organisation's productive efficiency. Before starting the construction process, you can issue a bulk order to a prefabricated building manufacturer for concrete panels and support columns.

Explore more articles