Like most children, architects and designers grew up playing with Lego. For many it was their first chance to design or recreate buildings.

Lego embodies at its core, a concept that is proliferating our built environment and the world in the 21st century – Modular design and building.

There’s no question that climate change and waste are an issue, so organizations from oil drilling companies to cell phone manufacturers are looking at ways to utilize resources more effectively. Modular design provides a lot these benefits and may hold some keys into building a sustainable future.

(Pictured Above: Wacom’s Portland Oregon Office Designed by SRM Studio, using DIRTT modular walls. Photo: DIRTT)

Why Modularity?

In the interior design world, modular designs have begun to take the form of various acoustic tiles and even modular wall solutions. These allow clients to make less of an impact on the space.

It’s important in terms of managing shorter leases and what types of fit-outs a landlord is willing to concede.

For larger organizations, modular design means that if a setup isn’t working, it’s possible to change it. Large organizations may also be locked into larger leases or even own their own spaces or entire campuses.

Modular design provides the flexibility and future-proofing that most clients are now asking for.



Stantec’s Metrotower 3 in Burnaby, BC utilizing DIRTT (Photo: DIRTT)

Doing It Right This Time (DIRTT) is a Canadian organization taking this type of customizable modularity to the masses. A software called ICE is used to allow users to fully map out a space and choose required wall features that can be measured to fit any requirement.

Through the 3D model, you can see a space and have any changes you make sent to the production facility where the pieces can be made to order.

The designs are project neutral and allow for changes without as much labour costs that arise from dry-wall applications, and a lot less waste.

Customization and Longevity

Another example of modular design that has been around since Interface in the 70s is modular carpet tile. Again the flexibility it provides means less of an installation cost and disruption. It also means that maintenance is easier and in worn out or soiled areas, tiles can be replaced and removed.

Designing with modularity in mind also allows you to add technology to spaces. Examples include adding TV screens or monitors to walls retroactively. Other modular add-ons such as wireless charging increase the function of your space while eliminating the need for any heavy electrical work to add power.

Within the workplace modular designs at the workstation level allow employees to create an environment that works best for them. Given that personal space within an office is shrinking, affording employees the luxury of tailoring certain aspects to themselves is a huge benefit. For example, someone that prefers a higher wall could easily add it.

Limited Limitations


Artist rendering of Sky City, the proposed largest building in the world, in Changsha, China

What are the limitations of modular design? Apparently there are very few. Using modular construction, Broad Group, an organization out of China was able to build a 57 story building in just 19 days.

The founder, Zhang Yue has bigger dreams that he calls Sky City, the world’s tallest building. In fact, he’s planing to build it in 7 months vs. the 5 years it took to built the Burj Khalifa. Based on Yue’s previous projects it seems entirely feasible.

Sky City will be a testament to power of modular design in construction, just as DIRTT has proven the technology in the interior construction and design world. The possibilities seem endless.

More importantly, modular designs will provide designers with tools to make workplaces that can last longer and be more flexible, while reducing waste.

Learn more about how flexibility in the workplace can increase engagement by providing employees with choice with our Expert Insights