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Can Modular Design Increase Your Building’s Potential?

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Diagram of red dot modules and lines of communication. / Image Credit: © Ethan Hein | Flickr

I am intrigued by this quote about modular design:

“A downside to modularity (and this depends on the extent of modularity) is that modular systems are not optimized for performance. This is usually due to the cost of putting up interfaces between modules.”(Wikipedia source here)

At first glance, modularity can give you ways to expand, re-locate or even provide for more mass customization opportunities within your work. And in some cases, modules can have such distinct characteristics that they actually serve to “brand” your work — if done well, this can be a good thing.

Yet, there is so much missed opportunity when it comes to the module. Instead of always trying to have modules “lock” into one another, try to provide each module with a proverbial “key” to unlock its neighboring modules in certain ways.

Just like the cells of the body which must communicate chemically to keep the entire system healthy, modules within an architectural design could communicate and thus, change their functions as needed, wherever needed.

Such modular communication allows for an entire “systems” approach to building not only functions, but also behaviors. So why not ask if there are any missed opportunities in your design where modules can communicate?

And just as a side note, sensors and actuators are only one way to get this done.

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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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