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16 November 2022

Benefits of modular construction for giga projects

The anticipated continued growth of the construction industry comes with the expectation of new solutions that will enable the efficient delivery of projects, and facilitate sustainability objectives and agendas. Similar to many other parts of the world, in the Middle East, developers are moving towards modular methods of construction to meet the demand for new buildings, shorter building timeframes and enhanced commercialisation of projects (1).

Following the recent publication of Linesight’s Off-site Manufacturing report, Ciaran McCormack (Director – GCC) expands on the increased level of construction activity in the region, which is largely attributed to the mega and giga projects in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and the benefits of adopting modular construction to address key project challenges. 

Benefits of ‘smart construction’ 

Modern methods of construction (MMC) focuses on off-site construction techniques, such as modularisation, mass production and factory assembly, and is referred to as ‘smart construction’ because it allows for faster construction project delivery by maximising the efficiency of resources (2). As the industry strives to become more efficient, modular construction offers an alternative approach to achieving this goal. In line with our recent report, we highlight some of the key benefits of smart construction, as they pertain to giga projects in KSA and the Middle East region as a whole. 

Speed to market 

The off-site, factory-controlled environment associated with modular construction can offer programme savings in a number of ways, including with regards to quality control and testing – i.e., the approach helps to ensure that problems are identified before on-site assembly, thus eliminating time consuming snagging and rectification works. Furthermore, in order to meet factory production dates, design must be set and finalised earlier in the project, which minimises any potential delays in the project timeline due to scope and design changes.  

It is generally accepted that the advantages of modular construction are better realised for buildings that require a certain level of standardisation and repetition. As an example, such advantages are maximised in the construction of high-rise buildings, given the fundamentally topological modular form and number of repeatable components (3). This degree of repetition can also be found in certain residential projects, industrial warehouses, healthcare settings and commercial spaces, which require the same functional rooms (e.g., office spaces, meeting rooms, hospital rooms etc.) (4). The obvious time savings, which can be achieved when both on-site activities and off-site manufacture occur simultaneously, are well recognised.   

Cost certainty 

A constant challenge in construction, whilst not unique to the Middle East, is to deliver a project not just within programme requirements, but also within budget. As construction costs increase, resulting from material price escalation and the overall market volatility challenges described in Linesight’s Commodity Reports, the ability to lock in prices at an early stage can help overcome the uncertainty surrounding future price fluctuations, thus providing better certainty on future spend forecasts. Whilst the ability to modify a design once production has commenced is curtailed, the cost certainty achieved from reduced changes can be beneficial with regards to predictability.  

Modular construction may not be a solution for every client brief, but it does have an advantage in providing a high degree of cost certainty with regards to the likely anticipated capital spend. It is also important to note that even if there are a number of procurement strategies that may help achieve cost certainty, the iterative nature of the design and budgetary process can sometimes result in the need to maintain high contingency levels, in order to offset future design development.   


One significant differentiator between the traditional building and off-site approaches is the waste generated in each process. Waste generation associated with traditional methods of construction tends to be quite high in comparison to off-site manufacturing (OSM) – i.e., since OSM is conducive to a more precise manufacturing process, the quantity of materials can be managed more effectively to align with the exact requirements as defined in the project, and thus can help to minimise waste production. From the environmental sustainability perspective, the off-site, factory-controlled setting can also provide better opportunities to control energy consumption and emissions when compared to traditional site locations. However, these gains can be made redundant or partially offset, particularly where there is a requirement to deliver to remote and distant site locations. As such, in order to limit the carbon emissions associated with transport requirements, the proximity of the site to the OSM facility is a very important consideration. 

As the industry is being challenged to provide solutions which align with and support sustainable agendas, there is now a growing demand for the adoption of prefabricated building solutions across the GCC. The region’s focus on exploring and implementing sustainable solutions means the use of MMC is becoming more than just an aspiration. There is now a greater level of commitment towards the integration of modular solutions as a practical means of achieving more sustainability in the built environment. For example, this commitment is a core design principal in many giga projects in KSA, where the use of alternative construction methods is actively encouraged. Modular construction is a core part of the strategy in the construction design process of giga projects as it allows for repeatable process that can be quality controlled and planned to minimise waste(5). Overall, modular construction continues to gain more traction in the KSA, as the government embraces futuristic methods in creating new cities like the Red Sea and NEOM, for example, in order to help minimise the environmental impact of construction(6). 


Whilst increased activity in the construction industry is evident, the availability of labour resources continues to present a challenge. This challenge, however, becomes less onerous in cases where there is less dependency on manpower, such as with the more automated processes associated with modular construction. A MEED article about construction in Saudi Arabia, particularly for giga projects such as NEOM, highlighted that modular construction can reduce the number of people on-site significantly, by up to 50%(7). This is also in line with Linesight’s report, where it was highlighted that transferring from trade-based to a more task-trained operative scenario can help to alleviate any construction skills capacity issues and address labour resource challenges. 

The way forward 

In the past, the adoption of OSM solutions has been somewhat tentative within the region. In line with this, a Construction Week article highlighted that “the challenge has historically been persuading the market that modular construction is a feasible alternative not just in the short term but also on a semi-permanent and even permanent basis” (8). Despite paving the way for the advanced design of giga projects in the region, the construction industry is generally cautious when it comes to the adoption of innovative solutions that push the boundaries of technological advancement. Whilst elements of modularity have been utilised in some buildings, there is still an overreliance on the use of more traditional construction methods, as the industry will usually revert to what it knows. 

As clients and consultants alike are being challenged to identify innovative solutions, the adoption and implementation of modular construction is now at the forefront of the design and construction process given its speed to market, cost certainty and sustainability benefits. To that end Linesight continues to assist and support clients in making a more informed decision around the most feasible solution for their construction project. 


[1] Construction Week – Tech and Innovation: How is Saudi Arabia building a more modular future –

[2] Go Construct – Modern Methods of Construction

[3] ResearchGate – A review on modular construction for high-rise buildings –

[4] Verified Research Market – Modular Construction Market Size And Forecast –


[6] NEOM Directory and News - “No wastage will be left behind”: How modular construction in KSA reflects Vision 2030 –

[7] Middle East Business Intelligence (MEED) – Pioneering modular construction in Saudi Arabia –

[8] Construction Week – Tech and Innovation: How is Saudi Arabia building a more modular future –