Williams Scotsman

Modular Office Vs. Modular Home: What Are The Differences?

If you search for modular buildings online, you'll find entries for temporary, relocatable, portable and permanent structures for human occupation and use, as well as containers for product, material and equipment shipping and storage. The possibilities may seem endless, and in fact, the creative ways people use and repurpose modular units never cease to amaze. How do you narrow down the options?

For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll focus on structures occupied by people vs. containers used to store goods, equipment and other materials. Such structures can be temporary or permanent, depending on the specific end use, and can also be utilized for commercial or residential purposes.

Let's explore the differences between two types of temporary and permanent modular building options: modular offices and modular homes.


Modular Offices


As the name implies, temporary modular offices work best when you need a convenient short-term space solution. These spaces can be configured with every amenity to accommodate multiple parties for a variety of commercial uses. From construction crews on job sites and sales staff at housing developments to medical staff and school administrators, temporary offices help teams work efficiently and comfortably for the duration of your project’s timeline. Also referred to as mobile offices or portable offices, they can be easily moved to new locations when and where they’re needed. They can also be vital for maintaining operations during construction – on a school or health care campus, for example. 


Permanent modular office buildings are for ideal for circumstances where relocation isn’t planned. Such buildings use the same materials as traditionally built structures. Built to last, they must meet the same International Building Code (IBC) requirements. The difference between other buildings and permanent modular office buildings is in the construction process. Sometimes called “prefabricated” offices, these structures incorporate modules that are simultaneously built in the factory at the same time the site is prepared. According to the Modular Building Institute, the construction process is 50 percent faster than conventional construction, less labor is needed and there is reduced environmental impact. Permanent modular offices can stand alone or be affixed to current traditional buildings and designed to blend seamlessly with the architecture. 

Modular Homes


Temporary modular homes can be used during a new home’s construction or temporary downsizing. Some people even use temporary modular homes as in-law suites. They can provide emergency shelter for refugees, people displaced due to disasters or the homeless. Companies who must accommodate crews in remote locations also turn to temporary modular housing to establish workforce camps during the duration of a project. As with temporary modular offices, such housing structures can be configured to be movable from one location to another.


Permanent modular homes provide housing solutions that serve the long-term needs of residents. They are often used for such purposes as student dorms and housing for homeless communities. Different from mobile homes, permanent modular homes are regulated and inspected according to conventional residential building standards. Like permanent modular offices, they are built using the modular construction process. The codes for both permanent residential and for permanent commercial buildings are based largely on occupancy levels. Such structures meant for residents provide living and sleeping quarters for several people while a commercial modular building must accommodate dozens if not hundreds of people for most of the day. Lighting needs, layout and utility hook-ups are just a few of the factors that must be considered when designing a permanent modular home.

Although WillScot focuses on the use of modular buildings for the commercial or B2B sector, it certainly makes us smile to see all the amazing ways people are using modulars. Temporary or permanent, short term or long term, residential or commercial, modular buildings offer benefits traditional construction cannot. Why not apply your creativity to a modular?

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