An interesting thing is happening in the world of modular construction. We are seeing changing classifications of constructed objects and changing conceptions of what construction actually is.
When it comes to tax depreciation, modular construction is classified as personal property along with items like office furniture, as opposed to hard construction which is considered as real property: property that is tied to the land.
This allows modular construction to depreciate faster than hard construction, but it also suggests a novel way of looking at construction overall.
Modular construction is grouped along with office furniture. Though this may have not been an intentional comparison, modular construction is beginning to be seen as similar in practice to office furniture, and it might not be long before modular walls start popping up in furniture dealers’ inventories.
Of course, modular buildings are still seen as buildings in a rough way, even though they can be broken down and moved. But modular buildings can also be made permanent. What I am talking about are modular walls: new forms of partitioning that are changing even as I write.
No longer do we have to have construction crews come in and make a mess with drywall, patching, and painting in putting up permanent walls that have to be messily destroyed and wastefully removed when they are no longer functionally useful.
Now we have universal, self contained wall panels that can be loaded with integrated electronics, doors, windows, and other functional items to be installed cleanly and non-invasively in existing building spaces.
These wall panels can be added, relocated, taken down and removed without any dramatic changes to the surrounding environment…much like furniture.
This new construction practice is beneficial in many ways. It lends more flexibility when shaping the interior of a building. while retaining that sturdy permanence that traditional walls exhibit as opposed to flimsy screens, cubicles, or curtains.
This practice is also easier on the environment. Instead of using up resources to build and then destroying those creations when they are no longer useful, we are manufacturing universal panels that can be shifted around and even relocated to carry out functions somewhere else.
Of course, modular wall technology will advance as well. Those who want the cutting edge may be inclined to dispose of the older modular walls, and we see the same pattern of creation and destruction as seen before.
But what is more likely to happen is these walls find themselves circulated throughout the world long after their styles have gone out of fashion, much like we see furniture pass around today. We see furniture everywhere from all sorts of time periods.
Perhaps that time will come in the distant future when we become nostalgic for our good ‘ol modular walls, and they become antiques, revered by wall furniture collectors around the world.