While you’re shopping for a metal building, you may encounter industry terms which can confuse you.

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Building Process
© Hive Modular. This is great example of a modular home built in sections at a factory.

Several terms which are related and which are easy to mix up are “modular,” “prefab,” and “pre-engineered.” What do these different terms mean?


  • Prefab” is “prefabricated” and built in a factory setting.
    It is not a single specific method of construction, but rather an entire category of construction methods. To fall under such a category, either the entirety of a building or components of a building need to be prefabricated in a factory before being shipped out to a site. Many metal structures fall under the umbrella of prefabricated buildings.
  • A modular home is a specific type of prefabricated building.
    As is described by the name, a modular structure consists of modules that have been preassembled in a factory, shipped to a site, and stacked in some fashion (horizontally, vertically, or both) at that site. You can think of the modules as building blocks. Shipping container homes fall into this subcategory of prefabricated metal buildings.  Commercial apartment buildings are also another good example of modular metal buildings.
  • A pre-engineered building is fabricated off-site and then shipping to your property for assembly.

    While this might sound like a manufactured home, it is different. It is simply a structure with prefabricated parts which are shipped out to you for assembly on-site. If you order a metal building kit, you are putting together a pre-engineered building.  These may also be called a “PEB” for short, or sometimes a “PEMB,” which stands for “pre-engineered metal building.”

Many of our metal kits are both prefab and pre-engineered.

This is because any structure that relies on steel has to be pre-engineered.  And many of our modern styles come in prefabricated sections or panels that are shipped out and assembled on-site.


There are a number of considerations in deciding whether to get a pre-engineered building or a modular home or some other type of metal structure. You will need to think about cost, time, labor, complexity, the nature of the site, plans for future expansions, and more.

You can conduct research and planning to try and figure out what route to go with for your metal building. If you have further questions, the company you purchase your metal building kit or modules from should be able to address them in your consultation and help you to make a determination for your site.

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