< Back to Blog

Building Terminology

Why are there so many terms to describe modular and portable buildings? We don’t know, but we do understand that...

Contact Us

Why are there so many terms to describe modular and portable buildings?

We don’t know, but we do understand that it can all get a bit confusing! Here is a list of some common industry terminology:

Modular building

modular building is a pre-fabricated building that is constructed off site and consists of any number of different ‘modules’ (or sections). These modules are transported to site and fitted together to create the overall building structure. Simply it is a real life application of logo.

Modular buildings can be single storey or multi storey structures.

Portable Building

The term portable building is fairly ambiguous. Strictly, it should be used to describe self-contained jackleg cabins, but some people refer to modular buildings as portable buildings.

Jackleg Cabins

jackleg cabin is a self-contained, transportable building that comes in sizes from 6′ x 4′ to 60′ x 13′. It gets its name from the ‘jacklegs’ – adjustable supports on either side of the cabin that enable the building to be positioned on uneven ground.

The phrase ‘self-contained’ means that the single building module has its own electrics and doesn’t rely on other modules. Once connected to the mains services the building is fully operational.

Relocatable Building

A relocatable building can be used to describe both a modular and portable building. It is a term used to describe any pre-fabricated building that can be transported.

Temporary Building

Temporary building(s) is a description used for both cabins and modular buildings that are to be used on a temporary basis. Many hire fleet providers describe their buildings as temporary.

Volumetric Building

A volumetric building is another name for a pre-fabricated modular building.

Prefabricated Building

A prefabricated building is one that is manufactured in a factory and then transported to the customer’s site. Portable buildings and modular buildings are both prefabricated buildings.


‘Mobile’ and ‘mobile classroom‘ are terms used by the Education sector to describe a wide range of different portable buildings and modular classroom buildings.

Portakabin Building

Many people use the word ‘Portakabin’ to describe any building. However, the word ‘Portakabin’ is a registered trademark and the name of the York based company that manufactures Portakabin products. These include the previously manufactured Portakabin Duplex building, the Portakabin Ultima range, the Portakabin Pacemaker and Portakabin Pullman buildings.

Although we sometimes have pre-owned Portakabin products in stock, only Portakabin provide new manufactured Portakabin products.

If you require a newly manufactured, genuine Portakabin product, then you should contact Portakabin.