This informal CPD article What is Sustainable Modular Construction? was provided by Green Unit, an Eco-friendly modular building provider.
Let’s break this down into the two parts: sustainability and modular construction.
Sustainability – or environmental sustainability – refers to preserving resources for future generations, in particular having a positive impact on local and global environments.
Modular construction is a Method of Modern Construction whereby a building or its component parts are constructed offsite (within a factory) in modular sections. It’s different to traditional construction whereby all construction works take place on the site that the final building will be located.
So sustainable, modular construction is about the design and build of environmentally-friendly buildings that are manufactured in a factory.
“The construction industry must modernise or die”
In 2016, Mark Farmer, a construction industry expert, said that the industry needed to modernise, or it would be at risk of failing. This came as part of a comprehensive review of the UK construction industry that Mark Farmer conducted for the UK government, which resulted in recommendations around sustainability, innovation, skills, and training, amongst others.
Many of the issues raised in Farmer’s report – such as skills shortages, high levels of wastage, poor quality construction - can be addressed through innovation in the industry with the offsite – or modular - manufacture of buildings, which has given rise to the demand for modular buildings.
What is sustainable modular construction?
Sustainable, modular construction involves buildings offsite in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. The aim is to design and build a building with minimal embodied carbon and low operational carbon requirements.
Low embodied carbon can be achieved through by reviewing the carbon footprint of all materials and processes that go into the construction of a building. For example, does the building use carbon intensive materials such as concrete or steel, or does the building use materials that lock up carbon? Do the construction processes release a lot of carbon emissions and other pollutants?
Achieving low operational carbon of a building means ensuring a highly energy efficient building with low energy requirements, such as for heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation. This can be achieved with airtight design and good insulation that creates an efficient envelope around the building.
What are the benefits of modular construction over traditional construction?
There are several benefits of modular construction such as speed, efficiency, quality, and sustainability.
- Onsite disruption – offsite construction significantly reduces the need to maintain a live construction site – if the building is virtually complete when it is delivered to site, there may only be disruption for a matter of hours or days
- Improved timescales – offsite construction in a factory allows streamlined and efficient production processes which improves project build times
- All-weather construction – poor weather conditions often bring delays to traditional (onsite) construction projects, which is not an issue with offsite (factory-based) construction
- Improved predictability – project delays and unpredictability of cost escalations is reduced with modular construction
- Improved quality – controlled production processes and precision-engineered parts ensure design and build accuracy
- Lower carbon – operating one single factory site reduces the transportation of deliveries to site and more environmentally-friendly processes mean that offsite construction usually produces much lower levels of carbon
- Less wastage – over ordering and wastage of materials occurs often in traditional construction, but factory-controlled production usually ensures that waste is kept to a minimum
- Improved health and safety standards – health and safety procedures can be strictly regulated within a factory.
We hope this article on What is Sustainable Modular Construction was helpful. The team at Green Unit are experts in sustainable, modular construction and offers CPD sessions to architects and construction professionals seeking to learn more about modern methods. For more information from Green Unit, please visit their CPD Member Directory page.
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