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Will modular construction solve the housing crisis?

Demand for homes is at an all time high and a housing project in Milton Keynes may have a solution.

 

In August 2022, a group of houses built using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) were released for purchase.

Using a mix of steel, timber, and concrete, 40 homes were constructed in a warehouse, and delivered to site in modules. The modules were then stacked, sealed, and finished, to complete the build.

The pilot project on Tattenhoe Park, is being led by Bellway homes with the hope it will ease pressure on the construction industry.

Modular construction is not a new concept, and goes as far back as World War 2. However, the technology used to construct buildings in a factory has improved immensely in recent years. Globally, the modular construction market was valued at $84.4 billion USD in 2020, with an annual growth of 6.4% expected each year until 2028.

What follows is a run down of how modular construction can change how houses are built.

Control building standards

The first benefit to modular housing is quality control. Fittings, such as pipes, electrics, doors, floors, walls and other fixtures are installed before delivery, and can be checked before they leave the warehouse.

This means alterations can be made to the property before it’s shipped to the customer. If you come across an issue with the build, then a work around or redesign can take place in the same workshop the house is being built. Changes to the design can then be applied to future builds, to avoid the same problem occurring again.

Control the weather

A second huge advantage to building homes in a factory is that construction takes place inside. The project is protected from the elements, and contractors do not have to delay part of the build due to bad weather. This is a big win for construction in the UK as the weather is temperamental. It also opens up the opportunity to construct throughout the year, with no limitations in the summer and winter months.

Having said that, consideration must be taken when the home is being delivered, especially if a crane is required to drop the modules on site. Crane capacity is at risk when wind speed picks up to around 38 mph. Therefore, delivery should be scheduled on days with calm to low wind speeds.

Control waste and the environment

Waste in the industry is a huge problem, with approximately 19% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions produced by construction. The sector is also responsible for 32% of all waste that goes to landfills.

Those old buildings we have been living in are also part of the problem.

The UK has the least energy efficient homes in Europe, with the typical household losing 8.3% of its income to poor construction. Only eight million homes in the UK meet the highest energy standards, forcing the NHS to spend £1.4 billion each year to tackle illness caused by fuel poverty.

Modular homes produce less waste during construction and are more energy efficient once built.

Back in 2011, a modular home built in West Hampstead became the first carbon neutral property in the UK. Dubbed ‘London’s first passive home’, the house produced zero carbon during construction and is 90% more energy efficient than most homes in the country.

Control time

Speed is also a key benefit with modular builds, and helps keep waste to a minimum. Construction takes weeks rather than months or years. Most of the materials needed to build the property are stored on site, so there are no delivery delays, no delivery costs, which lowers the carbon footprint. Overall, modular construction saves 30-50% more time compared to traditional building methods.

Time is also saved, hiring and managing staff. The Royal Institute of British Architects claims that a MMC building can reduce the number of tradespeople on site by up to 70%, and lower building costs by up to 40%. As labour shortages continue, and materials prices rise, this may give the industry some breathing space.

There are clear benefits to building homes with modular construction technology. Cost, time, and precision all play a role in meeting demand for affordable housing. There are also environmental benefits, with waste reduction during the construction phase, and improved energy efficiency for the end user.

Companies such as Bellway homes and Legal and General (who are setting up modular home construction factories around the UK) are leading the way to a cleaner, more efficient future.

Tradesman Talk

Do you think modular housing, and other MMC technology, will ease pressure on the housing market?

And are you involved in the modular building process?

Leave your comments below, and click the social links to share this story.

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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