There is a mini-boom going on across the construction industry. New infrastructure projects are starting and projects previously delayed by lockdowns are busy playing catch up, as the sector swiftly recovers from the pandemic.
But there are still some major challenges too. Material shortages and shipping haulage scarcity are contributing to fast-rising material prices, while there is an ongoing labour shortage and continued uncertainty around lockdown restrictions and Brexit.
Developers are having to figure out how to deliver projects both on time and on budget, all while adapting to a ‘new normal’.
The answer is modular construction.
Modular construction – which sees a significant amount of a building’s components manufactured and metal fabricated off-site, ready to be assembled on-site – answers many of the problems developers are facing. It’s a method that can be applied to all project types and sizes from houses to high rises, using off-site construction of components like frames, walls or ceilings, or full prefabricated units.
It delivers benefits for timings, costings, quality and the environment.
While social distancing looks set to remain a requirement across the UK, modular construction offers a way for projects to continue. Off-site methods mean fewer trades or activities taking place on-site, instead moving to factory-like manufacturing facilities.
Assembly within these facilities also allows for greater control, offering reassurances around the quality and safety of key building features. Pre-fabricated components are manufactured in tightly controlled environments where order and process are paramount, overseen by highly skilled professionals.
A modular construction can deliver anywhere from a 30-50% reduction in build time. Efficiencies come from works happening concurrently, such as a frame being fabricated and assembled off-site while groundworks are completed on-site.
As the pandemic has made many more businesses focus on worker wellbeing, off-site methods deliver benefits to staff. Fewer activities or trades on-site contributes to tidier and more efficient workspaces, improving productivity and wellbeing scores.
Though building off-site has its own associated costs, including transport and logistics to deliver assembled parts or components, these are balanced out by the time and labour savings created. The sooner a building is completed, the sooner it can be generating revenue for its owners.
As well as meeting the challenges being felt most keenly by the construction sector, modular builds also contribute to more long-term challenges in meeting environmental targets.
As the construction sector works towards its net zero targets, modular buildings can reduce emissions at both the construction and operation stages. Off-site assembly reduces CO2 emissions through fewer vehicles travelling to and from development, reducing deliveries by up to 90% to use up to 67% less energy than traditional developments.
When the benefits are so significant it’s clear to see why work is underway to make modular construction part of the new normal. It’s being pushed from the very top too. The government this year established a Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) taskforce, set to accelerate the delivery of MMC homes, with one such method being modular builds.
So the question is no longer ‘What is the future of modular construction?’. Modular is the future of construction.
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