With a national housing shortage and ambitious housebuilding targets for developers and local councils to meet, is now really the time to put the pressure on the industry to explore more sustainable methods of construction? The answer is a very clear yes from Wayne Oakes, a director at the sustainable engineering consultancy, Dice. He believes a greener modular building approach can increase sustainability, reduce construction time and begin to tackle the huge volumes of waste generated by the construction industry.

 

The UK’s housing crisis is well documented, with ambitious targets set by the government of 300,000 new homes a year.

With that comes a secondary problem, that of construction waste. A DEFRA report highlighted that in 2018, construction, demolition and excavation accounted for 62% of the UK’s total waste.

So how do developers continue to build at speed, reduce the volume of waste materials and create more sustainable methods of construction?

The answer is staring us all in the face – modular homes.

Modular homes are designed to be energy efficient and very efficient to manufacture. They’re created off site – where waste can be kept to a minimum – and different elements of a build can all be happening at the same time.

Offsite construction enables phases of work to be undertaken concurrently. Onsite substructure and infrastructure work can be taking place whilst the superstructure is being built in a factory. Factory conditions also mean that there are no delays due to inclement weather.

And there are environmental benefits to working offsite, helping us to fight the climate crisis. It is more straightforward to manage waste in a factory environment rather than on a construction site. It allows for far more control meaning less contamination, more recycling and less overall waste.

Another large contributor to climate change is pollution and energy output. Modular designs see a 40% reduction in HGV movement at construction sites, and manufacturing off site also minimises the time and energy spent on site.

This cuts travel and transport, as workers are more likely to be concentrated around a specific factory. Due to these factors, overall pollution is reduced.

Recycling is another big focus across every sector. Materials in traditional construction like timber, brick and concrete, are very rarely re-used and it can be hard work to do so. The volumetric and panelised systems found in modular building lend themselves to recycling in a much more practical and efficient way.

There are challenges, as there are with every construction project, and they do require a different approach to traditional methods of construction.

Modular projects and units do differ from the traditional, standard residential units. They have specific requirements in terms of their sub-structures and external works. This is particularly the case in sites with gradients and water management requirements.

On our first modular project, we worked very closely with the manufacturer on specific design standards, in particular with regards to the National Housebuilding Council’s requirements for the substructure.

This was a condition of the offsite manufacturing partner, to ensure that each of the plots met the requirements of building control.

As engineers, we need to be agile, responsive to site specific needs and challenge design to ensure modular methods of construction get the recognition they deserve.

We’ve realised technology’s potential and are driving the change.  It’s our duty to think creatively to develop new, more sustainable ways of construction and ultimately living.

 

NATIONAL MMC ADVISORY SERVICE NOW AVAILABLE FROM ARCHITECTS STUDIO ANYO

Property developers, contractors and building product manufacturers can now benefit from a new advisory service that provides sector-leading expertise around modern methods of construction (MMC) and offsite solutions.

AnyOffsite from architects and interior designers Studio Anyo, can help clients to speed up their development processes and comes as MMC practices are being adopted and integrated with Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) to improve productivity and performance.

Able to support all types of MMC, AnyOffsite utilises digital technology as core to improving construction productivity in the offsite manufacture of structures, components, assemblies and products. A full range of advisory services enable clients to step-up development processes and include market reports to identify the most appropriate MMC options, analysis of the business implications, and the predicted productivity benefits.

Other services cover product development, and design, estimating, and cash flow analysis. Assistance with MMC specific bid management, scheduling, logistics, cash flow and supply chain management is also included alongside architectural, structural, sustainability and MEP reviews.

Strategies to assess the appropriateness and impact of MMC on a client’s operation and procurement schedule are included as part of a comprehensive package of measures that conclude with risk management assessments to identify the specific implications associated with pursuing different forms of construction.

Led by a team of specialists, AnyOffsite works with developers and contractors investing in MMC to reduce onsite construction and new build times, while adding design flexibility and significantly cutting property carbon footprints.

James Walsh, CEO of Studio Anyo, said as DfMA consultants, AnyOffsite’s knowledge of the supply chain is unparalleled, helping to ensure clients can secure best value for their projects and maximise return on investment in highly competitive markets.

He added: “MMC enable projects and development sites to be brought forward quickly and more efficiently. This allows the finished units to be marketed and sold faster. However, the sector can be difficult to navigate for property developers, contractors and building product manufacturers. So, we can help guide them in the principles of digital construction and management.

“Our services, coupled with our wealth of knowledge and industry experience, deliver technical insight, cost savings, project management efficiencies and, ultimately, strategic solutions to ensure clients are able to successfully deliver their offsite and onsite MMC projects on time.”

AnyOffsite is a member of the Offsite Alliance – a not-for-profit organisation for makers and manufacturers of homes, using offsite/modern methods of construction – and the Association for Project Management (APM), which is the professional organisation for project and programme management.

 

The advisers already work with a number of UK MMC manufacturers, local authorities, housing associations, consultants,

private developers and NHS Trusts.

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