The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the important things as never before including a reassessment of how we use our buildings, with additional space needed for safe social distancing.
The government is also now hinting at a major building and infrastructure programme to help the nation recovery economically.
So could modular construction deliver some quick answers to the issues of the day?
The global lockdown has given us time to pause. It allows us to review the way things are, and the way things should be, and this provides the construction industry with an opportunity to effect change that can also deliver carbon reduction benefits.
Modular premises and homes can be delivered with in-built sustainability as standard
The energy drivers affecting buildings
The buildings we live, work and play in currently account for over 40% of the nation’s energy consumption and carbon emissions, so if we are to achieve our ambitious carbon reduction targets, things cannot continue as before and improving the level of efficiency in our buildings is of paramount importance.
By addressing the largest draw on energy - the way we heat, cool and ventilate our buildings - even the smallest improvement will have a significant effect in reducing total energy consumption for the nation.
The need for more buildings
At the same time, society needs to adapt to the health pandemic and this places pressure on our commercial and public buildings as never before.
Schools will need to quickly find ways of doubling or trebling their teaching spaces and this is where modular classrooms cold prove popular. The health care sector also needs to address long term deficiencies, in the short term.
Offices may need to look at redesign or even temporary expansion and we also have an urgent shortage of housing.
In order to make a real difference, everyone involved in the built environment has to work together to ensure that we all make better use of energy.
The added advantage is that creating sustainable buildings will also help safeguard our future, preserve energy resources, and help reduce on-going running costs for everyone.
The need for compliance
With legally binding carbon reduction targets, the government has already introduced legislation to ensure that our buildings are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
In order to comply with this stringent legislation, whether that’s Permitted Development, or MEES, the WELL Building Standard or BIM and the Modular Building Framework, the rules and regulations around buildings are only getting stricter.
A modular answer
Modular buildings adhere to exactly the same building regulations and standards as traditionally constructed buildings, yet the very nature of off-site, precision manufacturing delivers a consistently excellent performance for U -values, fire safety, sustainability and acoustics.
Offsite construction sees the manufacture of buildings in a covered, controlled environment with final assembly completed at site.
This approach allows for much greater speed, cost certainty, precision and quality control and means that modular buildings have a carbon footprint that is up to 99% lower than equivalent traditional buildings and, according to research by Arup, the production of a modular building requires up to 67% less energy than a traditionally constructed building.
Modular buildings therefore offer real hope for the nation to deliver the quality spaces needed.
At the same time though, we need to ensure that these modular buildings continue to deliver sustainability and low carbon consumption throughout their useful life, whilst also delivering modern levels of comfort and well-being for occupants?
What’s needed are heating, cooling and ventilation systems that become a seamless part of the solution, with innovative HVAC products that are the ideal fit for modular building, construction and management throughout their working life.
And this is where manufacturers of modular buildings can really benefit from systems that can be fitted as part of the manufacturing process, or can be installed in sections to match the modular build on site.
Using products such as modern, air conditioning, heat recovery ventilation and renewable heating helps puts efficiency, reliability and quality at the forefront of the manufacturing process to match to the improvement in construction standards that modular manufacture can offer the industry.
The good news is that these solutions are affordable, scalable and available right now and this means that modular premises and homes can be delivered with in-built sustainability as standard.
Kevin Pocock is a Corporate Solutions technical specialist