5 things you didn’t know about modular construction

Modular construction has been in the headlines recently, as it’s seen as a key component in addressing the UK’s housing shortage. Constructing parts of a building in factory conditions off-site and then assembling them on-site makes sense for a variety of reasons.

Higher build quality, lower costs and a shorter timeframe for construction are top of that list. Here are five things you may not know about the fascinating world of modular or off-site construction:

  • From 2019, the UK government will favour off-site construction for all publicly funded building projects.  Homes England, the government’s ‘housing accelerator’ published a 5-year strategic plan in December 2018 that will make modular construction a requirement for housing projects. The move is seen as a big step towards meeting the government’s target of building 300,000 new homes every year, within five years. Homes England has a £2.5 billion development fund to support smaller builders in the field who cannot access finance from banks.
  • Berkeley Homes and Legal & General have both invested in off-site construction factories in the past few years. Berkeley Homes’ modular factory in north Kent will be completed this year and will start production in 2020.  Legal & General’s Yorkshire based manufacturing facility is already operational, with their first modular homes installed on site in September last year.
  • Modular homes are sometimes seen as “boring boxes”, but this doesn’t have to be the case. According to a RIBA study a few years ago, one of the top turn-offs for buyers of new homes is a lack of flexibility and individuality. However, if customers are involved at the design stage, a modular home can potentially be perfectly tailored to their requirements.
  • Although modular construction is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional methods of construction, some innovative green construction companies are maximising the environmental impact in surprising ways. Bristol-based ModCell create modular buildings based on straw-bale panels. Their technology builds carbon-negative buildings on a commercial scale, including housing, schools, commercial premises and public buildings. Heating costs are reduced by up to 85% for buildings constructed using ModCell’s technology.
  • Modular homes can be built much faster than traditionally constructed dwellings, often around 50% quicker. Multiple providers give estimates of 8-12 weeks to completion, including ground preparation works on-site.  Compare this to an average 24-32 weeks for traditionally built homes (2016 figures) and the time advantage of the off-site approach is clear.

There’s so much more to learn about the benefits of modular construction and why it’s such a hot topic right now. If you’d like to find out more, I recently had the privilege of discussing the topic with Paul Ruddick, MD of the UK’s leading Modular Construction Company, Red10, here.