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Why modular buildings are on the rise

From outdated to trendy: why are modular buildings becoming more and more popular? Learn more about their benefits in this article.

11 min read

Today’s modular buildings are making waves in the world of architecture. Their reputation was once one of rickety, draughty and temporary structures that were there to serve the purpose of its inhabitants making do. In recent years, progress has been turbocharged and modular buildings are beginning to look like something to be coveted rather than a convenient solution when time and budget are tight. We take a look at what’s behind this impressive trajectory, why there’s a growing appetite for modular buildings and how they might best be used.

What are modular buildings?

Modular buildings are prefabricated buildings that are predominantly made off-site and then installed. Aspects such as the windows, roof and flooring are often built in once the foundations have been laid.

How have modular buildings improved over time?

Modular construction has seen huge and rapid improvements in recent years. This is, in part, due to the sophistication and capability of the building materials that have been developed and are being included. This alone has made significant improvements to how well-insulated, sturdy and aesthetically pleasing they are. Additionally, the production lines that create the prefabricated structures have only become more efficient as they’re developed. This has hugely enhanced the consistency of the builds’ quality and positively reduced the time it takes to build.

Benefits of modular buildings?

With the drastic improvements that have been made to modular buildings in recent years, there are numerous benefits to modular construction over more traditional construction. Here are just some of the ways that modular buildings can benefit society:

Less Carbon

According to a 2017 United Nations report, the construction industry could be culpable for 39% of Global carbon emissions. This was a striking find that highlighted the importance of adopting alternative methods of construction in order to help meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. Because modular buildings are created off-site and only transported once to be installed, the usual need for repeated transportation back and forth is eliminated and carbon emissions are slashed.

Facilitating growing populations

We won’t suggest for a moment that modular buildings are the solution to the entire UK housing problem. However, the efforts that have been made in recent years to improve both the quality and efficiency of modular construction techniques could be a fantastic opportunity for facilitating continued population growth and urbanisation.

We know that more homes are needed and we know that we need homes for our communities to be better, but the path there isn’t straightforward. According to a Parliament source, the Government isn't currently on track to meet the 300,000 new home target by the mid 2020s – at least, not by using traditional building methods.

The source continues, “In 2019, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warned the Government that an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall far short of its target to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.” This is a clear call for radical change and modular construction is a modern solution.

Another solution that we’re passionate about is the improvement and retrofitting of existing UK housing stock that’s no longer fit for purpose. It’s a topic that we’ve touched on in this article and our CEO and co-founder Alex Depledge MBE has publicly discussed the importance of working on the homes we have.

A combination of revitalising our homes to be better equipped for energy efficiency and creating well-insulated, high-quality modular buildings could have a huge impact on the habitability of our most crowded communities.

Innovative design and function

One of the great opportunities that comes with opting for a modular building is the depth of creativity that’s emerging out of the sector. Explore Modular Architecture on Pinterest for a flavour of the creative flair that’s out there and the opportunities possible for this up-and-coming form of construction.

Alongside the emergence of dazzling designs is the huge potential for the purposes of modular buildings. In Amsterdam, for example, modular construction is being used to build 30 “high-quality, flexible, and sustainable” schools to work towards their climate initiatives by 2050. There are also calls for the UK government to dedicate a portion of the budget for affordable housing to modular construction. The possibilities are endless!

Efficiency and ease

The construction of modular buildings is between 30 and 50% faster than traditional building techniques. This is because the structure is able to be built at the same time the necessary works are being done on site. The speed and minimal disruption that comes with choosing modular construction might be hugely appealing for people who need to create more space in, or outside of, their homes fast. It could be a viable alternative to traditional extensions, particularly for growing families.

Are there any drawbacks to modular buildings?

While the improvements to the modular construction industry look promising, there are some limits to what can be achieved currently. Some modular buildings can be created under Permitted Development but it’s not a guarantee and you may have to seek Planning Permission before you get your project underway. The difficulty of gaining permission will depend on specific rules for your local area. Contact our experienced Planning team for insightful guidance about the rules and regulations that apply to you and how to navigate them.

Another potential drawback to the production line nature of modular buildings is that, should there be one flaw, a repeated part, it’ll be applied to every part of that process. Also, if one error is made, it can render the modular building as a whole redundant and unusable.

If you’d like to speak with an expert about your construction ideas, don’t hesitate to book a free advice call today.

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