The construction industry is in a period of drastic change and repair. The increase in demand for housing in the UK continues to grow. As a result, the industry is facing some significant challenges. One of the biggest hurdles it needs to overcome is that past building methods do not meet the demand quickly enough.
It’s no secret that current construction methods are crying out for a much-needed upgrade, especially with the increasing skills shortage. This has led to a turning point in the construction sector, with modular construction now on the rise.
Modular construction isn’t a new phenomenon; it can be traced back to the 1830s. But, with the demand for housing and the shortage of skilled workers, are we seeing a revival due to its cost-effectiveness and efficiency.
In the blog below, we’ll explain what modular construction is and how it could be the industry’s future.
What is modular construction?
Prefabricated construction, or modular construction, is a type of building method. Its process involves creating the components that will make up a structure off-site, usually in a factory. These parts are then transported to the building site where they’re assembled, saving time on traditional methods such as laying brick and blocks.
Because of this efficient building method, you see more and more modular construction methods being used today. It is not just limited to homes; these prefabricated buildings can be used across an array of construction projects; high rises, waterside developments, large scale commercial buildings etc.
Types of modular construction
There are two different types of modular construction, which are:
Permanent modular construction: This form of modular construction is built for a permanent location. The building is made to be durable, safe and long-lasting. It will remain standing until it’s demolished. Seen as a more sustainable modular construction method, it’s created using prefabricated materials to provide a solution for homes, flats and other fundamental buildings.
Relocatable buildings: In contrast with the other modular construction types, this method is only used for temporary structures. These types of buildings benefit from being able to be deconstructed and moved to a new location. This is beneficial for schools, clinics and construction site offices which are often manufactured to meet immediate temporary building needs.
Due to the rise in demand, it is seen that more fabricators are creating new and innovative ways to complete a modular build.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits to modular construction. Here are some of the reasons why so many construction firms turn to it for their building projects.
It’s solving a UK brick shortage.
You may already know of the unlikely problem that’s happening in the construction industry: a shortage of bricks. Unfortunately, it seems this issue isn’t going away anytime soon, with recent research showing that some companies have to wait over a year to receive their next order of bricks.
Modular construction is the solution to this shortage. Instead of bricks, buildings are being made from wood, concrete, steel. Construction companies are also utilising systems such as render and cladding for alternative finishing effects. Not only does this keep costs down, but it reduces the waiting time for materials.
Modular construction is environmentally-friendly
Modular construction is a great way to build sustainably. Eco-friendly projects save money for building firms and clients alike, making modular construction a popular choice for future projects.
Because the building parts are manufactured off-site in factories, construction waste is dramatically reduced as the materials can be easily recycled. Bits of leftover wood, steel and concrete can be used to make other prefabricated parts. Modular construction also limits hazardous waste, and it helps prevent pollution in the area around the building site.
It’s less dangerous to site workers.
Because modular construction requires building parts to be created in a factory, the risk to the health and safety of on-site builders is reduced. Apart from the arrival and placement of the prefabricated components - when a skilled machinery operator is required to safely lift the parts to the relevant position - there’ll be less heavy machinery driving around. With less heavy machinery lifting objects in the air, not only do risk assessments become more straightforward, the lack of noise will help reduce hearing problems and other disruptions.
Construction is much quicker.
With traditional construction methods, builds can take a long time to construct. Modular construction, on the other hand, is around 30-50% quicker. A driving factor in this speed is that onsite foundations can be completed while the factories build the components off-site.
It increases labour efficiency.
Manufacturing the building parts off-site helps to cut labour costs down too. On-site jobs such as brick and block laying are replaced with the automated construction of the prefab parts. Because of this, workers can then focus on more technical tasks to help them learn new techniques and skills. This will all help to move the construction industry forward in tackling the skills shortage.
Is modular construction the future?
The construction industry’s future is still unknown at the minute, especially due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there’s no denying that modular construction will have some part to play in its future.
Traditional brick and mortar building methods have stood the test of time, but so have modular ones. Many prefabricated buildings that were constructed after World War II are still standing, and we now possess the skills and technology to improve on them.
Modular construction allows building firms to construct more environmentally-friendly, attractive buildings at a fraction of the cost of a brick and mortar. More homes, schools, hotels and hospitals can all be built in a rapidly short timeframe but will last lifetimes.
Still, the main issue facing modular construction, especially in residential construction, is the desirability of a standard brick and blockhouse. If modular construction is to be the future, we must use innovative solutions to improve a completed modular building’s overall visual appearance.
The future is still unclear, but it’s hard not to see modular construction becoming a vital future building method. It has the power to transform the construction industry and people’s lives for many years to come.