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Can modular homes solves the global housing crisis?

According to research by the UN's Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, at the height of the pandemic 3.9 billion people were ordered to stay at home. But what if you're one of the 1.8 billion worldwide who doesn't have a decent home to stay in? Modular homes could be the answer.

Millions of people, especially in the private rental sector, are at daily risk of losing their homes as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic. That could be the result of an inability to pay rent or a mortgage, or a landlord who needs to realise their assets. And the issue is complex and global, according to the report by the special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

According to the report, factors including the growth of logging and agribusiness, conservation schemes and climate change mitigation have all led to displacements and evictions. Combined with a lack of infrastructure and access to amenities like water and electricity supplies, plus the Covid-19 pandemic, the result has been an increase in housing insecurity around the world.

No one-size-fits-all answers

Large scale and complex problems require innovative solutions. And where traditional methods of construction fall short, modular construction can be part of the solution thanks to its flexibility and adaptability to different cultures and environments.

Modular homes can be built to a range of specifications, replacing tents or the streets with homes fit for people to live in. And these flexible structures can be built in clusters or stacks that not only maximise available space, but foster a sense of community. The sheer adaptability of modular construction means that communities and villages can grow as rapidly as the rate of construction.

If those communities need to be relocated when faced with conflict or natural disaster, modular buildings can be uninstalled, relocated and rebuilt easily. And they're a solution to the displacement and destruction that communities undergo in the face of war, famine and extreme weather events.

A smaller footprint

But modular construction isn't only fast, fexible and adaptable. As the construction industry faces calls to decarbonise, MMC presents a blueprint for sustainability. Off-site construction minimises the footprint of traffic pollution and construction waste.

And there are additional benefits in terms of worker safety, recyclability, noise reduction and decreased disruption. All of which makes modular a wise choice when developing the infrastructure needed for developing communities, including schools, retail and hospitals.

Collaboration is critical

In agriculture, innovation and collaboration have helped reduce emissions by 200% between 1947 and 2016. In the same period, the construction industry has increased efficiency by just 6%. Providing a sustainable and timely solution to the problems of homelessness, and one that addresses the question of human dignity, requires solutions that look wider than the construction industry itself.

For example, MMC needs to collaborate with startups to find ways to get homes constructed off-site to hard to reach areas. Then there are issues around supply infrastructure, requiring innovative solutions like Spacedrip, which provides quick and easy access to autonomous water supplies and sewage treatment.

Housebuilding may not be the answer to many of the issues of global homelessness. But modular construction working in collaboration with public and private partners has the opportunity to solve more of the problems, faster and more sustainably than traditional methods of construction.

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