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Futureproofing modular construction

Modular construction has been around in one form or another since the post-war prefab boom. But unlike their predecessors, today's MMC homes are part of a global industry set to be worth around $142bn by 2024.

An increasing number of contractors are turning to modular as a way to build back better, with innovations including the recently completed Ten Degrees Croydon, the world's tallest modular building.

Going modular

Modular construction has a range of benefits for constructors. It delivers a quicker turnaround and construction isn't delayed by the vagaries of the British weather. The greater degree of mechanisation in the build drives repeatability and eliminates human error, and it's much more sustainable. Industry analysts foresee that MMC will form a cornerstone of efforts to build back greener and meet 2050 net-zero targets.

In fact, according to The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), 67% less energy is required to build a modular home than one using traditional construction methods. They also estimate that modular requires 90% less materials and is much more efficient at reducing waste and recycling resources.

Greening construction

There are a number of reasons why modular is gaining fast in popularity with everyone from Prime Minister Boris Johnson to American mega-mogul Warren Buffet expressing their support for the industry.

In an effort to green the construction industry, the government has made money available for MMC and sought out favourable partnerships with modular exponents. It's a critical part of delivering the Affordable Homes programme which is committed to building 300,000 homes yearly.

Although the target has so far fallen short through an over reliance on traditional methods of construction, Mark Farmer, the government's MMC Champion, is hoping to make some bold changes. In his 2020 report 'Build Homes Build Jobs Build Innovation', Farmer stated that the government should be building 75,000 modular homes a year.

It's a target that the Affordable Housing Programme has embraced for 2021-2026, with an additional target of 25% of new homes to be completed using MMC. In addition to the speed and quality of factory built homes, the report noted that MMC accounted for a 40% drop in emissions, helping to kill two birds with one affordably built and priced home.

Fine margins

But MMC isn't just about sustainability and speed. With fewer resources and less time required to complete a project, costs are often lower than in a traditional build. The minimal time required on-site and the repeatability of error-free work means that the old adage 'time is money' works squarely in modular's favour.

Where margins are tight, MMC reduces the chance of unforeseen delays - and minimises unaccounted for costs that can send traditional projects way over budget.

Modular innovation

Modular is currently on-trend because it's good for the image of the sector. Quicker, cheaper, greener and more consistent, using MMC to deliver the homes of the future is a guarantee of consistent quality.

Croydon's record-breaking modular tower Ten Degrees was built in half the time of a traditional high rise, and with minimal disruption to the surrounding areas. The homes have been manufactured to be significantly more energy-efficient and could be the blueprint for desirable build-to-rent addresses across Europe's most expensive capitals. Not bad for a modular design likened to a Lego tower.

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