Today I’d like to talk about one of the most important trends in real estate and especially for the UK which is globally a leading market thanks to its early high rate of adoption. According to Grand View Research, the modular construction sector, which was already valued at £80.8 billion in 2018, is expected to experience up to 2025 a Compound Aggregated Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.5%.
I didn’t know much about this whole field up until a few months ago when I had the pleasure to get in contact with Forta Pro, a company specialised in Modular constructions, to give a speech at one of their webinars that focused on wellbeing, sustainability, and modularity.
*Source: Grand View Research
It was just a matter of time before I was really exposed to the changes and benefits that this solution offers. And there’s plenty. The potential is really significant and I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities it can open for any kind of project. And I can say from my experience that it’s not just me who realised this, as in the last few weeks I have been approached by an increasing number of developers always interested in building modular. For this reason, I decided to keep investigating and go a bit more in-depth into this interesting new world.
Once again, thanks to the team at Forta Pro and their guidance on specific topics I’ve been able to delve into it even more. So, after quite a bit of research, I decided to share some of my most compelling discoveries that I’m convinced every developer should keep in mind for new projects from here on out.
Efficiency is the start
In a few words, the main idea behind modular construction is that the whole design of the building can be simplified into modular parts that can be repeated efficiently and built separately to be assembled on site. Each module is pre-fabricated in a factory and shipped on-site. The initial phase is in fact called off-site manufacture (OSM).
As highlighted in the previous graph, modular solutions can be applied to pretty much any type of building, residential developments, rental apartments, PBSAs, hotels, co-living, offices, and schools. I was amazed to find out that, in the example of co-living and student accommodations, each module is basically an entire room with its own bathroom already included which can be finalised off-site and be delivered with everything ready to go, windows, floors, wall finishes, sockets, furniture, and even curtains. Everything is built precisely to the millimetre. Even corridors can be part of the module and come with it.
It is evident how this drastically improves efficiency on-site as, for example, a big part of the construction happens in a factory so it is not affected by weather conditions, thus reducing significantly the risk for potential or unexpected costs.
The process for Modular Constructions
This choice requires also that the interior design is finalised prior to the delivery, so the interior designers are appointed early in the process.
Naturally, using modular construction implicates that the whole building has to be thought through with this intention in mind. For instance, in the offerings, I’ve been introduced to the maximum size of a module that can be shipped around Europe, which is 3.8 m in width, 12 to 14 m in length, and 3.5 m in height.
However, this does not mean that every single room has to have the same size. Modules in fact can also be combined on-site to obtain a larger space. The result of more modules combined on-site is unrecognisable from a regular room, once flooring and every other interior element are applied. Regardless of the size of each space or room, as mentioned before, the important factor for the development to achieve said efficiency is that it is conceived with this modular “end goal” in mind.
Potential savings, sustainability, and more useful info
Here are some additional insights you may find useful, especially if you’re new to this concept.
First of all, almost the entire building can be modular, apart from the basement, foundations, podium floor (such as a lobby, restaurants, communal areas on the ground floor). These spaces should have a concrete or steel structure and be built on site. Above, up to 8 storeys can be entirely assembled using modular structures. If the building is taller than that, then stairs and lift cores have to be built on-site to act as load-bearing cores giving extra strength to the structure.
Apart from these specific examples, everything else can be developed using modular constructions. Even the façade can be integrated into the modules if necessary, if not, it can be completed after the modules are installed.
And now the million-dollar question: I asked Forta Pro how much time can you save by making a building modular instead of using traditional construction methods. They explained that there isn’t an exact formula and every building is different. However, efficiency is greatly improved especially in big buildings with lots of repetition in the bedroom design. Huge savings can be achieved if the building is designed properly for modular structures. For instance, a building with 150 rooms could be potentially developed entirely in 11 months from start to finish. Time-saving is, in fact, another of the major advantages of modularity. Especially once the building is planned, it is very unlikely to incur significant delays once the on-site construction phase begins.
Finally, even without considering sourcing, logistics, and supply chain traceability (just for the sake of the topic, not suggesting it should be overlooked), modular design is more sustainable than regular construction thanks to its energy efficiency. According to the Waste and Resources Action Program, energy consumption can be reduced by 67% through the use of modular construction.
I hope this introduction to the topic of modularity gave you some useful insights and made you excited as I am about this incredibly powerful solution. It is a relatively new trend and there is much potential for new ideas and interesting projects! Hopefully, I’ll have more soon to come!
Photos of modular constructions by Forta Pro