Despite the advantages the volumetric modular sector already brings to modern methods of construction (MMC), it needs to evolve further if its full potential is to be realised. In our experience, the next steps in its development should involve building confidence from an investor and developer perspective.
There is insufficient data on volumetric modular construction across the industry. More ‘as-manufactured’ data is required to verify the claims of modular providers for their products and services, which will help to enhance the confidence of investors, funders, insurers and warranty providers.
Carbon credentials in modular need to be data-driven rather than based on hypothetical assertions; and new R&D is needed to understand how well volumetric modular performs compared with other construction types over time. New standards will help address this and other challenges, from standardisation of manufacturing details to design processes and information exchanges.
Changing our thinking towards modular requires an emphasis on how standardisation can help not only to de-risk but also to offer greater choice and flexibility to designers. More collaboration and exchange of ideas between modular manufacturers would help to deliver this.
The way in which modular buildings are designed and built also presents a challenge in terms of future adaptability and the retrofitting or repurposing of modular buildings. Because these are typically built as a series of self-contained structural ‘boxes’, it can be difficult to divide them and reformat the internal layout after completion. For subsequent owners, demolition could be a more viable option.
Overall, we expect the use of MMC and modular construction to continue to rise due to the benefits it can help to achieve, not least in areas such as quality, resources, timings and costs, as well as potential carbon savings.
To help it get to that point, there is still work to be done across the industry in order to generate higher levels of confidence in these new approaches.
Kevin Allen is associate director at TFT Consultants