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Modular buildings lead the way for offsite

posted: 8th Aug 2018

How do manufacturers and installers of volumetric offsite construction ensure sustainability and compliance when the key priority is time? JACKIE MAGINNIS, CEO of the Modular and Portable Building Association (MPBA), shows how the industry has been leading the way longer than you think.

Concordia Academy Image provided courtesy of the McAvoy Group

Offsite construction has become a hot topic in the last few years, and sustainability has been the buzzword of the decade (other than fake news of course) but there is still an element of ‘catch all’ with both words.

In 2018 the MPBA will celebrate 80 years of representing modular and portable building manufacturers and installers, innovators in offsite construction. To our members, offsite means simply: built in the factory and transported to the final destination site where it will be assembled for final occupation. Built, and in most cases fit out, is completed in the factory where a high standard of quality can be achieved.

Manufacturers drive quality in the product through ISO9001 accreditation and BBA approvals, and it’s due to these high standards that, when it comes to thermal bridging and air permeability, tests show that on average a factory built modular or portable building achieves air leakage of between two and three m3 per hour per m2 at fifty Pascals. There are many more examples of where exemplar quality increases carbon performance, leading to a more sustainable building.

That brings us nicely to sustainability, where volumetric construction has long since lead the charge. Back in 2006 as an association we introduced communities and local government to the embodied energy, particularly within the hire and refurbishment markets. When a modular building is constructed as an alternative to traditional methods to be a permanent building, it is built to the same standards required for all construction – and with the added benefit that the ‘as built’ performance will match the ‘as designed’ performance.

The speed of manufacture and construction is so impressive it can even keep up with the demands of fast growing markets, such as retail coffee shops. Only with modular construction can a drive-through coffee shop be available and operational on your favourite motorway services, where it wasn’t there a month ago!

It’s the hire and refurbishment market however where there is an even greater embodied energy benefit. When a module is manufactured it could be for a single storey or a double storey school classroom. As it fits on the back of a lorry, it could start the year as a classroom in York and finish the year as an office in Manchester – a huge benefit of this is the savings made through not having waste and not having two construction projects, two set of building materials and so on.