architecture

Building of the week: Greenwich modular homes

I’ve written before about the merits of modular construction. It’s faster, cheaper, less disruptive and less wasteful. Buildings can be constructed in factory conditions, which keeps things dry and allows for a higher degree of precision. It’s much easier to dismantle buildings afterwards if they are made of modular components rather than thousands of individual bricks.

The construction industry in Britain has been slow to adopt off-site techniques, despite a real shortage of affordable homes. So it’s good to be able to report on the biggest modular homes project in the country so far, which has been signed off in Greenwich. The deal will see an alliance of builders deliver over 750 council homes in several locations in the next five years, and double that number by the time the project wraps up.

The homes will be designed by ShedKM architects, who are specialists in placemaking as well as buildings. They will then be built off-site by Ideal Modular Homes in Liverpool, who can build a home in four days in their factory, including interior fittings. It is then delivered to the building site and craned into position. It takes just eight hours to assemble, making it a very fast way to build new houses. And these are zero carbon homes of course, part of Greenwich council’s plan to be zero carbon by 2030.

Modular building has been ‘the future’ for decades, and somehow has never quite caught on in Britain. For many people it is still associated with cheap and cheerful re-fabrication techniques of the 1970s, which were rightly discarded. Modern modular buildings are a world away from that, and represent one of the best opportunities to deliver zero carbon homes on a mass scale.

In fact, modular approaches are probably the only way that Britain will meet its carbon targets, and the techniques will have to be deployed in both new build homes and retrofitting – as I reported on in Wales recently.

2 comments

  1. Hi Jeremy,

    I purchased a modular home about 17 years ago.

    While it was built in less time there were some quality issues and we paid market rate for the house.

    As I like to say, all expenses were spared.

    I’m sure some of it was my builder, but the structures were pre-fab by a major builder. Some of the issues were delivered with the boxes.

    So it can be cheaper and it can be better, but not always.

    Andy

    1. Of course, modularity is no guarantee of quality – but it’s no sign of poor quality either, which has often been the assumption in Britain after some terrible experiments in the 1970s.

      Unfortunately shoddy workmanship is practically endemic in the British construction industry, so there’s some serious work to do around standards as well as building methods.

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