Steel-framed modular or volumetric building construction is already wellestablished in Britain and is increasingly being employed in the hotel and fast-food industries.Muray Grove is,we believe,the first application ofthis approach in the provision ofaffordable housing in the UK .To do this,a considerable amount of research and development and team effort was required to successfully resolve successfully the wide range of new design challenges faced by the whole team.
In the residential market,steelframed modular systems are most suited to flat-type dwellings ofthree to six storeys,and when speed ofconstruction is important or where particular site constraints make more traditional approaches difficult.Steel provides a material with excellent strength-to-weight ratio and which is easily worked into usable building components;and it can be recycled.
Manufacturing processes which employ standardised components can provide a diverse and flexible kit of parts.Dimensional co-ordination will allow a wide variety ofbuilding forms and materials to be used economically within a rational framework.In the future,whole or parts ofthe buildings will be safely dismantled when necessary,rather than carrying out wasteful and dangerous demolition.
The principle advantages ofmodular and volumetric techniques are:
non-reliance on traditional skilled labour which is in short supply
optimises the location ofwork, mainly off-site,resulting in increased productivity
a permanent trained labour force
reduced levels ofwastage of construction materials
improved quality control,which reduces future maintenance
greatly improved air tightness and energy efficiency
production process under safer and cleaner conditions less vulnerable to weather
speed ofdelivery and opportunities for customisation gives a marketing advantage
fast-track delivery improves developers'cash flow and profitability On this project,testing ofinnovative techniques is combined with ongoing monitoring ofboth the construction quality and post-occupancy.This monitoring can be continuously fed back into the design and manufacturing process so that improvements are made.
We hope that Muray Grove demonstrates how much the modular construction industry can benefit from working closely with designers and architects,and thus lead to new opportunities in the housing industry.
James Pickard is a principal with architect Cartwright Pickard.