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Backlash over MPs’ ‘knee-jerk’ call to stop cash for modular homes

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Architects have slammed calls from a group of MPs for the government to stop funding modular homes because they are ‘not resilient to heatwaves’ 

A report by the Environmental Audit Committee on adapting to climate change recommended the government should ‘stop directing financial support’ to modular housing from its £3 billion Home Building Fund.

But the report’s claim that modular homes – also called prefabricated or precision-manufactured homes – were not ‘resilient to heatwaves’ has been met with outrage and incredulity from architects who point out that ‘modular’ is a construction technique, and has nothing to do with mitigating overheating.

Ric Frankland, founder of prefabricated eco homes specialist Wudl, said: ‘Traditionally built on-site constructed homes can overheat just as easily. Modular is only a construction technique.

‘It does not prescribe the materials that are used, the design form, or the ventilation strategy – what actually contributes to the building performance.’

Frankland pointed out that thermal mass was not always the ’holy grail’ for ensuring buildings remain cool, which has as much to do with external shading and ventilation strategies.

He added: ‘It is extremely disappointing that MPs can make what seems to be knee-jerk statements on a subject that they clearly have no real understanding about.’

 

Architype associate Paul Neep echoed Frankland’s comments, pointing out that prefabricated construction could ‘theoretically cover anything from static caravan type construction through to highly efficient Passivhaus construction’.

Neep said the modular homes recommendation was a ‘misleading and isolated statement’ and that the other conclusions in the Heatwaves: Adapting to Climate Change report such as the lack of regulation to prevent overheating in buildings were more pressing.

‘The important message taken from this should be that there is no requirement to limit the risk of overheating in new homes in the UK and that there is a poor understanding in the industry of basic construction approaches to minimise overheating without the need for artificial cooling,’ he said.

Rather than stop funding modular homes, Neep said the government should stop financial support to new homes that are ‘poorly constructed and expensive to heat’. 

The MPs on the committee, which was looking at how the nation should respond to prolonged heatwaves, point to a Met Office warning that UK summer temperatures could regularly reach 38.5°C by 2040.

The MPs put forward recommendations across all sectors, warning that ‘there will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year’ in the UK by 2050 if the government does not take action. 

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