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Stop funding ‘hothouse’ modular homes, MPs tell government

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The government should stop funding the construction of modular homes, as they are not ’resilient to heatwaves’, according to a group of MPs

Long periods of hot weather will be the new normal for UK summers as a result of climate change, according to a report by the Environmental Audit Committee.

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 38.5C by 2040.

The government is currently funding the delivery of offsite homes through its £3 billion Home Building Fund but the report called for an end to its support. 

’Modular homes are not resilient to heatwaves, and should not receive support from the government,’ it said, adding: ‘The government should stop directing financial support to modular housing from its Home Building Fund.’

According to the ‘Heatwaves: adapting to climate change’ report, there is also currently no regulation to prevent overheating in buildings and the tests used to identify overheating are weak.

The MPs raised concerns that the ’urban heat island’ effect – whereby cities can be up to 10°C hotter than the countryside because hard surfaces absorb heat – is not referred to in the National Planning Policy Framework.

It revealed that single-aspect flats and houses built in the 1960s and 1970s could be at significant risk of overheating. 

Prefab starter homes

Hellman from 13.11.74 - Prefab starter homes

Hellman from 13.11.74 - Prefab starter homes

 

  • 11 Comments

Readers' comments (11)

  • What does modular have to do with overheating? The main experts - Dr Anstasia Mylona from CIBSE and Prof Gupta from Oxford didn't appear to mention this, instead talking about aspect, shading, ventilation - the sort of things you'd expect, and how more rigorous modelling of overheating should be required in the building regs.

    The idea that modular is not resilient to overheating came from the Mineral Products Association who lobby for concrete - a material notably rare in modular housing.

    So hopefully the civil servants dealing with this will take this into account.

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  • Ella Jessel, are you aware that the statement from the "Heatwaves: adapting to climate change" report, from which you have extracted the headline for this article, was made by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) who are actively lobbying the government against off-site construction because they are "largely made from lightweight systems and materials" i.e. not the ones they supply.

    The principle of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) as backed by the government is not materially or geometrically specific and the majority of offsite innovations are still largely fabricated from the same materials as traditional construction. Subsequently, it is a false logic and poor argument to suggest the 'hothouse' scenario is a direct consequence of MMC. It is the building regulations which need to adapt as this will inform engineered improvements to offsite products. Returning to antiquated construction methods to protect the profitability of members of the MPA is not progress.

    Also, is the urban heat island effect not caused by the concentration of too many people and too much thermal mass? Cities don't have enough natural and lightweight/fast responding materials too allow them to cool down at night and surfaces with a high thermal mass continue to radiate heat?

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  • I most heartily agree with the comment above 'What does modular have to do with overheating?'
    Bad design is bad design modular or not, off site prefabrication has nothing to do with it.

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  • Perhaps the problem is modular politicians - the sort that are practically incapable of independent thought, with standardised brains that - unlike well designed modular homes - take no account of the real facts, preferring instead to jump onto any seemingly populist bandwagon that heaves into view, regardless of who's in the driving seat.

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  • The Government , maybe could INVEST and investigate in more technical studies by the PROFESSIONALS for suitable insulation for keeping heat out, as well as in. It needs MONEY for investigation, rather than rejection.

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  • John Kellett

    I think it only right and proper to agree with all comments above. But since when did politicians listen to unbiased professional advice. If they had we would be in the ridiculous situation where unqualified people are allowed too design buildings and given preferential treatment by public bodies because they can tender lower fees :-)

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  • Is this the same politicians that recently said that the housing crisis was a result of not having enough brick layers? Perhaps if they supported a modular construction method with high thermal values we would solve the housing, urban heat island, energy consumption crisis in one go.
    We need more Sustainable Architects in advisory roles in Government.

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  • Totally agree on the misleading nature of this article! Mitigating overheating is about good design, appropriate shading, building form, ventilation strategy and robust modelling such as the PassivHaus standard which includes a mandatory criteria on overheating. Helpful publications available from PassivHaus Trust, Nick Grant, Mark Sidall, Elrond Burrell etc.

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  • Agree with the previous comments and would make the following (obvious) points. Virtually all modern homes are of a thermally lightweight construction; whether they use bricks, blocks etc. With the demise of wet plastering, and the rise of dry lining, we end up with an insulating air gap behind the drywall with any thermal mass effectively decoupled from the room air. Virtually all modern homes will, unfortunately overheat because of this; hence modular construction is little different from what has become "traditional construction". A final point; during prolonged hot spells, heavyweight construction can absorb heat and exacerbate the problem. I've been measuring the wall temperatures of my own home (wet plaster on concrete blocks) and found temperatures 27oC.

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  • i agree that the headline is misleading, but this comment also found its way into the conclusion of the session and it should be made clear how non nonsensical it is. If you understand the CIBSE comments there is actually a problem specifically with heavyweight buildings which are relying on natural ventilation strategies that are unfeasible (i.e. next to busy roads, with no way of securely leaving windows open, etc.) this is very common in London and is a serious problem in urban heat islands. It's very worrying that the report was able to conclude the opposite

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