Utilising innovative constructors like Caledonian Modular key to tackling housing crisis
The past few years have seen Brexit dominate the political landscape when it comes to priorities and media coverage. However, arguably one of the most important political issues of our time is the housing market – and the shortage which is seeing first time buyers struggling to get on the ladder despite previous governments’ previous commitments to building more homes.
Opposition from local communities and politicians to building any sort of construction on green belt land makes it tough for developers to get far in stringent planning environments. That has led to a developing trend throughout the industry; modular construction. Modular construction allows for huge amounts of flexibility as rooms or buildings are constructed off-site, and its value as an industry has been growing at a huge rate globally over the past five years.
The Parliamentary Review spoke with Paul Lang, CEO of Caledonian Modular - one of the largest specialist off-site manufacturing businesses in the UK with over 200 employees – about this booming industry. Lang said,
“Our modular buildings are predominantly new projects rather than expansions, and they retain the same kind of brickwork and strong architectural features that any traditionally built project would. If you walk into any one of our buildings, I would personally challenge you to be able to tell the difference – our builds are typically traditional projects converted through modular construction.
“The process we undertake is simple, yet effective and efficient. We design all components, and the entire project, using building information modelling (BIM) and then undertake considerably less work on site. It all just snaps together. A two-bedroom apartment, for example, is three modules: a living room and kitchen combination, a bathroom and hallway segment and a final module with two bedrooms. We bring all three to site completely finished; all modules are fully painted and fitted appropriately with appliances or lighting. The final stage is just, really, bolting each module together and then a few finishing details. On typical residential projects, we achieve between 87 and 91 per cent completion in the factory.”
This ‘Duplo-effect’ of being able to slot modules into place on site as opposed to doing everything at the project site itself can have a beneficial impact on the wider community when it comes to noise pollution and also efficiency. And while some critics of modular construction have complained about quality historically, Lang is bullish that the industry allows Caledonian Modular to improve standards even further than traditional construction methods,
“Although there has historically been a lot of stigma with regards to modular building, and a lot of complaints, the advance in quality has seen us able to precision manufacture to extremely high tolerances, often far higher than traditional construction. We operate stringent test and manufacture processes, and can achieve levels of quality far greater than one would see on a traditionally constructed building site.
“We work on and deliver anything from high-rise residential apartment buildings to entire schools, and take the project on from concept all the way through to handover. We employ in-house design resources, and, where appropriate, can bring in specialist architects. Our ability to take on a turnkey operation and see it go through design, manufacture, installation, commission and handover, is renowned.”
It will be interesting to see how the government sees modular construction fitting in to its plans to build one million new homes over this parliament; but as it becomes more and more difficult to find brownfield sites to build on, innovative ways of building like this will surely be a big part of them.