We have all received a constant wave of sheer benefits and excitement with modular construction. From the media, coupled with construction 'experts' expressing robust opinions & some interesting reports produced, indeed we know of the lack of uptake of modular in the United Kingdom. The reality is despite repetitive facts many of which most already know and some negative assumptions around only approximately 10% of new builds are built using modular of any type, which is shocking considering the huge housing targets set by government. Whilst I am not saying Modular of any type be it 3D Volumetric or Elements or Hybrid is the complete answer to our housing crisis, it will help tremendously (where suited). For example the North of England and other areas will not sustain 3D Volumetric due to unit price, whereas for Student and Hotels it can be incredibly suitable from an IRR perspective down South.
Approximately a 3 million+ homes shortage (340,000 needed per year until 2031) and yet still we are far behind creating less than half that number unable to deliver housing for our nation. We all know the reasons; lack of investment via government and PE, a dire skills shortage, planning constraints/red tape/high valuations & knowledge gaps. The UK currently operates what many describe as a 'cottage style' OSM sector bar 4 major players and that needs to change despite the hype of new factories opening recently, many not further down the line creating prototypes and confused what technology they bring some with substantial technological U-turns costing tens of millions switching from CLT to Steel Frame. We need change, even more support from government and investors to put the UK on the map. We need now to formulate a workable solution so let us break down all the various 'show stopper's including crippling red tape with LA's and overpriced land for starters. Let's collaborate with key players; British delivery partners such as our friends Modular Connexions, property developers, main contractors, LA's & Overseas OSM's to make things happen.
Meanwhile overseas suppliers rule our waves, not Britannia as yet. Many overseas OSM's in business for decades are mostly well financed, huge experience operating internationally with differing solutions, vast production capacity - some suited to the UK some clearly not. We are genuinely encouraged to see new operators launching however sadly it's all come a bit late and considerably smaller investment than wished for.
It's all about collaboration in a market that is ever-so-much disjointed and confused. Reminiscent perhaps for a cynic of a dozen or so blind folded people trying to describe an elephant. It all depends on where you’re standing and what they touch. They all know it’s big but beyond that there is no point of reference point for them to collaborate.
The person at the front may think he is touching an extra long tail as is the person at the back. Are those tree trunks or legs? And what’s with the long rock-like projections?
We all know something about modular construction but few know it all, dependent on view points. Over the past years all-consuming exciting hype including savings, the glossy side to modular construction appeals. We know of number modular factories in the world who can shave up to 25% off the cost of a build project. Yes you will save time but possibly not by 50% as quoted by many unless you’re just counting the time from modules arriving on the project until the building is ready for occupancy?
And what about the part of getting it when the developer needs it? Factories can’t afford to sit idle waiting for the developer to secure planning, financing etc, each of which can extend the lead time vastly for producing the modules in the factory set back weeks, months. So the modular factory must accept whatever comes in their factory ready for the process. If a factory produces 15 modules a week and the project is 75 modules, that is five weeks on the production line, constructing nothing but that specific dedicated project. Our knowledge of meeting 50 OSM's worldwide demonstrates it's all about scalable high quality production capacity where cost effectiveness and superior service is a given. Challenges after that include accreditations, delivery and trust.
Suppose that the project gets delayed before it commences fabrication, can the factory wait for the client to amend the corrections? No, most likely, they are in business of building modules, without constant production orders they lose money and delay to other clients waiting in line patiently. Without constant flow of business the factory will close.
Since there is no national network of independent modular factories that may shift the developer/clients project to another factory located in a different location in the UK, the project is delayed and the developer/client is stuck in the void. Baltic factories instead tend to collaborate having created Clusters working together but only where possible technology depending which maybe overlapped.
It’s the best way for investors and developers & main contractors to construct everything from homes, apartments, affordable schemes, just about any other type of building.
Before you even begin talking to any modular factory about building your next project, take the time to find a suitable experienced consultant with working knowledge & expertise of what is 'modular reality' for your scheme. Aside of knowledge the key factors are knowing which factory to approach, do they have genuine interest in the UK? do they actually have production capacity for you? do they tick all the boxes including health & safety? quality assurance & accreditations? service etc - it's a complex world is modular construction.
Modular construction can be faster to complete no doubt, it can also save you money (IRR) and it will give you an excellent product. It is also inherently more energy efficient, safer, greener & sustainable. The modular factory becomes your partner in identifying key issues and offering robust solutions before anything is passed for manufacturing. Your groundwork package can be completed at the same time your modules are being manufactured.
That is also true for modular construction. It’s the worst type of construction except for all those other types that have been tried from time to time.
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