The Modular Housing Handbook
eBook - ePub

The Modular Housing Handbook

Simon Bayliss, Rory Bergin

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  1. 240 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Modular Housing Handbook

Simon Bayliss, Rory Bergin

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About This Book

Modular construction has the potential to improve housing quality, speed up delivery and reduce building costs – so why isn't everyone doing it? This practical handbook combines real-world advice on designing modular housing with a compelling argument for off-site construction as a means for architects taking a greater role and achieving more influence in their housing projects.

Focusing on the benefits as well as the challenges of modular construction, this book illustrates that off-site construction need not act as a design constraint and can in fact provide an opportunity for greater design impact. Richly illustrated with recent case studies and featuring over 100 photographs of exemplar projects, The Modular Housing Handbook provides inspiration as well as timely, practical advice.

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The Journey - Modular construction by Nerea Bermejo Olaizola, HTA Design LLP
The first section of this book explores recent developments in modular construction and the dramatic progress in harnessing more advanced methods of manufacturing and assembly to drive better quality and more rapid delivery of housing across the UK and internationally.
Chapter 1 reflects on the history of invention and ambition in UK housing and the specific drivers over the past century and how a past culture of innovation had all but disappeared by the end of the 20th century across a housing industry unable, or at least unmotivated, to solve the country’s chronic housing shortage.
Chapter 2 focuses on the volumetric modular systems for low-rise suburban family housing in the UK, building on the rich history of terraced housing to create a new generation of housing that has the character of favoured period homes, but designed to contemporary standards of performance and specification and offering greater customisation and choice to the customer.
From family housing to city centre living, Chapter 3 explores the technical advancements of the past decade that has seen modular buildings increase in height from around 20 storeys to almost 50 storeys today. This sector has largely been driven by an increase in new forms of rented housing whereby institutional investors see the benefit of more rapid delivery and greater cost and programme certainty, as well as increasing evidence of a much reduced environmental impact compared to traditional construction. The pursuit of ever-increasing height has captured the attention of industry commentators with competition emerging between countries and developers hoping to demonstrate the benefits of their particular system – from Singapore, to Manhattan and London.
A central theme of the book is the potential impact on designers working within the world of modular housing and Chapter 4 investigates the benefits and challenges for architects working as designers in industry. We explore how the process of designing buildings while working closely with manufacturers leads to changing behaviours in the design and delivery team that are more closely aligned with the car and tech industries.
Chapter 5 investigates the cost implications of making modular housing ‘stack up’ within a development industry that generally struggles with innovation, written by Cast, a built environment consultancy specialising in offsite construction. Their founding director Mark Farmer, the government’s MMC champion, lifts the lid on why the wider benefits need to be considered to truly understand the cost impact of building better, building modular.
Chapter 6 looks briefly at the worldwide adoption of modular housing and highlights significant companies and projects which warrant further attention.
Throughout Part 1 we present a number of short case studies to demonstrate the past progress and future potential of modular made housing. We then look briefly ahead to future developments, before exploring several of the most significant recent projects through a series of detailed case studies in Part 2.


Greenford Quay, HTA Design LLP, Ealing, 2019
As architects seek to create a new golden era for housing, the opportunity to drive more systemic change across the industry has scarcely been more possible, or more urgently needed. To succeed, the designers and manufacturers at the forefront of new construction solutions need to ensure they enable nothing short of a revolution in the way we produce our homes. Such systemic change would normally only occur through the setting of ambitious policy at national level, with government driving through new requirements through higher standards and regulations. In the absence of any bold new political vision, it is left to a small but influential group of clients, manufacturers and architects, to show the benefits of factory made housing, and modular housing in particular, through a growing number of completed developments. These projects are causing both industry commentators and policy makers to wake up to the opportunity. Although this quiet revolution has come from a small number of industry disruptors who see the opportunity to build in ways more appropriate to the technological advancements of the 21st century, in doing so they are finding major solutions to the far wider challenges facing the industry today. Above all, they are establishing an entirely new culture within construction, changing the nature of the relationship between client and producer, builder and designer, to the benefit of everyone involved.
‘The entire Peabody board was motivated to find better ways of delivery. The aim was to seek ways to harness incremental improvements to avoid continually reinventing the wheel believing that every generation needs to try and see if their circumstances for delivering volumetric prefabrication have become more propitious’
Dickon Robinson, Director of Development, Peabody Trust 1988–2004


The current housing crisis has its origins in the early 1980s when, following a 25-year boom of housing construction very much driven by the public sector, the state promptly withdrew from its central role as a housing provider. This left new provision of housing almost entirely in the hands of a private sector focused primarily on the process of trading land, delivering houses that were little more than bricks and mortar with a primary focus of optimising returns for their shareholders. As politicians pushed the notion of property ownership as being central to individual prosperity and self-worth, the pace of delivery of new housing fell away and house prices climbed, all the while with design quality falling down the agenda as the housebuilders ensured architects and designers were entirely absent from their projects.
Although the beginning of this century saw new regulations for higher performance standards to ensure new homes would at least be warm, quiet, dry and safe, this coincided with increasing deregulation in the control of these standards, with compliance delegated to self-assessment by manufacturers and suppliers, and contractors increasingly focused on reducing cost and finding the most basic route to compliance.
As design and build became the dominant form of procurement, the role of the professional design team has become marginalised to the point that it rarely involves a meaningful engagement on site through the delivery of most projects. Meanwhile the role of the clerk of works, traditionally a key component in ensuring adequate oversight through the complex process of construction, is all but obsolete.
This has inevitably led to a race to the bottom across the sector as contractors compete on dangerously low profit margins while accepting wholesale transfer of risk for the project, are putting all qualitative aspects of the project continuously under threat. The outcomes of this have come to light through a series of high profile building failures, it’s fair to say not just in the housing sector, but which reached a horrific apogee in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2016. This tragedy brought into sharp focus the crisis of poor quality in construction through fragmented responsibility in the process of oversight, and of an industry struggling to keep pace with the increasingly complex changes in regulation while constantly under pressure to reduce costs, without the capacity or culture to invest in more productive modes of operation.
Meanwhile, in a reversal of the trend of the past century, levels of home ownership have recently been in decline as prices have climbed and access to mortgage finance has hardened, leaving those not able to access a dwindling supply of social housing only able to rent from a poorly regulated private sector formed mostly of amateur and absent buy-to-let landlords.
It is now widely accepted across the political spectrum that housing delivery needs to increase to meet the nation’s needs. In previous periods of housing crisis such complex and chronic problems provided a catalyst for positive government policy and enthusiastic private sector endeavour to align and provide the housing needed but often with negative consequences. Fortunately there are also signs that the government recognises that the focus on increased numbers also needs to address issues of affordability, quality, skills and sustainability. It is increasingly understood that failure to address these factors will not only prevent the delivery of more homes but also ensure that those built, will fail in delivering the housing the nation needs to enable future prosperity and good health.
Fig 1 Statistics on home ownership and rental trends from the Office for National Statistics1
Fig 1 Statistics on home ownership and rental trends from the Office for National Statistics1


If a housing revolution is to be forged from industrialisation then it is surely important to learn the lessons of those that went before.
The UK has a rich history...

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