Modular – The Future of Construction

8th March, 2022

Modular technology is ever evolving and to help keep pace with this fast-moving sector, Modular Matters demonstrates how to tackle industry challenges through a range of project case studies, innovative architecture and building design together with net zero and future transformation. Presenting an insight into the future of construction, this event represented a great opportunity to gain industry intelligence and network with those who are at the forefront of the volumetric modular sector.

This years Modular Matters Conference & Exhibition took place as a two-day event at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham. On day one – Tuesday 15 February – delegates heard in expert detail how volumetric modular technology is being used across a range of vertical construction markets including commercial, education and healthcare. Day two – Wednesday 16 February - focused on housing projects including private residential, build to rent and affordable housing; collectively creating huge interest in offsite technology.

Peter Rankin, Head of Energy and Environmental Standards (Building Regulations) for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities delivered his keynote presentation "Our journey towards net zero – what it means for the off-site sector" at the start of day one which explored the governments new regulations to help move the country towards net zero and what they mean for the offsite and modular construction sector. These regulations include: CO2 emissions from new build homes must be around 30% lower than current standards, other new buildings, including offices and shops, must be reduced by 27%. Whilst new buildings must also be fitted with electric vehicle charging infrastructure, where there are suitable parking spaces. The Government also introduced new regulations to improve ventilation, to reduce the spread of airborne infection in new non-residential buildings, and to reduce overheating in new residential buildings.

Following Peter, Richard Hipkiss from the Modular and Portable Building Association (MPBA) discussed the facts about Volumetric Manufactured Buildings (VMB) and how a confused construction chain could be slowing progression. Andy King (also from the MPBA) then offered a manufacturers perspective on VMB including do consultants requesting embodied carbon figures all want the same information, do they all know what they are asking for? Can a VMB be benchmarked for embodied carbon in the same way as traditional building materials? Is there a better way to compare construction methods?

The next session showcased some award-winning projects including 'Dinton Activity Centre' with HLM Architect's Alex Pullin's presentation of 'Designing for Sustainability using Modern Methods of Construction'. Paul Ruddick from Reds10 then outlined the company's work on Imperial War Museums' new London staff hub; with special focus on the process and innovation employed. Paul discussed how the project pushed design to a higher level and truly showed the quality that can be achieved when architecture is embedded in the modular construction process from the start.

The afternoon session was 'kicked-off' by Scott Tacchi, Head of MCC for the Department for Education who delivered his keynote presentation "DfE MMC – Following 6 years of MMC School delivery the observations are…." which looked in detail at the DfE's MMC delivery for its school's programmes in 2015, where they are in their fifth generation of offsite delivering and approaching £2bn of spent – what have we seen? What current challenged need to be addressed and what is their future?

Delegates then heard a number of case studies including: 'The Valentine' a student accommodation building on Gant's Hill which was presented by Richard Foxley from HTA Design. Andrew Tindale from Hawkins\Brown and Simon Elliott from Premier Modular then co-presented their collaboration on TEDI-London, a temporary home in Canada Water whilst Emily King, Spatial Initiative discussed New Horizons and Southwest Exeter New School; two examples of a standardised approach with bespoke outcomes.

Closing out day one, Robert Townsend of Wernick Group looked at how healthcare facilities are benefiting from standardised modular design whilst Dean Hill from Thurston Group delivered a case study on their extension for 'Tameside General Hospital' which was delivered in record time to help fulfil patient numbers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Opening day two, a sold-out audience heard from Giles Carter, CEO of ilke Homes and their ilke ZERO initiative to meeting the Net Zero housing challenge. Followed by Matt Evans, COO of TopHat who delivered a case study on their award-winning project for Medway Council - 'White Road' an exemplary showcase of offsite construction. Rounding up the first session of the day was Victoria Moore of Volumetric Modular who explored how Modular technology is now being used to tremendous effect to alleviate the homeless crisis. Designed and developed by VOLUMETRIC™ – Victoria gave an in-depth insight into the award-winning concept and execution of MODULHAUS™ – a new concept in volumetric modular homes for rough sleepers.

Following a social/ affordable housing themed morning, the programme then turned to focus on build-to-rent projects including Greenford Quay – The UK's Largest Purpose Designed Rental Community which was delivered by Greystar's Design Director, Neal Shah.

Michael Swiszczowski, Chapman Taylor explained why modular is perfect for build-to-rent by showcasing their collaboration with leading global off-site manufacturer CIMC. Chapman Taylor have developed an innovative and high-quality modular residential format for the UK market. Using volumetric, off-site technology, Chapman Taylor has designed multifamily apartment layouts for CIMC's patented modular system, which is capable of quickly and flexibly delivering 1, 2 and 3-bed apartments.

The hard-hitting build-to-rent session was closed by CEO of Legal & General Homes – Rosie Toogood who gave the delegates an insight into the modular approach they have taken.

In the final session, delegates heard from market-leading manufacturers on private residential projects including Wayne Yeomans from M-AR Offsite who looked back at their modular town houses project -'Wigan Pier' whilst Andy Cornaby, MD of ModPods International showcased their Broadlands Housing, Webster Court Project and Graeme Culliton who explored Modular Homes and BoKlok – a joint venture between Ikea and Skanska who have built over 14,000 sustainable homes across the Nordics.

For more information on Modular Matters and to view the event photo gallery go to:

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