Turning Up The Heat On Modular Construction

31st January, 2022

Luciana Kola, Marketing Manager at Uponor, explains why pipework for both domestic services and heating systems are ideal products for factory-based construction.

The pressure is increasing for the construction sector to adopt new, more sustainable, technologies that meet the demands of tomorrow. The benefits of offsite construction are now being realised by many, and modular construction could play a major role in reducing our carbon footprint as factory assembly allows production methods to be more streamlined resulting in higher efficiencies and less waste.

Pipework for both domestic services and heating systems are ideal products for factory-based construction. By using products such as manifold plumbing, the number of fittings in a system can be reduced which both saves on cost and minimises the potential risk of leakage. The little offsite waste that is produced can also be closely controlled, helping to avoid contamination with other building products and allow for the circular use of materials.

Many climate change studies suggest that indoor temperatures will rise above the comfort threshold of 26°C soon. This means that the energy needed for cooling will exceed the energy required for heating. To overcome this, future-oriented temperature control must include both heating and cooling while also being as energy-efficient as possible. 

Radiant systems can be installed under the floor or behind a wall or ceiling, which makes them the perfect fit for modular assemblies where space can be limited. However, these installations not only take up less room than convectional systems, but they are also easier to use for cooling too.

Hydronic cooling systems pass water through the pipes which absorb the heat within a room cooling the environment and preventing overheating, even in today’s well-insulated buildings. The system’s temperature controls prevent the build-up of heat during warmer periods by reducing the degree to which building mass heats up. The result is that surfaces are kept cooler and the internal ambient air temperature remains more comfortable for the building’s occupants.

Radiant emitter systems can be controlled by a dedicated thermostat which gives the optimum thermal profile for an individual room, or zone’s needs. By being able to regulate the temperature of a specific area, radiant heating systems can reduce the amount of energy required, providing a more efficient way of heating or cooling particularly for large residential modular buildings or offices. In fact, it is estimated that these systems are between 20-25% more energy efficient than convectional heating.

As radiant heating systems generally have a larger area heat emitter than traditional radiators, they also work more efficiently in conjunction with renewable heating technologies such as heat pumps, which give out heat at lower temperatures over longer periods of time. In addition to their green benefits, heat pumps are becoming more compact in design and can be easily connected to a radiant system, making them ideal for pre-assembled volumetric buildings.

We are now seeing more construction projects benefitting from the advantages that modular building can bring. Uponor was recently involved in supplying the pipework and manifolds for the world’s tallest modular building in Croydon which features 546 apartments in two towers of 38 and 44 storeys. Due to the efficiency of offsite construction, Uponor was able to assist in delivering 1,500 completed modules in just 24 weeks. Volumetric construction such as this, where modules are pre-fitted with plumbing, heating or electrics, then commissioned before leaving the factory, are becoming increasingly popular. Efficient production is achieved through careful planning and scheduling, while design flexibility allows the best use of space on delivery vehicles, which further assists in reducing carbon emissions.

Modular building has advanced considerably over the years to become a truly ‘modern’ method of construction that could go a long way in meeting today’s sustainability challenges. As a sector, we must rethink our methods of construction, as well as considering the environmental qualities of the systems we specify, so we can all create real change. And there is no reason why we cannot start today.

To read the full article, go to Offsite Magazine

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