Is modular the future of sustainable construction?

For over a decade, sustainability has been one of the biggest buzzwords in British construction. But with less than thirty years until the UK’s legally-enshrined 2050 deadline for achieving net zero carbon, now is the time to take action. Nick Cowley, Managing Director of Euramax Solutions, argues that modular construction can make a major contribution. 

There’s no question that UK construction, and construction worldwide, has an enormous environmental impact.  

In recent years, businesses across the sector have gone to great lengths to cut their carbon footprints – but there’s still a very long way to go.  

The UK Green Building Council estimates that British construction produces around 400 million tonnes of waste materials every year – and globally, buildings and construction are responsible for 36% of energy use, and 39% of total carbon emissions.  

The stark reality is that we’re major contributors to the environmental crisis – which means that between now and 2050, we’ve got a lot of work to do.  

But while that might sound like an incredibly daunting prospect, it’s equally possible to see it in a different light – that as the sector with the biggest impact, we also have the biggest potential to make positive change.  

Making the case for modular 

Our obligations to act on climate change aren’t just ethical – increasingly, they’re legal, too.  

From 2025, the government’s Future Homes Standard is likely to bring sweeping changes to how our sector operates – and as we get closer to the government’s 2050 deadline for achieving net zero emissions, we can expect sustainability legislation to become even more stringent. 

So how do we rise to this challenge? What should the sector do to achieve that urgently needed green transformation? 

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for a problem of this magnitude and complexity. 

But at Euramax Solutions, we believe modular construction has huge potential to help radically change how building impacts the environment. 

Why? Because it offers multiple ways to reduce the overall carbon footprint of a construction project. 

It allows builds to be completed in up to half the time compared to traditional methods – using up to 67% less energy, and producing up to 90% less waste. 

According to Forbes, only 7.5% of UK buildings were constructed using modular methods in 2017-2018. 

But imagine if modular construction became the norm – those waste and energy savings would multiply dramatically, and make a vital contribution to cutting the sector’s overall impact. 

A game-changer for sustainable construction 

Of course, carbon footprint isn’t just calculated based on the materials and energy that goes into producing a building, or installing it on site – it takes account of everything up to and including the number of delivery lorries a project puts on the road. 

Since so much of the work that goes into making a modular building takes place in a factory, that means modular projects can require up to 90% fewer site deliveries – another major benefit. 

As modular building becomes more popular, it’s likely that the number of factory sites specialising in it will increase – which could allow modular components to be made more locally, and further reduce the need for carbon-intensive long-haul deliveries as a result. 

Modular is still a relatively young field. But in years to come, I think we’ll see an increase in modular building components being recycled, too, which could be a real game-changer for sustainability in construction. 

A long road ahead – but we’re going in the right direction 

The good news is that modular construction appears to be taking off around the world. 

According to the UK Commission on Employment & Skills, the British modular construction market has the potential to grow from £1.5bn to £6bn. 

At Euramax Solutions, we’re seeing rising demand from modular construction companies, and already supply some of the sector’s biggest names thanks to our cutting-edge lineside delivery system, that means everything our clients need arrive in dedicated stillages, exactly when they need it. 

Recent years have also seen the construction of Europe’s tallest modular building, the 28-storey Apex House in Wembley, which took just a year to build, with up to eleven apartment units installed each day. 

On the global scale, Fortune Business Insights expects modular to be worth over $107bn by 2026, up from $64bn in 2018. 

There’s no question – there’s still a long way to go. But with people embracing the potential of modular construction all around the world, we’re optimistic about the future. 

For more information on Euramax Solutions, its products and the sectors it supplies to, visit www.euramaxuk.com or call 01226 361639. 

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