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Modular for Life: Elite and the Environment

2nd October 2018

building exterior

In our last blog, we asked technical manager Jamie Gee to talk us through how bespoke modular buildings can help to futureproof the UK’s built environment against the warmer summers that the government’s Environmental Audit Committee expects to become a regular occurrence.

But as well as being suitable for the changing climate, modular buildings can also help to keep a building’s environmental impact to a minimum, both during the construction and installation phases and once in use too.

Jamie has once again given us his expert view on how our bespoke modular buildings can outperform their traditional counterparts.

On the factory floor

Our off-site construction methods begin paying environment dividends long before anyone crosses the threshold of their new modular home, classroom or office: the point of difference begins in the factory.

Jamie explains: “We work with architects and designers well ahead of the manufacturing stage, so if a customer is working towards a particular sustainability target or building performance objective – such as a BREEAM rating – we can ensure that this is factored into the design from the very beginning.

“Working in tightly controlled factory conditions ensures that the end product exactly matches the architects’ vision for the project, from the materials used to the finishing touches.

“With traditional construction there is a very long time from design to completion, and unfortunately some contractors do cut corners, opting for cheaper materials which can compromise the performance of the finished project. That simply does not happen with off-site construction – so what you specify is what you get.”

What’s more, as the majority of the work for modular buildings is undertaken in our factory, there are fewer deliveries required to the project site, which reduces emissions for the project overall.

But it’s once the modular building is in place that the various elements of the design and construction begin to truly show their environmental credentials.

The heat is on

One area where modular construction – in particular bespoke modular buildings – can make a big difference to carbon emissions is heating.

Jamie comments: “There are several ways that we can ensure our modular builds reduce carbon emissions. Firstly, we can guarantee that our buildings retain heat better, meaning that less power is needed to keep the home or classroom warm. We achieve this by carefully specifying insulative materials. Modern insulation has a lower thermal conductivity value, so we can achieve better u-values without having to increase the thickness of the building envelope.

“We also work to reduce air leaks which can cause heat loss in a building, so again less power is needed to keep it warm. We can address this in the design stage: we identify ‘danger zones’ which have the potential for air leaks and ensure that there are no gaps – and our off-site construction method means we can monitor these details once the building is being built.

“However, while we can mitigate the heat loss of a building, we know that the UK’s changeable climate means that buildings will require heating! Even here, we can select the heating system at the specification stage to achieve the best possible performance. As standard, we use an air source heat pump based system which can operate up to 300 per cent more efficiently than other similar systems.”

Elite’s approach to energy

As well as making the building operate efficiently, we also use renewable energy sources wherever possible.

Jamie explains: “Our most common solution, and the easiest to implement, is the use of solar PV panels, which can be mounted directly onto the roof of the finished building and connected to an inverter inside. The use of solar panels, together with our other environmental measures, means that our buildings can be entirely carbon neutral, or even (in ideal conditions) carbon negative.

“We do whatever we can to keep energy wastage and usage down: that’s why we specify certain products within the building’s design from the very beginning.

“For example, instantaneous water heaters reduce the amount of energy lost compared to energy wasted from the constant heating of stored water in a hot water boiler or cylinder storage system.

“We also specify LED light fittings as standard across all our modular buildings as they are much more efficient that fluorescent light fittings. And when combined with automatic presence detection control and automatic daylight dimming, we can achieve significant improvements in emissions.”

If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly modular home, office, classroom or healthcare building, our eco concept is the perfect example of how off-site construction can achieve the best possible performance for a building – click here to find out more, or  contact us today.