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Modular for Life: Off-Site Construction Works, Whatever the Weather

3rd September 2018

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The long period of warm weather this summer, when the mercury regularly soared to over 30 degrees Celsius, has led to discussions about the suitability of UK homes and workplaces for habitation during hot spells.

The government’s Environmental Audit Committee, chaired by Labour MP Mary Creagh, called for measures to be adopted to ensure that the UK’s population is sufficiently prepared for increased temperatures – including changing building regulations to prevent overheating.

We asked our technical manager Jamie Gee to talk us through how modular construction can create homes, offices and classrooms that are comfortable and liveable – no matter the weather.

Modular buildings: ready for the future

In many ways, offsite construction is better-suited to withstanding contrasting weather conditions than traditional building methods, which in recent years have tended towards making buildings as airtight as possible. And older buildings, which traditionally prioritised natural light with the use of large windows, can be too cold in winter and very warm in summer.

Jamie explained: “If we are going to regularly experience warmer summers and cool winters, our modular buildings need to be able to perform well in both conditions. Modular buildings are better suited to meet the changing needs of the UK population as there is lots of flexibility in the design and construction of these modern buildings.

“For example, if building regulations do change in response to the government’s recommendations, homes and classrooms that are currently being built using traditional methods will find themselves lagging behind the regulations.

“But off-site construction is a much quicker and more controlled process: it takes us just a few weeks to finish a modular home, and we can make tweaks to the design up to the point that the structure leaves our factory. In fact, even once we have fully installed our modular buildings, there is the option of revisiting the project at a later date to add extra elements such as solar shading or making changes to the cladding, which could improve the building’s performance.”

Achieving thermal comfort in modular buildings

What’s more, Jamie stressed the ease of improving thermal comfort in modular classrooms, healthcare facilities, offices and even homes compared to traditionally built structures.

Jamie continued: “We can improve the comfort of living and workspaces by replacing the air within the building with fresh air, and that means carefully designing the modular building’s ventilation system. Wherever possible, we use a natural or hybrid ventilation system, which means that we give careful consideration to the positioning of the openings on the external leaves and in particular whether we can achieve a cross-flow of air.

“We also use solar shading to minimise overheating, and we would work with our customers to ensure that the modular home or classroom is positioned in an optimal spot for shading and where the glazing is positioned on the walls and roof.

“Where it is difficult or impractical for a building to be fully in the shade, we would make recommendations about artificial shadings – for example, the addition of a brise soleil, the inclusion of solar reactive glazing, or even something as simple as including blinds in the final design.”

Jamie also advised that in areas that are likely to suffer solar overheating – in particular for multi-occupant spaces, such as modular healthcare units or modular classrooms – it is possible to specify an air conditioning system that would improve comfort within the building. This is much easier to incorporate into a modular building than it is to retrofit an existing traditionally-built structure with air-con.

Health and safety and hot weather

Hot weather isn’t just an issue for the end-user of a building though: during this summer’s hot spell, the NHS identified those who do physical activity, such as labourers, as being most at risk of suffering health issues because of the heat.

This is much more of a concern for on-site construction workers, who would have to spend hours working outdoors, whatever the weather. The Federation of Master Builders has highlighted this as a particular concern, and has advice on how construction workers can stay safe in hot weather.

But modular construction happens in carefully controlled factory conditions, which makes it much safer for those producing the buildings too.

To find out more about how our bespoke modular homes, classrooms and healthcare facilities can help to ensure that the UK is prepared for the future, contact us today.