When originally developed over 50 years ago, prefabricated property presented a number of challenges and, after a short period of time, the concept was discarded after earning a mixed reputation.
However, prefabricated or modular homes have been making a comeback in a big way and are now attracting an increased amount of attention in the building industry. This is partly due to the fact that such modular homes now display the latest in green architecture and technology and are focused on using sustainable or recycled or recyclable materials.
Prefabricated construction is when a building’s large-scale modularised components are pre-made in a manufacturing facility not on site, so that they can be rapidly assembled on-site.
Whilst the rationale for this may have originally been a combination of rising labour costs and a shortage of skilled construction site labour, other advantages of prefabrication soon became apparent. In addition to addressing these issues, modular construction has subsequently been shown to result in a higher-quality building delivered with more predictable costs, and in a shorter time frame.
Such buildings also have the marked advantage of being more environmentally friendly.
Some of the key reasons for the use of prefabricated buildings include:
Reduction in material waste
This is one of the main advantages of modular homes as the prefabrication of trusses, frames and other parts can reduce waste by 52%. This is primarily due to the fact that, as modular homes are built according to specific measurements in off-site factories, there’s no need for excess material; this reduces building waste significantly.
It follows, therefore, that as modular homes are also assembled according to strict guidelines, they also reduce waste on site. Construction and renovation waste accounts for around 40% of landfills, a reduction in waste of this scale is a major attraction for the construction industry and also for eco-conscious homeowners.
Eco-friendly design standards
The design of modular homes is at the cutting edge of eco-friendly architectural design with a variety of recyclable, regenerative or eco-friendly materials being used; these include bamboo floors, VOC-free paint and rainwater collection systems being used in homes which are able to attain LEED silver, gold, or platinum standards.
Reduced energy bills
The energy consumption of a typically self-sufficient modular home can be reduced by up to 72%, a quite outstanding figure.
This is due to the fact that they are typically powered through solar panels, thereby reducing energy requirements from the regular grids. Homeowners can also choose to utilise energy batteries used for storing excess solar energy which enables a home to use only the solar-generated electricity. In some cases, prefabricated homes can sell any excess solar energy back to the main grid.
Many of the eco-friendly modular home companies use Structural Insulating Panel System (“SIPS”) for insulation which results in using reduced operational energy. Top quality insulation should keep occupants warm in winter and cool in summer and is key for energy efficiency, resulting in a need to spend less energy heating and cooling the home.
Property owners can install cladding made of cost-effective composite panels which can improve a home’s insulation significantly or add double glazed windows and doors. Such additions not only reduce energy consumption, but they also improve acoustics inside homes and reduce noise pollution.
Finally, prefabricated homes usually use low-energy light bulbs, such as LEDs or CFLs, which are more durable and energy-efficient..
Water cost savings
By providing homes with up to 90% of their hot water, solar-based water heating systems can dramatically reduce a household’s energy consumption for heating water.
Furthermore, modular homes are designed to reduce heat loss from pipes by grouping together areas that need water such as the bathroom and kitchen, resulting in shorter water pipe runs and reduced heat loss.
Reduced disruption to the building site and surrounding community
The neighbouring community around a building site will be less impacted by noise, dust and pollution if much of the heavy construction work can be completed off-site. Fewer visits by large vehicles and shorter on-site working hours are other benefits.
Safer working conditions
Building prefabricated homes results in less cutting, drilling and working in potentially dangerous situations when on site—thereby making safer working conditions for on-site labour, indirectly reducing employer costs and perhaps attracting more to work in the industry.
As with any new strategy aiming to enhance the performance and sustainability of a project, prefabricated construction methods must be implemented and supervised correctly in order to meet industry and consumer expectations.
Prefabricated or modular construction undoubtedly has the potential to help the building industry meet its ever-more-ambitious and increasingly urgent sustainability goals. If the standards that have been set are adhered to, almost certainly prefabricated building can deliver greater environmental and social sustainability benefits than conventional construction.