In the Nineteenth Century our forebears used a wood based search engine, called a Catalogue: and, in the days before Amazon, it was surprising what you could get. Farmers in New Zealand (and anywhere else for that matter) could buy a Church in a crate from Isaac Dixon & Co, whose 1896 catalogue offered to box it all up, ship it over (in as little as four months (the Amazon Prime of its day)), and drop it off for collection “at your local railway station”. A top of the range, 500 seat church cost £875 in new money, but you had to dig your own foundations: and if you wanted lights and heat that was an extra £70. For the more ambitious, you could also buy a School in a crate, a Clubhouse (gin and tonic extra) and even a Billiard Hall (cues and balls included)…all boxed up and delivered to your local station platform.
So there’s nothing new about prefabricating public infrastructure…its all about public need.
Schools and Hospitals
A hundred years ago colonists scattered across the British Empire didn’t have much if anything by way of local builders, never mind materials to build with, but they still needed Schools and Hospitals (perhaps not Billiard Halls but, hey, everyone needs a hobby): and today Public Infrastructure Projects have rarely been so important, think Nightingale Hospitals, COVID Vaccination Facilities and Schools. But, with such unprecedented public pressures currently created by the COVID pandemic, how can we hope to deliver to those needs at the pace required?
Just Imagine you could construct a fully functioning Intensive Care Unit inside a month. It’s not science fiction… it’s science fact. Modular construction has never been so important as it is now… Building on more than a hundred years’ experience.
Facing up to the Future
Working through the Crown Commercial Service (www.crowncommercial.gov.uk) the UK Government has now introduced a Modular Building Service to provide public sector bodies with facilities to buy or lease pre-designed, pre-fabricated and ready to install modular buildings: everything from Schoolrooms to Hospital Wards as well as Housing, Defence Installations, Commercial Units and Retail Shops. So-called “Framework Prices” are fixed for two years with design minima to help ensure high product quality. Social value and sustainability are important too: customers can ask suppliers to tailor the product to match their individual priorities.
Just like other Governments and private construction companies across the globe, the UK is waking up (again) to the full potential of Modular Construction: a ready-made and more effective alternative to costly and drawn out traditional building techniques.
Low Cost, High Quality
Public Buildings and Facilities created using advanced Modular systems are 30% lower in price than conventional equivalents, delivering space, people and technology at the core of the asset itself: with added inbuilt digital technologies, think life support systems in those new Nightingale Hospitals put together in less than a month. And Modular Construction also typically re-uses 80% of its components, which fits in perfectly with the demands of the Circular Economy (www.oecd.org): prolonging the useful lifespan of materials by combining modularity with durability and reducing embodied energy.
To secure the public services we all need in these difficult times, we have to learn to build better, faster and smarter: and that has inevitably increased reliance on Modular Construction technologies by public bodies across the planet. The latest UK design initiative is just part of a much larger process.
Modulex is setting up the world’s largest steel modular buildings factory based in India. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of fast-evolving technologies and deliver at pace to meet the evolving needs of the community.