Turning on to off-site construction

How can off-site manufacture present a green benefit to the construction industry, asks Danielle Gibson of Manchester-based Space Group .

Techniques in the off-site manufacturing field have been pioneered in Scandinavia, where modular structures are common, and are designed so the client has a scheme created using sustainable materials and can be assembled on site rapidly, vastly reducing carbon emissions and waste associated with traditional builds.

Space Group has teamed up with Swedish company, Trivselhus, a factory manufacturer of modern timber homes, to gain from their knowledge and expertise in this area, using their understanding of off-site timber manufacture to inform our creation of our own modular homes, Spacehus, which we will explore later in Green Week.

By applying the principles of off-site manufacture to sectors other than housing – education, healthcare, leisure – we can create a raft of 'green' buildings that ensure clients are able to get the end result appropriate to their eco aspirations.

Spacescola is our schools concept, and we are currently at concept design stage in this sector. The modular approach has great environmental benefits across the life cycle of the building. Firstly, it cuts down construction site time on a lengthy process. We can achieve this by offering local authorities an 'off-the-shelf' product, which can be adapted to individual needs, plugging in different modules as required. This idea of putting in more thought at the early stages of the process and spending less time on site again cuts down on carbon waste for the school and its council.

The fabric of the building is eco-friendly, and our 'kit of parts' concept is designed using cross-laminated timber from sustainable sources, which provides an airtight building envelope. Other materials used in the building are sustainable and ensure that the school is provided with a building that is highly energy efficient, reducing energy bills – a clear long term eco benefit.

Finally, thanks to Building Information Modelling, the scheme design used during pre-construction and construction moves to an 'as built' model after construction is completed, which allows us to carry out regular maintenance checks and ensure that the building continues to operate efficiently.

Our work in these sectors is more nascent and we are currently interrogating end users to determine the best fit for our ideas. In healthcare, the modular approach can clearly benefit those who require extra care accommodation, with buildings being assembled quickly and adapted to different users needs by adding or removing different rooms, which has clear eco benefits to the estate as it becomes flexible and adaptable to meet with the requirements of the accommodation, without the need for a re-examination of the landscape that would potentially destroy the area and cause more pollution.

In leisure, we see the eco benefits as similar to the modular homes concept, with a development being created rapidly, reducing time on site, but instead of appealing to the homebuyer market, seeking out holidaymakers looking for a 'staycation' somewhere that is eco-friendly yet contemporary, and makes the most of passive energy sources to create a healthy environment.

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