Make UK: Modular SBE0051
Written evidence from Make UK: Modular
Dear Mr Dunne,
Make Modular is the newly formed voice of ‘volumetric’ modular, representing the most advanced form of modular construction in the United Kingdom.
Make Modular very much welcomes your committee’s inquiry on the sustainability of the built environment and in particular your focus on the routes to net zero and low carbon construction materials in the context of the urgent need to meet the Government’s 300,000 homes target and future building standards.
‘Volumetric’ modular is pioneering the next generation of house and apartment building. It enables the building of new homes at scale, with inspiring design, cutting edge technology for both construction and living, creating the most sustainable buildings on earth.
Make Modular believes that there is no greater challenge facing the construction industry than achieving net zero, a task that is now urgent for the country and planet.
Volumetric construction provides the best opportunity within the construction sector to meet these targets and we will be urging Government to extend its ambition for the sector as a whole.
We are working in partnership with Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, with which I know you are already familiar. We have outlined below views on some of the key aspects of your committee’s inquiry.
I would very much appreciate the opportunity to brief you further on advanced modular construction, and to discuss these issues with members of the committee in more detail.
How can materials be employed to reduce the carbon impact of new buildings, including efficient heating and cooling, and which materials are most effective at reducing embodied carbon?
In terms of the construction of volumetric modular, the material used for the core structure varies across manufacturers. Some are using timber, occasionally concrete, while some use steel.
While there are some differences in the carbon impact of these materials, all of them significantly outperform those still used by the traditional construction sector.
Through precision manufacturing and the use of high-grade insulation materials, homes built in volumetric modules achieve a better energy performance than a typical traditionally built home.
Volumetric modular construction has demonstrated that it is willing and able to deliver to higher standards right now. Recent examples include the delivery of zero carbon homes in the London Borough of Greenwich and four hundred homes which will achieve an Energy Performance Certificate – A at Selby, Bristol and Kent in 2021.
These homes achieve zero carbon or EPC A through the use of solar panels, air source heat pumps, all built using volumetric modular construction techniques.
A further advantage of the Volumetric sector is that buildings can be manufactured with consistency of quality thanks to the precision engineering possible in a factory environment.
The use of materials can be optimised, reducing waste and creating room to specify higher quality materials. These are stored and installed without exposure to weather, which means there is little to no risk of materials being spoilt.
Scaling up the UK’s volumetric sector would provide rapid capacity for delivering more new homes, houses and apartments that will achieve net-zero.
What role can nature-based materials can play in achieving the Government’s net zero ambition?
Modular construction companies are already using natural materials to drive down the carbon emissions from construction. There are further opportunities to use natural materials and these are being examined, particularly in relation to the role of natural materials in insulation, thermal mass and green roofs.
What methods account for embodied carbon in buildings and how can this be consistently applied across the sector?
We would support those calling for the use lifecycle analysis to the RICS standard. Various providers are able to conduct this analysis, though further improvements to the standards and methodology are welcome.
Should the embodied carbon impact of alternative building materials take into account the carbon cost of manufacture and delivery to site, enabling customers to assess the relative impact of imported versus domestically sourced materials?
The volumetric sector agrees that it is important to look at the whole lifecycle of a product, including constituent elements, in order to deliver meaningful conclusions.
We believe that this should be done on the same basis for existing and alternative products and should include geographical origin (taking into account transportation and factors such as energy use at the production site) and the manner in which the products are produced – for example the use of FSC certified timber or recycled steel.
How well is green infrastructure being incorporated into building design and developments to achieve climate resilience and other benefits?
Higher standards for the fabric of new build construction are being developed but head of implementation of those higher sustainability standards, too many homes will still be built to lower standards than current technologies allow, while retrofit remains costly.
This leaves those building to future standards at a competitive disadvantage. Making relatively small incentives available to developers to build to the highest standards now would be more efficient, saving both Government and consumers money.
Taking into account existing technology and the traditionally long timescales that operate within the traditional construction sector, we believe that Government should bring forward the implementation of higher standards.
We would also like to see greater focus on the construction process. With modular construction, higher productivity and efficiency means up to 80% less waste than with traditional construction and as much as 97% of any waste recycled.
How should we take into account the use of materials to minimise carbon footprint, such as use of water harvesting from the roof, grey water circulation, porous surfaces for hardstanding, energy generation systems such as solar panels?
Make Modular supports those calling for incentives to move away from fossil fuels earlier and the decarbonisation of heat networks.
We believe that new build homes should transition away from natural gas heating as soon as possible through the use of heat pumps, both air source and ground source.
Heat pumps are available now and are a proven technology and should be embraced as such. All new homes should at least be designed for ease of transition to the use of heat pumps.
Further work is needed to better understand the effectiveness and consumer response to grey water recycling and rain harvesting systems. In principle these could prove to be beneficial technologies.
I hope that this input is helpful to the work of your committee and look forward to an early discussion with you.
Chair, Make UK: Modular