Construction cranes in the center of Berlin
Busà Photography | Moment | Getty Images
Whether it’s futuristic skyscrapers glistening in the sunshine to erect terraces built over 200 years ago, buildings come in all shapes, sizes and styles. The techniques and methods for developing these structures are just as varied.
In the UK, where space can be tight and housing demand high, the role of modular buildings, put together before being installed in an off-site location, could be very important in the years to come.
It was announced earlier this week that Newham Council Cabinet in east London had approved plans for a modular system that would “expand the potential for building new homes on existing council blocks”.
In a statement released Monday, Populo Living, the council’s wholly-owned housing association, said the first phase of the program could create over 200 new homes for rent at affordable prices.
The modular project would focus on the concept of “airspace development”. Put simply, this refers to using empty airspace over existing structures as a location for new housing stock.
In a report on the project from Newham’s cabinet, the “airspace model” was described as “using modular or external constructions”, which resulted in homes being delivered more quickly and with minimal disruption to residents.
The authorities in the region hope that houses built in this way will be energy-efficient and built according to sustainable “CO2-free standards”.
The idea of using pre-assembled or prefabricated houses in the UK goes back many years. Large numbers were developed to address a significant housing shortage after the end of World War II.
Newham’s plans are the latest example of how local authorities in the UK combine this established idea with the “airspace model”.
Earlier this year, 11 factory-assembled apartments on stilts were installed using cranes over an open-air car park in the St. George neighborhood of Bristol, a city in south-west England.
The structures were designed by a company called Zed Pods and have a number of sustainable features, including roof-mounted solar panels, triple-glazed windows, and solar-assisted heat pumps.
3D printed schools
One of the advantages of the modular case is that in many cases it can be developed quite quickly.
Another option for companies to produce structures quickly is to use 3D printing technology.
On Wednesday it was announced that 14Trees, a joint venture between LafargeHolcim and CDC Group owned by the UK government, is “using 3D printing technology on a large scale to build affordable, low-carbon homes and schools in Africa”.
The program starts in Malawi. CNBC has reached out to LafargeHolcim to confirm when the program will begin.
The speed at which the buildings can be built is an advantage of implementing the system.
According to LafargeHolcim, the walls of a prototype house were built from 14Trees in 12 hours. If “conventional methods” had been used, the company claims, it would have taken nearly four days. In addition, the walls of a prototype school were printed in 18 hours “as opposed to several days”.
A number of 3D printed developments have been completed around the world in recent years.
This summer, a concrete house was built using a 3D printer in Antwerp, Belgium, while Arup and CLS Architetti, an Italian company, were involved in a project in 2018 using a 3D printer to build a concrete house. in Milan. According to Arup, the structure took only 48 hours to print.