Construction methods: modular

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Modular construction is touted as the future of the building industry, but while the sector is rapidly growing in some areas, there are still obstacles to overcome. Alex Hyams of Alinea with Ed McCann of Expedition Engineering and Hugh Ferguson assess the pros and cons of volumetric modular offsite construction

01 / Introduction

Is modular construction the future for the UK building industry as its supporters have long maintained, or is it a hopeless effort to translate factory techniques into an unsuitable industry? The question has divided opinion since the benefits of modular were hyped up 20 years ago. 

In the wake of the 1998 Egan report, Rethinking Construction, enthusiasts claimed the quality, speed and cost savings achievable with factory production of modular units offered irresistible benefits to the building industry. The anticipated revolution did not happen, and those who experimented found the benefits did not always materialise. 

The pattern has all the hallmarks of the Gartner hype cycle for emerging technologies, which shows the way technology is adopted, with the “peak of inflated expectations” followed by the “trough of disillusionment”

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