Modular Buildings

A modular building buing constructed

With an expected increase in world population to some 8.5 billion people by 2026 and the need for ever-increasing living standards, coupled with the imperative of sustainable and resilient improvements in the built environment, a cost-effective ‘green’ construction sector is in high demand. It is well-appreciated that the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), and in particular, those that allow monitoring, control, and reverse engineering (‘plug and play’ structures) can transform the industry. Together with the advent of off-site manufacturing technologies and digital tools, modular building construction systems should be higher up in the sustainability agenda fostering quality, flexibility, adaptation, and resilience. The Farmer Review places modular construction in the spotlight as part of the solution to the building industry’s ills.

Off-site manufacture and modular building construction, characterised by quality control, speed of construction, and minimal waste, are two key activities that go hand-in-hand in enabling a step-change in the construction sector. They allow for scheduling maintenance, repairs, dismantling and in parallel reduces the overall cost of ownership and increasing the potential for sale before reaching the stage of irreversible damages. However, only 7% of the UK’s buildings are modular. The wider adoption of steel modular building systems (steel MBS) in particular, is slow due to a number of significant drawbacks, to name a few: (i) the non-standardised nature of modular structural products; each manufacturer is producing different systems of components and assemblies, unlike traditional structural components (e.g., hot-formed steel sections are well standardised), (ii) the complexity of structural components (sub-assemblies and systems) design; and (iii) the low inherent robustness owed to the thin-walled nature the light gauge steel (LGS).

This project focuses on steel volumetric and timber panelised Modular Building Systems. We develop algorithms to synthesise the most structural layouts to enable efficient design taking into consideration installation and dismantling procedures.