‘Advancements in Modern Prefabricated and Modular Buildings, R&D Forum 2019’ took place on 3 October and featured presentations covering international and local initiatives.
An online talk, ‘International Practices in Modular Construction’ by Professor Mark Lawson of the University of Surrey, UK, provided an overview of the UK market, which includes key players from Urban Splash to Legal & General. Professor Lawson outlined the most common types of modular project, including four-sided structures with load bearing walls, as well as specialist modules for stairs and lifts for services, containers and bathroom pods. Effective solutions included corner supported modules with substantial edge beams and infill walls, while other systems showcased included external structures into which modules are placed. Professor Lawson looked at common challenges, such as how to tie modules together and resist (and appropriately transfer) horizontal loads. Solutions included bracing straps at the corners of modules or rigid welded frames, the latter particularly useful in buildings such as hotels where whole facades might be glazed.
In summing up, he pointed out the need for a degree of standardisation in terms of aspects of offsite builds such as module dimensions and connectivity. Connection design to connect modules multi-directionally pointed to ease of installation for projects going forward, he said. Finally, in the UK context, he said long term policies were needed to encourage manufacturers to invest in production.
A presentation by Prebuilt founder Rob Colquhoun showcased the results of leveraging the smarts of academia and industry on an air force pilot accommodation project. By breaking up the design into standardised pieces and fast tracking certain elements of the scheme, the timing of the project build was contained within around 16 weeks.
Matthew Shields, Director of Acoustic Logic, outlined sound implications of offsite builts and the importance of rigorous modelling and testing, rather than using an “off the shelf” approach to solutions. Examples of acoustic considerations included the interaction of bathroom pods with intertenancy walls or floors.
A presentation by the University of Southern Queensland’s Research Centre for Future Materials showcased innovations including shape memory polymers, which are able to undergo shape change as a result of external stimuli.
Other presentations covered a range of topics, such as: the application of circular economy thinking to a modular prototype; prefab facade systems; recent developments in digital engineering in construction projects; and the design of modular steel buildings under extreme loading conditions.■