Modular construction is like building with LEGOs on steroids

Modular construction is like building with LEGOs on steroids

Do Buildings Have To Be Permanent? wondered Jack Berning in Freethink that said in passing holds lot more stories like this. One question, though. Apart from the Modular construction being like building with LEGOs on steroids, are we back to a certain Nomadism that evolved into Sedentarism of permanent, immovable urbanisation of towns and villages throughout the world?
Could such a trend work its way to the MENA region since it is perhaps best at knowing all about nomadism?   Besides, and in this context, I wonder if building a new capital in Egypt is worth the trouble. In any case, let us see what it is all about.

The picture above is for illustration and is of Weebly

Modular construction is like building with LEGOs on steroids. Here’s how it could transform our cities.

Do Buildings Have To Be Permanent?

We live in a world surrounded by homes, shopping centers, and office buildings built to withstand the test of time, but there’s a problem with this focus on permanence.

In our dynamic and ever-changing world, permanent structures often end up generating massive amounts of waste, whether through demolition or abandonment. In fact, global construction waste is expected to reach over two-billion tons per year by 2025.

That’s why modular construction, a sustainable building technique that dates back to the 1800s, is starting to pick up steam once again. 

What is Modular Construction?

The concept behind modular building is reminiscent of a popular childhood pastime: LEGO sets. The construction process involves transporting multiple prefabricated buildings (the “bricks”) which are connected on-site to form a complete structure.

Global construction waste is expected to reach over two-billion tons per year by 2025.

The prefabricated sections are assembled away from the construction site and can be stacked in various configurations, such as end-to-end or stacked one on top of the other. Once the prefabricated modules have been placed, they’re conjoined to form one cohesive structure. It’s like LEGOs on steroids, using cranes for assembly rather than your fingertips.

And because of the ease with which these structures can be disassembled and transported elsewhere for reuse, modular construction could lead to exponential increases in efficiency in the building industry, if it becomes more widespread. This idea isn’t new, but recent unfoldings in technology, economic demands, and shifting mindsets are opening the door to a new wave of interest. 

The Benefits of Modular Building

Modular construction takes a radically different approach to building. Because much of the process takes place in a factory beforehand, projects can be completed in half the amount of time that traditional methods take, where all work is completed on-site. Factory-based manufacturing helps reduce delays from typical obstacles like bad weather and vandalism.

This time savings means a faster return on investment for landowners. And because prefab buildings use lightweight materials that are less expensive, they have the potential to deliver momentous cost savings. In the European and U.S. markets alone, modular construction could lead to an annual savings of up to $22 billion.

Because much of the process takes place in a factory beforehand, projects can be completed in half the amount of time that traditional methods take.

Perhaps most importantly, modular construction is more sustainable than traditional construction methods. Modular structures can be disassembled and relocated for new uses, minimizing the demand for raw materials and the energy expended to produce those materials. Additionally, building in a factory helps eliminate waste. Inventory can be more easily controlled and building materials protected from damage.

A few more perks — a primarily indoor construction environment leads to improved safety and less accidents for construction crews. It also results in improved air quality within the buildings themselves, as a factory-controlled setting eradicates the potential of moisture getting trapped within walls.

The primary drawback of modular buildings is less old-fashioned character or charm in their outward appearance, but that doesn’t mean the structures aren’t aesthetically pleasing. And despite a common misconception, modular buildings are just as structurally sound as traditional ones — they’re required to meet the same building codes. 

iMod Structures Lead the Way

Although modular construction has yet to be embraced by the masses, one company is paving the way. iMod Structures builds reconfigurable, relocatable buildings all over the world, from Virginia to Guam to Haiti. The company was founded in 2009 by John Diserens and Craig Severance, both former real estate investors.

Their factory, a 100-year-old structure where U.S. naval submarines were previously built, is located on Mare Island in Vallejo, California. iMod’s frames are manufactured in Mexico and China, but at the factory they’re equipped with walls, windows, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

The building process includes transporting the outfitted frames to a construction site, offloading them with a crane, sticking them together (just like LEGOs), and of course, setting up plumbing and electrical.

The secret to iMod’s efficiency is that they only produce a single, rectangular-shaped frame. Its shape and size makes it easy to transport while also providing versatility. For example, the structures are currently being used as classrooms that can adapt to meet the changing demographics of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“Typically, it would take nine to 15 months to manufacture a classroom out in the field,” explains Mike McKibbin, the head of operations for iMod. “We’re doing that in twelve days.”

Once the demand for classrooms in a given region dissipates, iMod can simply disassemble the structure, load up their frames, and transport them elsewhere for reuse, without having to waste materials over the long term.

Modular buildings can be disassembled and relocated for new uses, minimizing the demand for raw materials and the energy expended to produce those materials.

“We don’t want our buildings to ever end up in a landfill. Ever,” says Reed Walker, head of production and design. “We want to take that system and use it again and again and again.”

While iMod’s capabilities are already impressive, they’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible. What if entire communities could be relocated and repurposed based on population changes?

Does any new construction really need to be permanent? The utilitarian benefits of modular construction hold the potential to transform our cities and make the construction industry more sustainable as a whole.

World Environment Day: Mission restoration

World Environment Day: Mission restoration

Whilst we all know most economic activities generate carbon emissions now is the time to focus on loss and damage from climate change. At World Environment Day: Mission restoration would be best envisaging to create awareness and action for the protection of the environment. There is a need to understand how all are trying to align with this cause and using technologies and strategies to achieve environmental sustainability.

The picture above is for representational purposes and is of Express Illustrations.

World Environment Day: Mission restoration

In the last one year, the world has been through a lot — a pandemic and a string of disasters.

By Shreya Veronica Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  In the last one year, the world has been through a lot — a pandemic and a string of disasters. Hence, the theme for this World Environment Day has been right rightly selected as ‘Restoration of Ecosystem’. 

When it comes to the little bits is nature that we are left within our concrete jungles, we often neglect what’s happening and the changes taking place, all because of sheer lack of awareness. While on one hand, our country struggles to ensure that its Covid patients breathe, have we ever thought of saving those tiny leaves growing in our backyards and gardens? 

You read it right. These leaves, which used to be discarded, are now being restored by a few people in Hyderabad because these can help sustain the environment. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Speak of environment and activists in Hyderabad can draw up a list of issues plaguing the city. In the context of the times we live in, we speak to these concerned individuals and find out the gifts Mother Nature has hidden for us in plain sight.

Lubna Sarwath, a social activist and economist known to raise her voice on environmental issues, talks about the importance of protecting the existing greenery. “To understand the environment, we first need to check the parameters of the years passed by and how it is now. Today, the only thing people are doing to ‘save their environs’ is planting saplings. No one has a clue about what they are  planting and what goes into nurturing it. It is simply an event-based activity and not environment-based. We should have the basic information about the sapling and need to understand where and how to plant it,” she says. 

A witness to felling of decades-old trees, Lubna is furious at the way nature is being axed to develop a ‘smart city’. “This has to stop. We all need a smart city, but one should not forget that smart cities start off with smart citizens and we have to be aware of our green surroundings so that we can protect them. Not just on one day but know the importance of it constantly.”

Kalpana Ramesh , a designer, entrepreneur and water conservationist, cannot stress enough about the need to understand the importance of a green environment and restoring it. “We consciously believe that we are a part of the environment, but we actually don’t have anything that can be called the environment. When you see the benefits in nature, you can see the benefits in your wellbeing. We believe that we need to buy veggies and stock it up in the fridge, but this is not necessary at all. You can find something in your garden every day, which you can pluck and cook. Once you make the environment a part of your life, you will fall in love with your lifestyle,” she says. 

World Environment Day: Mission restoration

Throughout this pandemic, Kalpana has been one of the few people in the city who has not hoarded and fussed about running errands well in advance. “I can pick something from my garden and make a meal out of it. This is how restoration starts. I have rainwater which is sufficient for all my household needs. Blaming the government all the time does not make sense. We need to do our bit as well, we are educated citizens,” she says. 

Madhulika Chaudhary, who is also an environmentalist and founder of Dhruvansh organisation which restores lakes, focuses on how everything on this planet is important and the need to preserve it. “There’s nothing on Earth that is called weed and nothing that grows here is useless. Every plant has a nutrient because it is absorbing from the soil and many are used as micronutrients. A lot of people do not understand that plants around us are useful, even these so-called weeds. Nowadays, people are opting for hybrid and organic produce; everyone needs a clean mango or vegetable. But they do not understand that these things are actually destroying us.”

There are also a handful of plant lovers in the city, who rarely walk into a grocery store but have been living off their kitchen gardens. It’s not a result of the on-and-off lockdowns but they’ve been doing it for a while now. Gopi Chandara Rao, who works for a corporate company, has a huge garden around his house, in which he grows Ayurvedic plants, apart from the veggies. “We have trees around our house, coconut, mango, almond, custard apple, etc. I keep finding these small saplings growing in my garden and do not discard them. These are useful for diabetes or other ailments. I feel lucky to be preserving these plants,” he says.

Sheba, a student, has a small garden in her compound and loves planting trees. “It makes me happy. Even if it is a small root, I plant it in a pot. Sometimes, I even plant the seeds that I find in my kitchen and I have a vegetable growing. I cook these later,” she says. 

Like Gopi and Sheba, this World Environment Day let us try to save the little nature that’s left around us. It is the only thing that promises a better and secure future.

The theme of this World Environment Day is ‘Restoration of Ecosystem’. In this context, we speak to environmentalists in the city about the gifts that Mother Nature has hidden for us in plain sight.


 

Green buildings at the centre of healthy, sustainable living

Green buildings at the centre of healthy, sustainable living

If you speak to experts in construction, Green Building is considered an improvement in procuring buildings. It offers benefits for the environment and provides a continued opportunity to improve knowledge and skills applied in real-time.
The superiority of green building construction may surprise many because it is based on the assumption that conventional builds using traditional methods have always delivered within time, costs and required specifications. TH e element that is overlooked by all of us is that the world is overbuilt, and if we do not especially care, the planet could quickly turn into a solid concrete slab.

Climate resilience is the new sustainability and Green buildings at the centre of healthy, sustainable living are fast becoming the salvaging trend in the built environment.
In the meantime, many although still reluctant to switch to green buildings because of higher upfront costs, they do feel more significant investment returns such as reduced emissions and lesser running costs could balance out the loss of unexplored earth’s surface. Here is the Financial Express with an interesting opinion on the matter.

World Environment Day: Green buildings at the centre of healthy, sustainable living

By Ashish R. Puravankara,

While many realty players are reluctant to make the switch to green buildings to the seemingly higher upfront costs, the larger investment returns such as reduced emissions, lesser utility costs and more social value cannot be overlooked.

In the current age, technology has enabled us to maximize the potential of green buildings. It can be leveraged to conserve as well as generate energy.

While 2020-21 has inarguably been marked by social distancing and uncertainty, it has also been a period of reflection. Reflection on our vulnerabilities, our capacity to make sweeping changes in our lifestyle and an urgent need to reconnect with nature. It was evident that the way we design our homes and workspaces has a deep impact on our health and wellness, our neighbourhoods, and the planet. As a consequence, sustainability began to inform blueprints and the concept of ‘green buildings’ strengthened its position in the market. Green buildings are eco-responsible structures that are built using sustainably sourced materials, are energy-efficient throughout their lifecycle and offer improved access to green amenities.

Clean and green conserves health

Right from reduced risks of respiratory issues to having a positive impact on our mental wellness, green buildings offer a comprehensive solution to holistic well-being while promising higher quality of living. Before diving into the benefits of these structures, it is important to mention LEED. LEED is a universal certification provided to buildings that are constructed and operated with a focus on health, circular use of materials, resource efficiency and clean energy.

A 2018 study by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) found that almost 85% of employees working in LEED-certified offices reported improved productivity and overall health due to better indoor air quality and access to natural sunlight. In comparison with standard non-LEED buildings, the improved air filtration system also helps control the spread of airborne particles and germs indoors.

For many urban dwellers, accessible green spaces have been a much-needed escape from isolation and to reconnect with their natural surroundings. By integrating terrace gardens, vertical landscaping systems (especially in dense urban centres) and sprawling backyards, green buildings offer creative solutions to enhance personal outdoor spaces.

Bringing a green building to life

In the current age, technology has enabled us to maximize the potential of green buildings. It can be leveraged to conserve as well as generate energy. Some of the measures include motion-sensitive lights, natural gas microtubes, efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems and utilizing renewable sources like solar energy to light up common areas.

However, it is important to remember that technology is not the only means to give life to a green building. Many fundamental ideas behind green buildings have been an enduring component of ancient Indian architecture– interiors that are oriented towards the sun to harness the heat, ensuring large outlets for sunlight to stream in, usage of natural materials like bamboo and clay for construction. Modern-day inspirations of these practices include using eco-friendly materials for construction like recycled steel and plastic, reclaimed wood, manufactured sand.

To gain the full economic and environmental benefit of constructing a green building, every aspect of design, planning and material selection must be driven through a green mindset. The project must be led by architects, contractors, designers and engineers who are adept with green design tools and have relevant experience.

Additionally, before the project begins, it is critical to examine the building site. An environmental audit must be conducted to ensure that the project will not be built on vulnerable habitats or farmlands.

A fruitful investment

While many realty players are reluctant to make the switch to green buildings to the seemingly higher upfront costs, the larger investment returns such as reduced emissions, lesser utility costs and more social value cannot be overlooked. A USGBC article, for instance, stated LEED buildings saw 20% lower maintenance costs in comparison to standard buildings.

As per, Global Green Buildings Market- ‘The global green buildings market is projected to enjoy an impressive 14.3% CAGR through 2020 to 2027 (forecast period). One of the key drivers for this growth will be rising eco-consciousness among new-age consumers and their preference for sustainability-led brands. To remain relevant and thrive in the market, realty players will have to weave green buildings into their infra-plans.

The Road Ahead

The future of the real estate and quality living hinges on buildings that factor in sustainability, creativity, health-focused amenities and productivity. It is pertinent to approach the entire lifecycle of an asset through the lens of a circular economy. This would mean reduced use of carbon-intensive materials, recycling construction waste, and upcycling materials to their fullest potential.

Considering the evolving work-life paradigm before us, it is essential to place ‘flexibility’ at the centre of green building designs. This will help effectively address the changing needs of the workforce or residents. Furthermore, introducing incentives and funding opportunities within legislation can also propel the growth of this segment.

RELATED NEWS

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

The World Bank in an introduction to its recently published paper on the world urban development as it presently stands and where it could potentially be going. It covers 10,000 cities by showing how the shape of urban growth is underpinned by livability and sustainable growth. Here are some excerpts that best resume the report titled Pancakes to Pyramids : City Form to Promote Sustainable Growth.

Here is:

Urban Growth underpinned by Livability and Sustainable Growth

What drives the shape of cities, and what actions can policymakers take to guide their growth? The authors of Pancakes to Pyramids set out to find out. I am pleased to say that they have succeeded in increasing our understanding of the economic variables that drive urban expansion while challenging conventional wisdom about sprawl. Most importantly, they have opened up a field of inquiry that will be central to the World Bank’s mission of poverty reduction and sustainable and inclusive development in the years ahead as leaders strive to create green, resilient, and inclusive cities that attract people and businesses. As low- and middle-income countries urbanize in the decades ahead, this report provides new evidence for city leaders interested in managing spatial growth. It also provides a theoretical model to test assumptions about compactness and public transport that will be crucial to rein in commuting time, fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions.


What city leaders need to know Pyramids are generally better than pancakes at meeting three key urban planning objectives: driving prosperity, ensuring livability, and respecting planetary boundaries.

Compared with a pancake city, a pyramid city will drive more growth in urban productivity and incomes because it is more economically dense and efficient—its inward and vertical expansion reduce the distances between firms, jobs, and workers.

A pyramid is also better at achieving livable urban population densities, accompanied not by crawling traffic and crowded slums but by efficient transport connections and decent formal housing.

And while a sprawling pancake is likely to impose steep burdens on the climate through unmanaged vehicle emissions, a pyramid allows leaders to plan for the city’s future population growth and spatial expansion in ways that will limit or reduce its carbon footprint. But not every pancake can become a pyramid.

When a city with low productivity and low incomes adds to its population, it cannot accommodate this growth through a costly vertical layering of built-up area. Instead, such an inadequate and economically inefficient city can absorb newcomers only by crowding them into low-built quarters and by spreading outward where land is cheapest.

Such a city will remain a pancake—and it will continue to expand in two dimensions, rather than three, as long as its economy remains sluggish and its average resident household remains poor.

As chapters 1, 2, and 3 have shown, pyramidal expansion flows from economic transformation. Based on specialization and tradables production, only agglomeration economies can be counted on to set a city’s productivity and incomes on an upward path.

And only a city that is economically on the rise will generate increasing economic demand for floor space— the prerequisite for land developers to invest in multistory construction around business districts and elevate the urban skyline. How can city leaders and decision-makers act to shift urban expansion to a pyramidal trajectory?

Read more in the full report, download it here.

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

The spaces created, the air quality and biodiversity must meet the requirements in a post-pandemic building ecosystem, says Michael Long in his article on how developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability. Here it is.

The picture above is for iullustration and is of Sustainable Futures

Developers can shape urban environments to achieve sustainability

BT_20210601_MDEV_4589203.jpg
Projects like Paya Lebar Quarter ensure that the public area includes more trees, incorporates flood-resilient design elements and connects people to nature. PHOTO: LENDLEASE

With World Environment Day round the corner, there has never been a more poignant time than now amid the Covid-19 pandemic to appreciate what this means to corporates and individuals globally.

This year’s theme on ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ coincides with the launch of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It extends from planting trees and greening cities, to plant-based diets and regenerating degraded rivers, coasts and lands.

As our cities and communities grapple with the lockdown impacts, many of us find the inherent need to reconnect with nature even as we were confined to our own homes or neighbourhoods over the last year.

The pandemic has offered a glimpse into what cities could look like if we pursued an alternative growth model – one that actively reduces waste and carbon emissions, while concurrently creating space for nature.

The UN has forecast that by 2050, over 68 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities. Combined with population growth, this could add another 2.5 billion people to these already densely populated areas.

The clock is ticking on collective action on climate change, failing which we may face more natural and man-made catastrophes that threaten human life and the economic sustainability of our communities globally.

The time is now to collectively work towards bridging the gap between nature and us.

Everyone has a part to play in making real change to the environment

The public and private sectors have the opportunity to collaborate on making transformative change.

The Singapore government recognises the need for green infrastructure and has set clear goals to address it in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 launched earlier this year, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated during the recent Asia Regional Commonwealth Leaders’ Roundtable calling for regional collaboration.

The “80-80-80” plan – setting tangible goals for the greening of 80 per cent of all buildings by 2030 and 80 per cent of new buildings to be ‘Super Low Energy’ from 2030 as well as an 80 per cent energy efficiency improvement (compared with 2005) for best-in-class buildings – is a great start.

The built environment sector itself is responsible for consuming over a third of the world’s natural resources and producing around 40 per cent of global emissions.

Even a miniscule reduction in emissions and waste produced by the sector can have a multiplier effect, making it critical for industry-wide engagement in sustainable practices.

Corporates alike have to acknowledge environmental risks and take that leap of faith to arrest the degradation of our environment. This is also why at Lendlease, we have set Mission Zero to pledge ourselves to achieve net-zero emissions by 2025 and absolute-zero emissions, without offsets, by 2040.

Ultimately, it is about translating these real environmental risks into a core business strategy and operationalising this into meaningful action.

Moving the needle by building smartly through the design process

For a start, the built environment should consider undertaking detailed Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience assessments.

Over the past few years, we have combined local meteorological and geographical information to evaluate developments’ vulnerability to heatwaves, extreme weather, flooding and various climate scenarios.

These assessments are crucial in mitigating environmental risks. Across the projects we have planned and built, elements of sustainability and design go hand-in-hand in mitigating environmental risks.

At the same time, marrying these design qualities improves the wellbeing of shoppers, tenants and residents.

Precinct-wide local projects such as Paya Lebar Quarter (PLQ) have made significant strides in ensuring that the public area includes over 300 per cent more trees, incorporates flood-resilient design elements to mitigate flooding and connects people to nature through natural landscapes.

Greening the supply chain through digitalisation

Incorporating sustainability through sourcing practices is also an important step as 90 per cent of a company’s impact on the environment originates from its supply chain.

On the construction front, gradually weaning off the reliance on fossil fuels will become more important than before.

While we are using biodiesel and working with construction plant and equipment manufacturers to make these options more widely available, we are also ensuring that the source of biofuel feedstock does not create unintentional environmental consequences.

Moving towards 100 per cent electrification of site-based construction activities, together with the purchasing of green power are some tactics that developers can incorporate as part of their strategy.

Doing so is a great opportunity to combine battery storage technology, digital solutions and smarter processes in constructing in a more efficient and cleaner way.

In Asia’s construction sector, 49 per cent of respondents surveyed by McKinsey shared that transparent end-to-end supply chains would help to mitigate risks in the long term.

About 11 per cent of the building and construction sectors’ global carbon emissions are associated with materials and construction processes throughout the whole building lifecycle.

Integrated supply chains can contribute to greener, more efficient supply chains translating into reduced carbon footprint, and ultimately a cleaner planet.

A multi-stakeholder approach across the supply chain is essential to transform the way materials are used, alongside cascading efforts that extend the adoption of circular economic and other waste reduction practices.

Smart building management to adapt and respond to occupants’ needs

Autonomous buildings – the sustainable buildings of the future – will represent an evolution from static physical spaces to self-aware and self-governing environments that can anticipate and adapt to human needs.

In the future, we can also look forward to autonomous cities which can leverage data insights into the needs of the urban population and carry out predictive maintenance using artificial intelligence.

As we move towards the digitalisation of the built environment sector, developers should look at utilising digital twin technology as an intelligence interface for autonomous adaptive control.

For example, PLQ utilises an Open Building System Integration (OBSI) programme to streamline all building management functionalities including air-conditioning and ventilation.

The OBSI system led to significant savings in water and costs, presenting a use case for how the construction sector can leverage technology to support smart building management.

As we commemorate World Environment Day (on June 5), we need to call attention to the important role the built environment sector plays in helping us safeguard the sustainability of our living environment.

The journey towards decarbonisation is not an easy one, and the post-pandemic world will accelerate the demand for better buildings.

The spaces that we create, the air quality that we circulate and the biodiversity that we introduced have to all work in synergy to meet the requirements in a post-pandemic building ecosystem.

Establishing a safe and trusted corridor for shoppers, tenants and residents will become the new reality in the future of city planning and everyone has a part to play as they embark in this transformation.

  • The writer is head of sustainability, Asia at Lendlease