Charles Pierce, managing director of Darwin Group, puts the record straight on the benefits of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)
Modular building is a flexible and cost-efficient method of construction that has made great strides in popularity over recent years. In spite of this, confusion, preconceptions and hesitancy around Modern Methods of Construction have led project managers to opt for alternative methods.
The misconceptions and general confusion relate to the poor reputation of Britain’s post-war, prefabricated buildings. Their lack of longevity has cast doubt over modular construction techniques – but in truth, Modern Methods of Construction can produce permanent, stylish and multi-storey buildings that last for decades.
These common misconceptions are leading people to doubt MMC, when actually it is a cost-effective, premium solution that has already benefitted many industries – and has the potential to transform British construction altogether.
“Modular buildings are just for temporary use”
After the Second World War, more than 156,000 homes were built to provide urgent accommodation for families who’d lost their homes during The Blitz or for soldiers returning home. They were designed to be a temporary solution that local authorities would aim to replace with permanent housing.
The misconception that all modular buildings are only temporary is something that Darwin Group delights in proving wrong. MMC provides the efficiency of off-site construction, whilst delivering structures that will withstand the test of time – often out-performing traditional builds.
The current housing crisis along with the target to deliver 300,000 new homes every year by 2025, saw the Government invest directly into modular housing production for the very first time last November – a landmark moment in dispelling the myths around MMC. Instead of the short-term solutions chosen in the 1940s, modular housing is now being used to deliver permanent developments to serve densely populated areas.
“Modular buildings are not high-quality”
Our state-of-the-art production facility in Shrewsbury, Shropshire is a closely controlled environment that allows Darwin Group to have complete control over quality management and even greater flexibility to plan production to meet demand.
We highly value precision within a project and this is instilled at every stage of our construction process. Being precise off-site ultimately results in a smoother construction process on-site.
Unlike traditional methods of construction that require a live building site for long periods of time, off-site construction allows for the majority of work to be completed away from site – which is ideal for us as we specialise in education and healthcare facilities. Being able to build off-site is much safer and more convenient in these cases, as we avoid the complications of busy live school or hospital environments.
MMC has also allowed Darwin Group to continue to deliver our builds during lockdown. Our controlled factory environment where social distancing and strict site working practices can be adhered to has enabled us to swiftly deliver much-needed emergency facilities for the NHS.
We wanted to do everything we could to help fight the global Covid-19 pandemic, and I’m proud to say that Darwin Group was behind landmark facilities in Wigan at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary and Wolverhampton at New Cross Hospital.
Surely it cannot be sustainable?
Actually, it can. Modular buildings are made from the very same high-quality materials as traditional structures, meaning they’re no more harmful for the environment – in some cases, the materials we use can provide better durability and insulation, lowering the carbon footprint of the end user.
However, Modern Methods of Construction allows you to go further than that. Our clients are more and more frequently prioritising sustainability and trying to minimise their impact on the planet. This is where MMC holds a real advantage – because our builds are prefabricated in our industry-leading factory (away from site), there is much less waste of materials, providing a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of building.
Our days on-site are also far fewer than traditional construction projects, meaning there is less use of heavy equipment and machinery, reducing power consumption. At Darwin Group, we aim to minimise waste and the consumption of resources at every stage of construction. Our in-house team are experts in SBEM, BREEAM and Passivhaus and create buildings that minimise environmental impact and maintenance throughout their lifespan.
“Modular buildings are not as easy to renovate”
The quality and precision of a modular build means that it requires very little maintenance, as the structure is strong and can withstand extreme environmental pressures. If the purpose of a building changes and the layout or size of a build no longer meets a client’s requirements, then modular structures can in fact be easily modified.
As mentioned, Darwin Group recently delivered a new ward for the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan, where we created a space that could be quickly adapted at a low cost. This was pivotal, owing to the building’s function as an emergency Covid-19 nightingale ward. The modular build was designed, manufactured and completed onsite ahead of schedule in less than 40 days.
The structure was point loaded via columns located in the perimeter of the building. The services were also sectioned in dedicated service zones meaning that should the ward need to be transformed into a different configuration in the future it would be far easier than a typical refurbishment project. Following the pandemic, there is the potential for the permanent ward to be used for bariatric patients, adding quality and longevity to the project. Future-proofing a build in such a way provides the client with the confidence that their investment will continue to be of value as their needs develop over time.
“Modular contractors only make modules and install them”
A common misconception is that modular contractors are not the principle contractor and rely on other companies to complete key parts of the project such as groundwork, foundations, roads, paths and landscaping. However, this is not the case with Darwin Group. As an experienced design and build principal contractor, we manage all project requirements.
Our unique, turnkey service covers all aspects of design, planning and construction – from start to finish. This seamless process proves straightforward for our clients, simplifies building warranties and or guarantees and also works out to be a lot more cost-effective than traditional construction methods.
Darwin Group is able to work within a client’s budget constraints to find a complete solution for their individual project. We also offer financial payment plans and assist with funding applications to ensure that aspirations and budget constraints align.
“Modular buildings are standard sizes and styles”
Wrong! Every project we undertake is bespoke and many factors come into play during the design process. From small outbuildings, to stand-out structures, to large multi-story extensions, MMC can provide a cost-effective solution for all of these requirements. At Darwin Group, we always deliver exceptional looking, affordable buildings.
Notably, as part of our diverse in-house team of construction experts, we have a talented team of designers and architects. They work closely with our project managers to carefully consider the location, size and purpose of the building, creating a bespoke solution that looks exceptional but remains affordable.
A recent project that needed a considered design approach was Reddiford School in Pinner, North West London. As part of the planning process, Harrow Council specified the need for a method of attenuating rainwater in the instance of a significant storm, adding additional complexity to the build. Our design solution was to use the roof of the building to hold and attenuate rainwater. The water is gradually released into an underground storm drainage system, maximising available space and providing a satisfactory solution.