Rory O’Hagan, director of Assael Architecture explains how modern methods of construction can create green jobs and help meet sustainability targets without compromising on good design.
Every UK job has the potential to be ‘green’, according to a new government backed report by the Independent Green Jobs Taskforce. Through modern methods of construction (MMC) such as modular housing, the property industry has a real chance to make a difference and meet this target in the race to net-zero in 2050.
In the case of architecture, design and construction sectors, companies must apply innovation, think outside the box and consider a more environmentally sustainable approach to the traditional housebuilding methods that are too frequently used.
The construction of residential buildings currently accounts for 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Suppose we are going to significantly get these numbers down and bolster the creation of ‘green’ jobs the government must emphasise investment of MMC and sustainable practice within the associated real estate sector.
One of the hardest challenges in the race to net-zero is the decarbonisation of old, leaky and underperforming stock. The same can also be said for new builds, with many homes still not being built to meet future standards. The cycle will just continue, and we won’t achieve anything.
We can no longer afford to use sustainability as a tick box exercise. As architects, we must prioritise designing sustainable buildings on a holistic cradle-to-grave system, enabling us to begin from day one and see it carried right through to completion.
Modular construction is a near perfect solution to achieve this, with both embodied and operational carbon lessened, and the ability to produce buildings in half the time of traditional construction.
Modular manufacturing in the UK still has negative connotations as many architects are afraid of the concept, feeling as though it infringes on their creativity. However, when working with factory built volumetric homes, you get to spend more time designing the best range of housing and drawing on the detail early on in the process – a key USP of the modular system.
An excellent example of creatively using MMC to produce original and contextually sensitive designs, is Assael’s work at Meridian Water, a new master-planned development in North London. Here we are creating a range of interoperable building components that can be assembled and disassembled, generating building configurations in response to the designer’s vision. With the components of the building already created, architects and designers can spend more time on dressing the building and finessing the final product.
By taking advantage of technology and saying goodbye to outdated building methods, we have a great opportunity on our hands and one that I would encourage architects to embrace. From a monetary, sustainable and environmental perspective, if we can meet the pledge towards contributing to the Green Jobs Taskforce for the housing sector, then it’s certainly worth investing in.