Rethinking modular by using technology to drive real benefits in housing affordability and place-making

London’s Housing Crisis

It’s estimated that London is building at a rate of 30,000 residences p.a. when the demand exceeds 50,000, with little of that being affordable. The downside is the long-term impact on the growth of the city as it becomes increasingly uncompetitive.

We are caught between high land prices and an inefficient industry that is working at capacity and we are imperilling our cities. To start to pull ourselves out of this hole we need to be able build on a massive scale, more quickly, more cheaply with new sources of labour and to be able to build the sort of homes and environments people want. These are the considerations that our system addresses.

Where is modular housing going wrong?

Traditional volumetric modular design works by stacking boxes on top of each other. This system is limiting in design form, resulting in an unvaried offering and unloved buildings. Many supposed benefits, such as speed of construction, are lost in transporting large volume, unwieldy structures to site, the finishing is often poor, it is not a solution that can be scaled to the problem and the flexibility offered is less than the market requires.

Rethinking the modular – A new building concept

Design becomes fluid and free. Buildings built with this system need not look alike and a wide range of building configurations and finishes can easily be built on the same site. The system components are flat-packed modular, made off site without the need for specialised factories. Yet, this system delivers flexible slab structures, architecturally designed spaces and volumes, with high-end finishes, smooth routing of MEP and state-of-the-art acoustic and energy considerations.

A system that learns and grows

With Rethinking the Modular, reliable design and precision engineering is combined with a learning computational system; where each new design is added to the library. Conventional construction is left behind as the Buro Happold system can be built dramatically faster with a workforce requiring more assembly than craft skill. The system works with a wide range of existing building components, especially facade, bathroom and kitchen systems.

A new technology – A new answer

Here is a technology that can address the supply bottlenecks in our existing housing system, give a product that is highly variable, and has a better energy performance. The possibilities for (distributed) industrialised mass production of the system provide the opportunity of a rapid decrease in component cost. It is quite capable of producing 100,000 homes a year for the London market.

But it’s more than that. Our new approach to prefabricated modular housing provides the design flexibility and sophistication that can help with how we create the ‘places’ we need –places that are empathetic, are where we would want to live and bring up a family, and places that foster community, culture and employment.

A fresh start

We’re developing a unique engineering design system which can deliver modular housing:

  • at scale and with less carbon
  • up to 30% faster
  • more economic, uses flat pack parts
  • intrinsic design flexibility for individuality and architectural design expression
  • sensitive to place-making and community creation
  • requiring less skilled construction labour
  • a system that self learns, and grows a library of components with each project all parts can be manufactured locally

We call it Buro Happold REMODULAR

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