Carbon Emissions: A Death Knell For On-Site Public Housing Construction?

A moder low rise apartment building
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The Valentine in Gants Hill is a student residence in the London Borough of Redbridge. It is one of two buildings that were evaluated by studies described in this post.

When it comes to housing construction these days, it’s more than a challenge to keep up with the Green Revolution and its requirements to prevent climate change. That’s to say nothing about the cost-effectiveness of solutions, to say even more nothing about their social acceptance, and way more nothing about free-enterprise profitability of new techniques (which may well be the deciding factor).

And so we leave it to the experts to help explain to us the potential of new forms of housing construction necessary to defeat the scourge of climate change.

The latest good news, together with unspecified social and business implications, comes from a study done in the United Kingdom by Cambridge University, and the University of Edinburgh Napier University.

Two construction projects were monitored that resulted in a total of 879 new housing units. Modular (factory, off-site) construction was used to create the units that were assembled into completed buildings. Carbon emissions were measured for all aspects of the construction process.

The modular construction used in the study saved some 28,000 metric tonnes — close to 31,000 US tons — of carbon dioxide. Floating in midair, this amount of gas is . . . big. It would take 1.3 million trees a whole year to absorb that quantity of carbon dioxide, an even more impressive number!

But the most useful and readily understandable number comes from considering construction techniques. Compared to more conventional on-site construction, the studied modular manufacturing techniques emitted 40 to 45 percent less carbon dioxide.

Modular housing manufacturers have for some years now been gearing up to challenge conventional on-site construction costs. The added bonus of greatly limiting carbon emissions may well help ease traditional on-site housing builders towards an all-modular future.

Read more in the Construction Enquirer: Factory-made homes cut carbon emissions by 45%