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Voice of the Industry

Driven by the demand for more predictability throughout the construction process, the resurgence in the off-site construction has resulted in increased levels of market activity and innovation

A framework for success Beyond the traditional light gauge steel framing markets, the development of volumetric modular and pod products is becoming increasingly important. Steel framing systems provide many of the characteristics that the design and manufacture of these solutions require. Steve Thompson, Managing Director of EOS Facades, discusses future trends and applications.

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ecent Government announcements – underpinned by a number of industry reports and major investment declarations – is advancing the off-site sector. Driven by the demand for more predictability throughout the construction process, the resurgence in off-site construction has resulted in increased levels of market activity and innovation. Whilst the house-building industry appears to be grabbing many of the headlines, off-site construction is also rapidly expanding in other sectors. Building design and construction is the sum of many parts – some projects demand unique and one-off solutions, but for many, rapid and robust systems are required to get buildings on-stream and ready for occupation or commercial use. As the adoption of offsite technology by what has previously been a traditional industry is gaining momentum, now the transition to more repeatable, DfMA-led and comprehensive solutions is the next logical step.

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Volumetric building modules are preassembled three-dimensional units that can be combined, stacked or linked to form complete permanent or relocatable buildings. This type of system is best suited to projects where modules form rooms, allowing extensive factory finishing and high levels of repeatability. The superstructure is more often formed from steel framing systems and frequently a combination of hot-rolled and light gauge steel. Presently, residential applications include single living accommodation units for MoD projects, student halls of residence and key worker housing sectors but applications in the mediumand high-rise Built to Rent (BTR) sector are becoming increasingly prevalent. Beyond residential applications, volumetric modular has been best suited to markets where the speed of programme and restricted site distribution are paramount such as hotels, healthcare treatment centres, schools and offices.

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The growing use of volumetric modular has seen an evolution in systems types.The main types of modules are light gauge steel, capable of six to 10 storeys depending on the system type. With the greater demand for medium- to high-rise applications, corner columns with hot-rolled or cold-formed stronger steel sections and more robust floors – often using concrete – have emerged. Developments in volumetric modular building technology are opening new opportunities for companies such as EOS Facades to design, manufacture and supply entire solutions or form part of a hybrid structure. Volumetric pods, on the other hand, are typically non-load-bearing, factoryfinished internally, complete with building services but not finished externally. Most commonly, the framing of the structure is either light steel frame or hot-rolled, hollow steel sections. Types of pods include washrooms, bath and shower rooms, kitchens and plant rooms.

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