A new study conducted by academics from the University of Cambridge and Edinburgh Napier University has shown conclusively that offsite and other modern methods of construction (MMC) reduce the overall carbon footprint of a build by almost a half.
Two offsite high-rise and mid-rise housing projects were used in the study, which took a closer look at almost 900 new homes constructed using factory-produced techniques. It found that through the use of modern construction techniques, around 28,000 tonnes of carbon had been saved, far ahead of industry targets. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of the world’s energy-related carbon emissions are caused by buildings, 11 percent of which are caused by the materials and construction of the structures themselves.
MMC reduces embodied carbon
Known as ‘embodied carbon’, the research focused on emissions caused by the materials and construction of buildings. Embodied carbon considers the carbon footprint of a building from the design and material production stage to the construction and transportation of materials, right through to the decommissioning and demolition of the construction.
The researchers claim that their study demonstrates the value of MMC and the way in which new approaches to construction can help reduce the industry’s carbon footprint significantly. With countries all across Europe facing both a housing supply shortage as well as the challenge of tackling climate change, MMC is considered the industry’s silver bullet; allowing homes to be built both quickly, to exacting standards, but also more sustainably.
The report, entitled ‘Life Cycle Assessments of The Valentine, Gants Hill, UK and George Street, Croydon UK’ goes on to detail how indirect emissions were also reduced by minimising the amount of onsite activity necessary. With fewer deliveries and work happening on site, construction can instead be conducted in controlled, factory environments where energy efficiencies can be employed.
These facilities are better able to control energy usage as well as make use of renewable energy sources such as solar energy. MMC also means constructions are uniformly built with stricter tolerances, something essential to creating energy-efficient homes.
MMC projects are built faster and save energy
The study found that in using MMC, one studied development made a 41 percent carbon saving and second made a 45 percent carbon saving. This means the embodied carbon savings of each building not only met the industry targets set by RIBA and LETI but also far exceeded them.
The research team explained that these developments were selected for being newly completed in 2020 and are representative of the versatility of MMC and modular systems to produce both high-rise and mid-rise buildings. Significantly, the buildings were also delivered faster than would have been possible using traditional construction methodologies.
With large-scale projects delivered speedily using these techniques and the carbon savings now established, it is expected for MMC to begin moving from innovation to mainstream.
*The study was conducted by the senior research associate at the University of Cambridge, Dr Tim Forman alongside Professor Francesco Pomponi and Dr Ruth Saint both from Edinburgh Napier University.
About Horizon Offsite
Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://www.horizonoffsite.ie