Jun 15, 2020

Modular and self-build homes to thrive post COVID-19

Construction Technology
United Kingdom
Dan Weatherley
3 min
Modular homes
An insight into two of the biggest emerging trends in construction details the rise in modern methods of housebuilding...

An insight into two of the biggest emerging trends in construction details the rise in modern methods of housebuilding.

The use of modular and self-build homes continues to rise as we go through 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic could spark a further increase in these modern methods of construction.

The trend could be set to continue as we enter the ‘new normal’.

Project Etopia, known for its innovative and eco-friendly developments, has recently announced the acquisition of Tribus Homes, a self-build specialist firm based in the UK.

A partnership was formed between the two companies in 2019 under the ‘E-Tribus’ banner, but the acquisition has now taken place meaning Project Etopia has now acquired Tribus Homes’ assets. These include a large manufacturing facility based in Devon, England.

Tribus Homes was built with a vision to enable people to build their dream homes. In the beginning, the firm used timber frames but later progressed to the use of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). These are the same type of panels that are used by Project Etopia.

These can be combined with the use of Project Stopia’s innovative smart home tech. The company officers advanced lighting and ventilation in addition to a Energy+ configuration which has the ability to store and generate electricity.

The Tiverton-based manufacturing facility in Devon has the capacity to produce around 200 homes a year. Etopia is set to use the factory as an example of the type of micro manufacturing facility that can be set up around Britain to support different regions and their house-building ambitions through the use of off-site technology.

The micro manufacturing factories are set to be considerably smaller than Etopia’s 2,000 homes-a-year capacity unit based in Ellesmere Port. The facilities can also be set up in as little as six months.

Thanks to struggles surrounding finding ideal homes in specific areas, self-builds have become so much more popular in the UK in recent years.

Lee McArdle co-funded Tribus Homes as is set to remain its Managing Director. A rebranding process will take place later this year.

Project Etopia’s CEO, Joseph Daniels said: “We are delighted to formally bring Tribus Homes under the Etopia banner. This acquisition means we can use Tribus Homes’ manufacturing facility in Devon to produce up to 200 new homes a year in the South West without needing to transport goods around the country, making developments much more sustainable.”

He added: “The factory is a prime example of how a number of satellite, small-scale facilities can be positioned around the country to create local jobs and deliver homes. Tribus will continue to provide people with their dream self-build homes, all of which will feature the smart home and energy technology incorporated in all Etopia projects.”

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May 25, 2021

ReCreate project reuses concrete in new buildings

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Universities and companies in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany are deconstructing precast concrete intact and reusing them in new buildings

Reconciling the carbon conundrum in construction will not be a quick fix but researchers at Finland's Tampere University may have hit on a way of deconstructing concrete elements and reusing them in new buildings.

Its four-year ReCreate project, which has received €12.5 million of funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, involves universities and regional company clusters in  Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. All the country clusters will carry out their own pilot projects where they deconstruct precast concrete elements intact and reuse them in a new building.

“By reusing concrete elements, we can save an enormous amount of energy and raw materials,” says Satu Huuhka, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University, who leads the ReCreate project. “We are specifically looking to reuse the concrete elements as a whole, not as a raw material for something new."

Researchers at the Faculty of Built Environment have been carrying out ground-breaking research into the circular economy in the construction sector for a decade.

Long-term research on renovation and the lifecycle engineering of structures provides a solid foundation for the development of quality assurance procedures that will ensure the safety and integrity of the reused elements. This time, the researchers are set to explore not only the technical implementation of the solutions but also the business perspective.

Huuhka acknowledges there are many unanswerered questions, from assessing structural integrity to building code requirements - and ultimately how to turn ReCreate into a viable business. "We must also consider the social aspects: does the process require new skills or new ways of working?” he adds.

Tampere University researchers will also bring to the project their specialist expertise in circular economy business models, building regulations and law, and occupational sociology. The Finnish country cluster comprises Tampere University, Skanska, demolition company Umacon, precast concrete company Consolis Parma, engineering and consultancy company Ramboll, architecture firm Liike Oy Arkkitehtistudio and the City of Tampere. The communications partner is the Croatia Green Building Council.

Buildings generate nearly 40% of GHG emissions and the rising pace of construction - up to 2 trillion square feet could be added by 2060 - means finding a sustainable concrete solution is essential. 

Graphene concrete on firm foundations, CarbonCure accelerates growth and Nexii expands in US

Nationwide Engineering is claiming a world first today as it lays the world's first graphene concrete slab engineered for sustainability in a commercial setting. The new material is strengthened by around 30% compared to standard concrete and so significantly cutting material use

It has partnered with the University of Manchester's Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and structural engineers HBPW Consulting; graphene is an allotrope of carbon and the resulting mix with concrete produces a substance that area for area, is stronger than steel, it claims.

CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance. It was named one of two winners in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE and the money will be used to accelerate its mission of reducing 500 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually by 2030. Carbon Cure believes the use of CO2 in concrete is expected to become a US$400 billion market opportunity.

Nexii designs and manufactures high-performance buildings and green building products that are sustainable, cost-efficient and resilient in the face of climate change. It recently teamed up with actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, who will have an ownership stake and play an active role in Nexii’s upcoming manufacturing plant, which will be its second in the United States and sixth overall.

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