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Your building sector globally currently consumes more energy (34%) in comparison to the transport sector (27%) or the industry sector (28%). Also, it is the most significant polluter, using the biggest possibility of significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions compared to other sectors, at no cost.

Buildings provide an readily available and highly cost-effective ability to reach energy targets. An eco friendly building is one that minimises energy use during design, construction, operation and demolition.

The necessity to reduce energy use throughout the operation of buildings has become commonly accepted worldwide. Changing behaviour could result in a 50% decline in energy use by 2050.

Such savings are strongly influenced by the grade of buildings. Passive buildings are ultra-low energy buildings wherein the necessity for mechanical cooling, heating or ventilation might be eliminated.

Modular or prefabricated green buildings, designed and constructed in factories using precision technologies, might help achieve these standards. These buildings are better quality and a lot more sustainable than buildings constructed on-site through manual labour. They are potentially twice as efficient when compared with on-site building.

However, despite support for prefab house there are many of hurdles when it comes to a prefab revolution.

Factory production means modular green buildings are better sealed against draughts, which in conventional buildings can account for 15-25% of winter heat loss.

And factories have higher quality control systems, ultimately causing improved insulation placement and energy efficiency. Good insulation cuts energy bills by around half in comparison with uninsulated buildings.

Because production in a factory setting is on-going, instead of depending on individual on-site projects, there may be more scope for R&D. This enhances the performance of buildings, including making them more resilient to natural disasters.

For example, steel workshop in Japan have performed well during earthquakes, with key manufacturers reporting that none with their houses were destroyed through the 1995 Hanshin Great Earthquake, as opposed to the destruction of numerous site-built houses.

Buildings constructed on site probably can’t reach the same benefits as modular buildings. Case studies in the united kingdom show savings of 10% to 15% in building costs plus a 40% reduction in transport for factory compared to on-site production. Factories also don’t lose time due to bad weather and possess better waste recycling systems.

Sorting waste at Sekisui House Ltd Recycling Centre. Karen Manley

For example, Sekisui House, a Japanese builder, has a system for all those their construction sites where waste is sorted into 27 categories on-site and 80 categories inside their recycling centre for top level value in the resources.

On-site building is open to the weather conditions. This prevents accessibility precision technologies required to produce buildings to the highest environmental standards. These technologies include numerical controlled machinery, robotic assembly, building information models, rapid prototyping, assembly lines, test systems, fixing systems, lean construction and enterprise resource planning systems.

By way of example, numerical controlled machinery provides more precise machine cutting that can’t be matched by manual efforts. This, put together with modelling, fixing and testing 98dexppky helps ensure that factories produce more airtight buildings, when compared with on-site production, reducing energy leakage.

High-Tech Factory, Shizuoka, Sekisui House Ltd. Karen Manley, Author provided

Less than 5% of brand new detached residential buildings around australia are modular green buildings.

In leading countries such as Sweden the velocity is 84%.

In Japan, 15% of all their residential buildings are modular green buildings produced in the world’s most technologically advanced factories.

Globally, there exists a trend toward increased market penetration of green modular buildings. Yet their adoption in the Australian building sector has become slower than expected.

Constructing houses on-site is less sustainable. Grand Canyon National Park/Flickr, CC BY

However, we can still get caught up. The latest evidence suggests that strengthening building codes and providing better enforcement is the most cost effective path towards more sustainable housing.

Australia doesn’t possess a great record here. Our building codes might be better focused, stricter, and definitely our enforcement could be a lot better.

Building for the future

As the biggest polluter along with a high energy user, the building sector urgently should reform for climate change mitigation.

There are serious legacy issues. Mistakes we made before endure through the entire life of buildings. Building decisions we make today can be very costly to reverse, and buildings go on for decades! Within Australia, a timber building will probably last at the very least 58 years, along with a brick building a minimum of 88 years.

Currently, potential building owners are funnelled toward on-site construction processes, inspite of the clearly documented great things about light steel villa. This can be reflected in the low profile made available to modular housing inside the National Construction Code and a lack of aggressive and well enforced environmental standards. We clearly need better policy to assist the modular green building industry.