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New handbook: want modular buildings? How about sustainable as well?

Here’s a practical handbook pitched to those familiar with modular building – and those not so familiar – from the highly regarded James Murray-Parkes at Brookfield Scientific Solutions Group and Monash University’s Yu Bai. The book, which is free to download, explains key concepts, how design should factor in re-use of materials at least once, and how modular design need not comprise bespoke quality outcomes.

A new Handbook for The Design of Modular Structures developed by Australia’s Modular Building Codes Board in consultation with industry experts goes beyond outlining the key design considerations for modular construction and design for manufacture and assembly.

The handbook also squarely addresses some of the key sustainability, compliance and quality concerns of the broader industry.

Authored by a team led by Professor James Murray-Parkes from Brookfield’s Scientific Solutions Group and Dr Yu Bai from Monash University, it lays out a pathway for exactly how modular approaches can result in buildings that are code-compliant, thermally efficient, thoroughly documented and re-usable or recyclable at the end of the original design life.

In the section focused on recycling and re-use, it suggests that designers should aim for a result that is suitable for re-use at least once. Documentation for the building should also specify how demolition contractors can disassemble the building in a way that minimises materials going to landfill due to damage.

The issue of documentation is covered extensively. The handbook stresses the importance of independent certification for the quality of source materials for high-risk elements such as structural members, conformance to applicable standards of building systems including HVAC, electrical and fire safety, and certification of code compliance for facade materials and systems.

It suggests a best practice suite of documentation, and recommends that the eventual building owner be provided with detailed building documentation that includes certifications, the as-built design, maintenance recommendations and end-of-life considerations.

Some of the measures suggested for quality control include methods sustainable building advocates have been lobbying should be applied to all building types such as duct pressure testing and air infiltration testing for modules.

As well as illustrations, case studies and practical examples for many aspects of modular design and construction, it also provides highly technical information around building performance criticalities such as calculating the impact of wind loads on modules, or assessing the risks to modules during transport.

Designing for safety during manufacture, transport and on-site erection is also covered.

Throughout, the relevant regulations, codes and standards are comprehensively referenced.

Explicit guidance is also given for how to detail designs in terms of optimising the manufacturing process, managing tolerances, addressing the on-site connection of modules and managing the risks that are specific to this part of the build cycle.

The team as also ensured the handbook is useful for those not familiar with modular design and construction and design for manufacture and assembly, by explaining the key terms and concepts involved.

Overarching architectural principles for the approach are also explored, including how modular design and manufacture can still deliver bespoke outcomes while leveraging the cost, time and safety advantages of off-site construction methodologies.

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