Editor's Letter: is modular construction just a phase or here to stay?

As COVID-19 accelerates the shift towards off-site development, will it be the future of how we develop buildings?

Ashley Williams is the editor of Construction Week
ITP Media Group
Ashley Williams is the editor of Construction Week

As we look towards the future after, quite frankly, an unforgettable year, the main talking point on everyone’s lips at the moment is the accelerated shift towards the use of modular construction.

While off-site development has been known in the Middle East for quite some time, the pandemic has perked up the ears of construction stakeholders across the region with promises of leaner costs and sufficient speeds of development, which are now likely to matter more than ever.

Contractors are now having to work around the clock to ensure on-time delivery, and with a huge pipeline of projects across the Middle East, the prefab and modular industry is now being considered as the only option to fast track the completion of works in line with the UAE’s Vision 2021 and Saudi Vision 2030.

But how do you ensure clients that there will be no compromise in the quality of work and output? These are all dilemmas that are now being considered across the region.

There is no question that infrastructure will have to be adapted to adhere to government guidelines of social distancing, which looks set to stay to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

As corporate offices re-open, it’s going to be very challenging to get employees back into the current infrastructure while ensuring there is enough space between them.

Many organisations simply do not have enough extra space in the workplace to allow everyone to work while maintaining a two-metre distance between employees.

To discuss all the pros and cons of modular construction, Construction Week partnered with Losberger De Boer Middle East for our debut episode of our brand new webinar series – The Hard Hat Chat.

Joining the webinar was Losberger De Boer’s regional sales director Waleed Khaled and Ramboll’s head of project management for buildings Brian Sweeney to discuss how rapidly deployable structures can be used for extra office space, additional meeting rooms, a temporary canteen or dining area, or even a temporary workshop or production space.

We also explored how the hospitality, retail and education sectors will also need to find ways to create additional space.

One of the most intriguing points from the webinar came from Waleed Khaled, who said construction can often begin within days or even hours of receiving an enquiry for a temporary and semi-permanent solutions.

He added that temporary and semi-permanent solutions can be operational within days in many cases, enabling businesses to maximise operations.

In almost every sector, business owners are asking themselves how they can adapt to the new social distancing reality without it having an adverse effect on their revenues.

While many will hesitate to ‘jump on the bangwagon’, it seems that the positives seem to outweigh the negatives for the construction method.

Times are changing and I personally feel that the industry needs to adapt quickly or risk being left behind.

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