Is prefabricated construction a viable retrofit method in the Irish context?
Technical Investigation & Case Study
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Considering the mounting pressure to fulfill housing demand and improve housing production, can a European closed wall modular construction system be adapted for constructing mass timber housing within Ireland.
This study was carried out with the ambition of devising potential routes for alleviating the pressures on the construction industry to retrofit 500,000 homes to a Building Energy Rating of B2 by 2030 to satisfy housing demands in Ireland1. In light of technological advancements and perceived benefits with prefabricated structures in terms of cost, quality, and time2 in central Europe, this study examines the barriers and capabilities of these systems by utilizing the fundamentals of European modular construction technology to create a high-performing panelized timber frame modular wall system designed specifically for multiple dense housing developments in the Irish context.
An interview process was conducted with industry professionals to gain an insight into domestic building systems in Ireland and central Europe, outlining gaps in terms of time, buildability and co-ordination issues associated with current Irish closed wall systems. This enabled a technical analysis to coincide with the creation of the proposed modular system adapted from European technology to rectify these issues. The concept was applied to a case study residential building that adopts a current Irish timber frame system, to conduct a comparison of both systems from various viewpoints such as buildability, cost of materials, and time to build, revealing the feasibility of these systems to transition into the Irish market.
This study confirms the capability for European modular systems to be directly applied for mass residential housing developments within Ireland, granted that the boundaries are adhered to in terms of discipline of erection on-site and increased coordination in the design stage. The proposed modular system did present a 7% increase in overall building material cost. However, the proposed system outputted a more efficient and quicker method of erection that doesn’t rely on weather conditions and daylighting while also mitigating on-site interpretation and achieving a significantly higher thermal performance in comparison to the case study building system.