In our latest Spotlight Interview, we spoke to Romill Bettany, Co-Founder at Modulous. Romill talks about their new software TESSA, integrating sustainable practices into their designs and future trends within the construction and design space. “At Modulous we understand that the modular industry suffers with reputational issues both from a longevity of product perspective and from a market resilience position. To the first point, our Fabric First approach guarantees our commitment to high quality, proven building materials and construction techniques. Our suppliers are assiduously vetted, and we have a comprehensive Quality Assurance process.”
Q1- Modular housing although on the rise over the last few years is a comparatively new concept within the industry. What has the journey been like so far introducing this in the market?
Modular housing is not really a new concept, but it has gained renewed interest and popularity in recent years due to the UK’s (and global) housing crisis and also advancements in construction technology, design innovation, sustainability, environmental concerns and an increasing demand for safe, affordable and efficient homes.
Gaining traction and momentum within the industry has been relatively difficult due to the many misconceptions within the UK market surrounding modular housing and the recent failings of a number of modular manufacturers.
However, the benefits are becoming widely known and accepted – speed of construction, cost efficiency, quality control, sustainability, safety, consistency, near zero waste and energy efficiency to name but a few.
We have also taken a different approach to many in that we set ourselves the objective of “standardising the invisible and customising the visible” which ensures that the architects and clients we work with have the creative freedom and ability to envision and customise buildings to meet their specific requirements. We have also adopted a strategy where all of our manufacturing is done within our supply chain, similar to the automotive industry. This ensures that specific manufacturing is being done by industry specialists and that we are immune to market and pipeline fluctuations which have been the downfall of many recently.
Q2- You recently launched your new feasibility software TESSA, can you tell us a bit more about what it is and how this can benefit the end user?
TESSA produces feasibility studies for multifamily homes in minutes, providing certainty on what can be built, and how much it will cost, on any given plot of land.
Once briefing requirements are input, the software generates several Design Options in real-time, each of which is compliant with building regulations and supported by accurate engineering and cost data.
Outputs include optimised massing for a given site; detailed internal layouts, including area schedules and 3D visualisation; 2D floorplans; embodied carbon calculations; and a detailed cost plan. Solutions can be exported to standard software packages to be shared with other consultants and the authorities.
Technical accuracy is possible because designs are based on the Modulous proprietary Kit of Parts, which is a set of assemblies, manufactured within the supply chain, that provides a high-performance modular housing system.
Q3- Sustainability is a growing concern within design and construction. Can you tell us how Modulous integrates sustainable practices into the design and products?
Construction is notoriously inefficient and is responsible for 39% of carbon emissions worldwide. To counter this, we have embraced digitalisation and offsite manufacture and combine a circular mindset with a Fabric First approach.
Our Kit of Parts is designed for disassembly, with each element documented via digitised material passports that provide data for recovery and reuse. Embodied carbon within the Kit is 60% lower than that of a traditional build and the efficiency of its production reduces waste by 70% compared to conventional construction.
We have adopted the WELL Building Standard to prioritise thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort together with daylight and natural ventilation, and ISO 20400 to drive transparent, responsible, fair, and ethical behaviour across our entire supply chain.
Finally, TESSA automatically generates a sustainability dashboard for every Design Option, detailing embodied carbon statistics, recycled material content, and form factor energy efficiency. It also offers direct comparisons with a ‘traditional’ build alternative to give a holistic overview of the sustainability credentials of each option.
Q4- Despite the industry evolving there are still concerns over longevity and durability with modular homes, how does Modulous address these concerns?
At Modulous we understand that the modular industry suffers with reputational issues both from a longevity of product perspective and from a market resilience position. To the first point, our Fabric First approach guarantees our commitment to high quality, proven building materials and construction techniques. Our suppliers are assiduously vetted, and we have a comprehensive Quality Assurance process.
From a resilience point of view, Modulous is unique in being the first BOPAS-accredited modular build system delivered without a fixed factory. We have decentralised production by transferring manufacturing and assembly to our network of supply chain partners, ensuring that we remain asset-light and agile, and able to respond to fluctuations in demand without capacity or working capital concerns.
Q5- As technology evolves what trends are you expecting to see within the design and construction sector? And how is Modulous positioning itself to take advantage of these?
There is ever increasing buzz around AI being able to generate designs using simple prompts from a user. Whilst these designs may look professional and photo-realistic, the AI software products differ from TESSA in lacking two key capabilities. Firstly, the designs generated are not grounded in a buildable product backed by full cost and carbon data.
Secondly, these products give limited flexibility to the end user in terms of scale and massing, residential unit mix and overall design – and most lack the ability to export the designs into other platforms such as Autodesk Revit to further iterate them.
These AI tools will undoubtably improve in future, but in the meantime, TESSA caters to these key challenges by providing technology underpinned by a buildable product, as well as the capability to adjust the key design considerations only an architect would consider. Finally, the TESSA generated designs can be finessed downstream in Revit in native .rvt file format to support BIM workflows.
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