Property News
Image default
Editor's Picks Innovation & Technology Residential Development News UK Property News

Understanding Modular Design

As the demand for modular housing design rises throughout the UK, Residential People has spoken with one of the industry-recognised leaders in modular housing to learn more about the practice and what is driving its demand.

Graham Edward, Managing Director of the multiple award-winning firm Edward Architecture, has graciously given us his time to discuss some of the firms’ recent projects and about the company that recently was named the UK’s leading architecture practice by the Design & Build Awards.

Based in both Leeds and London, the architecture firm mainly operates within the residential sector for national housebuilders, social housing companies and local authorities.

In the past year alone, the firm has worked on over 3,500 units across the country. Edward Architecture also specialises in master planning for large landowners and local authorities.

Residential People (RP): Hi Graham, for those who may not have heard about your firm before, could you give me a bit of background about yourself and the company?

  • Graham Edwards (GE): I have been working in Architecture for 39 years, and I love it!

    I set up Edward Architecture 16 years ago after being a Director of a national practice. The practice (Edward Architecture) has grown over that time to a two office, 10-person team with an exciting client base.

RP: What made you decide to found Edward Architecture?

  • GE: It was a combination of my experience and knowledge, affinity with clients, good trading conditions and a very supportive family. Ever since I started working in architecture, it has always been my dream to run my own practice.

RP: What is Modular Design, and how does it differ from other design practices?

  • GE: Modular or offsite construction is a factory-built building process where “container sized” modules are delivered and erected on site. This means that the speed of erection is incredibly fast. Other benefits are quality of build, no site waste, less disturbance to the neighbourhood in terms of noise etc. and cost certainty.

RP: As a designer, how does modular affect the design process (if at all)?

  • GE: Modular affects the design process massively. Each module has to be structurally sound on its own merits for delivery and erection purposes; therefore, schemes need to be designed around a modular structural grid which needs to suit economical delivery sizes. Site layouts should also be designed to accommodate large delivery vehicles, locations of cranes and offloading areas.

RP: Which type of your clients are opting for modular designs?

  • GE: We are finding that local authorities and housing associations represent the core of the modular client market. This is generated by government grant funding aimed at promoting modular construction. Cost still appears to be prohibitive for national housebuilders though they do see modular as a potential expansion to their construction capacity.

    Ultimately modular construction has better whole life costs because of the quality of build and high sustainability levels, and hopefully, the UK’s ‘cost led’ construction mentality will soften on this.

RP: Could you give me an example of one of your past modular designs and the reasons why you chose this method?

  • GE: We have designed a 25 unit apartment scheme for Bromley Council in Chislehurst, Kent. The scheme is currently on site, and modular was a choice of construction because of the speed of build, quality of build to add to the council’s housing stock, high sustainability levels and repeat modules/apartment types.

    The challenge to overcome was convincing local residents that the scheme would look like a traditionally built 3-storey building which we have managed to do successfully by including steps in building height and clever changes in cladding material.

RP: What has been the most challenging project you have worked on and why?

  • GE: Our master plan under the Landsolve framework for Keresforth Close for Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council was the most challenging project that we have worked on.

    The site is approximately 22.45-acres, and the £25 million scheme included a fire station with a community hub, approximately 140 houses and social housing, green space, play and sports, a family pub, a two-form entry academy and a learning disability centre.

    The challenging aspect was acting as a one-stop-shop team leader, reporting to a host of stakeholders. It was great to successfully deliver this community-led scheme.

RP: How is the modular industry evolving to current demand?

  • GE: Demand is rising, factories are being built and extended all over the country. The government is helping with this with loan schemes to help the modular market.

    The industry itself is on the verge of bringing into play its first set of standards that will help regulate quality and manage expectations for funders, manufacturers, and end-users.

    Design is important to the modular industry, and the vast majority of modular schemes can’t be distinguished from a traditional construction method.

RP: And Lastly, you have been running Edward Architecture since 2005. By your 20th anniversary in 2025, what landmarks do you hope to have achieved?

  • GE: I would like the practice to be recognised as a pioneering residential Architects Practice, a great practice to work with, a great practice to work for and a great pedigree in training and career development for our staff.

Related posts