Arup aids WoHo modular building initiative

10 December 2020 Consultancy.uk 3 min. read
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Global engineer consultancy Arup has teamed with Massachusetts off-site construction firm WoHo to make modular building affordable, greener and easier to scale.

Modular construction is a process in which a building is constructed off-site, under controlled plant conditions, using the same materials and designing to the same codes and standards as conventionally built facilities – but in about half the time. Buildings are produced in “modules” that when put together on site, reflect the identical design intent and specifications of the most sophisticated site-built facility.

According to research from McKinsey & Company, this process could transform the construction market, as the technology offers possible savings of up to 20% while significantly reducing construction time by up to 50%. However, like most money saving investments, it still requires more capital than many smaller firms can readily muster – particularly amid a global recession.

Arup aids WoHo modular building initiative

In order to help modular building become more accessible to construction firms across the world, Arup has announced it will help WoHo (short for World Home) to develop solutions in structural, mechanical and electrical engineering. The firms have set a goal of launching a pilot project in Boston in 2021, which will put the team one step closer to achieving its goal of revolutionising the way prefabricated buildings are designed and constructed.

“Arup is committed to sustainable development and we are proud to collaborate with clients like WoHo who are aiming to provide housing which both is affordable and has a low carbon footprint. By making prefabricated construction more economical, sustainable and scalable, the WoHo system could help urban planners and developers address some of the most pressing challenges faced by today’s cities,” said Arup Principal Mark Walsh-Cooke, who is also acting as Project Manager.

Arup’s integrated multidisciplinary team of experts is working with WoHo and its energy and environmental consultants to develop energy-efficient and scalable solutions in SMEP engineering (structural, mechanical, electrical and public health). The team is providing consulting services for building code and Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

The ultimate objective is to radically improve construction time, affordability and sustainability of high-quality buildings. Commercial and residential developers will be able to design and construct more economical, longer-lasting buildings without having to sacrifice architectural style or jeopardise carbon emissions targets.

Debora Mesa, WoHo’s President, said, “We are front-loading the building design and engineering process for architectural and environmental benefit. We are bringing the insight and knowledge of respected experts to collaborate with our in-house team assessing our products and crafting a successful path from factory to market.”

Established by three engineers from MIT and Georgia Tech, WoHo aims to create a streamlined platform for the design, manufacture and construction of modular buildings, with reusable components that can be customised to suit residential, healthcare and commercial buildings. The start-up, which has raised $4.5m in seed funding, has also partnered with Swiss cement maker LafargeHolcim.