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Modular residential construction is a method of building homes in which the components are constructed off-site and assembled on the building site. This method of construction has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability.  

An “eco-friendly” demo house, has been constructed by the City of Harare and the Zimbabwe-China Commission1, in a joint venture, whereby the Local Authority provided the technical experience and the latter provided the materials. The construction costs have been estimated to be reduced by up to 45%.2   

Polystyrene blocks were used to build the modular house, along with steel filled with concrete. The cost of construction is estimated to have been US$275/sqm, inclusive of labour.  

The “eco-friendly” demo house, is still yet to be approved by the controlling bodies, such as the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and the Environmental Management Agency. Once the project is approved, the developer will develop double storeys, and the modular construction material will be added to the model building by-laws as a construction material. 

The Housing Industry Association of Australia states that “a vast number of construction projects will move to modular or systems-based construction methods over the next 5, 10, and 20 years3.” This method of construction has been viewed as a solution to addressing the housing crisis faced by countries, as the construction period is quicker compared to traditional brick-and-mortar houses. 

The British Architecture Studio, HTA design completed the design of the “world’s tallest” residential modular building in Croydon, south London.4 The skyscraper is 135m tall and comprises 546 rentable homes. HTA’s managing partner endorses modular homes stating that “Factory-made buildings are more efficient than traditional buildings. Issues such as airtightness, thermal bridging, and quality of the finished construction can be dealt with by working with the manufacturers and solving technical problems early in the design.” Glazed terracotta tiles cover the exterior of the towers, forming reflective bottle-green blankets across their facades 

Images showing the “world’s tallest modular building” 

One of the main advantages of residential modular construction is that it can significantly reduce construction time. Building the components of the home in the factory while the site work is being done reduces the overall construction turnaround time. This is because the site work and the factory construction can be done simultaneously, which can save months compared to traditional on-site construction methods. 

Residential modular construction is also more sustainable than traditional construction methods. Since the factory construction process is more efficient, there is less waste produced. Additionally, modular homes are often built with energy-efficient materials and systems, which can lead to lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Modular homes may be designed to be more environmentally friendly by incorporating features such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems. 

Overall, residential modular construction is a modern and efficient method of building homes that is becoming increasingly popular and, it’s no surprise that more and more homeowners would consider modular construction for their new homes. 

As a developer in Zimbabwe, what is your take on modular homes, and how can Zimbabweans make a transition to modular construction? 

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