Giorgio Bianchi
Robert Bird Group, London

Modular construction and off-site fabrication are not new to the construction industry. However, social challenges such as the housing crisis, environmental issues and workforce availability, together with the effects of globalization and the recent advancements in digital technologies have generated a renewed enthusiasm for volumetric construction. Embracing technologies such as Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) to deliver more value and be more competitive against other more traditional construction techniques is the present-day challenge for modular construction. In this context, pushing modular construction into the realm of tall and supertall buildings is a key step forward that may determine the overall success of this construction methodology.

The benefits that come from a higher manufacturing quality and a faster construction program can still be counterbalanced by a manufacturing process that, although performed in a factory, is still largely based on traditional construction techniques. Furthermore, building taller with modular construction introduces new structural and construction challenges, normally less prevalent in low-rise construction.
An exploration of the design challenges that are typical to high-rise modular buildings such as wind-induced accelerations, seismic response, differential axial shortening, and disproportionate collapse is supplemented with a review of the design solutions currently adopted on various international projects.

Current industry challenges are explored in detail, including how the implementation of DFMA and new technologies such as digital design and advanced manufacturing techniques can enable modular construction to occupy a role in the future of the high-rise construction industry.