Build for Sustainability with Modular Construction

What is sustainable construction?

Sustainable building means consciously dealing with and employing available resources and the reduction of energy consumption to a minimum, thus protecting the environment. When speaking about sustainable construction of buildings, one often thinks only of energy efficiency in operation and in the utilization of the building. However, the production of building materials as well as the construction and dismantling of a building consume large quantities of energy. A look at the entire life cycle - from the integral planning, through production, utilization and re-utilization, all the way to dismantling - and minimization of energy and resource consumption is therefore advisable for evaluating the sustainability of a building.

The concept for evaluating sustainability is based on a three-pillar model; frequently referred to as the “three-pillar principle of sustainability” or “three-pillar concept of sustainability.” It takes ecological, economic and sociocultural aspects into account and assumes that sustainability can only be achieved through the simultaneous and equal implementation of environmental, economic and social goals. Sustainable construction refers to the implementation of the three-pillar model in the planning and construction process.

The Three-pillar Model of Sustainability in the Construction Process

When talking about sustainable construction, the three pillars must not be considered individually, but all aspects must be included in the planning of the building on an equal footing. This is referred to as integral planning. It consists of the three following pillars.

[Translate to English:] Modulbau Nachhaltigkeit Ökologie

Ecological Quality

The ecological quality of a building represents one of the three main pillars of sustainability. It considers the aspects of resource conservation, environmental protection and minimizing the energy requirements of a building. This aspect is increasing in importance due to climate change, rising energy prices and dwindling resources.

[Translate to English:] Modulbau Nachhaltigkeit Ökonomie

Economic Quality

The economic quality is the second pillar of sustainability. For sustainable construction, this means that all phases in the life cycle of a building are taken into account in its economic assessment; from planning through construction to dismantling. The cost efficiency of a construction project is evaluated using the so-called life cycle cost analysis.

[Translate to English:] Modulbau Nachhaltigkeit Soziokulturell

Sociocultural and Functional Quality

The third pillar of sustainability is sociocultural and functional quality. This is about the acceptance and appreciation of a building by its users. Social values such as healthy living, quality of life and aesthetic design play a role here.

Aspects of the Ecological Quality of Modular Buildings

Land consumption:
In order to achieve the longest possible lifespan of a building, it must be possible to reuse a building. The multiple use of buildings results in a reduction of the use of space by new buildings and is one of the essential criteria: Thanks to their self-supporting steel frame structure with non-load-bearing inner walls, they are very flexible and can be redesigned, enlarged, reduced or re-purposed.
The basic principle of lean production is minimizing waste. All resources, i.e. material, personnel and energy, are used optimally through process optimization and harmonization in the prefabrication of the modules. This reduces the use of resources by 36% and waste by 70% compared to conventional construction methods. Because of the high degree of module prefabrication, the environmental impact of dirt, noise and construction waste on the construction site itself is reduced to a minimum. In numbers, this means: up to 20% less construction site traffic and a reduction in noise and construction dust by up to 50%.
Building materials:
Steel is the most-recycled material worldwide. For example, 99% of structural steel is recycled, 88% of it is melted down and processed into new steel. It can therefore be said that today basically every steel product - and thus also the basic construction of the steel modules - is already a recycling product. Recycling of steel thus eliminates more than 20 million tons of CO2 a year in Germany alone. This is as much as Berlin releases in a year.
Energy efficiency:
Thanks to the integral planning, modular buildings are designed for optimum energy efficiency. Modular buildings can be implemented to meet the requirements of the KfW (Credit Institute for Reconstruction) 55 standard for energy plus buildings. As part of the “100 EnergiePlus -Häuser für Dortmund” campaign, 17 houses were built on Dortmund's Lake Phoenixsee which produce more energy than they consume. And a daycare facility with a modular design that naturally fulfills the same energy requirements. In cooperation with an engineering office for heating and energy technology, ALHO created the concept for the EnergiePlus (energy plus) house. The requirement to produce an energy surplus of 1,000 kWh/annum was even exceeded.
If a modular building is no longer required, it can be completely dismantled and then broken down into its recyclable materials in the factory. This means that all materials can be approximately 90% recycled and returned to the material cycle.

Aspects of the Economic Quality of Modular Buildings

Investment costs:
In contrast to the conventional planning process, the construction and building technology are precisely coordinated with one another in the integral planning. In addition to the structural and technical trades and specialist disciplines, all life cycles of the building as well as costs, user comfort and ecology are also taken into account.
Operating costs:
Dismantling costs:
Modular construction conforms to the principle of “Circular Economy.”
This makes it possible to dismantle a modular building without leaving any residue by disassembling it into its individual modules. These can then be reassembled as a “mobile property” at another location — or the modules can be returned to the factory.

Aspects of the Socio-cultural and Functional Quality of Modular Buildings

Healthy living:
Modular buildings are impressive with unrivaled convenience in use and a pleasant living and working atmosphere. The optimized insulation ensures a pleasant room temperature; comfortably warm in winter, pleasantly cool in summer. The double-shell wall and ceiling system ensures increased sound insulation and the best acoustics. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring a lot of daylight into the interior of the building and ensure well-being. In principle, only quality-tested materials from German brand manufacturers are used in the construction of ALHO modular buildings. This offers security and guarantees high indoor air quality.
Naturally, ALHO modular buildings can be planned for accessibility according to DIN (German Institute for Standardization). Our customers have access to DIN-certified specialist planners for ensuring accessible construction in our in-house planning team.

ALHO Modular Construction is the Recipient of the Gold DGNB-Mehrfach-Zertifikat

The German Sustainable Building Council - DGNB e.V. - is an organization that has set itself the task of developing and promoting ways and solutions for sustainable planning, construction and use of buildings. The heart of the DGNB is the association with its approximately 1,200 members, which also include ALHO.

ALHO supports the values and principles of the DGNB and would like to make a contribution to the topic of sustainability in construction with its membership. The DGNB is committed to raising public awareness of sustainable construction. To this end, DGNB certifies buildings that provide evidence of the sustainability of the building. ALHO has been recognized for not only a single building, rather an entire building system has received the Gold DGNB-Mehrfach-Zertifikat (certification of sustainability for multiple and serial construction) as proof of sustainable construction.

The DGNB certification system for sustainable construction serves the objective description and assessment of the sustainability of buildings and neighborhoods. In DGNB-certified buildings, quality is assessed comprehensively across the entire building life cycle. The system takes all essential aspects of sustainable construction and the sustainability of buildings into account. In addition to the topics of ecology, economy, sociocultural and functional aspects from the three-pillar model, the areas of technology, processes and location are also assessed.

The DGNB awards the “Seal of Sustainable Construction” in the quality levels of platinum, gold, silver and bronze. ALHO has received the multiple certificate in gold for its construction system.