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Construction Disconnect…It’s about time dinosaurs moved with the times


Doing the right things in the worst way…well, obviously, the ends don’t always justify the means: we could, after all, eliminate UK homelessness at a stroke by sending the homeless to Tasmania (but we won’t…or shouldn’t), and we could eliminate child poverty by marching impoverished children off with a modern-day pied piper, never to be seen again (we’re not doing that either). But it’s not always so easy to sever ends from means. What if, for example, the bakes fail on my car, and I can avoid running into a crowded bus shelter only by steering into a mother carrying her child…I might save ten lives, but tell that to the bereaved family. And as regular readers might already have guessed, there’s an economic angle to this too…what if we’ve been doing the right thing for donkeys years in a harmful way that works (say, building homes for people experiencing homelessness), but new advances in technology mean we can minimise the harm (homelessness) by doing things differently? Should we disrupt the model, even if it means higher short-term costs and displacement?

Of course, the answer to that question depends on how we interpret the technological advance in question and how it should be balanced against the harm to be mitigated. Nobody would seriously argue it was wrong forty years ago to remove asbestos panels from public and residential buildings just because it resulted in short-term costs: the harm avoided made it worthwhile. It is the same with those blocks of flats disastrously reimagined on a Grenfell Tower model ( no sane person would argue against building them back safer, using current technologies. But those (and other binary examples) are essentially the easy cases with few real-world policy implications…so, to progress the argument further, what if these advances in technology just made it better to do things differently…nobody dies; we just do things better, with more amorphous outcomes. Is that worth the cost and disruption?

It’s not a hypothetical question because that’s precisely the issue currently confronting global construction.

Stuck in the mud

For the best part of two hundred years, construction has basically followed the same model. Were we to resurrect a hypothetical labourer from the time of Napoleon, he’d be instantly familiar with procedures for setting out a site today (basically lines and sticks); he’d need no training either in how to use a shovel (or what a shovel does), how to plaster a wall, or lay out a line of bricks…and he certainly wouldn’t need training in how to demolish a building and cart off the rubble: he might be surprised to find a smoke-belching truck waiting for him rather than an actual cart, but bringing down a roof is still essentially still about brute force, before lumbering off to bury the rubble in a landfill.

And there, in a nutshell, is the problem: twenty-first-century construction technologies mean all these things can now be done a whole lot better, but our Napoleonic labourer wouldn’t know the first thing about them. He’d likely gaze goggle-eyed at entire buildings being prefabricated offsite (far from the mud sites he was familiar with as a lad), and he’d probably call for anyone using computer-assisted design to be burned at the stake as a witch. But dinosaur developers are saving him the surprise and trouble because they still persist in building the old-fashioned way, despite the wealth of advantages new technologies have to offer.

From a Linear to a Circular Model

This stuck-in-the-mud stubbornness is why global construction remains the number one producer of waste on the planet (, paying little or no attention to full lifecycle use of resources and their ultimate impact on the environment (the tangle of post demolition steel, pipework, and broken brick is still basically unrecyclable…just as it was two hundred years ago). We need to change that model and move with the times from a linear to a circular system, where deconstruction is just as important as construction: planning in advance to create individual components that can be repurposed, reused, or recycled…and that’s why Modular Construction has become so important. 

It’s not just about circularity either… the pace of primordial construction is so much slower, too: three times slower than any project using offsite modular technologies, and Modular Construction is also up to 40% less expensive ( 

In short, new technologies offer the potential to do things better and minimise environmental and social harm, even at the risk of short-term costs and displacement. So, isn’t it about time we closed construction’s compulsive disconnect? …You bet your life it is.

Modulex (

Modulex is a ConstrucTech Company working at the vanguard of emerging global construction: making use of 3D volumetric steel modular techniques: harnessing the power of emerging technologies, including AI, Blockchain and IoT, to meet burgeoning housing and infrastructure needs in developing and emerging markets. Delivering at pace and with optimal cost efficiencies.

Executive Overview

Balancing risk against reward is at the heart of so much that we do on a daily basis…isn’t it odd then that one of our most important sectors is struggling to get the message?


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Modulex Construction ( is the World’s largest Steel Modular Building Company. It was established by Red Ribbon ( to harness the full potential of fast evolving technologies and deliver at pace to meet social needs within global communities.

Suchit Punnose

Suchit Punnose / About Author

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