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Green and viable: why construction companies are building modular

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For Wendy van Duijnhoven, Marketing & Communications manager at Jan Snel B.V., the company would not be where it is today had it not taken the decision to extend its modular building approach to include circular construction.

“The term circular construction – reusing buildings and using sustainable materials – you hear it everywhere,” she says. “For Jan Snel, the term circular construction means thinking about the dismantling and reuse possiblities of the building in the engineering phase. It’s a real buzzword in the industry, but Jan Snel stands out for having taken action to make it happen.”

Perhaps evidence of its dedication, the company employs a project manager to oversee successful implementation of sustainable methods in its business. Daan Kosterman, Circular Economy Project Manager, is as enthusiastic as they come about the prospects for modular construction, and for him, that really is because of one thing.

“Circular construction embraces modular construction. As Wendy said, our use of modularity makes us a forerunner in our industry in terms of sustainability and reusability. Construction is turning to these kind of solutions as a result of its low carbon footprint, level of waste, and its long term sustainability. Ultimately, it’s so much easier to upgrade a modular building, than knock down an old construction and start from scratch,” he points out.

Daan Kosterman
When new technologies come along, it’s much easier to upgrade a modular building, than knock down an old construction and start from scratch. Daan KostermanCircular Economy Project Manager at Jan Snel B.V.

Mr. Kosterman is keen to explain how the firm has implemented modularity in practice. “Our construction projects work in a variety of ways,” he reveals. “Firstly, we have basic units that are reused time and time again, for example, workmen’s shelters or construction trailers on construction sites. Secondly, we have a fleet of temporary units for schools (including a gym), housing and office buildings; these are more comfortable than the basic units, and are typically used for 5 to 15 years before being returned to us. Thirdly, our residential and student housing projects meet the strict requirements for permanent housing certification in all aspects, including insulation, electrics and sound levels. Building residential and student housing using our modular construction method allows us to complete projects between 30 to 50% quicker than normal construction. It’s our most lucrative area, and most of our flagship projects use modules that meet the requirements of the permanent construction/building regulations.”

With 540 houses in Elzenhagen, Amsterdam, 232 houses in the Keramus project in Utrecht, 300 houses in Eindhoven, and 400 in Utrecht, this model has clearly been a success. However, Ms. van Duijnhoven emphasises that this is just the beginning. “Expanding into building hospital units, and crossborder expansion beyond the Netherlands are our next steps. We have begun two projects in Germany – more than 700 student residences in Bochum and 106 student residences in Essen, built specifically to German standards. We know the demands for flexible and reusable housing in the Netherlands exists elsewhere, and our way of construction meets that need with a proven track record of success,” she says. Mr. Kosterman agrees.

Jan Snel - Wendy van Duijnhoven
We know the demands for flexible and reusable housing in the Netherlands exists elsewhere. Our way of construction answers that need with modular solutions. Wendy van DuijnhovenMarketing & Communications Manager at Jan Snel B.V.

“In our industry, there is definitely awareness that buildings need to be temporary, flexible and meet the highest standards, and that constructing this way is increasingly what clients want. The circular economy is an important aspect of every industry. We must all ask: how might we consider re-use in our design stage? In construction, the outcome has been modular design,” he notes. Indeed, Jan Snels introduction of a modular approach to construction is a testament to its pioneering approach that not only goes green, but also answers the commercial need for flexibility.

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