Refugee Crisis: Modular solutions
20th February 2016
fourLINK have recently been providing built environment consulting services and accommodation construction consulting with temporary modular accommodation solutions for refugees arriving in Sweden. The plight of millions of displaced Syrian citizens around the world has continued to make headlines in recent months, and nowhere more than Sweden, which has been receiving roughly 10,000 migrants every week since autumn 2015. Sweden. The plight of millions of displaced Syrian citizens around the world has continued to make headlines in recent months, and nowhere more than Sweden, which has been receiving roughly 10,000 migrants every week since autumn 2015.
It is estimated that over 163,000 migrants applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015, the highest per capita in Europe.
For a country with an estimated 9,5million people, this increase represents a new medium sized town of people who need to be housed and integrated.
The Swedish solution has been to distribute the arrivals around the country and push the accommodation problem down to the local municipalities and cities to deal with. In turn, one solution for finding quick fix accommodation has been to look at procuring modular accommodation from the private sector.
Modular accommodation can easily provide bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and communal areas and can even be connected to the Swedish standard district heating in order to take advantage of the municipalities communal heating. Twenty weeks after placing an order to moving-in on site is the maximum amount of time required, and so has become a very attractive solution for the current urgent needs.
Modular accommodation technology has developed considerably over the years and is now a versatile, energy efficient solution for problems like this. The standard modular accommodation units are similar in sizes to the standard ISO container which are seen on the back of trucks or cargo ships, meaning the modular units can travel easily by road and be lifted by crane into position. Weighing 2000-3000kg per unit also means they can be installed on a number of ground types with minimal foundation requirements.
From a thermal performance perspective, for Sweden’s harsh northern arctic climate, modular accommodation walls and floor u-values can be as low as 0.2 W/m²K and roofs 0.19 W/m²K. Compare that to the super-insulation requirements of Passivhus of <0.15 W/m²K for walls, floor and roof, and suddenly modular accommodation is a serious contender for energy efficient off-site construction. Being built in a factory under controlled conditions means the accommodation is built tight, with the final insulation and sealing applied on site during installation. “Built tight, ventilate right” is the old saying for minimising energy use and providing a comfortable space for the occupants.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Sweden is the appetite for the private sector to rent the modular accommodation units to the municipalities. A number of high profile cases of arson have seen the accommodation burnt to the ground, by either the immigrants themselves in protest of where they have been sent, or by disgruntled locals with the “not in my back yard” view of their new neighbours. Insurance costs have become prohibitively expense and uneconomical for the private sector to try and rent out the units, and so the councils are looking to buy them outright.
The advantage of this is that being modular, the units can be dismantled, moved and reconfigured for new lives and function elsewhere, up to three times. Most municipalities in Sweden, especially places like Malmö have already been buying large numbers of modular accommodation during the past 5 years for creating additional daycare space, as demand is outstripping existing permanent built solutions.
Modular accommodation technology is not only an economical and a fast solution for buildings, with the ability to stack, style and colour the units and add pitched roofs, the possibilities for the technology as a permanent solution, if properly maintained, is endless. fourLINK can provide a number of built environment consulting services.
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