Implementing modular construction systems in developing countries

17th April 2024

Authors: (Left to right) Abdulkabir Opeyemi Bello and Dr Ayaz Ahmad Khan

abdulkabir-opeyemi-bello  ayaz-khan

Abdulkabir Opeyemi Bello, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria, and Dr Ayaz Ahmad Khan, University of South Australia, examine the gradual shift to modular construction systems and the challenges that remain.

Our research on implementing modular construction systems (MCS) in developing countries has impacted the transition towards circular and sustainable construction practices. Circular construction, which emphasises resource efficiency, reduced waste, and sustainable materials, aligns closely with the principles of MCS. Since the publication of our article, we have observed significant changes in how construction projects are approached, particularly in the context of creating rapid and affordable housing. Also, various organisations and practitioners have called for possible collaboration on how MCS can be effectively adopted in developing countries.

One notable impact is the shift towards a more resource-efficient construction process. MCS inherently promotes the reuse and recycling of building components, reducing the demand for new materials and minimising construction waste. In developing countries, where sustainable construction principles are gaining attention, our research has significantly influenced the awareness of MCS, which has led construction organisations to consider adopting MCS in their projects.

However, progress is still to be made in fully integrating MCS into construction practices. One area that requires attention is the implementation of end-of-life strategies for modular components. While MCS promotes reusability, there is a need for standardised processes to ensure proper recycling or repurposing of materials at the end of their lifecycle. Collaborations between manufacturers, developers, and recycling facilities can enhance these circular strategies.

Modular housing projects in Nigeria

Although the usage of modular construction is still critically low in developing (predominantly African) countries, gradual improvements are seen in a few countries, especially South Africa, which is leading the race in the usage of modular construction among African countries. The Ibadan City Estate is one of Nigeria's first modular housing projects. Another notable example of modular construction in Nigeria is the Green Park Estate located in Lagos State—Vooruitsig Primary and Du Noon Primary School construction in South Africa, among many other notable MCS projects. Site offices and a remote camp measuring 3,500 m² for Salini Namibia (Pty) Ltd (Salini) to aid the construction of the Neckartal Dam in Namibia is also a testament to the gradual adoption of MCS in developing countries. The use of MCS in these projects has highlighted increased efficiency and productivity and meeting client satisfaction within the planned project scope. These examples demonstrate how MCS advances construction efficiency and contributes to sustainable construction by promoting resource conservation, waste reduction, and material reuse.

Building on the research

Our research on MCS in developing countries has sparked interest and influenced the direction of subsequent studies, particularly in sustainable construction. The concept of sustainability in construction has gained prominence due to our findings, leading to a growing body of research exploring the intersection of MCS and circular construction principles.

Our team is committed to advancing the integration of MCS with sustainable construction principles in developing countries, with several initiatives planned. These include, developing comprehensive sustainable construction guidelines tailored explicitly to MCS in developing country contexts. Guidelines will provide clear frameworks for incorporating sustainability into every stage of MCS projects, from design to construction to end-of-life considerations. By establishing standards, we aim to promote consistency and best practices in sustainable construction. Moreover, our team is committed to sharing our research findings and experiences globally.

We recognise the importance of capacity building in promoting circular MCS practices. Therefore, we plan to organise workshops and training sessions for construction professionals and policymakers. These sessions will focus on the principles of sustainable construction, the benefits of MCS, and practical guidelines for implementation. We aim to drive widespread adoption of circular MCS by empowering stakeholders with knowledge and skills.

Collaboration with industry partners, research institutions, and government agencies will be a crucial focus for future research endeavours. We aim to establish research consortia dedicated to advancing circular innovation in MCS. These collaborations will facilitate knowledge exchange, joint projects, and the development of innovative solutions that promote circularity and sustainability.

While modular construction systems promote reusability, there is a need for standardised processes to ensure proper recycling or repurposing of materials at the end of their lifecycle.    


Drivers for the implementation of modular construction systems in the AEC industry of developing countries.

our goals

Sustainable structures and infrastructures

We are passionate about supporting researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in their efforts to minimise the environmental impact of structures and infrastructures.