Known for their “simplicity, economy, swiftness of construction, repeatability, and flexibility,” modular and prefab forms of development are on the rise. Modular development in particular has taken off in the multi-residential sector, having come a long way from mobile offices or temporary classrooms: one 9-storey apartment building in Melbourne was constructed in the span of a single working week in 2014, while more recently, the tallest modular building in the world – a 32-storey apartment building – was completed in Brooklyn, NY.

The key elements behind successful modular development lie in the ability to conduct multiple processes in parallel and reduce the number of unique actions taken to complete a project. This allows developers to reduce design and construction time by up to 50 percent.

When done correctly, the advantages of modular and prefabricated development are clear enough: constructing and pre-assembling the majority of the project offsite can drastically reduce construction times and fees. As more architects and developers jump on board, modularity’s ability to deliver more affordable housing stock to competitive markets will be further demonstrated.

However, building occupancy and the integration of systems such as hot water must also be taken into account, making up the ongoing costs of the building over its lifetime. Typical multi-residential developments have often been equipped with centralised hot water systems. However, this decision can prove to be unwise – until September 2014, individual sub-meters were not required in new apartment buildings, and so hot water bills were and still are delivered in NSW based on lot entitlement within strata apartments, and not on actual use. Where billing is done according to use, this must still account for energy lost as water circulates around the building, resulting in inequitable billing schemes – and from a provider that no one can opt out of without the decision of Building Management to completely switch providers.

With multi-residential projects more and more being completed through modular or prefabricated means, the logical option would be to embrace electric instantaneous hot water systems and remove any instances of extraneous construction, maintenance and billing. With the design and construction of each dwelling happening off-site, the process of integrating electrical systems can be streamlined by designing personal systems into each module.

Electric instantaneous hot water systems have the least infrastructure and are the most energy efficient, removing the energy waste from heat loss as water is constantly piped around the building, as would take place using a centralised system in a multi-res development. That energy efficiency additionally converts to cost efficiency when one considers the rising role of renewables in energy generation, reducing the cost of electricity. Fossil fuels have been proven to be too harmful and too scarce to continue having a place in energy supply. Renewable sources such as wind and solar represent the future of energy.

The same heat loss that occurs in centralised hot water systems has another disadvantage on top of increased energy bills: namely, in the proliferation of legionella. Instantaneous hot water systems significantly reduce any risk of ever harbouring legionella bacteria, as there is no opportunity for the bacteria to thrive in the temperatures that might eventuate through heat loss and dead legs present in hot water plumbing systems.

For over 90 years Stiebel Eltron has been developing home comfort solutions with electric instantaneous water heaters as their flagship product. Having arrived in Australia in 1996, Stiebel Eltron has since seen significant success in providing a variety of home comfort solutions, including electric instantaneous hot water systems and compact storage water heaters. The reliance on electricity over gas for power is worth noting, with renewable energies representing the future of electricity generation.

Tailored to a variety of Australian conditions, Stiebel Eltron’s instantaneous hot water systems have been successfully utilised in a number of multi-residential projects to date, such as Brisbane’s tallest skyscraper 1 William Street or the 30-storey Vogue Apartments in Melbourne, lowering energy costs and increasing quality of life in the process.

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