Should the Winter Olympics Have Gone Modular?

11th February 2014

The Winter Olympics are coming to a close and this year has been particularly special. Internet donations ensured the return of the Jamaican bobsleigh team, Great Britain has a gold medal thanks to Lizzy Yarnold and for the first time in the history of the winter games a joint gold medal has been awarded.

It’s a shame, then, that the tears and triumphs of the Games have been almost overshadowed by the reports of unfinished roads and half built hotels. The logistical challenges posed by an event as big as the Games are huge , and sometimes there is no easy answer. I can’t help but wonder though; whether a modular approach to construction might have given Sochi the edge it needed to meet the accommodation demands.

I read that Sochi needed to build approximately 22,000 new hotel rooms. While some complain that modular building is too standardised, hotels, though not a market that is currently served by Wernick Group, are the perfect example of a situation that calls for large quantities of standardised rooms. Even if it would possibly require more planning, taking a modular approach from the start would have at the very least ensured that visitors would arrive to a completed building. I would suggest that a modular hotel would in fact have been superior, as the process allows a much more rigorous inspection of build quality and craftsmanship.

Speed is only one advantage of modular building though; cost is another issue that has caused some controversy over preparations for the Games. People may say that a modular approach could not achieve the levels of luxury or prestige called for by the Winter Olympics, but this is demonstrably false. Modular buildings can save money while being finished to a five star standard; price and quality need not be a choice.

From a sustainability point of view, I also wonder whether it would have been in Sochi’s best interest to provide more temporary accommodation solutions. Questions are already being asked about facilities falling into disuse after the games have finished but portable accommodation, easily finished to the quality and comfort called for by the occasion could simply be redeployed to where there is a demand. This would also have lessened the permanent impact on what is, lest we forget, an area of exquisite natural beauty.

It is worth bearing in mind that every Olympic host nation has to rush construction to some degree. It is also worth noting that the arguments for modular buildings have been made time and time again and there are numerous examples of their wide applications from construction sites to healthcare. What has to change, then, before people realise that modular construction is the obvious answer when accommodation demands need to be met on a tight schedule and at a reasonable cost?