As house-building increasingly embraces factory based prefabrication, the associated logistics, especially transport to site, presents another set of issues.
Producing factory built ready-for-occupation modules, transporting them to site, and placing them on ready-made foundations is one answer, but how to transport them is another issue. Road transport without police escort is limited to 4.9m wide by 9.9m long, which places constraints on the design.
According to Antony Kaye, a professional engineer from Ekerö, Sweden, modern day airships may be set to help house-building “take-off”. Cargo airships are already in advanced stages of development in the US, Russia, Germany and the UK (“Return to the skies,” Professional Engineer April 16) and their development is serious enough to have gained financial support from major companies and government agencies. The chances of success are claimed to be good.
Over the last 9 years, for example, this British all-aluminium airship firm has developed and tested their ground breaking, innovative patented design. By solving traditional airship limitations they can now mass produce a reliable, economical range of heavy-lift airships.
Varialift’s unique craft allows remote areas to be connected with no infrastructure and deliver different types of cargo ranging from low density goods to large prefabricated structures of weight 50 to 500 metric tonnes, including oversize shapes. Unsurprisingly, they have identified potential markets for hundreds of airships.
Claiming that their VTOL aircraft can operate in strong front & cross wind conditions (50 Knots), needs NO airport infrastructure/ground crew, burns 80 - 90% LESS fuel than equivalent Aircraft, flies at 250 - 350 Km/hr, costs 80-90% LESS than equivalent payload Aircraft to purchase AND operate and rivals in cost with Truck or Rail (point to point), with no Helium Loss during normal operations they claim it will have 40 years’ work life.
With helicopter technology limited to payloads of up to 20 tonnes, the SkyLifter's 150 tonne vertical pick-up and deliver capability will present a paradigm shift for the heavy airlift industry when it is introduced.
A common theme in the heavy airlift scenario is the ad-hoc nature of the tasks - so a 'go anywhere', 'lift anything' aircraft is demanded. Targeting payloads of up to 150,000 kg at sea level, SkyLifter could be used to carry items for, say, wind-farm construction, pylon and bridge installations, transformer transport and anything that is too heavy for helicopters, or too difficult to move by land or sea.
SkyLifter’s goal is to carry oversize payloads. When introduced, builders of pre-fabricated buildings, large equipment or other cargo will be freed from the size restrictions of road transport, enabling them to do more manufacturing in the factory and less assembly onsite, thereby saving time, materials and costs.
With no landing, minimal payload hand-offs, and extended loiter benefits, airships would be used in many projects where other terrestrial crane services are unable to work, particularly in isolated, mountainous, waterlogged or forest regions.
In the UK, transport distances are only a maximum of a few hundred miles. On site even large, oversize building modules would be lowered from the airship straight onto the foundations.
By eliminating constraints on size and weight imposed by road vehicles, Airships would also be quicker. Major haulage contractors may find it attractive to invest in them as an alternative to lorries for transporting heavy and bulky goods.
Transport, delivery costs, and environmental considerations are clearly important issues for anyone interested in low energy. While it may take a little while for present day delivery logistics to take on board Airships as a radical new alternative, there is still much that can be achieved by selecting and designing buildings to optimise handling, minimise the need for special provisions and avoid mechanical lifting. Certainly careful consideration at the outset of any construction project can secure winning advantages, both during the build and in its’ occupation.
Visit the Benfield ATT Group website for more information on Airships for Housebuilders