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Airships could help house-building take off.


The house-building industry is clearly beginning to move off site into factories ("Modular construction," PE March), which will cause some problems in the future. One of these will be the logistics associated with the offsite production of building modules, and especially their transport to site.

It is obviously beneficial to produce ready-for-occupation modules in a factory, transport them to site, and place them on ready-made foundations. The problem lies in the transport of the prefabricated units from the factory to site. The size of unit that may be transported by road without police escort is 4.9m wide by 9.9m long, which places constraints on the design.

If government plans to have 350,000 homes built annually by 2020 were to materialise and if a substantial proportion of these were to be produced off site, the roads would find it difficult to cope with the extra traffic.

The solution may lie in the cargo airships in advanced stages of development in the US, Russia, Germany and the UK ("Return to the skies," PE April). Today's airship development is serious enough to have gained financial support from major companies and government agencies, and the chances of success are claimed to be good.

Further development work would be encouraged if companies such as those engaged on off-site production of building modules were to signal their interest in using airships for transporting their products. It will no doubt take some years for factory production of building modules to reach substantial volumes, by which time the cargo airship may have become a viable transport option.

The transport distances for building modules in the UK would be a maximum of a few hundred miles. On site, the modules would be lowered from the airship straight onto the foundations. Transport by airship would eliminate the constraints on size and weight imposed by road vehicles, and would also be quicker.

In due course, major haulage contractors may find it attractive to invest in airships as an alternative to lorries for transporting heavy and bulky goods.

Generally unsuccessful attempts have periodically been made to revive the airship since the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, but airship technology may now be on the road to success.

Antony Kaye, Ekerd, Sweden

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Title Annotation:Letters: Readers write
Author:Kaye, Antony
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2016
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