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CRL Management discusses the pros and cons of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)

Modern methods of construction, or MMC for short, is being advocated as a solution for the UK housing crisis.

Around since the Second World War, MMC involved the use of off-site construction methods that support mass production.

In 2005 the National Audit Office published a report that proposed MMC as a way of building homes more rapidly and efficiently. A similar report published by the Barker 33 Cross-Industry Group the following year took a closer look at why MMC uptake was low. It suggested that modern methods of construction involved better products and processes, all of which improved business efficiency, output quality and sustainability, and delivery timelines.

The 2005 National Audit Office report suggested that the MMCs being considered by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister included:

  • Assembling factory-produced panellised units on-site
  • Producing modular units in a controlled factory setting prior to shipping to site 
  • Techniques that combined volumetric and panellised approaches 
  • Pre-formed wiring looms, concrete foundation assemblies, and other innovative techniques 

The National Audit Office asserted that if modern methods of construction replaced traditional methods, up to four times as many homes could be built with the same on-site labour and construction time would also be cut by over half. Cost ranges would be similar, although higher on average with MMC. Good risk management would be important due to increased risks at early stages of the development process, and project managers would need to liaise closely with planning authorities.

The Barker 33 Group pointed at a variety of barriers to uptake, including:

  • Delays in the approvals process 
  • Complex regulations 
  • Inadequate certification 
  • Level of training required for staff 

The issue is not with the product itself. Rather, the skills needed to bring these projects to fruition are lacking.

Other studies in 2016 found that most organisations had used or considered the use of MMC methods in the last three years. Over three-quarters cited a faster build schedule and more than half indicated that build quality was superior. However, most of these groups regarded themselves as ‘followers’ or ‘late adopters’ of MMC, as opposed to ‘market leaders’.

The reports reflected the hopes that MMC would transform the UK house-building industry, but that it had not yet been realised on the scale predicted by its advocates. Although cautious about completely committing, the industry still appears to be embracing MMC’s many options and innovations.

The Autumn Budget 2017 has also praised offsite construction methods, suggesting that MMCs would be a preferred option for public infrastructure schemes from 2019.

It said that the government would use its purchasing ability to drive MMC adoption, particularly off-site manufacturing. The Ministry of Justice, Department for Transport, Department for Education, and other government organisations will adopt a presumption in favour of these construction methods by 2019.

Specialist in Construction Insurance

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