MMC: The only way to meet demand


With UK housing targets yet to be met, Chris Williams of Green Life Buildings (GLB) discusses how Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are the smart solution to pick up the shortfall.

If we are going to hit the 300,000 properties a year that Britain is supposed to be building, doing it the traditional way is quite clearly failing.

One of the ways it can be done quicker and easier is through offsite construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

But, while MMC are increasingly falling under the spotlight thanks to them having a Champion in Mark Farmer and being used in several high-profile TV programmes, the reality is that most specifiers, architects, and quantity surveyors just don’t understand them.

And, while we are seeing more contractors and large companies encouraged by MMC, it is not happening quickly enough.

A golden opportunity

Offsite construction allows projects to be built quicker, cheaper, and greener compared to traditional building methods.

The versatility and adaptability of MMC allows for greater design flexibility, which should appeal to a lot of markets.

Using MMC techniques can also mean difficult plots can be accessed and built on much easier, while buildings that would normally take months and months to put up can be built in a matter of weeks.

MMC Category 1 volumetric and Category 2 panelised systems for example can be highly versatile solutions, and can combine to suit a variety of opportunities.

Rather than competing, leading MMC manufacturers look to encourage open source platforms for building. Sharing a platform in the same way the car industry does can allow for greater choice and deliver more lower carbon developments than any one company can alone.

Challenging preconceptions

The speed at which MMC and offsite construction is adopted will depend on the rate at which planners and housing associations understand the reliability of these methods, instead of thinking a housing developer can throw them up
and they will be good to go in a year or two’s time.

We need to call on governments and agencies to improve clarity on funding and make it easier to access and secure for SMEs in the offsite construction supply chain. We also need to reach out and work collaboratively within the supply chain to secure projects to work on now.

Pre-conceptions of those feeling hesitant to join offsite construction need to be challenged. There is no reason why people should think homes built in a factory are not as good as those that are not. In a couple of years, offsite and modular will be seen as an alternative and a different way of doing things.

Changing perceptions

Many still have a rigid view of offsite construction; that of modules being made in an out-of-town factory, transported by road on an artic lorry and then craned into position and joined at a building site.

While this is true for the Mark 1 MMC factories which in essence are semi traditional homes built in a factory, the second-generation volumetrics
are innovative construction and manufacturing of homes. The spectrum of MMC options in the future will be much broader, with a range of safe, robust, and commercially viable solutions to choose from as one size doesn’t fit all circumstances.

As well as volumetric, alternative offsite construction options include pop-up factories on larger sites which avoid the need to transport whole modules by road. Instead, temporary buildings create an onsite factory to assemble panelised MMC at the site, meaning little upfront spend, an easy
way to instantly add value to each local economy, with much more design flexibility lost due to transport restrictions.

Chris Williams is managing director of Green Life Buildings