MHCLG Committee Urges Government To Embrace Modern Methods Of Construction

A report published by the Housing, Communities and Local Government has urged the Government to consider using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) approaches if it stands any realistic chance of meeting the target of building 300,000 homes per year.

The report speculates that MMC has the potential to enable new build property to be constructed quickly and cheaply whilst maintaining quality.

The committee implored the Government to act quickly in embracing new materials, digital working and precision manufacturing techniques in the house building process.

Currently, the uptake in using  MMC approaches in house building remains low. The report suggests that supply chain capacity will need increasing and adequate training for the workforce will need putting in place if the construction sector stands any chance of fully embracing new technologies and methods of building.

Homes England and various training centres, like the Advanced Manufacturing Research centre were also tagged as potential contributors towards developing targeted programmes for using MMC in house building.

One of the main obstacles outlined in the report concerned the reputation and perception of MMC. Following poorly built homes, using MMC approaches in the 1950s, that have since failed the test of time whilst older Victorian properties are still standing, solidify the claim to persist with traditional building methods. The report suggests the government need to improve their collation of data on MMC builds to repair this historical perception of MMC quality.

Establishing a database of MMC homes could prove their durability and longevity which could transform the way lenders, insurers, developers and home buyers perceive this method of building in the modern world.

The sentiments have also been echoed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who have also warned that offsite manufacturing and MMC are an opportunity the government should not overlook if they are to fulfil their housing promises.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, said:

“If the Government is to have any chance of meeting its target of 300,000 new homes a year it cannot simply rely on traditional methods of construction. They must make a serious effort to support the use of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to have a transformative impact on the speed, cost and quality of home building. This is not simply about shifting production away from the building site and into factories. It is about seizing opportunities that modern technologies allow, whether it be precision manufacturing, use of new materials or digital working.

“First and foremost they must create the conditions to improve investor and consumer confidence. Reluctance is understandable. The perception is that the building innovations of the sixties created homes that failed to survive half a century, while rows of Victorian terraces are still standing. Proving quality and longevity will be key. That is why we have called on the Government to collect and publish the data that prove new building methods work, and also show if they have failed.

“The Government will also need to support the industry to grow the capacity needed for MMC to play a greater role in national house building. They will need to ensure that the right training schemes and apprenticeships are in place so that we have the skilled workforce that can utilise MMC techniques. They must also work with the industry to support the development of robust supply chains and support innovative businesses develop.

“The housing system is in urgent need of a major boost and if the Government is to have any chance of meeting its ambitious target it must grasp every opportunity new technologies allow. But they must act fast and act now.”

A RICS representative commented:

“The sector has been struggling to meet growing demand for its services in residential, with the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes per year unlikely to be met. Supply and demand imbalances contribute to unaffordability and in extremes, homelessness.

“Market-led solutions alone have not met the needs of large segments of the population, as housing affordability has moved beyond the reach of many. The construction sector for residential is part of the challenge. It is characterised by low productivity, variable quality, output lagging behind target, and slim margins for builders. This is partly due to the cyclical nature of the residential sales led trader model, creating unstable foundations for the construction sector to operate and invest in.

“Offsite manufacture and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) represents an opportunity to address many of these issues in addition to increasing capacity and investment in the industry. Its properties and characteristics can supplement our existing capacities, supporting alternative models for delivery and allowing for more options to be considered when tackling the complicated process of house building. While MMC is not a panacea that will resolve all the problems in the sector, once fully embedded, will go some way to improving our capacity to meet need.

“Government must support MMC both, directly through investment and indirectly through planning, education and construction and design quality standards and programmes, including encouraging and incentivising construction of MMC factories in areas of high unemployment as part of the Industrial Strategy.”

Should the modern developer use more MMC? What are the potential difficulties in combing MMC with traditional home building methods?

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