Modern Methods Of Construction And Implications For Conveyancers
Within the next five years 400,000 skilled and expert construction workers are set to retire, this equates to around 25% of the workforce according to Homes England, Strategic Plan.
Despite the government’s widely publicised target of 300,000 homes per year by 2020, construction output in recent years has fallen significantly below this figure.
Even with construction output increasing by 78% over the past five years and 220,000 homes being built in 2018, there is still a significant amount of catching up to do. Especially when you consider that in 1980 251,820 new homes were built.
A decline in a skilled workforce and pressure to build more homes than builders are able to using traditional methods of construction has led to more companies looking to embrace Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in the future according to figures from Peter Andrews, deputy chair of the House Building Federation (HBF).
Furthermore, a 2018 RICS report into MMC estimated that: “1.4 billion bricks would be needed to build the one million homes targeted by the Government by 2020. Yet, the UK only has 628 million bricks in stock. Furthermore, 43% of contractors reported difficulties sourcing bricks in 2015, with 14% having to wait up to six months for supplies.
When half a billion bricks were imported from Europe in 2014 and with Brexit quickly approaching, the ability to source the necessary materials to build traditionally is going to become more difficult, which will force companies to adapt their construction methods.
Additionally, this method of construction is efficient, easy and quick to build, significantly reducing construction times and decreasing the cost of the property for the consumer. The combination of these concerns and benefits have seen an exponential increase in the use of MMC in recent years.
The HBF, who make up over 80% of all new home builders in the UK, have claimed that their members currently use MMC in 30% of their construction. Persimmon have further claimed that 47% of their houses are built offsite.
An NHBC Foundation report into MMC also found that 98% of large to medium-sized and housing associations have considered at least one form of MMC in the last three years, with two-thirds of respondents using sub-assembly and component MMC methods in their house building.
Building firms were comfortable in using smaller MMC elements like door sets, I-beams or pre-fabricated chimneys but less secure in using larger volumetric methods. Here, using large modules and pods, full sized rooms like bathrooms or kitchens, have been less popular with only 7% incorporating this level of construction.
Currently, house builders struggle with volumetric methods because it presents a difficulty for the home owner’s ability to adapt the property easily, according to panellists at the CLC annual conference.
The cost of maintenance needs to become equivocal with traditional methods and local tradesmen rather than bespoke specialists need to be able to complete the work on MMC homes. For this to happen the HBF believe MMC construction needs to increase its scalability and for home builders to standardise their properties more. Additionally, existing builders and new entrants must train themselves in MMC practices in order to offer these services.
Although 15,000 modular homes are constructed in the UK each year, the small number of factories restricts this method from growing to its full potential. Despite this, 67% of house builders believe that it will play a huge role in future construction.
The panel further considered the dangers of these hybrid homes and the lack of a register logging these property types. Second hand buyers need to be aware of where MMC construction methods have been used within a property. It was thought that a central database, storing information on the home, the type of construction used and the various adaptations that have been made were needed to ensure that all future buyers are aware of the property they are buying.
It was also argued that the conveyancer’s understanding around MMC and the property’s construction make-up should become a priority to fully advise buyers on the risks when purchasing certain property. Whilst conveyancers already have a range of important functions in the selling process, the panel believed their role will only increase in the future.
Do you envision that more property will embrace MMC methods in the future? Will this type of house construction enable more people to purchase property?