Building Faster and Smarter - Central and Local Government lay the foundations for an MMC Revolution

16 Sep 20

Whilst the government are not alone in supporting this industry, gradually changing perceptions of MMC and strong governmental backing is enabling the MMC industry to expand.

.

Despite the term, Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are nothing new. Many of us still have the image of the post-war, ‘pre-fab’ era in mind which has tarnished MMC’s reputation for decades. Whilst the industry has witnessed ground-breaking progress, with a pre-existing stigma, financial and technical barriers and a general lack of understanding, we haven’t witnessed MMC take-up quite as we’d hoped.

The benefits of MMC are clear, be it shorter and less disruptive construction, environmental benefits or quality of build. As a result, MMC has been hailed as one solution to a reducing construction workforce and both housing and sustainability targets. Despite the government’s vocal support in recent years, MMC methods still remain the exception, rather than the norm. Recent research by Savills estimates that only 10% of homes are delivered utilising MMC (as compared to nearly 80% in Sweden). Concerns around quality, design and longevity remain, whilst those who do utilise MMC can find themselves delayed passing through development systems or gaining finance, thereby removing some of the efficiency benefits that MMC can bring.

The government has been actively encouraging the use of MMC for nearly a decade, but recently have demonstrated a notable shift, looking to lead from the front, to provide the confidence that the development industry needs. In the past few months alone, the government has implemented initiatives, policy and funding packages in which to cement MMC as part of the future of our construction industry.

Notably, those looking to sign a strategic partnership deal with Homes England as part of the recent Affordable Homes Programme (2021-2026) will now have to commit to building out 25% of their pipeline utilising MMC. Last month, another important milestone was passed through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, initiated by the government’s MMC Working Group between warranty providers in which to agree minimum standards in assessing homes in which to boost lender confidence. Those who have sifted through the government’s recent White Paper – Planning for the Future, will have noted that current plans require MMC to be acknowledged by Local Authorities within proposed area Design Codes.

At a local level, Councils across the country have actively begun supporting the MMC industry through developments of their own. Iceni have recently provided development consultancy advice for Local Authority pilot schemes which utilise MMC, which will aid in demonstrating the success of these methods. Whilst local level knowledge may currently be piecemeal across the country, there is evidence to demonstrate understanding and support of MMC at a local level is spreading.

Whilst the government are not alone in supporting this industry, gradually changing perceptions of MMC and strong governmental backing is enabling the MMC industry to expand. As the government lays its foundations, we will hopefully witness the further expansion of the MMC market and for us to gradually step toward MMC being commonplace amongst our built environment.

Charlotte Orrell Senior Planner,Iceni Futures