Architecture school announces first offsite construction course

13th November, 2019

The UK's first dedicated post-graduate architecture course covering modern methods of construction (MMC) is being developed by Oxford Brookes.


The university is working with Hawkins Brown and other architects to create a syllabus that will equip students with what they say are the modular and offsite skills that practices will want in a changing market.

Shahab Resalati, director of the Architectural Engineering Research Group at Oxford Brookes, said they were responding to "the inevitable" in a bid to "future-proof" their students.

"We see that the change is coming and we need to have this course," he said. "It will be the first dedicated architecture course in the UK to include modern methods of construction."

Planning is still at an early stage but it will probably be a year of a part II diploma course, worth 180 credits and with a curriculum covering both MMC and design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA). It might also run as a standalone MSc, said Resalati. He hopes the course will be ready for the September 2020 intake.

"We need to make sure our architecture students are capable of meeting the requirements of these new technologies coming on board so they are basically future-proofed," he added.

Architects who criticise MMC are Luddites and missing the point totally

Nigel Ostime, Hawkins Brown

"One in five new homes are offsite-built and that's a good indication of what's happening. The government is asking for MMC to be included in architecture syllabuses. We think the genie is already out of the bottle."

Oxford Brookes has been collaborating with Nigel Ostime, delivery director of Hawkins Brown, who wants architects to get involved in the conversation about modern methods of construction rather than "complaining from the sidelines".

"We have to improve productivity and only way we will do that is through a fairly fundamental change not a tinker," he said.


"We can't do too much on our own. We need a critical mass of practices wanting to promote this way of thinking."

Hawkins Brown joined industry body Buildoffsite last year to help shift its focus from delivery to design since MMC needs to be considered as early as RIBA stage 2. Other architects now involved include Sheppard Robson, BPTW, PTEa, Stride Treglown and Levitt Bernstein. All the practices may provide architects to teach on the Oxford Brookes course.

"Architects who criticise MMC are Luddites and missing the point totally," added Ostime. "The profession is being held back because of that sort of attitude.

"We need to be much more progressive. We're not going to stop the advance of technology but it's our duty as architects to find ways of making these buildings acceptable aesthetically and functionally. And we need to speak to manufacturers and help them improve the quality of their products."

People tend to assume MMC means volumetric stacked boxes but in fact there is a "wealth of options", he said.

"Frankly there's a lot of crap out there. If you look at volume providers' websites it's quite distressing. But it doesn't have to be like that."

Metropolitan Workshop's RIBA National Award-winning Mapleton Crescent flats in Wandsworth for Pocket was an example of a "gorgeous" volumetric building, he added.


Share this content