Cost, safety and wastage among themes in Homes England MMC study

10th March, 2021

A research project examining 1,800 homes built using modern methods of construction (MMC) will focus on 16 key themes including cost and pace of build, safety performance and levels of wastage.

The six-year study, led by Atkins and Faithful+Gould, has been running for a year and has identified the major themes it will monitor as its tests different types of MMC to provide long-term, verifiable data to inform decisions about emerging construction technologies.

The themes are:

  • Pace of build
  • Cost of build
  • Labour productivity
  • Planning issues
  • Pre-manufactured value
  • Levels of construction wastage
  • Construction logistics
  • Delivery performance: 'quality rating'
  • Energy efficiency performance
  • Sales performance
  • Life cycle
  • Economic rationale
  • Social value
  • Wellbeing

Working with the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and University College London (UCL), Atkins and Faithful+Gould will collect and monitor data from the developers during the six-year programme and produce annual updates on the research findings, before a final report is published at the end of the build programme.

The study covers eight separate developments across the country, employing a range of different MMC technologies, including modular, light gauge steel frame, and panelised systems.

Terry Stocks, UK head of public sector at Faithful+Gould, said: "With the impacts of covid-19 and the realisation of our exit from the EU, the need to protect and improve productivity and grow UK revenue is great. Coupled with the release of the UK government's Construction Playbook, the importance of this research project has grown.

"The work of the combined Faithful+Gould, Atkins, BRE and UCL teams over the past year has been great, and despite remote working a fully collaborative multi-organisational approach has been maintained, with the final metrics and collection methods of the report being tested with industry. The team and the developer organisations, along with their contractors, are now ready to move forward with increased pace, and the next year will see us gathering and analysing data to support a study that will hopefully drive an accelerated uptake of MMC in the residential sector."

Allison Whittington, head of housing at Zurich, said: "MMC, including modular and off-site construction, present genuine opportunities for the construction industry and the housing sector. However, as MMC becomes more prevalent, trends are emerging around serious problems that can be experienced during the lifetime of these developments, particularly issues relating to the durability of the development, and the increased risk of larger scale water and fire damage representing an increased risk to the wellbeing and displacement of the occupants.

"We, therefore, welcome the publication of Homes England's research themes for its MMC Research Commission and the focus on safety performance. Expanding the evidence base to improve learning outcomes and increase the understanding of MMC technologies, including their impact on functional design for the people who will live in these homes, is central to improving resilience in the built environment."

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