Government renews offsite commitment, but warns on quality

19th October, 2019

Housing minister Esther McVey has renewed the government's commitment to modern methods of construction (MMC) when building new homes but stressed the need for quality and safety as the use of MMC expands.

Her comments came as the government responded to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee's report on MMC, following its recent inquiry.

The report made 21 recommendations to government, recognising the importance of MMC to the government's ambition of building 300,000 homes by the mid 2020s.

In its response, the government said it wanted to see housebuilders embrace MMC and other new technologies to build new homes more quickly and that it agreed MMC could unlock benefits for housing at lower cost, if done at scale.

While it agreed with many of the report's recommendations, including the a call for housebuilders to use more BIM in their processes, rather than just moving construction offsite, and the need to gather more data on how MMC performs in other sectors in order to generate confidence in the technology, it rejected some others.

Among the recommendations it rejected was a call to set requirements for housebuilding developments that benefit from public funds to incorporate the use of MMC techniques. The government said it wanted to avoid "focusing only on the frontrunners in the sector".

'No one technology the answer'

And it also resisted the report's recommendation for the joint industry working group on MMC to identify types of MMC that work best and can be used at scale to deliver quality homes, saying: "Homes England does not believe that any one type or types of MMC technology will provide the answer to the housing shortage across the country. All types may have a part to play and what is suitable and viable on one site may not be appropriate on another."

McVey said: "The way in which the housebuilding market currently operates constrains the supply of new homes due to insufficient competition and innovation. We are heavily reliant on volume housebuilders, who, while an important part of the market, cannot provide the whole answer alone. To rapidly increase the pace of building and reach our housing ambitions, we need to increase the range of producers in the market and also the types of homes they are delivering.

"Diversifying the market and ensuring it delivers a greater variety of products will not only result in the delivery of additional homes but will also increase market resilience. We need a market that can adapt, to the changing demands of consumers and technology, but also to changing economic conditions.

In short, diversification can lead to more homes being delivered faster and to a higher quality, with significant financial benefits. We are committed to ensuring that as the use of MMC expands, quality and safety remains very much at the forefront of what we are trying to achieve."

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