Modular design should be on architects’ syllabus, says government tsar

4th December, 2019

Architects should be better trained in designing modular and prefabricated buildings, according to the government's new tsar for modern methods of construction (MMC)

Mark Farmer was named MMC 'champion' by housing minister Ester McVey last week as part of the government drive to boost the use of off-site construction in the development of new homes.

Farmer, who trained as a quantity surveyor and who set up housing consultant Cast in 2016, authored the government-backed report Modernise or Die in the same year.

Now Farmer has told architects they do not need to feel threatened by the increasing use of MMC - but that MMC training in the sector must get better.

'It's really important that architects learn much more about MMC systems and design for manufacture and assembly when they train,' Farmer told The Architects' Journal.

'There is still inertia at the moment in terms of modernising training and course curriculum. [Various] stakeholders need to make sure architect training is better future proofed.'

A spokesperson for the Architects Registration Board, which accredits UK architecture courses and sets out the criteria for architects to be registered, said the regulator would review whether what is taught needed updating.

She said: 'We will, in the future, be reconsidering whether all of the current criteria are sufficient to produce competent architects capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century'.

Farmer also acknowledged that some architects remain wary of a shift to designing for off-site construction, but said fears about 'cookie-cutter architecture' or 'identikit buildings' are misplaced.

'Some architects get it, but others are more regressive, or perhaps just nervous. Ultimately MMC can liberate architects from a lot of repetitive, monotonous work - they will have more time to work on the more creative aspects of design,' he said.

'The reality is that the nature of delivery architecture will change. The genie is out of the bottle. Change is coming. The design profession doesn't need to see it as a threat if it thinks intelligently about how it interfaces with technology and manufacturing principles.'

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