The NHBC Foundation recently launched an in-depth report on how the role of modern methods of construction (MMC) has evolved within the housebuilding industry. Prefabricated homes have been long-heralded as the future of housebuilding: but if the arguments for homes to be manufactured like cars are so compelling, why is factory-built housing not more common? That's the question 'Modern methods of construction: building on experience' examines, by scrutinising notable periods of transformation in the industry and exploring the elements of design, as well as the social and economic influences, that fuel change.
Prepared for the NHBC Foundation by Studio Partington, the report looks at the history of non traditional housing through a range of different technologies and advancements since the 19th century. It considers and compares steel, concrete and timber, examining the inherent qualities of each material and its suitability for factory fabrication.
The introduction to the guide states: "The guide examines what can be learned from the historic periods of experimentation, application and innovation. We highlight benefits as well as technical considerations in different systems. In some instances a system successfully innovated in certain areas but failed in others. We also chart past building component innovations, which in some cases emerged from non-traditional house designs. Standardised and prefabricated elements are now commonplace in modern conventional housebuilding, a profitable and innovating industry far removed from the stereotype of traditional construction (of bricks and mortar and roof timbers cut on site). We can learn the lessons of the past and do better this time. We must harness technological advances and digitally enabled design and deliver economical and numerous factory-made homes to respond to pressing housing need and the climate crisis. Homes should be better performing, good-looking and long-lasting, be spacious and comfortable for their occupants and enhance neighbourhoods creating a distinctive sense of place."
NHBC's Head of Standards, Innovation and Research, Richard Smith, said: "As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and come out of the EU, there is an opportunity to innovate. This new report looks at the best features of homes from the past to inform the homes of the future. We really hope that 'Modern methods of construction: building on experience' will ultimately be an enabler of change for the industry."