Modern Methods of Construction – Moving with the Times

Added: 17/06/16 Author: Mark Tomlin

Sometimes, the old ways are the best, but they aren’t always ideal when it comes to improving efficiency. After all, there’s no reason why trying the same thing over and over will yield different results.

That’s why I’m always looking for new, or unexplored, construction methods which can help to make our industry better than ever, whether that’s based around the employment of new technologies or simply making slight changes to the way we work.

One concept I’m proud to champion is offsite construction – which is often bundled together with other ideas under the umbrella of ‘Modern Methods of Construction’, or MMC – and I don’t seem to be on my own.

A recently released research paper from the NHBC Foundation, titled ‘Modern Methods of Construction – Views from The Industry’, discusses a revival of interest in MMC, and the advantages which they can provide, including greater efficiency and the ability to offer the rapid expansion needed to meet high demand while overcoming the skills shortage.

Looking at the results of an NHBC Foundation survey carried out at the end of 2015, the paper shows that 98% of large and medium housebuilders, as well as Housing Associations, either used or considered at least one form of MMC in the last three years, with many feeling that this would allow faster construction.

What’s more, 44% of the housebuilders surveyed highlighted additional benefits, including reduced preliminary costs, improved cash flow and faster sales revenue.

With all of that in mind, why aren’t we a nation that makes greater use of offsite construction? This is partly due to a lack of confidence, with the majority of organisations surveyed saying that they consider themselves to be ‘followers’ of volumetric construction, while only 10% of housebuilders consider themselves to be ‘market leaders’ when it comes to innovation.

This approach of waiting for others to take the leap into MMC before making a decision certainly makes sense, after all, where there’s uncertainty there’s risk, and where there’s risk there are nervous stakeholders.

However, offsite construction has been used for decades, and as standards continue to improve there’s less and less of a reason to be hesitant, especially given the benefits that it can provide.

That’s not to say that the method isn’t being adopted at all. Two-thirds of those questioned by the NHBC Foundation had used sub-assemblies and pre-made components on at least on home during 2015, however only 6% had used volumetric construction.

If we want to see some real, sustained change in the industry then housebuilders only need to look at the benefits that MMC has offered to their peers, and follow suit, while those who are truly brave can carve a path in offering new, innovative construction methods.

What do you think? Are we best sticking to tried and tested methods, or does construction need to modernise if it doesn’t want to be left in the past?