Could MMC answer the skills shortage? As post Brexit we lose the migrant workers

#construction #construction industry #mmc #skills shortage #bricks #architects #local authorities #contractors #3D printing @eurobrick

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the construction industry is doing what it can to carry on ‘as normal’ but with the current climate as it is, along with the UK’s recent exit from the European Union, it leads us to question what the future of Britain’s workforce will hold. However, these major events are not the only influencing factor on the future workforce in our industry. With the rise in popularity of off-site and modular methods of construction, along with a continued shortage of skilled bricklayers and advances in technology and robotics, the future of our industry may be set to change in a big way.

It is easy to see why off-site modular construction has enjoyed such a boom in recent years, considering the many benefits. With increased efficiency and predictability, processes can be performed quicker and weather is no longer an influencing factor on delivery time. It is also easier to manage quality control within a factory environment and there are significant health and safety benefits within such a controlled environment too, which could be particularly beneficial while our country adapts to a new normal of social distancing. A smaller workforce is required, helping to keep costs down as semi-skilled labour is adequate for performing the roles required in a production line. Less disruption on-site can also be a big benefit to some clients, particularly for public buildings such as schools.

Our construction workforce has an aging demographic, which has been temporarily filled by EU migrants but is this changing post-Brexit and during COVID-19? Could modern methods of construction be the answer to the skills shortage? The UK’s leading brick slip cladding company Eurobrick has supplied the modular building industry for nearly 30 years, and in their experience, it could be. Richard Haines commented,

“Over the last few years we’ve seen the building industry take big strides towards more modern methods of construction and products like ours. Brick slip cladding can easily be installed on or off-site, allowing for a real brick finish combined with the associated cost savings of modular construction. Only semi-skilled labour is required for installation of most brick cladding systems which can certainly help to relieve the pressures faced in the coming years due to skills shortages.”

Building Information Management (BIM) is a collaborative approach to projects that uses digital technologies to make planning projects more efficient and give greater clarity and detail for the building as a whole. BIM allows you to embed asset data along with a 3-dimensional model into plans to help manage and maintain assets through the project lifecycle. This is now the required standard for many local authorities and is used by most major construction companies and these type of digital advances will undoubtedly have an effect on the industry, as many apps and digital solutions are developed to ease the pressures it faces, especially during times of restricted movement.



Other advances in technology such as 3D printing, virtual reality and robotics are already playing an active role in the future of the industry too. With some construction companies trialling the development of the first 3D printed homes, virtual reality as part of the project planning process to help eliminate problems before they even arise and robotics that can be applied to any automated tasks, making workers lives safer and freeing up people for problem solving issues instead.

All of these advances open the door to other types of skills and a work environment that will appeal more to younger people and women, helping to broaden the workforce of a traditionally male environment that has struggled to attract these demographics.


Brexit and COVID-19 will undoubtedly have an impact on the way our industry continues to operate, but technology will be the biggest game changer for us all.

You might be forgiven for thinking the Government target of

building 300k new houses this year won’t be met

#construction #construction industry #mmc #skills shortage  #architects #local authorities #contractors #design @jmsengineers #planning


For building firms who were already struggling to stay ahead of deadlines, the Coronavirus pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time. Sudden skill shortages, site shutdowns and reduced productivity have caused serious (and costly) delays. So with all this going on, you might be forgiven for thinking the Government target of building 300k new houses this year won’t be met.

But for Andy Kenyon, JMS Midlands Director of engineering consultancy JMS, failure is not an option.  “Those targets are important,” says Andy. “Not only to avert the housing shortage crisis, but also as the foundation of the UK’s economic strategy of investment in infrastructure and housing.”

“The construction industry needs to play its part in creating the V-shaped recovery our economy needs. And thanks to our decade-plus experience in working with MMC, we believe we can enable our industry to meet those ambitious housing and infrastructure targets.”


Fabricating a stronger future

 Andy is clear on the opportunities MMC presents:  “At JMS, our ethos has always been to look at difficult problems, and find the required solutions. MMC can not only cut timeframes, but deliver projects on budget, and requires less on-site labour while offering greater sustainability.”

MMC, or Modern Methods of Construction, refers to off-site construction, using factory conditions and mass production techniques. Pre-made modules are then delivered and fitted into place on site.

“Many construction firms still rely on bricks and mortar construction, but it isn’t a great fit with where the UK needs to be on housing. And even less so now that Covid-19 has reared its ugly head. In places like Scandinavia and Japan, MMC is already widely adopted, but we have been much slower to embrace this innovative approach in the UK.”

JMS are veterans of designing structures using MMC materials, and have supported industry manufacturers since 2005.  “Right from the pre-planning stage, we can dramatically reduce delivery times, and still exceed efficiency targets. It’s a scalable process too, and a solid way for firms to enhance their reputation with clients.”



“One of the concerns we hear from building contractors is that MMC relies too heavily on mass production. They worry it can limit their ability to make buildings look different. But it isn’t a one size fits all solution. Take our work with Ideal Building Systems, for example. Over many single and multi-storey projects, we’ve played a key role in creating substructures and superstructures, often for schools. And every design was adjusted to suit the ground conditions on each site.”

“One of the key advantages of our input was all the pre-design work we did before the building stages meant we could incorporate sustainable drainage. And while our pre-planning took more time than with the traditional building approach, that time was more than made back with reduced waiting times for delivery, and the reduction in on-site expertise required. Nobody had to wait for someone else to finish their job before they could get to work, as all that was done in the factory environment before delivery to the site.”

Andy believes Covid-19 may be the big event that finally breaks the UK construction industry’s reliance on bricks and mortar.  “It’s a necessity at this point. This infrastructure and housing needs to be built, and to meet those targets we have to embrace the innovation that MMC offers. Even at the structural design stage, our early input can identify and remove barriers to project completion before they cause headaches down the line.”

“At JMS we have invested heavily in the latest tech and design software, and my team are already MMC veterans, having designed everything from pre-cast foundations and SIPs to steel frames and much more beyond. I am very excited about the places MMC will take the construction industry over the next decade. Not only will we change the landscape, but we will also change the economic outlook for the country. And that can only be a good thing.”

With the introduction of Modern Methods of Construction, maybe Boris might meet his housing targets after all.

It is now almost universally accepted (a few world leaders aside!) that in order to effectively combat global warming caused by CO2, we need to make conscious efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Given that buildings are accountable for 37% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions (according to the Committee on Climate Change) we have a duty as specifiers, architects and construction professionals to reduce this alarming figure. Joe Bradbury Editor of MMC Magazine investigates:

Be negative!


Whenever CO2 reduction is discussed, we often talk about becoming carbon neutral, i.e. designing or retrofitting our building to use only as much atmospheric CO2 as it emits, leaving existing levels intact. However, approximately 30 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide is pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere from power plants, vehicles and various other industrial sources which are intensively fuelled from the burning fossil fuels. So, whilst going neutral can certainly help the problem, it’s a mere drop in the ocean in terms of fighting climate change.

We therefore need to not only focus on reducing how much CO2 we produce, but also on how we can physically remove it from the air.

Storing CO2…


Elegant Embellishments is a Research and Design-Manufacturing studio, initiating environmental research topics that have the potential to be realized as catalog-ready building products.

They are currently producing smog-eating facade panels to combat the effects of low-level pollution in cities, and are in development with a new carbon-negative material made from atmospheric CO2.

The innovative company designed a smog-eating façade that is a perfect example of how a building can go a step further and actually become carbon negative. Described on the BBC, “The façade is coated with a special paint made from titanium dioxide, a pollution-fighting technology that is activated by daylight. It absorbs the fumes generated from traffic and converts them first into nitric acid and then into calcium nitrate, which is harmless.”

The facade has currently been fitted on the side of a hospital in Mexico City, where pollution is a massive issue. Since being added to the building, the innovative façade has allegedly reduced pollution of around 1,000 cars per day, perhaps resulting in less people needing to visit the hospital in the first place!

Their pollution-eating facade (called prosolve370e) is a decorative architectural module that can effectively reduce air pollution in cities when installed near traffic ways or on building facades.

The modules are coated with a superfine titanium dioxide (TiO2), a pollution-fighting technology that is activated by ambient daylight. Employing a unique configuration of this technology, the tiles neutralize air pollutants when sited near traffic or densely polluted conditions.

As a modification to existing architectural surfaces, prosolve370e essentially “tunes buildings” to respond better to their immediate environments.

The modules have been installed across the globe, not only in Mexico, but in Australia and the United Arab Emirates too.


…Putting it to good use

The eco-friendly facade of the Manuel Gea Gonzalez Hospital tower in Mexico City


Becoming carbon negative is a two stage process; consuming the CO2 is only the first part of the solution. What do you do with the CO2 once it has been captured from the air? Turning it into usable materials or less harmful gasses is the key to becoming truly carbon negative and actually being an asset to the environment.


Atmospheric CO2 is one of the biggest issues of the 21st century… however, as the old adage “one man’s waste is another man’s treasure” implies, it is also a precious resource! We can use the CO2 taken from the air and convert it into useful carbon-based products, such as building materials, pharmaceuticals, fuels and plastics.


Not only do these products help us as an industry, but the very creation of them absorbs more CO2 than we emit, ergo reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. Now THAT is a solution for modern times that I can get behind!




German aerial-taxi company Lilium has unveiled its design guidelines for modular vertiports that could be placed on top of office blocks, car parks or shopping centres.

Lilium, which has developed a five-seater jet-powered electric air taxi, created the design guidelines as part of its plan to launch an all-electric air taxi service in multiple cities around the world by 2025.

The modular and prefabricated structures were designed as a blueprint for developers that want to incorporate a vertiport into upcoming projects or existing buildings.



Lilium has designed an urban vertiport that could be placed on top of a car park

“We have no plans to sell the design to developers,” explained head of architecture at Lilium Riko Sibbe.

“Instead, we see developers and partners using our design guidelines as a blueprint for developing vertiports specific to their contextual setting,”

“We intend to begin and complete construction of vertiports ahead of our commercial launch in 2025, so it won’t be too long from now!”

The vertiport would consist of a take-off area, parking spots and a terminal building

Lilium aimed to design a simple, functional vertiport that only incorporated the elements vital for running its future aerial taxi service.


The structure would be built from a series of prefabricated modules so that the scale of the vertiport can be adapted to its site and demand for the taxi services. Within cities, they could be built on top of office blocks or car parks.

“The lean and modular design allows us to tailor vertiports according to its specific location quickly and affordably without sacrificing design,” said Sibbe.

“Within cities, this might mean placing a vertiport at an existing transport terminal, next to a shopping centre or on top of a busy car park. In other, less built-up locations vertiports might be placed at ground level, next to a business park or housing development.”

The modular design could be adapted to different sites and for varying levels of demand

Each vertiport will include three major elements: a take-off area, which will be based on current heliport regulations; parking bays where passengers will embark the taxis and the vehicles will be charged; and the terminal building.

The number of parking bays and take areas would be determined by demand and availability of space.

“A small town might just have a single parking bay next to the landing pad, while a city-centre location might have 10 bays and two landing pads,” said Sibbe.

“Vertiports can be scaled up or down based on a number of factors, including passenger demand and available space.”

While the buildings will be similar to current airports, without the runways, Lilium has removed much of the retail and restaurants from the terminal building to streamline the process.

“Lilium vertiports will be optimised for regulatory compliance and safe and reliable operation, just like any airport,” said Sibbe.

“But unlike airports which are also home to retail hospitality and duty-free shops, our terminals are focused on reducing processing and waiting to a minimum in order to deliver a seamless and frictionless experience for passengers,” he continued.

“Whilst airports give passengers the feeling of losing time, Lilium vertiports are designed to give customers time back.”

Lilium is not the only company aiming to develop a network of sky taxis. Last year ride-sharing company Uber revealed eight design concepts for its “skyports” ahead of the commercial launch of Uber Air – its app-based flying taxi service – in 2023.


SOURCE: Deezeen


Kamp C, a centre for construction sustainability and innovation in Westerlo, Belgium, has produced on its premises what it says is the world’s first house to be 3-D printed in one piece.

The 90-m2 model dwelling was created using a modular Construction of Buildings on Demand (COBOD) 3-D printer, the largest of its kind in Europe. The 8-m tall, two-storey house is the average size of a terraced house in the municipality (which is in the province of Antwerp and the region of Flanders).


       THE BOD

The goal of this project was to demonstrate how 3D printing technology could be applied in the traditional construction industry in Europe.The idea for the project came from our participation in the Danish government-funded project “3D Construction Printing”, during which we visited more than 35 3D construction printing projects worldwide. We realized that Europe was falling behind, and we took on the challenge to be the first in Europe to 3D print a building fulfilling the strict building codes of Europe.



“What makes this house unique is we printed it with a fixed 3-D concrete printer,” explains Emiel Ascione, project manager. “Other 3-D printed houses around the world only have one floor and, in many cases, their components were printed in a factory and then assembled on-site. We printed the entire building envelope in one piece on-site.”

The house was built as part of the European ‘co-creation 3-D printing with companies’ (C3PO) project, with financing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in the hope of raising interest within the construction industry about the use of 3-D concrete printing techniques.




“Several possibilities, including the printing of provisional housing and even complete apartments, are already being implemented, but this technology is still very novel in Flanders,” says Kathleen Helsen, president of Kamp C and provincial deputy for housing. “That is why we created this unique location on our site, where construction companies can experiment, together with research and education institutions.”

The printed house’s material provides compressive strength that is reportedly three times sturdier than a house constructed conventionally with quick-build bricks, so the amount of wire-mesh reinforcement is minimal and formwork is redundant. Researchers will check whether this solidity is retained over time.

“We also eliminated cold thermal bridges altogether,” says Ascione. “We developed a low-energy house with all the modern conveniences, including floor and ceiling heating, solar panels and a heat pump. We will also be adding a green roof.”

It took three weeks to print the house, which will be open to visitors by appointment starting in September. In the future, Kamp C predicts, an entire house could be printed in less than two days.


Source: Canadian Consulting Engineer



Visitors to Greenwich can now catch a glimpse into the future of social housing, with the unveiling this week of four zero-carbon council homes in the South London borough.

The homes are fitted with individual air source heat pumps and solar panels and have been designed to exceed net-zero carbon standards, meaning they are capable of delivering energy back to the grid.

Moreover, the homes boast have an EPC rating well above the highest category of A. Currently, just one per cent of UK new builds are A rated, while the average rating is D.




The homes were manufactured by modular housing firm ilke Homes at their factory in Yorkshire. ilke Homes draws on the latest digital technologies – such as Building Information Modelling, which creates a digital copy of homes so that their energy performance can be modelled – to improve the airtightness and quality of home design.

The four council eco-homes were then craned into place and installed in Robert Street, Woolwich, following enabling works carried out by engineering giant ENGIE, which included the demolition of the existing site, substructure work, and utility connections.

“Rather than using carbon offsetting schemes, which is a common occurrence when the industry talks about net-zero, all the carbon savings are achieved by the technologies of the homes themselves,” said Matthew Bench, executive director of partnerships at ilke Homes.

The new homes are part of Greenwich Council’s drive to meet its twin pledges to deliver 750 new council homes and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. The council declared a climate emergency earlier this year, while acknowledging the scale of the challenge it faces it if to match the Mayor’s aspiration to make London carbon neutral by 2030 – two decades ahead of the UK’s national target. The council estimates that its homes are responsible for 20 per cent of emissions in the borough – with the cost of retrofitting them all around the £1bn mark.

“These high-quality and sustainable council homes are the first of 750 we’ll be delivering across the borough as part of our Greenwich Builds programme,” said Royal Borough of Greenwich Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Anthony Okereke.

“Addressing the shortage of social housing is a top priority for the Council and we’re delighted that Robert Street, our pilot Greenwich Builds development, is now ready for local families to move in.”

His comments were echoed by Simon Lacey, regional managing director for ENGIE’s places and communities south division, who said the new homes were “a step change for Greenwich and will provide more affordable housing in their borough”.

“As the world leader in carbon reduction and renewable energy, ENGIE is poised to continue working with our partners to deliver similar schemes over the coming years and play an integral part in making zero carbon happen,” he added.


Source: Business Green


NHBC, the leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes in the UK, has launched a new service dedicated to the rapidly growing area of Modern Methods of Construction.

NHBC Accepts is an all-inclusive, end-to-end service that will help to build confidence in innovative construction and enable MMC systems to be fast-tracked for NHBC warranty.



As part of the new service, detailed and robust technical reviews at key stages will result in provision of a certificate (and acceptance for NHBC warranty), usage licence for a bespoke NHBC Accepts logo and website listing.

NHBC has been a long-standing supporter of innovation within construction and their experienced MMC team will be offering a personalised approach via various channels and dedicated touchpoints, providing added value and confidence.

NHBC’s Innovation Manager, Richard Lankshear said: “The case for innovative forms of construction has strengthened and, as housebuilding resumes, the drive to transform construction is accelerated.

“We expect to see more innovative construction solutions emerge over coming years and NHBC’s thorough and rigorous approach to new MMC systems will help bring benefits to manufacturers, developers and builders.

“All new homes across the UK that are covered by NHBC’s Buildmark warranty are inspected at key stages during construction by our directly employed and highly skilled team of more than 350 inspectors. An NHBC Accepts certificate is a way of demonstrating that innovative products or systems have already been reviewed thus reducing the risk of delays on site.

“NHBC Accepts will play a critical role in ensuring developers, manufacturers, lenders and consumers have faith and confidence in MMC quality as the industry delivers more innovative new homes for the country.

Chief Executive of Cast Consultancy and author of the Farmer Review of the construction industry, Mark Farmer, added: “I welcome the launch of NHBC Accepts. It’s a step forward that sees the UK market leader in warranty and insurance for new homes making its commitment to high quality modern methods of construction clear.”


For more information, please visit






The Hong Kong Institute of Architects has announced the winning design of the HKIA Young Architect Award. The competition theme centered on affordable housing and asked local architects aged 35 or below to propose innovative and unique design proposals for local housing. Arnold Yok Fai Wong’s winning design reimagines the adaptability, livability and build-ability of affordable housing through modular construction in urban air space.




Titled “Modular & Inter-generational Community”, the winning design examines Hong Kong’s condition with limited land to build upon. Learning from New York City’s air rights, the proposal is located at the end of the Island East Corridor (IEC) to make use of the unused air space beneath the highway. The proposal anticipates promoted air rights through bonus floor area and exemption of site area as an incentive for developers. Assuming two floors and 80% of the air space below the Island East Corridor is suitable for construction, around 1,300 residential units could be built underneath.



The project is made to “fully explore the potential of the MiC together with the introduction of the first Suspended Modular Integrated Construction (SMiC) to work with air rights by suspending under bridges.” The construction would start by completing three main structural cores using slip-form construction before installing MiC with six programmatic modules. The dense tower is made to provide a pedestrian-friendly horizontal streetscape for the community and embrace a human scale by creating The Social Valley, a central hub that promotes diverse social opportunities with various active and passive programs.


Source: Arch Daily


Offsite Solutions, the UK’s leading bathroom pod manufacturer, has been awarded the first contract for its new enhanced and floorless GRP pods developed for the build-to-rent sector – a £1.6m project for ISG in Cardiff.

Offsite Solutions will manufacture over 400 bathroom and shower pods for Cardiff Interchange – an £89m flagship, mixed-use construction project for developer Rightacres Property. The scheme is designed by Holder Mathias Architects.




The bathrooms and shower rooms for 318 apartments for the private rental sector will be manufactured and fitted out offsite and installed on each floor as the building structure rises. This solution will reduce the build programme and the number of trades required on site and will enhance quality.

A UK industry first, Offsite Solutions’ new floorless GRP pods allow the bathrooms to be installed directly onto the floor slab to achieve continuous level floors throughout each apartment whilst minimising floor build up for each storey. This innovation in pod technology is ideal for build-to-rent schemes.

The enhanced GRP pods are also designed to have a strong aesthetic to appeal to prospective tenants. At Cardiff Interchange, the pods will have a tile-effect finish to the bath and shower areas, an inset feature wall with natural grey porcelain tiles and a recess above the bath with a coloured back panel.

Other design details for this project include a flush mirror-fronted cabinet which runs the full width of the bathrooms, wall-mounted toilet and hand basin, grey coloured vanity top, heated ladder towel rail, over-bath shower, and feature panels behind the toilet and basin finished in arctic grey. The shower and bath pods have shower trays and baths pre-installed and both have rain head and handheld showers.

Commenting on the specification of bathroom pods for this scheme, Jason Hyett, Director of developers Rightacres Property, said, “We needed little persuading of the advantages of applying offsite construction and a manufacturing process for the bathrooms on this development. The floorless option is an innovative solution to ensuring continuous level floors throughout the apartments. From our initial factory visit, we were impressed with the way Offsite Solutions approached the design process and their flexibility to accommodate our precise requirements at every stage. The first pods look great and we look forward to all the units being delivered to site later this year.”

Simon Pritchard, Senior Design Manager at ISG said, “Where there is a high degree of repetition in the bathroom layouts, pods are the ideal solution. The use of offsite construction reduces the number of fit-out trades on site and gives us the benefit of a much faster build programme. We have used Offsite Solutions’ pods on other projects and have found the quality of bathroom manufacture in a factory is consistently improved.”

James Stephens, Managing Director of Offsite Solutions, said, “We have had a lot of interest from build-to-rent developers in our new enhanced GRP bathroom pods. We have estimated that GRP pods can reduce maintenance costs by over 50 per cent compared to traditionally built bathrooms. The capital costs are around 15 to 20 per cent less than steel-framed bathroom pods. The figures make these new pods a very compelling proposition for developers in the private rental sector.”

All Offsite Solutions’ GRP bathroom pods have a panelised construction which is unique in the UK. This creates vertical walls and 90° corners to allow easier integration and the use of standard door sets to avoid further work on site. This design also improves aesthetics by avoiding tapered walls which you have with pods created from single GRP moulds.

Offsite Solutions offers the UK’s largest range of pods to suit many different building types and applications. Options include steel-framed bathroom pods with porcelain-tiled finishes for high-end apartments, PRS, student residences and hotels; robust and low maintenance GRP composite shower pods for student accommodation, build-to-rent, care homes, social housing and healthcare; hybrid pods for specialist projects, and award-winning demountable GRP pods for ease of installation in refurbishment schemes.

Offsite Solutions has also developed steel-framed utility pods for apartments or studios for build-to-rent or build-to-sell developments.


Offsite Solutions Website



Work has now commenced for a new modular housing development in Anfield, Liverpool.

The scheme is Your Housing Group’s first modular housing development and signals the start of using modern methods of construction to help meet the growing demand for quality, affordable homes.

We are building the homes on Rockfield Road, close to Liverpool Football Club’s famous ground.




The development, known as Rockfield Mews, will consist of seven two-bedroom homes for affordable rent. The modular homes will create quality and affordable housing in the heart of one of Liverpool’s most well-known areas and contribute to the significant investment already made to the area by the group.

The development has been designed by YHG in conjunction with modular housing specialist- Ilke Homes. Engie have been appointed to construct the development.

The homes will be built off-site in Ilke’s factory and then transported to the site and positioned using cranes. Engie are responsible for the preparation of the site infrastructure, foundations and external works associated. The development is due for completion in Autumn 2020. 

Brian Cronin, Group Chief Executive of Your Housing Group said:

“This new development is another step forward in the incredible regeneration of Anfield, and a new beginning for Your Housing Group in delivering homes using modular construction methods. The modular homes will enable us to deliver quality homes in less time and therefore at more affordable prices.”  


The development is being partly funded by Homes England. In May this year Homes England commissioned its own research study into modern methods of construction (MMC) to drive innovation in the construction industry.


Gabrielle Berring, Director of Loans at Homes England, said:

 “We are really pleased that Your Housing is making its first move into modular housing with Homes England’s support at this exciting development in Liverpool. It’s also good news that the modular homes are being built by ilke Homes, in which Homes England made a strategic investment as part of our commitment to accelerating the use of modern methods of construction.” 


Your Housing Group Website