Before Covid-19, the interest in modern methods of construction (MMC) was growing – albeit slowly – but the pandemic has certainly sped things up.
The benefits of modular construction are no secret – increased safety on site and schedule certainty, as well as less material waste and fewer delays. Yet, despite many within the industry calling for greater use, modular take up has remained slow and currently only accounts for a very small percentage of housing delivery.
However, the recent lockdown measures and all the subsequent restrictions put in place – along with the government’s ‘Build Build Build’ and ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ pledges – has seen greater emphasis placed on its utilisation as developers and housebuilders look for innovative solutions to deliver much-needed housing quickly.
Traditional housebuilding is still by far the primary build method in the UK, but the last few months have forced the wider industry to start thinking differently. The sector has looked at how they can innovate, adapt, and ultimately build more homes in the face of the pandemic.
The proportion of new homes built using MMC is therefore predicted to increase from the current 6-10% to 20% of the market share in the coming years, according to the last report from Savills. This is great news for the industry but in order to meet not only the UK’s housing delivery target but its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 – this has to increase.
I believe the industry has been slow to accept MMC because it is largely misunderstood. There is a stigma around modular and a general hesitance to change as people are used to working in the traditional way. There is also a perception that the product is low quality and has no integrity of design, but that simply isn’t the case now.
There is a real lack of knowledge within the sector about modular and this reluctance to learn is stunting innovation and growth in the residential sector – and ultimately preventing us from quickly building more homes.
The pandemic has started to change this as developers and landowners are beginning to consider how to move forwards. For instance, we have started to see local authorities look towards modular building as a way to unlock residential sites to deliver affordable housing.
One such project that we’re currently working on is with Bassetlaw District Council alongside Faithful+Gould. The modular housing scheme is the first MMC project for the authority and will deliver 120 homes in Nottinghamshire.
We are responsible for looking at the flood risk, drainage, transport, and structural design as well as providing specialist MMC advice and the project marks our tenth modular scheme.
It’s therefore clear that more and more decision makers are waking up to the fact that modular housing is an incredibly viable option for a post-pandemic recovery. But we still need to go further.
Developments such as the one with Bassetlaw District Council help deliver modern, innovative and energy efficient residential schemes that improve neighbourhoods, support local jobs as well as the council’s ambition to increase its housing delivery.
However, we need it on a wider scale to really make a dent in the 300,000 new homes target set by the government. The scale of our work has definitely increased – from roughly ten units on a development to almost 700 on our most recent scheme – so I just hope we continue to see action rather than all the talk of pre-Covid times.
By Wayne Oakes is director at multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy Dice
Source: Civil Engineer