Modern methods of construction embraced by UK housebuilders

Published:  02 June, 2016

The vast majority of housebuilders have used or have considered using modern methods of construction (MMC) in the last three years, according to new research from the National House-Building Council (NHBC) Foundation.

The research found that one of the key attractions to MMC is the perceived ability to build more quickly and there is some evidence that MMC can lead to a reduction in costs.

The NHBC Foundation report ‘Modern methods of construction: views from the industry’ surveys 135 housebuilders and housing associations and explores attitudes towards MMC. The research captures the degree to which different methods and systems have been adopted and assesses the appetite for more extensive application of specific approaches.

Key findings include:

  • Of the large and medium-sized housebuilders and housing associations surveyed, only two said they had not used or considered at least one form of MMC in the last three years
  • The most used methods are sub-assemblies and components, installed by about three-quarters of the housebuilders and just under half of the housing associations in 2015. Panelised systems, such as timber and steel frame are the next most used MMC type
  • Few have used full volumetric construction or pods. However, many organisations are considering them for future use
  • The majority of organisations surveyed consider themselves to be ‘late adopters’ or ‘followers’ of volumetric construction, pod and panelised forms of MMC – rather than ‘market leaders’
  • One of the key attractions driving the use of MMC is the perceived ability to build more quickly, potentially at lower cost.

Despite reservations expressed by some, and the lower enthusiasm in the bulk of the industry for the more radical and far-reaching manifestations of MMC, housebuilders have still been making extensive use of a variety of innovative approaches. Most of those surveyed expect the role of MMC to grow (45%) or remain static (51%) over the next three years.

Neil Smith, head of research and innovation at NHBC, said: “Attention has focused on modern methods of construction many times since the Second World War as a means of boosting housing output and improving the quality of new homes.

“This report shows the high hopes invested in MMC, as a means of delivering transformational change to the housebuilding industry, have not yet been realised on the scale anticipated by its champions. It also illustrates that although cautious about over-commitment, the industry is nevertheless embracing MMC in many guises, and stands ready to explore new options and innovations.”

Mike Quinton, NHBC chief executive, added: “It’s clear that MMC has an increasing role to play in boosting growth in UK housebuilding. NHBC’s technical teams have decades of experience of working with the industry and we have already provided warranties for a variety of innovative approaches. We are keen to contribute our expertise to developing new ways of building quality new homes to the highest standards.”

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