Homes England publishes report outlining research themes of MMC study



Homes England has today (5th March) published a report which outlines the research themes for its six-year, 1,800-home modern methods of construction (MMC) research commission.

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While UK industrial productivity has risen by some 25% over the last 20 years, construction productivity has virtually flatlined, according to the new report.

In July 2019, a report by the House of Commons Select Committee into MMC recognised that “a significant proportion of homes must be built using MMC if we are to meet the target to deliver 300,000 homes annually”.

However, the evidence of the benefits of MMC use is currently limited.

As part of the government’s goal to improve construction productivity and encourage the uptake of these new construction methods, the next phase of Homes England’s research project will include collecting data across eight pilot sites using MMC.

Over several years, the study will monitor the construction of around 1,800 homes across the country.

It will test the performance of different types of MMC to provide long-term, in-depth and verifiable data to make informed decisions about emerging construction technologies.

MMC has the potential to be significantly more productive than traditional building methods, allowing homes to be built more quickly, addressing labour and skills shortages and improving the quality, consistency and energy efficiency of newly built homes.

Today’s report outlines the final list of themes that will be explored in the research project, which includes:

  • description of site and contexts
  • pace of build
  • cost of build
  • labour productivity
  • planning issues
  • pre-manufactured value
  • safety performance
  • levels of construction wastage
  • construction logistics
  • delivery performance — ‘quality rating’
  • energy efficiency performance
  • sales performance
  • lifecycle
  • economic rationale
  • social value
  • wellbeing.

“Building green, well-designed homes is at the heart of this government’s mission to support people in every part of the country,” said housing minister, Christopher Pincher. 

“Our support for MMC will play a vital role in this, and this research will help us further understand these new construction technologies which could be revolutionary for the industry in terms of improved productivity, build speed and economies of scale.”

The below table outlines the sites and the proposed technologies currently involved in the study, subject to change.

Site Name

Location

Size

Primary MMC Technology

Northstowe Phase 2

Cambridge

406 homes

Modular

East Quayside

Newcastle

292 homes

Light Gauge Steel Frame

Swindon Gateway

Swindon

159 homes

Modular

Spencers Park

Hemel Hempstead

600 homes

Panellised

Grappenhall Heys Phase 2

Warrington

220 homes

Modular & Panellised

York Road

Birmingham

80 homes

Panellised

Tattenhoe Phase 4

Milton Keynes

100 homes

Panellised

Park Prewett – Hollies Phase

Basingstoke

30 homes

Modular

Robert Stone, technical director at Homes England, commented: “We are committed to providing the industry with the body of evidence it is asking for in order to drive a greater understanding of modern house building technologies and increase the uptake of MMC. 

“Now more than ever, we recognise that more needs to be done to share learning and build confidence in MMC.

“This large-scale, long-term and in-depth project will provide the sector with the valuable evidence it needs to make informed decisions about MMC and deliver better homes faster.”

Working with the Building Research Establishment and University College London, Atkins and Faithful+Gould will collect and monitor data from the developers during the programme and produce annual updates on the research findings, before a final report is published at the end of the build programme.

Terrence Stocks, UK head of public sector at Faithful+Gould, added: “With the impacts of Covid-19 and the realisation of our exit from the EU, the need to protect and improve productivity and grow UK revenue is great. 

“Coupled with the release of the UK government’s Construction Playbook, the importance of this research project has grown. 

“The team and the developer organisations, along with their contractors, are now ready to move forward with increased pace, and the next year will see us gathering and analysing data to support a study that will hopefully drive an accelerated uptake of MMC in the residential sector.”

The news follows the announcement in the Budget 2021 this week that The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will establish a new MMC Taskforce, backed by £10m of seed funding to accelerate the delivery of MMC homes in the UK.

The taskforce will consist of world-leading experts from across government and industry to fast-track the adoption of MMC and will be headquartered in MHCLG’s new office in Wolverhampton



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