It has the potential to be a quick and easy solution to the housing crisis, but is MMC a viable solution and can it help the government hit its 2025 targets of building 300,000 homes a year?
The benefits of MMC in comparison to traditional methods of construction bear repeating. Delivery is quicker and more predictable, with up to a 60% decrease in construction programming. Construction costs can be reduced by up to 40% reducing whole life costs and the use of BIM technology virtually eliminates defects.
Add in sustainability and choice and you have a product that's desirable to potential homeowners and hits net carbon-zero targets.
MMC has proved its worth during the lockdown, creating a safe and socially distanced working environment. In such a controlled environment, workers can expect improved health and safety while the diversification of the workforce has ensured 12% of jobs in modular construction are resourced by women.
Opportunities in modular construction can provide stable employment in areas of high unemployment, while the opportunity to reduce onsite labour by 70% should calm the fears of a shortage of labour post-Brexit.
Challenges to modular
With everything going for it, why is MMC facing barriers to wider adoption?
One issue is the lack of quantifiable evidence and the challenges involved in benchmarking modular homes over the lifespan of their construction. But the appeal of MMC as a fix for the housing crisis might also be a barrier to its faster implementation. Currently, the sector has a high level of experimentation typical of the early innovation cycle. But this serves to prevent homebuilders from taking advantage of economies of scale, recycled designs and associated time and cost savings.
While innovation is desirable, MMC needs to be practical about the solutions it can offer for different types of location. Site limitations including lack of access precludes a narrow focus on completed modular homes that are craned onsite. Instead the industry needs to concentrate on creating a menu of solutions and techniques that are flexible enough to suit every location and create much needed economies of scale.
For homeowners, these affordable and low energy homes are also being put out of reach by a lack of warranties for MMC constructions. That, in turn, makes insurance or a mortgage difficult to obtain.
Thinking outside the box
Increasingly, construction companies are willing to take the leap of faith required to invest in MMC. Barratt Homes are currently building 10% of their housing output in offsite factories. That's targeted to be 20% by the end of 2020, creating more jobs in modular construction. And the new NHBC Accepts service will fast track MMC systems to a warranty, building confidence for homebuyers.
Countryside Homes, Crest Nicholson and Persimmon have all joined the MMC revolution and begun offsite construction while there's been a 175% increase in planning applications specifying MMC materials in the last 12 months.
So is MMC a viable solution to the housing crisis? With the new NHBC fast track warranty and investment across the sector from venture capitalists, modular construction looks set for mass adoption in the not too distant future.