Construction Decade in Review: 2019 - As easy as MMC?

With a new decade nearly upon us, we decided to reflect on the events of the past 10 years, and the impact they’ve had on the construction industry. As we launch into a new decade, will we finally see MMC go mainstream?

For years, the messaging in the industry has been clear – construction needs to modernise.

The publication of Modernise or Die in 2016, written by Mark Farmer, was the latest call to arms (see Vickie’s blog post earlier in the week). The findings built upon previous reports including Sir Michael Latham’s Constructing the Team (1994) and Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction (1998).

Construction has needed to adapt for a long time.

When it comes to MMC, it was as long ago as 2005 that the National Audit Office published Using Modern Methods of Construction to Build Homes More Quickly and Efficiently. It defined MMC as “a process to produce more, better quality homes in less time.”

It seemed that the next big push for MMC was in the Autumn 2017 budget. The government indicated a preference for using new approaches such as offsite manufacturing in public sector projects. The Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the Future (published November 2017) and Construction Sector Deal (published July 2018) expanded further upon this.

Is 2019 the tipping point for MMC?

Given the dates mentioned above, you’d be forgiven for wondering why this is being discussed in a review of 2019. Well, it might just be that there is some momentum behind these calls to change.

In March, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) published a framework identifying seven categories of MMC:

  1. Pre-manufacturing (3D primary structural systems)
  2. Pre-manufacturing (2D primary structural systems)
  3. Pre-manufacturing components (non-systemised primary structure)
  4. Additive manufacturing (structural and non-structural)
  5. Pre-manufacturing (non-structural assemblies and sub-assemblies)
  6. Traditional building product led site labour reduction / productivity improvements
  7. Site process led site labour reduction / productivity / assurance improvements

By clarifying the different elements of what can be considered MMC, it is hoped that it will create more confidence in the sector, and drive investment in new methods and materials.

In turn, the framework can be used to better guide and advise others on types of MMC, enabling clients, investors and insurers to build their understanding of the different forms available. This will be an important part of driving take-up of MMC, with areas such as planning consents, contracts, and quality assurance (such as warranties), all needing to be addressed.

How has the construction industry responded?

Many industry bodies and associations have published their own responses about the impact of MMC. Examples include identifying future workforce and skills requirements (CITB), a larger focus on design quality and evaluation (RIBA), and changes to regulations and procurement (RICS).

Overall, there seems to be more positivity behind MMC, especially with the government’s news that a centre of excellence will be established in the north of England. The appointment of Mark Farmer as Champion for MMC, to connect government and industry, adds further weight to this.

The need for new housing

Depending on who you ask, the UK needs to build somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 new homes per year over the next decade to meet demand. Around three million of these homes will need to be affordable.

The Housing Forum believes that MMC is the key to realising this because it offers:

  • Faster build times
  • Consistent quality
  • Fewer defects
  • Better as-built performance
  • Less disruption to communities during construction

Earlier this year, LMC helped them to launch a report on the topic. It provides guidance for public sector organisations on the procurement, planning, design and in-use stages of MMC projects.

Could this really be the tipping point?

A quick look at search trends (below) shows that MMC reached its peak in summer this year. However, it’s hard to say if this means that the industry is ready to move forward; MMC’s performance as a search term has been relatively constant over the last five years.

That said, in many ways it does feel like it’s higher on the agenda, as the examples included within this blog post show.

It remains to be seen if this is the moment that MMC goes mainstream.


More posts in our ‘Construction Decade in Review’ series

2010: How a fragile coalition set the stage for the decade

2011: Leaning tower sets a new world record

2012: Construction takes gold

2013: Help to Buy mortgage scheme launches

2014: Construction health and safety failings hit home

2015: Construction Design and Management Regulations come into force

2016: Modernise or die – a shocking message to the sector

2017: A year we’ll never forget…

2018: Carillion collapse causes chaos


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About the Author: Dan Gerrella

Dan is an associate director at LMC. He is a Chartered PR Practitioner who has spent his career in the property and construction sector, providing strategic PR and marketing advice to companies and organisations in the UK and internationally.

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