UK Government To Standardize Modern Construction Methods

The UK Government is planning to standardize modern methods of construction (MMC) in order to remove barriers to innovation and encourage the wider use of modern building materials, equipment, and techniques. The initiative, titled “Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Standardisation Research and Kit of Parts” project, is led by a consortium consisting of Limberger Associates, Buro Happold, HLM Architects, and consortium lead partner consultancy Akerlof. The project is overseen by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

According to Tim Limberger, the director of Limberger Associates, the objective of this initiative is to reduce limitations that may be supplier-specific or housing-development-specific. The aim is to find a solution that opens up the supply chain to more players and provides more choices for housebuilders. Standardizing MMC could potentially help protect companies involved in the sector, expand the industry, and accelerate research into the potential of MMC.

The DLUHC is planning to develop a standardization platform which is expected to be available in its preliminary form by the end of March next year. However, there is currently no clarity on whether firms will be required to pay for access to the platform.

Despite the optimism, some companies in the modular space have encountered difficulties. For example, Legal & General recently announced that it would cease production of modular homes at its factory after the venture failed to become profitable. Similarly, Urban Splash’s modular spin-off entered administration in May 2022 due to operational issues at its factory in Alfreton.

However, Limberger remains hopeful. He contends that by encouraging greater standardization and wider uptake, the barriers to entry into the MMC sector would be reduced and choices would increase. He also noted that while some companies have struggled with modular construction, others have found success. For instance, in 2019, Barratt Homes acquired Oregon Timber Frame, a company that manufactures modular, structural timber frames complete with insulated wall panels. In March, Barratt announced the plans about developing a new MMC factory which will be located in Derby.

Limberger acknowledges the challenges but believes that by learning collectively, the sector can identify the right opportunities for MMC. He concludes that despite some struggles, several organizations are evaluating what works and what doesn’t in terms of modular construction. This process of collective learning will be crucial in determining the future path of MMC and its standardization in the construction industry.