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Introduction

 

The term MMC
is one that has, for more than half a century, caused debate and conflicted
opinions amongst those involved within the building industry (NHBC Foundation,
2016). In the aftermath of World War Two, there was a need for the rapid
renovation and restoration of the UK’s major cities. The industry looked to
innovative new ideas to help with the demand for housing. However, these new
systems and technologies were based around the idea of quantity and not quality
which led to high profile failures and a distrust from the British public in
MMC.

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With the
Chancellor’s recent plans to build 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of
the next decade, there is an ever-growing pressure on private developers and
local authorities to increase their output of house building. As of 2015,
private developers built over 77% of newly constructed houses in the UK, a
percentage that is set to increase (The Building Societies Association, 2016).
The last time private developers in the UK built more than 200,000 homes was in
1968. It is vital that the industry starts to understand the increasingly
diverse requirements of the UK housing market if it is to meet these daunting
figures set by the Chancellor. Large developers have already expressed their
concerns that they do not have the capacity to meet such a large increase in
volume, which leaves an unrealistic gap to be bridged by smaller developers and
self-employed builders (The Building Societies Association, 2016).

 

However, there
could be a solution that is already waiting to be correctly utilised, MMC.
Since the turn of the Millenia there has been a shift in opinion from that of
the 1960s and 1970s. One of the key turning points was a paper written in by
Egan in 1998. Egan (1998) outlined the potential benefits of MMC and the
barriers that were affecting their implementation. He expressed that the main
concerns for clients were inefficiency, waste, lack of training and low levels
of client satisfaction. Egan suggested that addressing these concerns would
have a dramatic effect on the housing market and set out clear potential
advantages for MMC and their path to market.

 

It should be
noted that there has been an effort from various parts of the UK construction
industry to push MMC to market, including the National Audit Office’s 2005 report ‘Using Modern Methods of
Construction to Build Homes More Quickly and Efficiently’. The report was commissioned by the Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister and the Housing Corporation, suggesting a keen shift
towards MMC from the government. It outlined the best ways to maximise the
potential of MMC, and defined MMC as ‘a process to produce more, better quality
homes in less time’ (Allison, Fawcett 2005). The report also stated that a
volumetric approach to MMC can reduce the average time spent on site on a
3-bedroom house from 39 weeks, to just 16 weeks.

The NAO report also stated the
following…

·      
It should be possible to build up to four times as
many homes with the same on-site labour.

 

·      
On-site construction time could be reduced by more
than half.

 

·      
Building performance could be at least as good as
TBM

 

·      
Cost ranges
would be comparable depending on specific project circumstances, although they
would be higher on average.

 

·      
Risks
would be increased at the early stages of the development process, so
good risk management would become even more
important.

 

·      
Tight liaison with planning authorities would be vital.

 

·      
Benefits would be wasted if projects were not
properly planned.

 

Despite all
of the potential benefits, the initial uptake on MMC was low. A 2006 report by
Barker 33 Cross-Industry Group suggested the slow uptake was down to the need
for a complete change of approach from housebuilders. Naturally developers were
reluctant to adopt these new methods, as in their opinion, things were fine as
they were.

 

But with
the need for so many new houses and the wealth of evidence suggesting MMC can
realistically replace a large proportion of traditional methods of
construction; is the UK fully utilising MMC? If it is not, then which areas
need improving, which areas are utilising it fully and where does the future
lead for MMC?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Figure 1) –
Adapted from The Building Societies Association (2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dissertation Aims

 

The aims of
this dissertation are to:

Firstly,
establish what, if any, barriers are stopping the implementation of MMC into
the UK building industry.

 

Secondly, are
MMC being pushed as a replacement for traditional building methods, or is the
industry happy with the current climate?

 

Thirdly, explore
whether there are restrictions on MMC being correctly utilised from within the
construction industry, reflect on differing opinions major developers, and
determine what affect this will have on MMC and whether it could truly replace
TBM in the future.

 

Finally,
analyse current and historical literature and reports from the last 15 years to
see whether government and privately funded construction expert’s statistics
and projections for potential benefits of MMC have been realised.

 

Dissertation Objectives

 

In order to
answer my central research question, I have identified some key objectives that
will have to be met…

 

·       Establish whether there has been an
increase in use of MMC since the last major report by the Government

 

·       Identify areas within the construction
industry where MMC are making a notable difference in construction, for
instance efficiency and waste

 

·       Find out whether there are any areas
within construction that are already utilising MMC efficiently and what
potential this has for a larger scale of operation

 

·       Establish whether MMC can have a
positive impact on the housing market and bridge the gap of new houses that
need to be built

 

·       Explore the effects of MMC on
sustainability and the potential benefits they may bring

Research Methodology

 

This
dissertation will be based around analysing existing literature. As mentioned,
MMC is not a new concept, so there is a wealth of literature already out there
to compare and contrast. In addition to existing literature, up to date reports
put forward by private companies and government led schemes will also serve as
a backbone to this dissertation as these reports are often more up to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defining MMC

 

It is widely
accepted that there is no strict definition of MMC. The NHBC Foundation (2006)
states that MMC is a collective term used to describe a number of construction
methods which differ significantly from so-called conventional methods such as
brick and block. The Building Societies Association (2016) agree with that
definition and reference that within the industry MMC is referred to as being
about better products and processes, which aim to improve business efficiency,
quality, customer satisfaction, environmental performance and the
predictability of timescales. RICS (2017) says that MMC once had a very
specific meaning within the social housing sector when the government was
attempting to increase the take-up of non-conventional forms during the early
years of this century. It has since been adopted as a convenient if misleading
shorthand for all forms of non-conventional construction.

A loose definition of MMC is not overly helpful in regards to lending and
assessing risk. It is extremely difficult to approach a lender and ask them to
loan money to finance a project made primarily through MMC, when the term I not
fully defined and encompasses many technologies, techniques and materials
(Building Societies Association, 2016). To complicate matters even further,
other terms are frequently used to describe MMC such as Innovative
construction, offsite assembly, smart construction, pre-fabrication and modular
construction to name a few. In addition to this vague definition, Oliveira (2017)
says that business models for MMC delivery are largely ill considered in the UK
and traditional procurement routes are reported not to be sufficiently well set
up to deliver MMC in housing yet.

 

It is however, 

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