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Freebridge Play Key Role in Research into Modern Methods of Construction

22/11/17

The first research of its kind into modern methods of construction (MMC) provides new insights into ways its use could help solve the current UK housing crisis. It also reveals that industry perceptions need to change for MMC to be viewed as a strategic, innovative process rather than a technical solution.

The UK is facing a chronic housing shortage – 98% of local councils are unable to meet demand, while the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors estimate 1.8 million new homes will be needed by 2025.

As a result, Freebridge joined a partnership of housing associations from across the East of England (Flagship Group, Cross Keys Homes, Havebury Housing Partnership, Longhurst Group, Saffron Housing Trust and Victory Housing Trust) to commission research into MMC and its effect on HAs.

The main objectives of the research were to:

- Provide an overview of UK and international approaches to MMC in housing and identify gaps in knowledge.

- Provide new insight into the process of developing MMC housing drawing on four case studies.

- Provide recommendations for the consortium of HAs to consider as the housing sector explores MMC as an option.

In addition to looking at current literature, the University of the West of England (UWE) carried out in-depth interviews with participants from four leading architecture firms who have completed MMC projects. There has been a noticeable change to the way housing is delivered in the UK in recent years as more houses are urgently needed to meet demand. The move is to deliver houses more quickly and architects play a vital role in this context and were therefore selected to take part in the study.

The primary research, which is not available anywhere else, provided a valuable insight enabling HAs to consider MMC approaches as a viable housing option now.

Public Affairs Advisor at Flagship, Jack Weaver said: “Modern methods of construction (MMC) have potential to revolutionise the way we build and regenerate homes and can make a genuine contribution to solving the housing crisis. This research has brought together experts in the field with some of our most creative and ambitious partners. It joins together many different aspects of MMC in a way not done before in social housing. It also demonstrates our desire to innovate and shows the government we are serious about driving forward innovative ways of delivering new homes.”

Key findings included:

- Existing literature largely overlooks customer satisfaction – there have been studies focusing on customers’ views about MMC but not their experience of it. As attitudes have changed significantly over recent years, more studies need to be carried out.

- Studies suggest there is no or little perceived difference in MMC housing regarding maintenance needs. Build quality is largely seen to be the same as traditional building however, there are suggestions issues could arise between offsite manufacture and onsite assembly.

- From inception to completion of a project, the sharing of information between partners through Building Information Management (BIM) was found as key to successful installation and maintenance of MMC.

- MMC needs to be reviewed against sustainable design requirements concerning climate change predictions.

Dr Sonja Oliveira and James Burch from the University of the West of England said: “There is a clear need for post occupancy evaluation in MMC delivered housing to better understand resident experiences and needs in terms of spatial and environmental quality. The case studies identified enable new insights into architects’ views of delivery methods, and approaches to designing for diverse residents– areas often overlooked in surveys carried out to date in the UK.”

Key recommendations of the research include:

- A clear business case is initially developed. This would outline the need for investment, likely volume, market as well as the type of houses.

- Gaining an evidence base of knowledge from built examples including visits to international/national leading projects, gaining feedback from residents as well as manufacturers and designers.

- A pilot project is procured to test and develop capabilities to enable better decision making regarding choice of material, mode of delivery, finance and partnership model.

Modern

Picture: Modern methods of construction


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