Barriers to MMC adoption – Construction Europe

Why has the adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC) on a large scale in the housing sector not materialized and what needs to change for this to happen?

A crane sets up a prefabricated module during the construction of a high-rise building. Photo: Adobe Stock

Published in 2016, the influential Farmer Report characterized a construction industry that was, to quote the report, “synonymous with the sick, even dying patient.”

Low productivity, structural fragmentation and financial fragility were all symptoms of a patient in need of urgent treatment.

And to underline the scale of the problem, the report highlighted the “ticking time bomb” of skills shortages facing the industry due to an aging workforce and a shrinking workforce. -Brexit Migrant Labor – According to recent data, an estimated 10% of construction workers left the UK after Brexit.

Among the “cures” recommended by the report was the adoption of pre-engineered solutions for the housing sector, more often referred to as modern construction methods (MCM).

The arguments were compelling and the government agreed, making MMC a central part of its industrial strategy and naming the author of the report as its new “MMC champion”.

But six years later, the hoped-for large-scale adoption of MMC in the homebuilding industry has largely failed to materialize. And recently, several modular home construction factories have been forced to close due to “underutilization”1.

So what’s wrong?

Paul Nash, construction consultant at Jansons Property. Photo: Jansons Property

The Farmer report provides a clue when it calls on the government, as part of its housing policy planning, to work with industry to collate and publish a comprehensive pipeline of demand in the new housing sector.

Without this certainty of the pipeline, manufacturers rely on the presumption that “if I build it, they will come”.

But with delays in the planning system stifling housing supply and a government now backtracking on its commitment to housing targets, the outlook for MMC companies is far from certain.

But you don’t have to look far to see a different version of MMC’s story. In Scandinavia, where government legislation has contributed to the wider adoption of MMC, approximately 45% of all new homes built now use modular construction.

Companies like Lindbäcks Bygg, Sweden’s leading manufacturer of industrial timber houses, point to skills shortages and ambition to reduce carbon emissions and waste as drivers of an approach that has today led to 90% of single-family homes and 60-70% of multi-family homes using modular technology.

It has become clear that a wider discussion is needed about why the much hoped-for large-scale adoption of MMC in the UK has not materialized and what can be done to change this.

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