Thursday, April 28, 2005


At the end of the seminar held by INTEGER on 21st April 2005 on MMC, Alan Kell- the managing director of i&i Limited- had run a quick sessions with all the attenders on what each person's think they have learned from the seminar and what action can be taken from then on (apparently, Alan has reminded all attenders for the second time before the last presentation that he will be going around asking people of their opinion and how shocked and gobsmacked I was to later realised that almost 1/3rd of the attenders slowly 'running away' quietly one by one. Thank you to my supervisor, Professor Andrew Miller, who was there giving me a 'support smile' when I was looking at him in horror! he might not be realising how bad I wanted to 'run away' as well! However, I am glad he was there giving me no excuse at all to 'show myself the way out' as it actually gives me much much more confidence in speaking out in public and letting my opinion heard by other professionals! I owe him many thanks!)

Anyway, the key outcomes are as follows:

  • The key challenge is between using MMC and traditional methods of construction and not which material is used.
  • It is important to remember that the building process is simply a means to an end. The end product is more important than the process employed. The long term viability of the building is more significant than the building process employed.
  • When using MMC communication and consultation within the design team is essential.
  • MMC requires much more planning and up-front effort before work starts on site. One of the challenges is whether MMC are flexible enough to respond to site-specific differences and challenges.
  • Using MMC means getting the contractor and the manufacturer involved at an earlier stage in the design process than on conventional projects. The contractor can then advise on what MMC options are feasible.
  • Contractors are in an excellent position to advice on what MMC options will enhance effective delivery and what will cause problems.
  • Modern Methods of Construction are often used ineffectively because the guidance is overlooked and site processes are not used properly.
  • Cladding systems is one area where MMC can offer significant benefits however there are concerns over the limited lifespan of cladding materials.
  • The question of tolerances (designed and delivered), and potential mismatches, is extremely important when using MMC.
  • There is a need to ensure that the buildings are used properly.
  • Sustainability is an area that the MMC sector has often overlooked. However, MMC has the potential to offer significant sustainability benefits which have not as yet been quantified. These includes:
    • Minimising waste - considerable waste is produced on building sites where unwanted materials are often simply thrown in skips and sent for landfill. MMC offers the opportunity to re-use unwanted materials and to design buildings which use standardised components. Factories can also store materials in covered areas and so are unlikely to be damaged by adverse weather or vandalism. Unite Group were able to reduce their waste down to 0.6% material waste by value, compared with 10-12% on a conventional building project.
    • Quality control - fewer defects as work is carried out in a controlled environment and components are cut to an exact size. this also reduces the chances of cost over-runs.
    • Speed of construction - quicker construction times lead to less disruotion for local communities and the enable the property to be put in use earlier.
    • Improved health and safety on site.
    • Transportation - the number of small vehicles to the site is limited as there are fewer individual tradespeople travelling long distances to reach the site.
    • MMC offer the opportunity to overcome the skills deficit currently affecting the UK construction industry. The average bricklayer in the UK is over 50 years old. The opportunity of working in a controlled, safer, cleaner and more stable environment has the potential to attract more workers into the construction industry.
  • More quantification is required of the actual and potential sustainability benefits of using MMC. Little convincing evidence currently exists.
  • Some of the major challenges MMC must overcome include:
    • building market confidence
    • convince insurers of their resilience and reparability
    • convince lenders of their longevity and durability
    • convince surveyors that the building will hold its value
    • changing public perceptions
    • the perception that it is more expensive than traditional build
    • standardisation versus customisation
  • There is a need to co-ordinate the generic business benefits of using MMC
  • The benefits of MMC need to be quantified more effectively. BRE would encourage the MMC industry to work with them to achieve this.
  • The lifetime costs and benefits of MMC need to be clearly defined and widely publicised.
  • Build Offsite is an umbrella organisation which encourages industry to work together to enhance the profile of MMC. Sustainability needs to be included in this agenda.
  • The industry is facing similar challenges now to those faced in the 1950s and 1960s. In terms of housing there is a requirement to create places that people want to live.
  • Modern Methods of Construction are not generic solutions that can be applied as effectively everywhere in the country or indeed internationally. Modern MEthods of Construction may not be as cost-effective in developing countries where labour is cheap and plentiful. They are particularly effective in Japan where land and labour costs are extremely high.
  • There is a requirement to look at the supply chain in a regional context, looking at local materials. The concept of "near site" construction.
  • RSLs are being required by Housing Corporation to deliver both MMC and sustainability. RSLs are looking at ways to incorporate MMC into their design briefs.
  • MMC is still seen as more expensive than traditional options. The guarantees that can be assumed with traditional structures are simply not there. Therefore RSLs are not keen to change the way they build.
  • The Housing Forum is establishing a working group on MMC which will de-mystify some of the anecdotal evidence.
  • Should requirements specifications include use of MMC? Should clients be specifying off-site manufacturing? Client specifications should be performance based rather than technical.
  • Clients need assurances that they will be able to carry out maintenance easily and will not be tied to a single maintenance provider.

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