Thursday, April 28, 2005


“The key challenge is between using MMC and traditional methods of construction and not which material is used”. I am totally agreed with this statement. The obvious difference between MMC and traditional methods of construction lies on one being made off site and one being made on site. However, what if a particular site has a factory located far away? isn’t it better to construct the whole thing on site? How much time and cost can be saved to produce a wall, for example, off-site rather than on site?

“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”. I am trying to see it from the different angle here. From my point of view, I will say that Modern Methods of Construction is actually a quite generic and flexible solution that can be applied as effectively everywhere in the country or indeed internationally. It can be made better by ‘tailor made’ the whole Modern Methods of Construction to suit a particular country. In developing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, MMC can be tailor made to create more job opportunities in the pre-assembly factory hence improving the economy of the developing countries. In Japan or developed countries such as UK, however, MMC can be implemented but while land and labour costs must be extremely high, AUTOMATION and/or ROBOTISATION and/or MECHANISATION can be incorporated into the whole production method. For the definition of those mentioned techniques given above, please refer to my previous post “The Definition” on 19th April 2005.

INTEGER has stated in their key outcomes that “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”. A statement that unfortunately I am not really agreed with. From my point of view, the end product is as important as (not more than) the process employed. We must bear in mind that MMC is used because of its faster construction time and also to reduce CO2 emissions as well as wastes generated on site. Therefore, we must also taking into the consideration that volumetric modules used to construct a particular house, for example, might require a more frequent transportation to and from the site and factory (a queries I had made to one of the prefabricated housing manufacture has stated that a lorry apparently has only been able to transport about two modules in one go) hence creating a higher fuel consumption which can incur a higher cost at the end product. If a non volumetric pre-assembly that being used to construct a particular house, for example, its weight is the one that need to be taken into consideration, the heavier the weight of the wall panels be, the higher the fuel consumption will be as well. Sometimes, decision to use modules, for example, will lie entirely on the site location. My interview with one of a local architect has put me in the alert of the horrendous difficulty that can occur if MMC has not been thought through since the beginning of the design stage. Apparently, the modules delivered to the particular site has to be craned on top of the neighbouring houses and poor old people in the neighbourhood need to be ushered away for a ‘cup of coffee’ while they craned the modules pass their roofs, which resulting in a bigger risk in health and safety and might also means that it incur higher cost at the end product.

“There is a need to ensure that the buildings are used properly”. In my opinion, this can mean thousands of interpretation. It might means that the particular buildings need to be designed based on their needs (for example, you wouldn’t want to design a particular building near shore or beach, such as Brighton, in steel construction that can easily get rusty due to the ‘salty’ air around beach area). But it can also be interpreted as “you can ONLY use a particular building designed for a particular purposes!” which I am entirely opposed to. To me, sustainability means that a particular building should fit as much function as possible to prevent unnecessary changes and demolition. This means that a building to be designed with, for example, easily removable internal partition or, in conclusion, as flexible as possible for future change of use.

“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”. Unfortunately, I found this as quite a pessimistic gesture. I am not promising anything but I have noticed that this means there is still not many research has been undergone to make MMC process better. It will be good to do a research on how sustainable MMC can be maybe, for example, by implementing and establishing the life cycle assessment of not only each particular materials but also as a ‘whole’ end product. By doing this, there can be an improvement that hopefully can be made when you are comparing the traditional construction and pre-assembly construction.

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