Homes England has commissioned Atkins and Faithful+Gould to help deliver a research study into modern methods of construction (MMC) to drive innovation across the construction industry.
As part of the government housing agency’s strategic objective to improve construction productivity and encourage the uptake of MMC in housing delivery, a series of Homes England’s own sites will participate in the study, delivering ambitious levels of MMC, higher than the market norm.
Monitoring the construction of around 1,500 homes at sites across country over several years, the study will test the performance of different types of MMC to provide long-term, in-depth and verifiable data so that informed decisions about emerging construction technologies can be made.
Atkins and Faithful+Gould have been appointed as the agency’s research and development partner for the project. Working with the Building Research Establishment and University College London, they will collect and monitor data from the developers and produce annual updates on the research findings, before a final report is published at the end of the build programme.
The research will explore a range of themes, including cost and pace of build compared to traditional building methods, skills required, safety performance, snagging and defect issues, construction wastage, energy efficiency performance and post-occupation performance.
The study will also seek to learn lessons about how these technologies might be improved upon in future and give confidence to the industry to encourage more widespread use of MMC technologies; allowing homes to be built more quickly, addressing labour and skills shortages, and improving the quality, consistency and energy efficiency of newly built homes.
Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: “Building the homes the country needs is a priority for the government and modern methods of construction have enormous potential to not only accelerate this work but to deliver better quality homes too.”
Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said: “If we are to deliver homes at the scale, pace and quality the country needs, we have to seriously shake up how we build homes in England. This is at the very heart of our mission and it means embracing new technologies like modern methods of construction.
"Now more than ever, we recognise that more needs to be done to share learning and build confidence in MMC. This large-scale, long-term and in-depth research project will provide the sector with the critical evidence it needs to make informed decisions about MMC and deliver better homes faster.”
Jon Swan, client director for Homes England, Atkins, said: “With UK-wide expertise in the housing sector, we have an appetite for doing things differently. Relying on a solutions-based approach, our team will gather comparable and verifiable data to evaluate how MMC could be used to solve the construction industry’s flatlining productivity and other key challenges within the UK’s residential sector.
"The first step will be to establish a benchmark approach to measuring the impact of MMC. This consistency in analysis across the industry will lead to an ever-growing data set on MMC, with the potential to inform and improve the housing industry for years to come.”
Andrew Prickett, head of residential, Faithful+Gould, said: “The UK is currently tasked with the target of delivering 300,000 new homes every year. Through this landmark initiative, we will collect and analyse a substantial body of data to quantify the performance of modern methods of construction and bring clarity to the housing industry on the benefits of choosing this technology.
"Working closely with Homes England, this is a great opportunity to explore house building best practice and find ways to make housing safer, more affordable and more efficient to build.”
Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, a manufacturer of factory-built homes who last year received a £30m investment from Homes England, said: “Homes England's research on MMC has the potential to be ground-breaking. There is a real need for improved data-led evidence on how digital and manufacturing processes lead to higher-quality, more energy-efficient housing.
"The study could help propel offsite manufacturing higher up the national agenda. This will be crucial as the sector looks set to take the lead on the UK’s economic response to Covid-19 due to its ability to enable councils, housing associations, private developers and investors to deliver well-designed homes at pace.”