Following a recent report on Modern Methods of Construction from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, the government has released their response
The government has said that they welcome the MHCLG Select Committee’s report on Modern Methods of Construction, understanding the importance to “build homes faster while upholding quality”.
The pace of housebuilding over the recent years has been at a sobering low, unable to keep up with the ever-growing population.
The Housing White Paper published in February 2017, discusses measures to stimulate the growth of Modern Methods of Construction, including how to support opportunities to regain confidence in the construction industry.
Since the release of the Housing White Paper, the government announced a ‘presumption in favour of MMC’ by 2019 across all construction programmes in five key Departments where this represents value for money.
Since the publication of the White Paper, the government has continued to provide support for the sector. One way is has done this is by using the department’s commissioning power through the accelerated construction (AC) programme as a way to drive build outpace and strengthen the supply chain on local authority-owned land.
The government agrees with the MHCLG Select Committee that increasing the use of Modern Methods of Construction could release a wider range of benefits for the housing industry.
Robert Jenrick MP, said: “I recognise how Modern Methods of Construction can help the market to go further. This could be in regeneration, or to develop unused brownfield land and hard to access plots – as is already happening in towns and cities all over England.”
Modern Methods of Construction spending
The select committee stated that in order to track how much the MHCLG is spending on MMC, it should report annually the total amount allocated to MMC developments across all its different funding streams, including generic schemes such as Help to Buy.
In response to this, the government has said it will provide significant support to stimulate the growth of MMC, including financial support for this sector to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of delivering homes through our various funding programmes.
Delivery of many of Government’s funding programmes is delegated to Homes England with a greater focus on outputs. Whilst Homes England is responsible for monitoring and recording details of bids for the relevant funding, there is currently no requirement for them to regularly report to the department on funding spent on projects that utilise MMC.
The agency will report the share of the total housing completions it has directly supported using Modern Methods of Construction. Alongside this, Homes England will monitor the share of housing starts it has supported using MMC and the share of total investment it has provided to MMC-focused projects.
Digital technology and MMC
To benefit from the predicted advantages of MMC, the select committee stated that homebuilders should use more digital technology such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) in their processes and not simply move construction offsite.
In response, the government stated that for the adoption of MMC to thrive, it is important that innovation and R&D are supported within the homebuilding sector. The government has set out proposals around mandating that the golden thread complies with BIM standards.
The MMC scheme
The select committee recommended the government launch the MMC scheme by the end of this year to help increase the take-up of MMC for homebuilding.
The government has agreed with these recommendations, “we are convinced that this ‘Scheme’ will make a major contribution towards increasing lender confidence in MMC and increase their access to mortgages on these type of homes and are therefore very keen to ensure it is launched as soon as possible”.
It added: “To ensure this is the case we have continued to provide necessary support to the group to facilitate timely production of this important product and are confident that it would be launched before the end of this year.”
Skills and training
The government is improving skills provision for construction and supporting modernisation to increase productivity, but it says it also expects industry to take responsibility and train the workforce it knows it will need.
It stated: “We are continuing to work across Whitehall, with CITB and industry on ensuring the right skills provision to support innovation in construction.”
Types of MMC
The government is seeking to use its purchasing power to create further demand and support industry in the uptake of design and manufacturing techniques. It aims to do this with the adoption of configurable standardised components produced in a quality production system, which it has called a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly (P-DfMA).
Additionally, at Gateshead Innovation Village, Homes England is working with specialist partners to pitch traditional construction against different modular methods by building a new village of 35 modular houses, using five different house types, alongside six traditional, bricks and mortar homes.
Homes England does not believe that any one type of MMC technology will provide the answer to the housing shortage across the country. All types may have a part to play and what is suitable and viable on one site may not be appropriate on another.
Robert Jenrick, concluded: “I am excited to see what the offsite industry has in store over the next few years.
“I believe it will play a key role in building better homes and stronger communities. While we facilitate this, keeping quality and safety at the heart of home-building will be an essential part of our strategy.
“Britain can become a world-leader in Modern Methods of Construction – and I want to work with the sector to make that ambition a reality.
Commenting on the government’s response to the MHCLG Select Committee report on modern methods of construction, Bill McElroy, head of industry strategy at Turner & Townsend, said: “The government’s response provides a welcome update on initiatives that have been kicked off and accelerated through the Industrial Strategy.
“However, if the government’s ambition is to support the sector to ‘go further, and faster’ on modern methods of construction, then we need to see a renewed commitment to extend these programmes and pursue new ones too.
“Importantly, Modern Methods of Construction is not solely about housing, and boosting capability in the residential sector can be supported by efforts across health, education and infrastructure.
“In these areas, where Government acts not just as policy enabler, but as a key client – it has an obligation to shape procurement strategies that support an offsite agenda.”