Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes (AIMCH), the research and development initiative set up to transform housebuilding, has published its second annual progress report showing “encouraging results” for Modern Methods of Construction. PBC Today takes a look
AIMCH is a three-year research and development project that aims to tackle the UK’s housing crisis by building new homes faster, to higher quality and more cost-effectively compared with traditional masonry methods using panelised Modern Methods of Construction.
According to the government, the UK needs an additional 120,000 homes a year, yet the housing sector is beset by skills shortages, poor productivity, low output and low affordability.
The ultimate aim of the AIMCH project is to support the industry in meeting the 120,000 target for the same cost – or less – than traditional methods, with homes built 30% more quickly and a goal of a 50% reduction in defects. The project has potential to impact on 35,000 homes being delivered by AIMCH partners across the UK each year.
More widely, it is expected that AIMCH will result in new digital design tools, advances in manufacturing, improve near-to-market offsite systems and leaner site processes.
The initiative includes research into how data can be used in more effective ways to demonstrate the benefits of MMC, on-site monitoring of MMC systems to identify productivity improvements and trialling advanced MMC systems on live developments.
AIMCH is a collaboration between Stewart Milne Group, Barratt Developments, L&Q, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Forster Group. The project is managed by Limberger Associates.
Year two highlights
In February, the consortium published its second year progress report, which showed “encouraging results” for the use of these advanced panelised systems.
Achievements in year two of the programme include monitoring taking place at 42 plots, with over 100,000 operative observations recorded and 500,000 pieces of data collected and used to evaluate masonry, timber frame and advanced closed panel MMC methods.
The project has also produced a guide to creating a BIM Housing Manual, providing a framework for developers to transition to 3D digital working, along with guides to Design for Manufacturing & Assembly, Designing a Future Factory and design standardisation and the development of product families.
AIMCH recognises the challenges of MMC manufacturing and, through engagement with lead manufacturing partner the MTC, has conducted advanced manufacturing and digital business systems studies.
These included down selection process for an integrated ERP system for MMC manufacturing and installation, along with detailed proof-of-concept studies into specific manufacturing areas, where using robotics and advanced automation can improve MMC manufacturing output, productivity, quality and lower costs, including the design of future factories using mathematical models, dynamic simulation and 3D technology to improve investment decisions.
With decarbonisation a priority, AIMCH has embarked on a study to measure and profile embodied carbon and whole-life costing in the use of MMC systems across four housing types to current and near-zero carbon standards. A strategy for a proof-of-concept, near-zero carbon home trial was also drawn up with Barratt Developments.
Elsewhere, the project has been working with roofing specialist the Forster Group to help accelerate its roofing technology through collaborative learning and proof-of-concept trials with the MTC and AIMCH developers.
Construction Scotland Innovation Centre is providing dissemination of the project’s progress, including through a dedicated industry stakeholder group, project website and social media.
Stewart Dalgarno, AIMCH project director and director of product development at the Stewart Milne Group, said: “Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the project team has worked hard to build momentum and has delivered some important outputs, which confirm panellised Modern Methods of Construction as a very real and viable alternative to masonry. Over the final year, we hope to take this to a new level.”
Responding to the report, AIMCH chair Mark Farmer said: “Mainstreaming all categories of MMC is more important than ever. In a post-Covid world, the sector needs to transform productivity, improve quality, as well as improving the welfare of its workforce.
“We also need to find more sustainable ways of building in order to achieve a net zero carbon built environment.
“The AIMCH project has already made great progress across a number of fronts, which will better enable greater MMC adoption across all parts of [the] industry, including SMEs.
“The work done on design standardisation, panelised and sub-assembly system applications, productivity and carbon measurement and manufacturing process optimisation are all rich sources of knowledge for others to learn from and use.”
The final findings of the project are due to be published in March 2022.
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