Modern Methods of Construction

An in-depth new NHBC Foundation report on how the role of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) within the housebuilding industry has evolved has just been released. The organisation’s head of standards, research and innovation, Richard Smith, talks through the key findings

Prefabricated homes have been long-heralded as the future of housebuilding; but if the arguments for homes to be manufactured like cars are so compelling, why is factory-built housing not more common?

That’s the question Modern Methods of Construction: Building on Experience examines, by scrutinising notable periods of transformation in the industry and exploring the elements of design, as well as the social and economic influences, that fuel change.

The potential benefits of MMC are well-rehearsed and compelling, but clearly have not been realised and conventional construction remains dominant in the UK. In the foundation’s first report of 2021, we explore why this may be so, cutting out the rhetoric and focusing on technical developments to build on experience and explain why factory-built housing is not more widespread.

This guide aims to educate and inform consumers, builders, investors and insurers about MMC. It dispels the abiding image of post-war emergency housing that, despite its reputation, contained some clever engineering and durable details.



As we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and come out of the EU, there is an opportunity to innovate. This new report looks at the best features of homes from the past to inform the homes of the future.

We can learn the lessons of the past and harness technological advances and digitally-enabled design, and deliver efficient factory-made homes to respond to pressing housing need and the climate crisis.

Homes should be better performing, good-looking and long-lasting, be spacious and comfortable for their occupants and enhance neighbourhoods, creating a distinctive sense of place.

Modern Methods of Construction: Building on Experience is split into three main sections focusing on advancements from the early 20th century to the present day, looking at the roles of steel, concrete and timber materials and how these have evolved over time.

As Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and MMC adviser to the government, states in the report’s foreword: “We are able, today, to cherry-pick the best of the previous decades and, in collaboration with advanced manufacturing methods, can transform the productivity and quality of housebuilding. I hope that this guide can be an enabler to change.”

No shortcut

In conclusion, there is no shortcut when commissioning and designing offsite construction systems. Early investment in design, appropriate choice of system and oversight of onsite operations is essential to deliver high-performing, long-lasting and good-looking homes that meet the reasonable expectations of their occupants.

Factory-made homes could help to unlock the UK’s housing crisis and contribute to tackling the climate emergency if the lessons of the past are learned. These include: following basic good practice construction detailing; using a standard template with homes not appearing monotonous but responsive to their site; and systems build upon and employing existing prefabricated building components.

For more information and to download the report please visit:


Richard Smith

Modern Methods of Construction
Stephanie O’Callaghan- NHBC- Headshots

Head of standards, research and innovation

NHBC Foundation

+44 (0)1908 747 911

Twitter: @nhbcfoundation

LinkedIn: NHBC

YouTube: NHBC UK


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