Despite recent reports that suggest government departments are not adopting a presumption in favour of offsite, the Modular & Portable Building Association (MPBA) has commissioned research that shows volumetric modular construction is undergoing a period of considerable growth. MPBA chief executive Jackie Maginnis examines the uptake in modular construction
Over 50% of our members provided detailed financial information to support the MPBA’s survey report commissioned through the University of Salford. Using this market intelligence from 2018–2019, turnover in the modular and portable building sector exceeded £2,956m.
This figure excludes the turnover from the major players who have recently entered the volumetric modular arena, including banking giant Goldman Sachs investing £75m into modular housing business TopHat, as well as Japan’s biggest housebuilder striking a multimillion-pound deal that will see Sekisui House partner with Homes England and Urban Splash. This agreement will also see a £55m investment into Urban Splash but the largest deal by far was revealed by ilke Homes’ involving a £100m agreement with Places for People.
As volumetric modular systems make up 60-70% of offsite construction, these solutions arguably form a Modern Method of Construction (MMC) that is experiencing entirely different growth trends than other offsite approaches.
Responses to limited offsite take-up
Respondents to the lack of government contracts with offsite components awarded in 2019 included Miles Rowland, chairman of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), who stated that government departments must align with offsite construction methods if we are to improve productivity, overcome the skills shortage and reduce carbon footprint.
Despite the research, there is balancing evidence to suggest that that the government remains supportive of Modern Methods of Construction. For instance, Mark Farmer, who leads the government’s MMC plans, has announced the upcoming launch of the hi-tech construction corridor, which is set to generate £40bn annually and employ 80,000.
Esther McVey, the minister of state for housing and planning, has emphasised that “it’s vital that we invest in new technology to get Britain building. Homes built using modern methods can be of higher quality, greener and built to last”.
Thriving modular construction
The MPBA report shows that the volumetric modular industry is thriving across all sectors. For example, at the heart of the education sector, the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) requests 450 new school facilities per annum. Modular construction has proven to be best-suited to meet such a demand due to its repeatability of units, environmentally conscious methodology and minimal disruption to existing school facilities.
Meanwhile, complex construction projects throughout the leisure sector require developers to cut costs, improve timelines and reduce onsite risks while maintaining building quality and durability. Modular construction is again best positioned to achieve this through its high performance, timeline savings of up to 25% and net savings of circa 7%.
Perhaps most challenging, the housing sector relies on modular and volumetric construction to work towards solving the housing crisis. Law firm Pinsent Masons reports that 15,000 modular homes are already built every year. The Guardian reports that the government proposes to make modular construction key to the build of 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s. We can see that volumetric modular is already core to government plans for the future.
Many contemporary architects are embracing volumetric modular to achieve striking facades with bespoke designs – hugely beneficial across all sectors. If we take a wider viewpoint on the adoption of Modern Methods of Construction, it is clear that many project developers are already making good use of volumetric and modular technologies to achieve productive, successful outputs – and only plan to build on this.
Modular & Portable Building Association
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