NHBC innovation manager Richard Lankshear explains how the UK’s leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes is supporting the growth in housebuilding, including the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)
For many years, NHBC has helped the UK housebuilding industry embrace innovative forms of construction through a rigorous review of MMC systems that provides confidence to buyers, mortgage lenders and housebuilders alike. We have reviewed over 150 MMC systems, ranging from site-based innovations to large-scale volumetric units, formed from conventional as well as less conventional materials, with 52 currently accepted for use in NHBC-registered developments.
Recently, we have seen an upsurge in the number of systems that we are being asked to review, reflecting a growing demand among housebuilders to trial innovative technologies. Since 2016, the average annual number of MMC systems submitted for review has more than tripled and 2018 is set to be a record year with over 20 new systems submitted to NHBC so far.
To meet this rising need, in 2017, we launched the MMC Hub – an online portal that lists building systems accepted for use on NHBC-registered sites and provides guidance on the use of Modern Methods of Construction. We have also invested in our people and processes to enable a prompt and effective review of MMC systems and enabling effective inspection by NHBC staff across the country.
The trend in increasing volumes reflects the growing interest in the housebuilding industry in Modern Methods of Construction and particularly offsite manufacture. The government’s 2017 White Paper and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government-commissioned report Modernise or Die set out the opportunities for greater use of MMC and industry is responding.
In the last three months alone, housebuilders on developments registered with NHBC have trialled for their first time, cross-laminated timber, volumetric homes, storey-height AAC (aircrete) panels and concrete cross-wall systems.
There appear to be three key drivers fuelling the demand for MMC.
Firstly, there is the growing shortage of skills necessary for conventional construction and the consequent inflationary pressures.
Secondly, the technologies themselves are becoming more viable; this isn’t just in the materials or construction method, but by the use of collaborative, integrated design tools and a focus on design for manufacture.
The final driver is the government’s ambition to diversify the housing market, supporting builders who embrace innovative and efficient methods an to promote more modular and factory-built homes.
The perceived benefits of using MMC are that they can improve productivity through improving quality and reducing waste, increased precision in production and improved building performance. And these benefits are being realised, as evidenced by the number of large developers that have announced investment in their own offsite production facilities.
We welcome responsible innovation in housebuilding that can help improve quality for the homeowner. Innovative construction should be based on sound construction practice and an understanding of the principles of design and underpinned by suitable research and development.
This is why NHBC carries out a robust review of each MMC system and not just focusing on the characteristics of the system itself, but how it forms part of the overall building and how it affects the performance of the home.
We carry out a desk study, a review of the factory production controls and require that the system is used in a pilot scheme whereby we can observe how the design intent is realised in practice.
NHBC believes that the homeowner should expect the same reassurance on quality from their new home whether it is built using established methods or using MMC. Our Buildmark warranty does not differentiate between different forms of construction and a home must meet the same performance requirements however it is built. As such, our review of MMC systems is necessarily robust so that homes built using MMC will meet the reasonable expectations of homeowners and their mortgage lenders.
As the demand for increasing output and increasing quality grows, the use of Modern Methods of Construction will become more widespread and NHBC will continue to support housebuilders and manufacturers that innovate responsibly.
National House-Building Council (NHBC)