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Modern construction methods are part of solution to UK housing crisis, say MPs

The housing, communities and local government committee has warned the government that an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall far short of its target to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

In its report published today, the committee urged the government to unlock the potential for modern methods of construction (MMC) to build homes quicker, more cheaply, while maintaining build quality. 

However, the MPs warned that the government will need to act quickly to increase capacity and improve investor confidence if it is to have a meaningful impact on UK housebuilding targets.

Supply chain capacity will also need to be increased and greater focus placed on ensuring the workforce has the required skillset for developing technologies, said the MPs, recommending that the government should work with Homes England and training centres to ensure that the right training schemes and apprenticeships are in place to provide a skilled workforce to utilise MMC techniques. 

The government will also need to improve data collection and sharing if it is to overcome reluctance and build confidence in MMC among lenders, insurers and home buyers. They should also establish a database of MMC homes to demonstrate the long-term value and durability of MMC, and create an “MMC Scheme,” setting out a single set of standards for warranty providers, to provide greater certainty.

Clive Betts, chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, said: “If the government is to have any chance of meeting its target of 300,000 new homes a year it cannot simply rely on traditional methods of construction. They must make a serious effort to support the use of new and emerging technologies that have the potential to have a transformative impact on the speed, cost and quality of home building. 

“The government will also need to support the industry to grow the capacity needed for MMC to play a greater role in national housebuilding. They will need to ensure that the right training schemes and apprenticeships are in place so that we have the skilled workforce that can utilise MMC techniques. They must also work with the industry to support the development of robust supply chains and support innovative businesses develop. The housing system is in urgent need of a major boost and if the government is to have any chance of meeting its ambitious target it must grasp every opportunity new technologies allow. But they must act fast and act now.”

Tom Shaw, director, buildings, Ramboll, welcomed the report, saying: “There is no chance of the UK meeting the government’s housing targets without an increased adoption of MMC, which enable homes to be built quicker, while maintaining build quality. However offsite construction techniques should not be seen as a replacement to traditional construction in the short-medium term, but rather as an important way of increasing industry capacity to move housing production closer to the target of 300,000 per year.

“MMC/offsite housing does not always mean “modular,” but should be seen as a change in approach to a “kit of parts,” where complex or repetitive elements can be produced in a factory and more easily assembled on site. It can offer a range of benefits including faster construction and better quality, it needs less people to build, there is less disruption locally around the construction site thanks to reduced deliveries and noise, and there is a significant reduction in carbon emissions and pollution, meaning it meets another key government goal of meeting net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Click here to download the full report.