Modern methods of construction – why we should grasp new technologies with both hands 

There is a lot of noise around modern methods of construction and the benefits they could offer to the housing industry. It’s something that we’re coming across more and more when recruiting for large and medium-sized developers – the job specifications are starting to contain a bullet point or 2 about requiring previous experience with timber or steel frame, modular build, self-assemblies or offsite building etc. 

So – therein lies a question – do we have the skillset in the marketplace to support a major drive towards MMC and if not, how do we act quickly to be ready to embrace new systems and technologies and support the government housing targets in the coming years? 

Looking at modular build specifically, versus traditional build – there are some glaring benefits in embracing the new methods. Firstly, the construction standards are consistent – the pieces are precision engineered so leaving less margin for error. There is a fixed cost approach to the work above groundworks – less chance of delays in materials or damage. Being on time is so important, modular builds can offer that predictability to your project timelines – delays from staged work are minimised. The build takes less time overall – so the return on investment can be seen earlier for all involved.  

Having read around the topic and listened to our clients and candidates talking about it – it’s clear that many large and medium-sized housebuilders and housing associations are considering trying at least 2 forms of MMC in the next few years.  Many believing that it’s crucial in order to hit the government housing targets. 

But uptake is still lower than expected – and it would seem that there are 3 main reasons: 

  1. Delay from the boards to approve the new methods – it would appear that there is still some caution surrounding it 
  2. Number 1 is potentially true because there is a fair bit of complex regulation to understand and implement into business practice 
  3. And because number 2 is true – there is an urgent requirement to train staff in the new systems and technologies while still delivering on the targets set 

So, it’s actually no wonder that it’s taking a bit of time to make huge waves in the industry. But it’s certainly bubbling away…. the issues are not around the product itself or the very clever new technologies but rather the training of staff which is needed to ensure the business continues to run efficiently, effectively and safely. 

On the basis that tech is evolving, developing and growing week on week (daily) across all areas of our lives – now appears to be the time to embrace MMC to enhance and supplement traditional build methodology.  It’s going to need a joined-up approach with education, training, apprenticeships and coaching in order to help to fill the skills gap and clear plans in place for teams to be able to coach and support others as they progress through the business.  

At the earliest stage possible – and collectively – we need to support and guide those coming through the education system to make informed decisions and follow paths set out which will take them to their chosen career in construction in this new era. Tech is a rapidly moving feast – blink and you may miss it the next big thing! Adapt, embrace, enhance your own skillsets and knowledge and see the results coming through.