Learning from what goes right and what goes wrong

Modern Methods of Construction, or MMC, comprises a whole range of offsite manufacturing and onsite technologies that are now providing credible alternatives to traditional house building processes.

New digital technologies are already changing the landscape of the construction industry in Ireland. If this industry is to continue to seek out better value for clients, and if it is to attract the next generation of professionals, then it is critical for the Irish government and construction industry stakeholders to follow the leadership shown by our neighbours in the United Kingdom and embrace necessary changes. A recent article, which appeared on PBC Today’s website, entitled ‘Modern Methods of Construction: Time for some honesty?’ highlights the importance of being forthright and honest about what actually works – and what does not work – when it comes to implementing modern methods of construction. There are a number of important insights in this article that MMC industry leaders might find interesting. You can link to the full article here: 

MMC aims to improve operational efficiency, environmental performance, quality, sustainability and overall client satisfaction. There is a definite need for faster and more efficient building methodologies in Ireland. According to the article above, which was written by Gary Cawley who is a Director of North & Central England at Consortium Procurement Construction (CPC), decision-makers know that the economy is transforming beyond recognition, with new challenges emerging as a result of Brexit and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges are feeding demand for faster and more cost-efficient housing delivery, and social housing in particular. Billed as a tell-all exposé, the author “spills the beans about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to implementing Modern Methods of Construction”. And it is specifically directed at social housing developers. He cuts straight to the commercial case of innovation, which, frankly, does not compute for every project “…any sensible social housing provider is going to let other, bigger players take a lead, incur the cost of innovation, make all the mistakes and establish a robust supply chain with plenty of experience and useful lessons that you can tap into later”. It is difficult to argue with that. The author calls out the industry ‘celebration’ of every new social housing project delivered or proposed to deliver through offsite construction and other MMC as being faster, cheaper and more sustainable than what went before it. But is this the whole story? Mr Cawley calls for “brutal honesty” . He is calling for larger social housing providers and MMC pioneers locally to share the full spectrum of project experiences, both positive and negative. He goes on to profile some well-publicised housing delivery failures and project overruns. He shares some of the hard-earned lessons learned from delivering more than 5,000 social homes through his own organisation, namely: 

  • Choose an expert (and accredited?) manufacturer that has experience and a solid track record in the sector.
  • The author recommends “Tear up the old, single stage tender process for design and build. You are going to need a two-stage tender process, with an initial pre-contract service agreement with a MMC supplier who can help you with a proper site investigation, designs and budgeting, and with whom you can go through planning together”. The reasoning behind this comes down to risk sharing, which benefits both parties if they both know what they are doing. 
  • Understand the need to work in a completely different way, compared to a traditional build, and embrace the re-education process. As MMC requires a change in design, procurement and delivery, it is critical to bring the MMC supply chain along. 
  • Interestingly, while MMC is seen as a solution, the author advises developers not to pick the most difficult design, site or project for a pilot and assume MMC will fix everything. Rather, seek out clear advice, informed by third-party technical expertise.
  • Redefine sustainability parameters beyond environmental impacts and consider  the economic and social sustainability that can be built into new, long-term relationships with an MMC supply chain that can grow with the company. 

About Horizon Offsite

Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://horizonoffsite.ie