The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has commissioned the British Standards Institute (BSI) to create a new UK-wide standard for homes built using modern methods of construction (MMC).
What is MMC?
MMC is a wide term, and covers a range of approaches which span off-site, near-site and on-site alternatives to traditional construction methods, including pre-manufacturing, process improvements and technology applications. Using innovative methods, MMC aims to reduce costs and drive productivity efficiencies.
The types of methods can vary between pre-fabricated components that do not require assembly on-site to completely modular builds. By utilising off-site manufacturing, a project can benefit from quicker delivery and lower labour costs which results in an overall lower cost and reduced programme.
Both the public sector Construction Playbook, published in late 2020 and updated in September 2022, and its private sector counterpart published in November 2022, call for increased use of innovation and emerging technologies. This includes MMC, design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA), and sourcing of materials that contribute towards positive carbon outcomes. DfMA is an approach that allows for greater standardisation, by beginning the process of standardising at a component level.
The Government has adopted a presumption in favour of off-site construction for the procurement of public sector projects. Building upon this presumption, as we reported in this insight, the September 2022 update to the public sector Playbook included a new guidance note on MMC. This provides more detail on the "commercial and contractual elements required" to deliver projects using platform approaches and MMC. It aims to "aid commercial, legal and project delivery professionals to make these changes to the way they work in practice, to deliver using platform approaches and MMC".
Both the public and private sector Playbooks recognise that increased use of MMC can help speed up construction times and thus increase productivity as well as delivering better quality and reducing safety risks. It will also be critical to the delivery of sustainable net zero carbon construction – provided however that it is planned at the outset of a project, "at the earliest possible stage".
The new standard
As noted in the private sector Playbook, in order to become effective on a large scale, MMC needs greater standardisation in the design and delivery of buildings across the construction and engineering sector. Accordingly, the new standard will set out recommended technical standards when utilising MMC and will strictly define quality assurance and compliance processes for the sector. It is hoped that this in turn will increase access to product warranties, insurance and mortgages, making MMC projects more affordable and appealing on a large scale.
Anthony Burd, head of built environment at British Standards Institution Knowledge Solutions, said:
"As society's needs change and in light of the role all of us have to play on the road to net zero, improving levels of building safety, and ensuring better design – modern methods of construction will be key to meeting these future challenges. The standard will provide essential requirements and guidance for best practice in the residential building sector and much-needed assurance for the growing off-site sector."
The introduction of the standard will be a welcome addition to the UK construction industry, and will hopefully reduce the perceived risks around MMC, making it more attractive to funders and insurers. The market appetite for MMC is clearly strong, given its benefits – but its widespread implementation, particularly in the private sector, is dependent on funding and insurance being available to ensure MMC projects are a viable option.
If you are interested in discussing this further please contact Ruth Griffin or Gemma Whittaker.
 MMC Definition Framework