The government has taken another hit on its 300,000-homes-a-year target, with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLGC) warning an over-reliance on traditional building methods will see the UK fall far short of such numbers.
As reported by 24housing, the Commons Public Accounts Committee last week told MHCLG to “get a grip” on progressing the housing target, with the resulting report saying the Ministry had no clear plan to make 300,000-homes-a-year happen.
In a report out today (3rd July), MCLGC has 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 report stresses a need to act quickly to increase capacity and improve investor confidence if it is to have a meaningful impact on UK housebuilding targets.
“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,” said committee chair Clive Betts MP.
“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 homebuilding.
“This is not simply about shifting production away from the building site and into factories. It is about seizing opportunities that modern technologies allow, whether it be precision manufacturing, use of new materials or digital working,” he said.
The report also identifies a need to increase supply chain capacity and focus on ensuring the workforce has the required skillset for developing technologies.
That means working with Homes England and training centres to develop targeted programmes for use in the manufacture of MMC homes.
But while initial work to develop centres of excellence, bringing together businesses and academia to support innovation, would be welcome, the committee said such work could be strengthened by coordinating with the Transforming Construction Programme and Construction Innovation Hub.
These networks could form an ideal arena for testing and standardisation of MMC processes and components, as well as ensuring they comply with building regulations.
And the government will also need to improve data collection and sharing if it is to overcome reluctance to utilise MMC among lenders, insurers, and home buyers, the report says.
Pitching a database of MMC homes to demonstrate the long-term value and durability of MMC, the Committee backed the creation of an ‘MMC Scheme’, setting out a single set of standards for warranty providers.
The report does acknowledges additional challenges inherent over the expansion of MMC, including difficulties in accessing land to build on, opaque and confusing building regulations, and high upfront costs.
To the committee, the Government should investigate the specific impact of the current regulatory systems and access to funding on MMC, and consider options for measures designed to overcome existing barriers.
But “first and foremost”, those conditions created to improve investor and consumer confidence, said Betts, acknowledging reluctance as understandable against the perception of building innovations in the 1960s creating homes failing to survive half a century – while rows of Victorian terraces still stand.
“Proving quality and longevity will be key. That is why we have called on the government to collect and publish the data that prove new building methods work, and also show if they have failed,” said Betts.
“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.”
MMC report – main recommendations
- MHCLG should report annually the total amount allocated to MMC developments across all its different funding streams and implement a coordinated strategy across all relevant government departments to increase MMC homebuilding
- Homebuilders should use more digital technology in their processes and not simply move construction off site
- The lack of long-term data on the durability of MMC homes in the UK is a considerable barrier to industry actors engaging with MMC housing schemes
- The government should develop a digital database that records the design, processes, and materials used in the construction of buildings
- Scope for an ‘MMC Scheme’ that will set out a single set of standards for warranty providers against which to make decisions
- The government must ensure skills programmes, apprenticeship schemes, and the new T Level give learners the skills they need for both traditional techniques and MMC and encourages more young people into the sector
- A robust supply chains for MMC homes
- Councils need to start building homes in far greater numbers than they have done in recent years and help homebuilders access development land
- The government should urgently set out a clear plan for the review of the building regulations, including the whole suite of Approved Documents, and consider how they relate to MMC buildings
- Building regulations should set more stringent energy performance targets for homes to take into account achievable levels of energy efficiency
- If current schemes are insufficient to provide the finance needed to increase MMC output, new schemes aimed at MMC developments should be considered