McVey launches MMC ‘centre of excellence’ in the North

The public announcement comes amid Homes England’s recent investment of £38.2m to “speed up” construction.

Housing Minister Esther McVey

“Let’s build a housing green revolution in the North,” is the latest from Housing Minister Esther McVey.

Ahead of an address to delegates in Sheffield today, McVey paints the North of England with the potential to become a “world-leader” in the creation of modern, high-quality homes.

As reported by 24housing, Homes England has recently agreed funding deals worth £38.2m with six councils to speed up the construction of at least 2,072 homes across the country.

The deals are the latest to be awarded through the government’s £350m Local Authority Accelerated Construction (LAAC) programme, which was launched to help unlock public land and increase the speed of delivery on local authority housing schemes.

McVey is due to meet with developers, small businesses, and academics during a visit to Factory 2050 today (24th October), part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, to announce the government’s ambition for a new ‘centre of excellence’ for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in the north.

The ‘centre of excellence’ is said to potentially create a new network of people, connected in their aim to boost the use of MMC while sharing ideas and future uses.

Of the potential in the north of England, Housing Minister Esther McVey said: “We must invest in this new technology. It’s as simple as that.

“The benefits are clear. Some modular homes can be built in a factory over a week. And assembled on site in a day.

“Industry has told us some homes built using modern methods can have 80% fewer defects and heating bills up to 70% lower.

“Homes built using modern methods can be of higher quality, greener, and built to last. I want to see a housing green revolution. In the north of England where the first industrial revolution began.”

She added: “With our emphasis on safety, quality, and beauty, we could be the global leaders in housing standards.

“And if we get it right, once the industry matures it could be worth an estimated £40bn to this country. A new post-Brexit industry.

“To build all these new homes, we will need a brand-new workforce to make these homes offsite. Skilled, high-quality jobs, for life.

“The north of England has the potential to be the construction capital of the country for this new technology, and we need to fully embrace this. This could be a new hub. Think Silicon Valley. The ‘construction corridor’.”

As reported by 24housing, a recent conference saw industry bodies across the sector share the same view on the advantages of the offsite building technique.

Nick Walkley, CEO of Homes England, said: “Homes England sees enormous benefits to MMC – from allowing high-quality homes to be built more quickly to addressing labour and skills shortages and improving energy efficiency – so it’s vital that there is continued investment in it.

“The Local Authority Accelerated Construction programme supports local authorities to prepare sites for the construction of much-needed new homes and prioritises the use of modern methods of construction to increase the build pace by an average of 40%.”

In May, Places for People and modular manufacturer ilke Homes announced one of the biggest modular housing deals the UK has seen.

Under the £100m partnership, 750 units are due to be purchased from ilke Homes, including 500 for sites that Places for People already own and 250 for new schemes to develop affordable and market-priced housing.

Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said: “It’s great to see the government really committing to modern methods as a means of delivering high-quality, sustainable homes at pace.

“By ramping up offsite manufacturing in the UK’s northern regions, a range of digitally skilled employment opportunities can be created for areas that are experiencing some of the worst unemployment rates in the UK.

“Successfully increasing the use of modular would be a huge boost for the regions, helping them become pioneers in modern methods while helping deliver on Esther McVey’s ambition for Britain to become a global leader in modular within the next decade.”

On the announcement, Mark Farmer, chair of the MMC Working Group, said that the UK “urgently needs” to better assure building safety, improve quality, reduce carbon, and offer much more consumer choice and protections – only achieved if a readdress of the way it designs and delivers new homes is achieved.

“The establishment of a centre of excellence for modern methods of construction in the north of England will leverage what is already a growing part of the regional economy,” he said.

“I am pleased that government is driving this important initiative, and I look forward to helping make this a success in coordination with all key stakeholders.”

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