Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are generally badged up as; modular construction produced in a factory and then transported to site where they are bolted together; non-structural pods (typically fully-fitted kitchens or bathrooms) which are incorporated within load-bearing structures; panelised systems which are transported to site as flat panel units erected on site and are typically made of timber, light steel or concrete; and sub-assemblies and components such as roof frames and floor cassette.

However none of these components are “modern”, having been around for many decades, nor does MMC pick up on how Main Contractors have evolved into Managing Contractors not Constructors. The Government and CLC, through the Construction Sector Deal have tried to evolve the MMC label into:

  • Digitising – delivering better, more certain outcomes using digital technologies;
  • Manufacturing – improving productivity, quality and safety by increasing the use of manufacturing; and
  • Performance – optimising whole life performance through the development of energy efficient smart assets.

And the Government through the IPA have targeted the adoption of configurable standardised components produced in a quality production system, tag-lining it as a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly (P-DfMA).

Perhaps digital technologies and design for manufacture and assembly are beginning to venture into a “Modern Method” for the Construction Industry but the Construction Industry still appears reactive to digital technologies and productivity in construction still appears to be static despite the various Government Papers compared to productivity in other industries such as manufacturing, retail and agriculture.

Shifting focus from capital costs of construction and onto operational lifecycle costs of a building, particularly its energy use, is a positive move, but whether this will improve efficiency and productivity and develop new Modern Methods of Construction is doubtful.

The Education Sector is ideal for increased use of off-site manufacturing, developing smart and energy efficient assets, and improved manufacturing techniques are continually improving quality outputs delivering excellent teaching environments, but there continues to be an underlining thread of perception that MMC will deliver cheaper – it won’t. Source materials still cost the same, resources still cost the same and although build time can be reduced through concurrent activities such as foundations, ground works, incoming services in parallel with above ground build in the factory, the full potential of this concurrent activity opportunity is usually constrained by client governance, payment restrictions for materials off-site and cashflow.

Constructors not Contractors will drive the development of newer and modern methods of construction and alliances with shared risks and returns will foster the appetite for improved efficiency and productivity. MMC is not Modern it is the continual improvement of the construction industry not the transformation of it.