Modern methods of construction Contents


1.In its Report ‘Capacity in the homebuilding industry’, published in April 2017, our predecessor Committee said “For decades the country has not built enough homes” and that “The continued failure to build enough homes has contributed to the cost of buying or renting a home continuing to rise.”1 The Committee acknowledged that modern methods of construction (MMC) could make an important contribution towards addressing the industry’s problems and speed up the delivery of homes. They described MMC as:

a collective term for a wide range of non-traditional building systems. These include modular construction where units are fully fitted out off-site, panelised systems (such as timber or light steel frames, site based MMC such as thin joint block work and sub-assemblies and components (such as pre-fabricated chimneys, porches etc).

2.It recommended the Government “take a more active role to improve the wider sustainability of the MMC supply chain and to encourage the market to grow”.2 In its response to the Report the Government said:

To increase housing supply, we need a diversified housing market where all firms embrace innovation to become more productive and deliver a better product to the consumer–building more homes using modern methods of construction would be a part of this.3

The response pointed to the Housing White Paper published in February 2017, entitled ‘Fixing our broken housing market’, which made several commitments to support MMC:

Despite these positive words, it is clear that the use of MMC to build homes has continued to lag a long way behind traditional methods, with around 15,000 homes delivered annually using MMC.5 In January 2018 Homes England, described as “the government’s housing accelerator”,6 replaced the Homes and Communities Agency. Homes England has adopted measures to promote MMC; its Strategic Plan for 2018/19–2022/23 says it will:

incorporate MMC into our building lease disposals to demonstrate a range of MMC products on Homes England land. We’ll also encourage partners to use MMC through our provision of development finance to developers.7

3.It is in this context that we decided to launch this inquiry. We believe that MMC are key to increasing the delivery of homes and working towards the target to deliver 300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s. Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy, and author of The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model, entitled ‘Modernise or Die’, told us:

The need to diversify the production process is as important in solving the housing crisis as some of the more well-publicised issues like land availability, planning systems and affordability. They are all part of a very complex jigsaw.8

4.The focus of this inquiry is on the barriers that prevent greater take-up of MMC among homebuilders and we have sought to make recommendations that will help to overcome those barriers. The first chapter considers the Government’s homebuilding targets in general, the potential benefits of using MMC to build more homes and the barriers to greater take-up identified by witnesses to this inquiry. Chapters two to nine look in more detail at the barriers to take-up and what is already being done to overcome them. We then make recommendations for further action on each of these topics to increase take-up of MMC in the residential sector.

5.We thank everyone who has contributed to our inquiry. We received over 50 written submissions from across the industry. The key themes of the written evidence were explored in four oral evidence sessions in which we heard from 23 representatives from the construction industry and related organisations, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

6.We also express our thanks to Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and Swan Housing Association for hosting the Committee at their housing developments, which greatly enhanced our insight into how MMC are used in homebuilding. Finally, we thank our Specialist Advisor, Professor Christine Whitehead.

1 Communities and Local Government Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2016–17, Capacity in the homebuilding industry, HC 46, para 2.

2 Communities and Local Government Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2016–17, Capacity in the homebuilding industry, HC 46, para 3.

4 Department for Communities and Local Government, Fixing our broken housing market, February 2017, p54

5 HL Deb, 24 April 2019, col 678 [Lords Chamber]

6 Homes England, ‘About us’, accessed 12 June 2019

7 Homes England, Strategic plan 2018/19 - 2022/23, October 2018, p22

8 Q8

Published: 3 July 2019