Table of Contents
The importance of technology in modern construction methods:
The three critical elements of modern construction methods (MMC) – design and construction, production, and intelligent housing – need to be integrated to enable industrial building in the future.
That was the conclusion of the participants in a recent forum with a table on Accelerating Modern Building Methods chaired by Pinsent Masons. The conference focuses on the role of technology and how construction can be industrialized, considering the MMC platform and critical issues related to MMC insecurity.
The UK government has set out a long-term vision for the National Pipeline Construction and Construction Path and Transmission Road Infrastructure platform, both published in August 2021. A total of £ 78 billion for 10-year investment projects in which MMC could be used.
The government has said it will approve a platform for design and construction (P-DfMA) for social infrastructure within two years.
Wise homes for the future:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already well established in homes, and the market will only grow, especially as analog systems are slowly shutting down and driving to zero-carbon continues. IoT data can show how a structure works for environmental standards over time. It also enables errors to be identified early and corrected by contractors and suppliers.
Intelligent technologies such as home management and surveillance will benefit some in later life and care systems, and connected homes will become part of an intelligent city.
There was consensus among participants in the rotating table of Pinsent Masons that technology is developing at a faster rate than the market can keep up with. It poses a challenge when deciding which technology to invest in, as there is a risk that it may become obsolete in the short term.
Data privacy and data principles:
Embedded technology has many potential benefits, such as health care and environmental testing, as well as the provision of intelligent public-benefit data.
However, it is essential to consider data issues such as identity, privacy, and ethics. For example, sensors embedded in buildings collect data under the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR). At the same time, the UK Information Commission Office recently announced a temporary intention to charge fines for abusing face recognition technology.
The recently introduced Public Algorithm Bill in the House of Lords indicates concerns about this technology at a high level.
It is essential to have policies and frameworks regarding data usage and transparency. The Digital Cabinet Office recently published a level of openness that encourages local authorities to use algorithms to support the decision to use a transparency tool to determine how the algorithm is used and what impacts have been minimized.
The real estate sector can find a similar approach by using data trust to add a virtual cyber layer to the development process and build a reliable digital environment.
Using the platform method in MMC:
The platform approach to MMC provides a continuous pipeline and a consistent team and creates an economy of scale throughout the supply chain.
However, implementing this approach requires a different approach to building traditional trade, focusing on low-cost tenders and keeping as much money as possible. The platform’s design can help streamline the design process while allowing for customization. The approach may also encourage a focus on continuous improvement rather than re-creation.
People, processes, and tools are needed to develop on a scale using MMC. One company that participates in the roundtable adopts a product-based platform approach as an application, looking at the various effects and problems of traditional building methods such as product performance, social impact, skills gap, material shortage, and combined carbon to address it all. These are different features. It is thought that a standard approach will help eliminate applications and errors.
Significant government mobilization is needed:
Creating a series of efficient production assets requires investment, but those who provide development funding see industrial construction as a risk factor. Roundtable participants said more government support was needed, ultimately with a budget.
“The spring housing consultation concluded with the possibility of MMC homes being promoted as part of the bonus – this is a guide to the journey needed to help industry members overcome these challenges,” said one of the participants.
One participant noted that there had been many changes to MMC and new ways of working due to the Covid-19 epidemic but acknowledged that for production to begin, it requires government policy – for example, the principle that a certain percentage of homes in a developed building should be built using MMC.
Technology in terms of design and construction:
Building Information Modeling (BIM) was introduced a decade ago, and there is now a growing momentum for recording information on projects being implemented and creating data rates. For example, the UK BIM Alliance has developed a simple language guide to manufacturers’ product data, explaining why organized data is essential and using information management throughout the product supply chain.
At the same time, Innovate the UK focuses on creating digital connections between project components to enable various features to connect. Roundtable participants said a holistic approach is needed for BIM processes to be integrated effectively, with the need for committed leadership and management, digital transformation strategies, skilled providers, and customer-based relationships. Collaboration and data sharing are also important; Data sharing agreements are increasingly accepted and are used for secure data sharing across the project ecosystem.
There has been concern among roundtable participants about the challenge of making MMC product insurance an obstacle. There is a difference between warranty and real estate insurance. The guarantees received by real estate agents are essential in selling real estate built using MMC.
The National Housing Council (NHBC) holds a warranty market, accounting for about 60 to 70% of the market share. Government agencies, in particular, tend to have very traditional warranty requirements, usually NHBC. However, NHBC has been slow to use certain MMC products; some providers may be more receptive to MMC.
One participant noted that the insurance industry needs to look outside the UK to understand the functioning of MMC technology, saying: “The insurance industry in the UK is still talking about technology as if it were new and innovative. However, this technology is well-established elsewhere in the world.”
The insurance industry is highly regulated, which prevents the ability of the insurer to take a significant risk, and relies on retrospective data to determine the performance of the building. However, in MMC products in the UK, data is not available.
This shows that for MMC to be truly accepted in the UK, there is still a lot to change – but the industry is taking action.