Our brief was to provide much-needed affordable accommodation using modern methods of construction, delivering a highly sustainable scheme that would be both resilient and durable but also offer a visual and tangible benefit to the local community. Could MMC really deliver on all of this? Does MMC hold the answer to future, resilient, quick, sustainable construction?

In answering the brief we have been able to explore some of the opportunities versus constraints that MMC poses. Whilst there will always be a need for traditional forms of building, MMC offers an exciting alternative and it is anticipated the value of this form of construction will increase as the process and policy changes needed to support it evolve.

The scheme we have designed is due to go into planning shortly. Our design consists of twelve - one bed studio apartments, external rear amenity space for residents, a pocket park for the local community and tree-lined frontage to the main road. Each 37 sqm studio is made of two units, with the volumes stacked two storeys and external stair access to upper flats. In developing our accommodation and amenities we engaged with local groups, residents and potential users to inform, guide and develop the design, to prioritise community engagement and add social value to the local area.

Tempo Housing has been involved since the inception of the project. Whilst this has provided opportunities in terms of input into the design of the modules and testing non-standardised approaches, it has also reduced some of the efficiencies to be gleaned from using this form of construction.

One of the challenges presented by the use of volumetric MMC can be the reduced flexibility to deal with on-site constraints such as topography. Other methods such as panelised systems might have greater tolerance to deal with these variables. It is therefore critical that the modular provider is appointed early in the process to engage in the design process, development of technical information and the understanding of early stage efficiencies. The barrier to this is that client teams won’t necessarily know from the outset if this is a cost effective route to pursue. A two-stage appointment might therefore be one avenue to help balance these potential tensions.

MMC does not always provide a straightforward cost comparison based on traditional methods of accounting. Whilst the build expenditures are likely to be higher, there are potential savings in reduced design and construction time, as well as long-term maintenance and running costs and greater cost certainty.

Through the public consultation of this scheme, we have seen that there are still some negative connotations attributed to volumetric MMC based on the legacy of post war pre-fabs. However, we have discovered through our work that MMC can be both durable, resilient and beautiful and will be investing more of our time on projects to develop our expertise our define design quality in MMC.

"We anticipate, that as MMC is utilised more, the design process will expediate thanks to readily available detailed information, along with notable efficiencies in repetition and duplication. This, combined with the reduced length of time required on site, has significant benefits for schemes that demand short programmes with the bonus of minimising disruption in urban construction sites." - Heather Rees