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Construction Excellence Wales MMC questionaire.



Following the success of CEW’s Construction Summit Wales 2024, where the Minister announced the start of a new relationship between the Welsh Government and Constructing Excellence in Wales. CEWales will now provide Welsh Ministers with specialist construction advice, real time market intelligence and research. 


Recently CEW has seen considerable activity on MMC in Wales (specifically in housing) and would like to unpick this from varying lenses including healthcare, education, MOD, Energy Infrastructure as examples. CEW are currently working with the Welsh Government on a think tank piece dispelling myths around MMC and providing a pan Wales approach to the built environment assessing MMC’s suitability, topography and landscape in Wales.


As part of this study Creu Cartref we're recently asked to comment and respond to 6 questions relating to MMC. Questions and our answers below.


Q.1 Is there a need for clarity around the definition and understanding of MMC in general and in the Welsh context? If so, how can industry help facilitate this and where do can the government best able to offer support?


Welsh Government’s MMC classifications need sub categories.


The Welsh MMC superstructure suppliers in Wales are mostly geared up at present to provide 2d panelized timber frame systems WG MMC category definition 2 – Pre manufacturing ( 2D primary structural systems ) WDQR require a closed panel MMC for a grant uplift of 10% but we’ve experienced confusion whether this relates to:

  • a timber frame panel lined to one side only with osb sheathing.

  • a fully enclosed timber frame panel lined on both sides and filled with insulation.

There is some reluctance in the industry to supply closed panels due to the potential water ingress into the panel during storage, transport and construction. Any ingress of moisture into the panel will have long term detrimental effects and is very difficult to identify and rectify during the construction process.


The introduction of a pre manufactured value as required by Homes England should be considered very carefully with full industry consultation prior to implementation.


Projects are affected by delays with Planning, unforeseen ground conditions etc so careful consideration should be given to the practicality of storing pre manufactured elements in terms of space and weatherproofing if this happens.


Q.2 Is there a need for a sector wide MMC strategy? To what extent can this be helpful in connecting industry stakeholders including supply chains on MMC?


All projects should demonstrate that they can be delivered fully modular. This will engage the MMC industry and provide the pipeline they require to invest and mobilize.


MMC’s primary influence on the construction industry will be a transition from constructing on site to assembly on site. The more standardized the elements to be assembled then the more efficient the industry will be in producing those elements and realizing the efficiency and cost saving potential of MMC.


A sector wide approach to standardize house types would greatly assist similar to the current Delivering Net Zero Poject being fronted by Steve Cranston of the Welsh Government on behalf of 20+ social landlords and local authorities.


A collaborative approach as adopted by The Offsite Homes Alliance ( https://www.oshahomes.org/ ) in England would also be beneficial.


Qs. 3 How can industry innovation be fed into procurement and contracts regarding MMC? Is BIM the best way forward to bring industry together in responding to/understanding the MMC eco-system?


Industry innovation relies on investment and is therefore usually protected by intellectual property. The modular construction industry is focused on providing their own pre manufactured product and protect their IP to avoid competition.


To effectively deliver modular at present a project needs to adopt a modular suppliers standard house types/ layouts at feasibility/ project inception stage. Once Planning is achieved on the basis of this suppliers product it is difficult then to divert to another supplier and therefore demonstrate value for money. Conversely it is very difficult once a project has Planning to adopt a modular manufacturers product as it will likely affect the approved design.Adopting and universal pattern book approach to house designs that have the option of being delivered fully modular or traditional brick and block will open up procurement options – if modular is the most cost effective, time efficient and appropriate method of construction then this can be adopted, if not then it would be easy to transition to alternative construction methods. This does not work in reverse.Pipeline standardization is required. If you demand a product in great enough quantity then the industry will pivot or adjust their product to supply the demand. WG have the buying power to achieve this through the sector.


Building information modeling’s primary objective is to coordinate fabric and services and collect data to assist in maintaining the built asset for the duration of its life. This is not cost effective for the design team to deliver and achieve on individual projects. Create a pipeline of the same dwellings will mean coordinated and data rich information can be produced, refined, reused repeatedly on projects e.g timber frame design, m&e duct layouts, sprinkler layouts etc.


Qs.4 ‘MMC technologies are still emerging, relatively untested and may fail to provide a joined approach for the construction sector’ – what are the routes forward?


MMC solutions need to be the most viable proposition for an individual site and drive efficiency and quality of build.


Homes England’s experience in financially supporting modular companies who have subsequently suffered financially and closed in the past 18 months suggests that this approach is not the answer.


All the press we've read regarding why the modular companies have failed point towards an issue with pipeline. Once you commit financially to setting up a production machine it needs constant demand to be viable and cannot afford fluctuations in demand.


Create a standardized and consistent demand for a product and the market will deliver in the most cost effective and efficient way.


Qs. 5 Is there a need for policy creation around MMC in the form of a WPPN?


WPPN for MMC could be a way of controlling/ ensuring WG financial outlay in the Social Housing sector would be spent in Wales? Full adoption of Modular currently is likely to engage with providers outside Wales so careful consideration needs to be given to the demands and adoption of MMC to ensure that the Welsh suppliers are given time and supported to meet the demands, training, and infrastructure investment to mature the Welsh construction sector and benefit the economy.


Qs.6 Is there any data-led evidence/best practice example to support MMC within the Welsh industry landscape?


At Creu we’ve have been actively engaging with the issue of transitioning to MMC. Housing projects deliver lounges, kitchens, shower rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms grouped together to create homes. Standardise the requirements of each of these rooms and use them repeatedly on 2 bed, 3 bed, 4 bed houses and apartments and the market can then pivot to deliver housing as a product in the most cost effective and viable way. That’s the philosophy we're adotping at https://www.creucartref.com/.

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