A call to arms – MMC for all

Look, I get it. There are lots of reasons not to start engaging with modern methods of construction.

Too risky. Too expensive. Too many unknowns. Too much else to do. Especially if you’re a smaller housing provider. And all the while, boards are starting to apply the MMC pressure.

But what if I told you there was an easy way to overcome all these concerns, with a positive impact on the local job market and economy? Would you consider it?

Well there is, so this is my rallying call to all registered housing providers across the North and Midlands – come and join the CPC MMC cluster to start your journey with MMC, improve access across the region, drive down costs, boost local employment and achieve better outcomes for your residents.

It might sound too good to be true, but the cluster approach is a tried and tested method that’s already giving providers in the South West better and cheaper MMC options – our colleagues at South West Procurement Alliance (SWPA) are currently working with Magna Housing, Sedgemoor District Council and Wiltshire Council to deliver new affordable homes in the area.

So, I’ve borrowed a slogan from SWPA to explain how it’s as “Easy as 1, 2, 3.”

1: Easy to access

The cluster approach essentially sees housing providers joining forces, to aggregate projects and improve the viability of MMC in those projects.

If we can aggregate projects, the supply chain can then start to standardise their production. Not only that, but a guarantee of a longer pipeline will mean they can start to invest more into their own development, be that building more factories in the region, or hiring and training more staff.

Importantly, demand aggregation also means lower cost, and collaboration inherently presents lower risk for all parties.

Practically, CPC will act as facilitator, with the weight of LHC’s expertise behind us (across the group we now have more than 5,300 MMC-built social homes to our name) and our technical managers on hand to talk partners through the process. We’ll leverage the professional experience of the suppliers on our Offsite Project Integrator (OPI1) framework to, if needed, help with everything from land acquisition to post-occupancy evaluation to make the process as smooth as possible. This is vital, especially for those that haven’t assessed MMC options before.

We’re looking for small, medium and large housing providers alike, and we do welcome those with experience of delivering MMC housing so we can throw that into the mix too, but it would be great if we could see some setting out on their MMC journey for the first time.

Location is important as it will be easier for organisations with proximity to work together on their projects, but we’d love to hear from registered providers across the Midlands or the North, and there’s no limit on site size. And we encourage participants to have an open and collaborative relationship with our suppliers – and each other – to help minimise risk and lay the foundations for efficient and fruitful projects.

2: Easy to tailor

Although the idea is that we want to reach a level of standardisation where we can start to reduce costs, we still don’t expect all homes to look the same.

In a way, this is part of the beauty of MMC – the final builds are completely customisable and adaptable to meet local context, whether that’s rural, urban or brownfield, and to meet different home size and tenure.

As you can see from the recent project delivered in Parson Cross, Sheffield, they can even look like traditional brick built houses.

The quality-controlled factory environment that the homes are built in means they can be zero carbon ready once finished, with better airtightness, making them more comfortable and cheaper to run for tenants.

3: Easy to deliver

I know that delivery of the product to site is often a concern voiced about MMC. Some providers will be working in the centre of urban areas with lots of traffic, low bridges and narrow streets to navigate, while others will have winding, narrow country lanes as an obstacle.

But by working with an Offsite Project Integrator, and leaning on the experience of CPC and its wider LHC national and regional partners, we can overcome these logistical headaches.

For instance, modules can be designed specifically with delivery in mind.

In terms of speed, we already know that construction and delivery of the product is fast (the homes in the Sheffield project were handed over just 10 months from the start of initial design works) but by placing bulk, standardised orders with our suppliers they can improve efficiency through continuous workflow.

The integrated programme with fellow cluster partners means we can also assure manufacturing and delivery slots around each organisation’s needs.

Catalysing the market

At CPC, we want to spark a change in the market across the regions we serve.

We want to change attitudes towards MMC, engage more housing providers, and start building the pipeline needed for our suppliers – many of which are local SMEs – to invest and thrive.

And we have the knowhow and the tools to do it, right now. Our Offsite Construction of New Homes (NH2) framework provides the foundation for collaborative working between housing providers and with our suppliers. It also allows relationships between our clients and suppliers to develop and flourish over a longer-term period, setting out an integrated supply chain without any legal problems for procurement teams. Early engagement between suppliers and clients through the framework will also ensure the risk load is shared even more widely.

So all we need now is a few hours of your time. It won’t cost anything else to find out more and meet with potential partners – please do contact us if you’d like to explore how to get involved.

Gary Cawley, Director, CPC

www.cpconstruction.org.uk 

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