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Last updateTue, 31 Mar 2020 12pm

Unlock Rigid Planning System to spark MMC Housing Revolution

Key Reforms Needed

A new report by Arup outlines the key reforms needed to the UK's planning system to facilitate the widescale use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to help deliver the large number of new homes the country needs.

Restrictive Planning System

While research to date has focused primarily on the financial and technical barriers to MMC adoption, Arup has found evidence that the planning system is too rigid and unaccommodating in driving MMC forward on a meaningful scale.

Opportunities, Actions, Benefits

The report - How Modern Methods of Construction can deliver 'more' through the planning system - outlines opportunities, actions and benefits that could help local planning authorities and users of the planning system reap the rewards available. They include: 

  • Smoothing the development management process - including training across local planning authorities on MMC and its benefits, as well as ensuring local planning policies support the use of MMC, with requirements for developers to show that they have considered the methods in proposals.
  • Elevating the role of design and responding to place – changing perceptions and promoting an awareness of the design flexibility MMC offers. This could include the appointment of an MMC design champion by Homes England to drive the agenda.
  • Harnessing digital innovation – making use of technology – such as Virtual Reality. BIM and digital pattern books – to test MMC viability, customise design, showcase products and increase efficiency in decision-making.
  • Opportunities for partnerships to implement MMC at scale – partnerships will be key to MMC success. All parties working in the built environment- local authorities, developers, planners and public bodies – need to work together to facilitate this.

Wide Engagement

The research, informed by interviews with leading professionals at the forefront of MMC, is part of Arup's Solving the Housing Crisis Series and includes a range of contributions from MHCLG, Homes England and the GLA.

Support Innovative House Building

"There's evidence which shows the current planning system cannot deliver MCC at scale, nor does it understand the opportunities it brings. Our research shows 265,000 extra homes could be built in the next ten years if one-third of new homes built used modern methods of construction. Developers, local authorities and Homes England must now work together to change attitudes and introduce a streamlined planning process that supports innovative housebuilding."

Paperless Planning direct to Production

Arup sees a future system where paper-driven planning applications are replaced with designs direct from digital platforms, selected by the buyer and pre-agreed with the local council, and once consented, are sent straight to the production line.

Addressing the Issues

Off-Site construction is essentially the manufacture of components, like wall and floor panels, roof trusses, feature components, spandrels & gables, etc. These may or may not be assembled Off-Site to provide volumetric units. However, it also merges some of the work of architects and surveyors into the process in the Design for Manufacture requirement. Housebuilders and contractors can still to incorporate 'Off-Site' into their procedures and processes without necessarily building 'me-too' volumetric boxes (although they have a place). Better still, they can seek partnering arrangements with such manufacturers to gain all-round benefits. 


As Off-Site Construction matures into Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) this is clearly at the forefront in turning construction workers into technical deliverer and enablers for such delivery. Additionally, new homes will very soon be 'Smart' in numerous ways, including full incorporation of energy-saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components. This is something that 'Off-Site'. DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) will need to seriously consider as the industry moves forward.

Collaborative Partnering

Greater collaborative 'partnering' between architects, builders and  manufacturers is needed to accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) 'Smart Ware'  gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.

Resistance Disappearing

While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top-notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as 'OffSite Hub' note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something we have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.

Easy Timber Frame

To assist them in doing so our "Easy Timber Frame" now offers standard size modular timber-frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.

Better all-round Savings

Our specialist services and CUSTOM homes division deliver best value and protect the interests of landowners, house-builder developers, professionals and private individuals seeking to build their dream home. Our off-site construction systems also reduce the amount of material that gets wasted on site, helping to avoid landfill, hazardous waste separation and handling, They also deliver better value for you and your customers.

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