Are Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) the answer to our sustainability challenge?

With the race on to save the planet and become net zero by the legislative deadline of 2050, many companies are already starting to seriously delve into their practices and to inspect the changes that can be made to play their part.

Being part of the construction industry, we’ve historically been at the forefront of the climate change emergency. The industry as a whole reportedly accounts for 38% of CO2 emissions, meaning it’s naturally our responsibility to be one of the first industries to really examine our practices. With the climate emergency becoming of increased importance to the public, we’re starting to turn our backs on traditional building methods in favour of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

The raw materials used in MMC are mostly the same as those used in traditional construction. However, there are a number of differences that help to make it more sustainable. MMC systems can be broken down into 5 categories (classified by the Housing Corporation). - Off-site manufactured - volumetric (three dimensional units produced in a factory, fully fitted out before being transported to site), - Off-site manufactured - panellised (flat panel units built in a factory and transported to site for assembly), - Off-site manufactured - hybrid (an integration of volumetric units and panellised systems), - Off-site manufactured - sub-assemblies and components (larger components that can be incorporated into conventionally built or MMC dwellings), - Non-off-site manufactured MMC (innovative methods of construction used on-site and the use of conventional components in an innovative way). So how does MMC contribute to dealing with the climate emergency? First of all, the construction industry is responsible for a lot of waste. 30% of the UK’s total waste generation in 2016, in fact. And 30% of 221 million tonnes is hardly a small amount. The benefit of Modern Methods of Construction in this regard is that it’s more straightforward to manage waste in a factory environment rather than on a construction site. It allows for far more control and less input from external varying factors, meaning that there’s less contamination, more recycling and less waste overall.

Another large contributor to climate change is pollution and energy output. Not only is there more than a 40% reduction in HGV movement at construction sites when using modular construction versus traditional, but manufacturing off site also minimises the time (and energy) spent on site. It also helps to minimise travel and transport, as workers are more likely to be concentrated around a specific factory. They may even be more likely to travel by sustainable methods such as public transport. Due to these factors, overall pollution is reduced. A key way to help to control the earth’s climate change, is to minimise production and waste and make the most of what we already have. Recycling is a big focus across every sector, right down to an individual level. Materials in traditional construction (such as timber, brick and concrete) are very rarely re-used and it can be hard work to do so. The volumetric and panellised systems found in modular building lend themselves to recycling in a much more practical and efficient way. The reduction of CO2 emissions may be a fight that requires work from all of us, but it’s certainly no secret that the construction industry has further to go than others. Embracing MMC will certainly help us start to do that.


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