Made for London: Realising the potential of modern methods of construction


Neil Martin, Managing Director, Construction, Europe, Lendlease

The shortage of housing of all tenures across London remains one of the biggest challenges facing our industry today. We are not delivering the targets set out by the London Plan, and local authorities are consistently failing to meet their own housing ambitions.
The construction industry must take some responsibility for this – our own methods have held us back. From the unrest of Brexit, to an ageing workforce, the causes of slow delivery aren’t simple. We know there are also issues with build quality and costs, so what must we do to improve?

This report suggests that we look to Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) for the answers. MMC such as off-site manufacturing can reduce the time we spend on site, therefore significantly reducing build costs. Off-site manufacturing in a factory environment not only achieves the cost-savings and time efficiencies we need, but can also improve safety, reduce waste and minimise the stop-starts caused by external issues such as weather. In short it enables us to plan more meticulously and gives us more power over our schedule.
However, realistically, we are not yet in a place where MMC are fully incorporated into our plans or entirely trusted. There are still issues of buy-in from stakeholders, who – like us – have become used to the old methods, and while there is appetite for innovation, no single company is an undisputed expert in the field. These factors, unsurprisingly, do little to reassure funders or insurers, which is possibly why in 2015 little more than 10 per cent of new homes were constructed using modular techniques. As with all industries, the more niche something is, and the more sporadically it is done, the slower the growth and the costlier it is. Which means the potential cost-saving is not delivered.

The opportunities to improve our delivery are there, but we need to work together to make them a reality, and we’ll have to bring all of our stakeholders with us to see a real transformation.