So it turns out that the residents of one block of flats at the Greenwich Millennium Village are occasionally forced to sleep on a friend’s floor to escape noise transmission from their neighbour’s flat (6 May, page 26).
This is a cautionary tale, but for whom? Developers? Designers? Suppliers? Maybe the moral is aimed at the housebuyer: “Don’t buy a home built using new construction methods – it might be seriously flawed.”
In my opinion, this tale illustrates a broader malaise in the housebuilding industry. Poor methods of installation and design will impair the performance of any material used, but with modern methods of construction this is exacerbated by a lack of historical expertise. While work needs to be done to improve immature supply chains, there is also a duty to open up channels of education so a greater understanding of unfamiliar materials and processes can develop.
Similar to other lobbying factions, the Steel Homes Group was launched with precisely this edict in mind. In order to get the best out of MMC, developers need to appoint responsible suppliers who can provide manuals and guidance on how best to use their systems.
Designers need to understand the details of the material they are working with, the critical elements for optimum structural, acoustic and thermal performance, and the actual processes used in off-site manufacture. In turn, the supplier needs to be integrated into the design process at an early stage and properly briefed on building performance requirements. Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the build and site managers and operatives need to be retrained.
That this advice should be more closely adhered to when working with MMC for the first time would appear to be elementary, but somehow it doesn’t seem to be.
Graham Raven, Steel Homes Group facilitator, Steel Construction Institute