New study will include Urban Splash, Countryside and Vistry developments

Homes England has commissioned a research study into modern methods of construction to drive innovation in the construction industry.

Atkins and Faithful + Gould have been appointed as the agency’s research and development partners for the project. 

Urban Splash

Working with the Building Research Establishment and University College London, they will collect and monitor data from the developers and produce annual updates on the research findings, before a final report is published at the end of the build programme.

As part of the government housing agency’s drive to boost productivity through more use of modern methods of construction (MMC), a series of Homes England’s own sites will participate in the study.

Monitoring the construction of around 1,500 homes at sites across country over several years, the study will test the performance of different types of MMC to provide data that can inform decisions about emerging technologies.

Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, said: “If we are to deliver homes at the scale, pace and quality the country needs, we have to seriously shake up how we build homes in England. This is at the very heart of our mission and it means embracing new technologies like modern methods of construction.

“Despite the impact of coronavirus being felt across the housebuilding sector, Homes England is open for business. We can be certain that the demand for high-quality homes will remain and concerns about labour supply or quality will not go away.”

Sites confirmed as being part of the study so far include Northstowe phase 2a, a 406-home 100% MMC neighbourhood in Cambridgeshire being brought forward by House by Urban Splash; the partnership between Urban Splash, Sekisui House and Homes England.

The modular homes will be manufactured in the House factory in Alfreton, East Midlands.

Also taking part are Spencer’s Park in Hemel Hempstead, a 600-home development by Countryside, where all the homes will be closed panel timber frame units and the 87-home York Road development being delivered by Vistry Partnerships in Birmingham, where the homes will be built using a timber frame closed panel system and delivered to site for assembly.

The study will also monitor sites in Swindon, Warrington, Newcastle and Milton Keynes, with details to be announced in the coming months.

The research will explore a range of themes, including cost and pace of build compared with traditional building methods, skills required, safety performance, snagging and defect issues, construction wastage, energy efficiency performance and post-occupation performance.

Jon Swan, client director for Homes England at Atkins, said: “The first step will be to establish a benchmark approach to measuring the impact of MMC. This consistency in analysis across the industry will lead to an ever-growing data set on MMC, with the potential to inform and improve the housing industry for years to come.”

The study will also seek to learn lessons about how these technologies might be improved upon in future and give confidence to the industry to encourage more widespread use of MMC technologies.