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My experience of delivering modular projects on the ground

To date I must have delivered nearly 1,000 timber frame and modular homes either onsite or within my pre-construction role, and each site presents new challenges in delivering an MMC product. Here’s a snap shot of those experiences.

Having first been introduced to timber frame back in 2016 on small-scale projects within central Cambridge, my eyes were opened to the potential future of the construction industry; how important it was if the industry wanted to survive and grow, as well as deliver much-needed homes.

That same year a modular company was set up called ILKE Homes, owned by the same investment company as Keepmoat Homes and Elliots. I was asked to manage the construction and programme of their show-homes/sales centre down in London as a test case. Having spent six weeks onsite preparing the area, two units were delivered and connected to services within an eight-hour period, and the sales centre opened two weeks later. Impressive!

Traditional v MMC

Having worked on and delivered sites via traditional, timber frame and modular construction, there are benefits to each scenario.

Traditional build suits the sales market as production can be aligned more closely to sales rates. Traditional build is especially beneficial if the site is constrained with differences in levels. Traditional build sites are often more technically challenging and therefore under-build, or steps and staggers in roof lines make it a lot easier to build traditionally than those designed into an MMC product, where adaptions are difficult to overcome and the time saving benefits of the MMC products get eroded.

My observations are that the MMC sites are generally tidier, and are easier to manage, providing the sites have been programmed according to the method of construction and the site team has delivered that product before. Having worked on a scheme that has delivered circa 90 units in a single financial year, it’s fair to say that MMC sites can also be ramped up for longer, with sustainable output between six and eight units per month. Whilst it’s never easy for the site teams, it was manageable and the ability to ramp up production, especially in the summer months, where getting roofs on for December meant a staggered and deliverable programme for oncoming trades over the subsequent six months.

My personal experience is that MMC is easier to programme and has a lot more delivery certainty, especially in areas where traditional methods may be impacted by the weather and programmes are needed to suit certain delivery for times of the year. Whereas MMC construction is less impacted by the weather or if there are time delays, they are far less prohibitive than those of traditional build methods. Programming became an invaluable tool for myself in understanding and delivering the MMC sites and allowed me to understand the differences in internal build methodologies, especially when it comes to pre-plaster inspections and general first fix works.

The ability to get MMC sites off the ground that have challenges is hugely exciting and rewarding, and makes me a huge advocate for all MMC systems which can vary so much from open to closed panel timber frame, to those of smart roofs, and pre-insulated and concreted floor slabs. All of which makes for an exciting future to our industry, especially with the Future Homes standards being introduced in 2025 as Part L 2023 changes.

Comments by: Keiran Wakley, Head of Pre-Construction & Sustainability.

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