Having part of the construction process completed in factory-controlled conditions also negates extraneous factors that can impede project progress. Bad weather, for example, does not slow down construction taking place in a factory in the same way it could on a building site.

Operating in these conditions also creates an environment where a high-quality of workmanship can be guaranteed – resulting in a higher-quality housing – and brings with it additional significant health and safety benefits.

MMC can provide innovative solutions for construction, but it also has significant benefits from a local council planning perspective. The flexibility MMC offers means that housing developments can be moved to meet shifting patterns of demand. This is a significant development that allows local authorities to be more responsive to changes in land usage patterns within their regions – and deliver affordable housing in areas where demand is highest.

The architect’s role in MMC The key focus for architects needs to be on harnessing the advantages presented by MMC whilst creating houses that are sensitive to their surroundings and contribute towards a sense of place. When using MMC, the role of the architect really should not change. Although there may be elements of the construction process that can be streamlined, the design process should always be bespoke.

Functionality and style are obviously key, but individual planning requirements


must also be considered. For example, sympathetic timber cladding may be incorporated into a housing development in a rural setting. It’s also possible for modular elements to be incorporated with traditional construction practices to realise a bespoke element within projects delivered through MMC.

The role of the architect in modern methods of construction is demonstrated in AHR’s work to deliver new homes at St Mary’s Island. Part of the Chatham Maritime development area in Medway, it is Britain’s only strategically-planned island development, and previously operated as a shipyard for 400 years.

AHR was commissioned for the detailed design of an element of the development which became known as the Fishing Village (pictured). This part of the development was designed using an innovative ‘kit of parts’ system.

This design approach offers a range of benefits for residents, including the ability to design flexibly to create diverse and engaging spaces. In turn, this means it’s possible to create a unique design identity for each home, ensuring those homes are sensitive to their surroundings and contribute to an overall sense of place. In this particular case, an innovative approach to design allowed AHR to incorporate varied elevations and street interaction across the site – paying homage to the historic fisherman’s lofts associated with the area.

It was an approach which culminated in the project receiving one of the first Building for Life Awards, as well as the

Although there may be elements of MMC construction that can be streamlined, the design process should always be bespoke

National Home Builder Design Award for Best Brownfield Development.

MMC and the future built environment

Projects such as St Mary’s Island demonstrate that while MMC is a relatively new discipline at present, it is one that is evolving rapidly and offers exciting opportunities for the future of housing in the UK.

The high-quality projects we see today are dispelling the negative perceptions that ‘pre-fab’ housing cultivated during the post-war era created. This is coinciding with an increasing number of construction firms looking to diversify their offering and embrace MMC as an additional method of delivering high-quality housing. With all this considered, it’s clear that MMC has a big part to play if the country is to meet the supply side challenges that must be overcome to deliver on the Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year.

David de Sousa is a director of AHR Architects


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