Top tips when using modern building methods

  • Modern methods of construction (MMC) offer some innovative solutions to many of the pressures facing registered providers of social housing
  • MMC can also often introduce added risks, which will need to be managed at design and construction, and throughout a building’s lifetime
  • We share our top tips for managing MMC risk at each stage of a building’s lifecycle

Modern methods of construction (MMC) can offer a range of benefits for registered providers of social housing (RPs). Whether renovating, extending or building a new development, MMC can provide solutions to a number of challenges, from meeting cost pressures to reducing environmental impact.

While these construction innovations present some great opportunities for RPs, we are now beginning to see trends in the types of risks they can also introduce, and the consequences when things go wrong.

To ensure your housing stock remains protected throughout its lifetime, we share our top tips on MMC use at each stage of a building’s lifecycle.

Design stage

MMC can often introduce new risks to a building, even when only minor elements are used in conjunction with traditional building techniques.

Added fire risk is a common issue, as many MMC either feature combustible materials (such as timber cladding or insulated wall panels) or introduce voids where fire can quickly spread undetected throughout a building.

Many MMC techniques and materials are relatively new, meaning designers may be unaware of the types of losses they can cause, and therefore the corresponding risk management measures that should be incorporated into a building’s design.

“We recognise the pressures that the housing sector is under, and welcome innovations that can help overcome these,” says Stuart Blackie, Property Team Leader at Zurich Risk Engineering. “However, when using non-traditional building methods, it is important to fully understand how these might affect the lifecycle of your buildings.

“Engaging with wider stakeholder groups, such as insurers and your local fire authority, at the earliest stage will offer valuable insight into the operational risks associated with any designs being proposed.”

During construction

While design features can be incorporated to manage MMC risks, the quality of construction will ultimately determine whether they work effectively.

With MMC including a number of new techniques and materials, many contractors may have little or no experience with them. This can ultimately result in large losses due to poor quality workmanship.

It is therefore important to properly vet your contractors, including ones that you use regularly, to ensure they are experienced in the particular MMC to be used.

Regular inspections and quality checks are also equally important throughout the construction stage, to ensure that building standards/ regulations are adhered to. Ideally these should be carried out by an independent project manager.

After completion

Throughout the building’s lifetime, work may need to be carried out to renovate or maintain the property. This can mean compromising measures designed to combat MMC risks, such as drilling through physical firebreaks to install new services.

To ensure your risk management features remain effective, it is essential that any future owners, occupiers and contractors are aware of the presence of MMC and appreciate what risk management measures are in place as a result.

This may include, for example, not carrying out hot works near combustible materials, or reinstating physical firebreaks wherever they are breached.

“MMC can perform very effectively if it is well designed, well executed and well managed throughout the lifetime of the building,” says Blackie. “It is important to identify any MMC in your portfolio and continue to assess and respond to its implications, such as continuing to follow any additional fire safety measures.”

Find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.