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AIMCH consortium progress report on using modern methods of construction to transform housebuilding

by Liam Turner
Modern methods of construction

Innovation consortium Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes (AIMCH) has published its second-year progress report on using modern methods of construction to transform the housebuilding sector.

The goal of the three-year research & development project is to help tackle the UK housing crisis, through supporting the sector to deliver 120,000 homes 30% faster, to higher quality and more cost effectively than masonry methods using panelised modern methods of construction (MMC)  systems.

The report from AIMCH – a collaboration between Stewart Milne Group, Barratt Developments, L&Q, Forster Group, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) – shows encouraging results and key learnings for the sector. These include being able to achieve a weather tight, insulated and secure superstructure in just one day. All advanced panelised modern methods of construction systems and lean construction solutions trialled so far have been successful and early analysis is recognising the benefits of these systems with the hard data to back it up. 

Stewart Dalgarno, AIMCH project director and Stewart Milne group director of product development, said: “Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the project team has worked hard to build momentum and has delivered some important outputs which confirm panelised modern methods of construction as a very real and viable alternative to masonry, over the final year, we hope to take this to a new level.” 

Other important outputs of the project in the last year include the completion of several studies and the publication of guides for industry:

·         Design standardisation and the development of product families

·         Guide to creating a BIM housing manual

·         Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA)

·         Designing a future factory  

Mainstreaming all categories of modern methods of construction

Mark Farmer, MMC expert and new AIMCH Chair, said: “Mainstreaming all categories of MMC is more important than ever.  In a post-COVID world the sector needs to transform productivity, improve quality as well as improving the welfare of its workforce.  We also need to find more sustainable ways of building in order to achieve a net zero-carbon built environment. 

“The AIMCH project has already made great progress across a number of fronts which will better enable greater MMC adoption across all parts of industry including SMEs. The work done on design standardisation, panelised and sub-assembly system applications, productivity and carbon measurement and manufacturing process optimisation are all rich sources of knowledge for others to learn from and use.”

It compares conventional and panelised MMC construction methods on actual building sites, and the impact that scaling up panelised modern methods of construction will have on the housebuilding industry.

The project, which went live in early 2019, has been trialling new digital design tools, manufacturing advancements, and improved near-to-market offsite panelised MMC systems, using lean site processes on live housing projects over the past two years.

Through engagement with lead manufacturing partner MTC the project has conducted advanced manufacturing and digital business systems studies. These include down selection process for an integrated ERP system for MMC manufacturing and installation, along with detailed proof of concept studies into specific manufacturing areas, where using robotics and advanced automation can improve MMC manufacturing output, productivity, quality and lower costs, including the design of future factories using mathematical models, dynamic simulation and 3D technology to improve investment decisions. It has also worked with roofing specialist, Forster Group, recognising the importance of SMEs, to help accelerate the company’s roofing technology, through collaborative learning and proof of concept trials with MTC and the AIMCH developers.

With decarbonisation of the built environment a priority, a study was conducted to measure and profile Embodied Carbon and Whole Life Costing in the use of MMC systems across four housing types to current and near zero carbon standards.  A strategy for a proof of concept, near zero carbon home trial was also developed with Barratt Developments. 

 In the project’s final year, a number of outputs and learnings for the sector will be completed and shared on the AIMCH website, as well as at industry events, with final findings published in March 2022.  

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