In high quality contemporary builds, walls, roofs and even entire rooms are prefabricated to a very high standard and then assembled on site. As technology and techniques develop, the term has expanded to cover high-end modern timber frame construction, green roofs and walls, external cladding and panel systems, thermal insulation and energy efficiency.
By comparison traditional housing stock, which is built with brick and stone walls, slate and tile roofs take far longer to build and many onsite trades will be involved in the construction with the challenges this inevitably brings. Skilled tradespeople can be hard to source in the current climate, with demand outstripping resource.
Contemporary MMC homes are designed to deliver low energy performance using sustainable materials and can be built to meet individual customer requirements. Timber framed and glazed eco houses are growing in popularity, often showcased on programmes like Grand Designs. Their environmental credentials have great appeal for people looking to live more sustainably and the scope for breathtaking design make them an attractive proposition for high net worth clients with the budget to create bespoke, high-end homes.
So given the housing shortage and potential gains of using MMC why aren’t all houses built this way?
In the drive to provide thermally efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings lightweight materials, which may often be combustible, are used. These materials may provide inferior fire performance compared to traditional brick and stone built buildings and may be less resilient to damage in general terms. For example, saturated wall and floor insulation materials may take far longer to dry out and repair following a flood or leak.
MMC buildings often incorporate a structural load-bearing framework to support the various other building components. Assembly around the frame can lead to the introduction of voids. Left unprotected, these can support the quick passage of fire through the structure, making it a very difficult situation for the fire and rescue service to tackle. The introduction and maintenance of suitable fire stopping techniques at the construction and assembly stage is critical to the future fire performance of the building.