This week The Times reported the exciting news that iNHouse Communications’ client TopHat has secured a £75 million investment from Goldman Sachs. This announcement feels like the biggest sign so far that we are on the edge of a revolution in housebuilding, driven through advances in digital technology and modular construction, or MMC as it is commonly known.
Firstly, what is MMC and why does it matter? MMC homes – modern methods of construction – are homes that have some or all of the constituent parts built offsite in a production plant. The homes are built in a similar way to cars, along a production line. This reduces snagging issues and defects, and makes volume house building more financially viable. What makes TopHat such an exciting proposition is the technology is so advanced that practically anyone can create their own home. Every home created can be customised and tailored according to taste and gets built at speed. It’s not just homes, but schools and other buildings can be constructed in this way. Research from the NHBC Foundation has highlighted that 45 per cent of large and medium sized housebuilders expect the role of MMC to grow significantly in the next three years.
We are already seeing local authorities and housing associations invest in their own MMC factories, thanks in part to the lifting of the borrowing cap for local authorities announced by the Prime Minister at the last Conservative party conference. As the government looks to fill fiscal gaps post-Brexit and tackle the housing crisis, MMC is fast emerging as a potentially important source of revenue for the Treasury.
What could this mean for housing policy in the UK? As well as being a viable way to increase the number of houses built – giving parties a far better chance of matching their ambitious house building targets – both Labour and Conservative policy wonks can focus on the issues that resonate with voters – building design, community regeneration and type of tenure. MMC homes are likely to be the thread that holds this fast-emerging policy coalition together.