Two sides to the MMC debate

Let’s not forget the role of the ‘chief builder’ when it comes to discussing the pros and cons of modern methods of construction, says Box Architects’ Senior Architect, Lee Holmes

“I’ve been following with interest the debate on modern methods of construction. On one side, you have the government championing investment in modular homes as an answer to the housing crisis. On the other, architects who are describing many homes that are constructed offsite as a ‘blight’ on their locations – or MMC as a ‘religion’ that ignores the complexity of place-making.

So, who is correct? One thing is for certain: the fact that Oxford Brookes’ School of Architecture is launching its first offsite construction course is a sign that MMC is here to stay.

I can understand both sides of the argument. The industry is right to be concerned about the quality of new homes and the success (or otherwise) of place-making. But to blame MMC alone is a disservice to the creativity, drive and enthusiasm of our profession. After all, since the term ‘architect’ was coined from the Greek words for ‘chief’ and ‘builder’, we have developed, embraced, evolved and accepted many approaches to construction. Our role as architects is in reality becoming less and less that of the chief builder of its derivation; in practice we are now one of many influences within the wider team, and MMC is fast becoming an active voice in the industry.

MMC does not in itself produce architecture. That’s our job as architects or – to use our skills and experience, and the various tools, materials, processes and technologies to improve the built environment.

Perhaps modular construction would be better described as AMC (Another Method of Construction) – not something that replaces, sidesteps or ignores all other construction techniques. MMC has its place and I am excited to discover where the development of this innovative technology will take us. Let’s not forget, though, that it’s the diversity of approaches that will ultimately achieve successful place-making.”

Further reading
Architects criticise government’s faith in modular future
Architecture school announces first offsite construction course
Architects should embrace a modular future