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MMC: An introductory guide

A government guide to encourage new housing construction and design processes has been underpinned by a €3.35 million allocation in Budget 2024.

The allocation in Budget 2024 towards Enterprise Ireland’s Modern Methods of Construction Demonstration Park and Innovation Investment on the Construct to Innovate Technology Centre is the latest government commitment to promote modern methods of construction.

Housing for All encourages the use of modern methods of construction (MMC) to improve, support and accelerate the delivery of housing, in recognition of the potential to help address Ireland’s significant housing crisis. Housing policy objective 23 of Housing for All is to “drive economic sustainability and reduce construction costs”.

An industry term used to describe a range of manufacturing and innovative alternatives to traditional construction, in July 2023, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, alongside the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, published an introductory guide to modern methods of construction aimed at informing the general public about potential uses and benefits.

A 2022 Construction Industry Federation (CIF) report states that timber frames account for 25 per cent of the market already and that MMC is “the future and will increase modular and offsite manufacturing to higher standards of design, fabrication, testing, and certification”.

The CIF states within its report that there is a “good regional distribution” of offsite material providers across Ireland, with the largest concentration of facilities for such located in Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Limerick, and Meath.

MMC are recognised for not only their ability to boost productivity and efficiency of housing delivery, but also increase the environmental sustainability of new housing delivery.

The Government estimates that through MMC techniques, such as offsite construction, delivery of construction projects can be sped up by between 20 per cent to 60 per cent in timeframe. Similarly, the use of factory standard precision can improve structure quality to ensure the 60 year “performance and durability requirements”.

MMCs can reduce construction costs, with the aim that the reduction is passed on to purchasers or tenants for more affordable housing. However, Central Statistics Office (CSO) wholesale price indices show that the materials most often used in MMC – timber and steel frames and precast concrete – have seen large increases in price during the last few years, some in line with overall material cost rises and some outstripping the pace of overall rises.

Another highlighted benefit is the emission improvement offered by not only building standards, but also waste and energy reduction, and improving circularity.

The Government’s introductory guide identifies the most commonly used MMCs to date.

Importantly, MMC constructions are bound by Irish building regulations and building control; regulations, ensuring a durability of at least 60 years. New building products, materials, techniques, and equipment are certified by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI Agrément), to ensure that they are fit for purpose in accordance with Irish building regulations.