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MMC - Are you ready for it?

Published: 24/01/12

Familiar with Modern Methods of Construction - otherwise known as MMC?

Well, if not, then please read on – the term covers a whole host of different methods – the most common being off-site  manufacture with on-site assembly, plus the use of timber frames. Additionally, MMC sees the potential use of new materials such as high performance insulation products.

MMCs are becoming increasingly popular, in everything from small-scale residential properties to high rise hotels, retail units, student housing, offices, supermarkets and schools. 

MMCs are in many cases more environmentally friendly and meet the ever challenging green agendas. They can be cheaper to construct and easier to manage in respect of quality control, since a number of the methods utilise a significant proportion of the construction off-site in a factory environment.  

Ok, so what’s the issue?  While some MMCs are now fairly well established, others may encompass emerging technologies.  As such, there may be limited or no established testing criteria associated with them.  And while certain methods may have been tested in one form or function, they may not have been tested for another. For example, while the performance of timber construction is well documented for a two-storey house, this may not necessarily be the case for large multi-storey buildings.

There are also question marks raised over the fire performance of some of the new, ‘green' insulation materials - and the flood performance of certain construction materials and methods.

Our own insurers are offering their advice on what any constructor starting out with MMCs should do:

Make sure you discuss the project with all relevant stakeholders, i.e. architects, financiers, us as your insurance broker, even the local fire authority. Everyone needs to be clear and comfortable with the risks, particularly if the build utilises new technology.

Our own insurers can be particularly helpful in assessing risks – they have assessed an enormous number of buildings containing various elements of MMC. They also maintain strong relationships with such as the Building Research Establishment and the UK Timber Frame Association; to stay abreast of new technologies and witness tests. Some insurers also actively look to establish links with manufacturers of specific MMCs to share knowledge and assess the risks involved. One such example is Zurich who recently engaged in a research project of a cross-laminated engineered timber with the leading manufacturer of that particular MMC.

The earlier you can involve us and the insurer the better, not just for risk assessment and possible alternatives, but to get the best possible terms on your commercial insurance – if we and the insurer know how it’s constructed you get more accurate, risk related terms – and then everyone is happy.

Speak to Dawn Charlesworth in our Commercial Team on 0845 371 1452 or via email for more information.

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