Build-to-rent: better, faster, cheaper.


Ian Gow, Partner

Marvels of Modern Methods of Construction.

The rise of build-to-rent (BTR) projects across the UK is one of the big changes we’re seeing in our industry. It’s a change that presents us with a key opportunity to address some of the struggles the housing sector is experiencing at the moment.

In my previous articles, I looked at the essential building blocks that need to come together for BTR developments to be successful, along with some key learnings from more established sectors. Yet these design considerations are only achievable if they can be realised in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Probably the biggest issue the sector is facing is the construction of homes: as we all know, there’s a massive demand for housing that just isn’t being met.

As well as this issue with volume, the housing that is being built isn’t being delivered at the speed required or, in some instances, at a consistent level of quality. However, designing for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) can help address some of these issues.

Added to all of this, is the wider context of the demands being placed on the construction industry. In the government’s Construction 2025 – Industrial Strategy, a number of challenging objectives were set out for the industry. The aims were to achieve:

– lower costs: a 33% reduction in the initial cost of construction and the whole-life cost of built assets.

faster delivery: a 50% reduction in the overall time, from inception to completion, for new-build and refurbished assets.

There’s a growing awareness that MMC can provide a clear route to achieving both these ambitious objectives, along with many other benefits. For BTR developers looking to build quickly and at scale, the advantages are clear.

Considerations and opportunities.

It’s important to understand that MMC requires a different way of approaching developments. To get the maximum benefit, it needs to be considered from the start of a project. Early design decisions are required, as it’s more difficult to make changes on site after factory assembly. The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) is also fundamental , as it will significantly improve the entire process in terms of production and accuracy.

By continually developing our intelligent schematics through BIM, we are able to provide a data link with the MEP layouts and allow data to flow from concept through to manufacturing, onsite assembly and operation.

Get these early considerations right, and the improvements to consistency, onsite productivity, and speed of completion times will be significant.

As part of the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), which is a grant awarded under the UK Government Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), we have been able to support R&D into advanced manufacturing for the construction industry supply chain.

There are a number of MEP Design for Manufacturing (DFMA) solutions that are now becoming commonly used, such as: multi-service modules, packaged plant rooms, bathroom pods and flexible connections.

Adopting some or all of these solutions for the right project at the right time – and effectively turning the construction process into an industrial process – can help deal with the skills and workforce shortage. These solutions support ‘offsite’ manufacturing by using standard, repeatable engineering assemblies and, ultimately, help improve industry productivity.

We are currently working on build-to-rent projects that will transform the way our industry thinks about residential developments. By embracing MMC on these big projects, we have the chance to shape the success of build-to-rent in the UK.

Want to talk further?

Download our Build-to-Rent Brochure.