July 16, 2019

Modern methods of construction mustn’t be feared, but must be understood, says Zurich Insurance

Following yesterday’s (Thursday 19th July) report launch for the ‘Inquiry into Offsite Manufacture for Construction: Building for Change’ Zurich Insurance responds. Whilst this report is a step in the right direction Zurich, as an insurer of housing associations as well as corporate customer’s property portfolios feels that it does not go far enough.

Allison Whittington, Head of Housing at Zurich Municipal, responds: “Whilst we welcome the report, as well as support the house building sector’s ambition to embrace new and innovative methods of construction, we still harbour significant concerns around the adoption of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) where inappropriately used or not fully understood.

“The ever increasing and immediate demand for more new UK homes has understandably paved the way for the adoption of MMC. But issues relating to the durability of a finished development, including increased risk of larger scale damage from flood, water damage and fire events has also emerged. These issues also represent an increased risk to the wellbeing and possible displacement of the occupants. Likewise, combustible and lightweight materials such as wood, polystyrene and recycled materials have the potential to sustain  a greater degree of damage than traditional materials, leading directly to an increase in repair costs and timescales – these are not overstated risks and should not be ignored.

“We agree, the Government must work with the house building sector to design and implement new qualifications to better educate the industry. Likewise, young people entering the construction sector must be equipped with the requisite digital skills needed for MMC, including off-site manufacture for example. If adopted correctly MMC can provide a number of benefits; implemented incorrectly or with corners cut, puts people in real danger.

“We are clear that the potential ­­benefits of innovation in construction can be far reaching – MMC isn’t to be feared, but the associated risks need to be fully understood. It is also not good enough, as the report states, to simply suggest that regulation and design considerations should be able to mitigate these risks. Tangible plans to explore these risks in greater detail are essential to ensure that new buildings built using MMC are truly fit for purpose, are resilient, and are ultimately safe.”