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mmc and beyond – 25 years of innovation in construction

For almost 25 years, shedkm has delivered innovation for clients through strategic commercial thinking, a strong design rationale and, increasingly, modern construction methods. Our rigorous approach to design has been easily adaptable to a more modular way of thinking. We consider the potential of MMC from the same rational starting point as for any of our design briefs: how can we offer something different within the client’s budget? How can we use technology to achieve a design which adds value and improves the quality of people’s lives?

Now the twin issues of climate emergency and the need for affordable housing mean there has never been a better time to explore the potential of MMC to deliver speed, efficiency, choice and high environmental performance.

Back in 2005, when modular housing design was still seen as pioneering and potentially risky, our MoHo project was the first pre-fabricated apartment building for private sale in the country to make use of volumetric pre-fabrication technology. Later, our project at Chimney Pot Park turned traditional house layouts upside-down to explore new spatial possibilities for urban terraced housing: a focus on volume rather than rooms which lends itself to flexible contemporary living. In many ways these projects were at the forefront of changing perceptions of modular construction, from something associated with post-war austerity and constraints which might limit architectural ambition, to something which can be much sought after and exemplify the best of contemporary design.

shedkm is proud to have been awarded Off-site Architect of the Year in 2021 – the second year we have won this accolade  – and we continue to collaborate widely, working with manufacturers, developers and local authorities in the UK and in Europe to explore and develop the potential of modern methods of construction.

We are already using new techniques including CLT which we hope will allow for even greater reach and impact. Whilst MMC will not on its own offer overnight solutions to the housing crisis or the climate emergency, it continues to offer significant benefits, and is an important part of the mix. Modular products are highly sustainable and can make a significant contribution to long-life use and efficient life cycle costs.

Compared to a traditional building site, MMC factories are able to significantly reduce construction waste, operating more like assembly plants where the exact amount of material and components needed for each house is delivered and put together at source. Any residual waste is more easily separated and recycled. MMC also has the potential to aid the industry’s ambitious net zero targets, reducing the performance gap between design stage predictions and in-use energy consumption and ultimately resulting in better air-tightness with fewer thermal bridges.

Alongside our ongoing collaboration with Urban Splash, we’re continuing to develop our modular portfolio in London, working in close collaboration with a range of clients, developers and manufacturers to deliver high-quality, affordable products for housing associations and councils providing social housing. Increasingly, modular design is proving itself as a highly adaptable tool which can accommodate a variety of social and economic agendas to add value for all.