On Site with Sykes

For the housing industry today, the problems of the ‘Third World War’ (i.e. COVID-19) mirror somewhat those of the Second World War when the aim was to come up with a quick, efficient and modern answer to a problem. In 1942, it was the bombed-out housing crisis. This was when the UK took inspiration from the USA and their very advanced and modern prefabricated houses for workers and families working on huge dam construction projects. UK prefabs were temporary homes built in the factory – they were the MMC (modern methods of construction) of their day.


Christopher Sykes

is an Architect who trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. After he qualified, he worked in both London and Sweden. Having widened his writing and journalistic skills, he subsequently started his own publishing company specialising in building magazines and events. As a hobby, he used to write sitcom for the BBC.

Now, since the Second World War, there has been a desperate need to deliver new housing quickly using MMC effectively to achieve more without using more. It centres around off-site construction that benefits from factory conditions and mass production techniques.

MMC is being pushed hard. For example, UK Construction Week is also home to a great showcase of MMC helping to revolutionise what we build. Here, the emphasis will be on timber, light gauge steel and concrete frames, modular volumetric systems, digitisation of construction, 3D printing, products and services manufactured offsite, robotics, BIM, autonomous plant, equipment drones and digital surveying. This means that foundations are laid while skilled craftsmen inside the factory are creating the interior and exterior finishes, services and surfaces reckoned to be 50% quicker and more affordable plus being environmental and energy-efficient.

Gradually partnerships are being formed, encouraged by growing confidence of MMC as an active roadway to innovate and embrace change. Sadly, the stumbling block is the house-building industry itself. Builders and developers are very happy to continue as they are and, it would seem, are loath to divert their energies. One ‘heavy’ problem is brick. If this eternal product was no longer used (banned even!), house-builders would be forced to get out of their comfort zone and accept innovation and change.

As something of proof, it is surprising that the unique benefits of the Huf Haus have not been more widely adopted. This essentially is a kit house, individually designed by the owner with a Huf Haus architect. The whole unit is prefabricated to the client’s exact specifications in Germany. Being custom-designed from just under 200m2 to over 1100m2, all have with the Huf Haus signature post and beam design, which means no load-bearing walls. There is no necessary room division, allowing owners to create a home that meets their current needs, and which can be altered later if their lifestyle changes.

At the same time, NBS is pushing its NBS Source concerning the future of construction product information. It includes:
•  An unrivalled cloud-based digital library of construction product information which will revolutionise the way products are specified because the standardised presentation of data will make it easy to compare similar construction products
•  Dynamic product search using ‘natural language’ makes it faster to find the right product for any project
•  A powerful tool for manufacturers and specifiers to prepare for the changes to the regulatory framework with high-quality digital product data.

So what’s the latest about MMC for products? Believe it or not, the Cork House was a contender for last year’s Sterling Prize while the new Flat House by Practice Architecture is uniquely built with hemp...nature’s own prefabrication solutions!

Share this article

Login to post comments

About us

Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

As well as timely industry comment and legislation updates, the magazine covers recent projects and reviews the latest sustainable building products on the market. Subscribe here.

Privacy policy

Latest updates


Sign up below to receive our weekly building product updates e-newsletter and our monthly digital magazine editions from FC&A via email: