MMC Champion visits timber frame facility

At the end of 2019 Mark Farmer accepted a new role as the independent champion for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). His mission, to modernise housing delivery, has seen him become a major figure in the offsite sector.

As part of his drive to make the UK the global leader in housing standards, Mark Farmer was invited by the Structural Timber Association (STA) to come along to Pinewood Structures, a leading provider of timber frame homes and take a guided tour of their manufacturing facility. Mark spent time observing the manufacturing process and learning about a new partnering approach.

In a recent interview Mark Farmer expressed a need for an ‘ injection of fresh thinking into the sector that reflects the latest advancements in technology and is also driven by a new paradigm shift in how we approach quality, building safety and decarbonisation of built assets.’

Later in the day discussions focused around quality, safety, capacity and sustainability. The structural timber sector has the ability to upscale to help achieve the 300,000 homes per annum requirement. As a natural sustainable resource, decarbonisation of housing can be achieved through the use of offsite manufactured timber systems and the delivery model can be improved by a forward-thinking collaborative approach.

The meeting offered Andrew Carpenter and Mark Stevenson from the STA the opportunity to discuss in more detail, the Association’s industry leading STA Assure Membership and Quality Standards Scheme. Focusing on the levels of in-house quality procedures, management systems and product performance standards – the independently assessed STA Assure Scheme includes a bespoke Site Safe audit and a Timber Frame Competency Award Scheme, which ensures that quality and safety are an end-to-end process throughout the design, manufacture and installation process.

Andrew Carpenter said: “We would like to thank Mark Farmer for taking the time out to visit Pinewood Structures and his valuable input. Following the Hackitt Review the direction of travel is shifting and construction is moving towards factory-based systems and processes rather than products and components. Pre-Manufactured Value (PMV) is going to play a vital role in the future. As it currently stands with traditional approaches only 40% of the build process is carried out in well managed factory environments. The use of a closed panel timber frame system can increase this to circa 55% but a volumetrically pre-assembled approach using a timber framed chassis can achieve 75-80%. So it is clear the Government’s ambition to make the housing sector more productive can be achieved through pre-manufactured building systems.”

Timber industry bodies such as the STA have a major role to play in connecting the offsite sector supply chain to collectively work to demonstrate safety through robust testing and better exploitation of technology to ensure the integrity of timber-based building systems.