MMC vs Traditional Construction – WEBINAR RECORDING 30th June

The UK Government has been increasingly encouraging and incentivising the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) for building new hospitals and healthcare construction projects.

But how do you choose which construction method to use for your healthcare building project? What are the advantages and disadvantages to MMC and traditional healthcare construction? And how does it affect the wider strategy for your Trust? What further support needs to come from the MMC industry to help the NHS?

These are just some of the questions that were addressed in our round-the-table discussion this June hosted by Jaime Bishop, healthcare architect and co-chair of Architects for Health, Eric Fehily, Director of Estates & Facilities at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, Chris Hodgson, Director of Estates & Facilities at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, and Andrew Rolf, specialist in healthcare, passive design, MMC and the reuse of existing buildings.

MMC vs traditional construction – what is the best build solution?

Not surprisingly, this is a question often asked by NHS partners when designing new hospital builds – from new hospital theatres and wards, to hospital refurbishment projects. As we move into a new era of construction for the NHS, there are lessons to be learnt from previous healthcare builds. Jaime Bishop, healthcare architect, explains:

“Everyone is well aware that the NHS and healthcare has a long history of working with volumetric construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Often MMC might be exchanged for modular, and the discussion today should hopefully transcend purely the conversation around modular.”

“The NHS will always need urgent solutions to problems – we have a very large estate and we have lots of moving parts – and the relationship with modular is a very key part of that conversation. But it’s critical to look to the future and see how MMC more expansively can improve the way we work and improve the outcomes of our builds and therefore the people that use them.”

Key questions discussed during this MMC vs traditional webinar included the New Hospital Programme (NHP), standardisation in new hospital builds, modular hospital builds, the pros and cons to MMC and traditional construction, the cost of MMC vs traditional, managing patient flows and how healthcare builds fit in with your estates strategy, the benefits of a hybrid approach to hospital and healthcare construction utilising both MMC and traditional construction techniques, MMC and sustainability, as well as the risks of changing models throughout a build.

Modular hospitals – is it the future?

Key discussion points around modular hospitals and modular healthcare builds included:

  • Clinical strategy, adjacencies, patient flow – how does modular hospital architecture fit in with your patient flows?
  • Estates strategy – how does our healthcare build fit in with your estates strategy when you’re using MMC hospital construction which generally is used for rapid hospital builds?
  • Future certainty: can we really plan for 25+years?
  • Do not make the mistakes from the past: think RAAC plank construction.
  • Modular healthcare construction is sometimes boring and not flexible for future change.
  • Modular construction does not have to be boring!
  • The stigma that came with the early designs is still very present, but modular hospital constructions can be even better quality than buildings constructed on-site.
  • Modular healthcare construction can standardise products, create generic clinical spaces, but architectural designs need to improve.

Traditional healthcare builds

Examples of traditional construction methods were discussed. Talking points around the pros and cons to MMC vs traditional construction included:

  • Traditional construction can be seen to be slow, but it is not the construction that is slow; it’s the journey to get to construction stage.
  • Traditional construction can give artistic license to design something special.
  • Significant technology is available now to be used within hospitals; the last couple of years have shown the kind of change that can be achieved. Transformation can take place when a new building is provided.
  • Digital transformation is a vital element of the programme, ensuring that the new hospital buildings incorporate and support advanced technology.
  • Flexibility is fundamental in terms of the immediate management of the Covid pandemic and post-Covid, but also actually being flexible enough so that we can manage any future pandemics.
  • We must aspire to make hospitals better….assets that deliver on all fronts.
  • Ecologically, physically, emotionally, economically and culturally.
  • Add value, placemaking and healthcare design to improve lives.

Changing the views: modular builds

The webinar discussed how modular healthcare builds can change the way staff view modular, the benefits to off-site construction for a rapid hospital build and the advantages of keeping disruption to live hospital sites to a minimum.

MMC: not just modular

Andrew Rolf, specialist in MMC, passive design and sustainability:  “MMC is about the all-encompassing term; it’s not just about modular construction.”
“It’s really important to note that it’s a much more broader term which is embedded within the process; the process of design and construction. So it’s not just about construction itself but it’s how we approach the process of design as well and making sure that in our client briefing stage we are forming ideas around the right MMC construction solutions that will suit what the client wants to deliver.” – Andrew Rolf.

Cost of MMC vs Traditional

Topics covered include the cost benefits to MMC over traditional construction, and the importance of understanding, and following the right ‘discovery’ process, of MMC from the start to ensure construction methods do not need to change mid-programme.


Webinar presentations & re-watch recordings

To download slide decks from our previous webinars and to access recordings, please visit our resources page.

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