Establishing the UK as world leader in modern methods of construction could create a new £40bn a year global export market.

The dramatic rise in city living presents Britain with a unique opportunity to build on its historic legacy as a global leader in construction and engineering projects and develop a £40bn export market.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), which include off-site manufacturing and advanced digital design, have been identified by the Government as a way to produce well-designed, energy efficient homes at pace with a leaner and high-skilled workforce.

A new report by Mace, the British construction consultancy, highlights how a global urban renaissance –with more than half of all global populations live in cities – will lead to increasing demand for high rise living. By embracing MMC techniques developed in Britain, homes, offices and schools across the world could be built more quickly and more safely.

The paper, authored by a former Bank of England economist, says that if MMC allow UK construction to export the same amount of global industry value as the UK automotive sector, then its annual exports would increase by £39bn.

It identifies the United States, India and China as the fastest growing markets that Britain should target.

New analysis in the report also highlights:

  • In the UK’s 12 biggest cities, 1 in 6 of the homes that will be required over the next 20 years are yet to be built
  • 10,500 new homes need to be built across these cities every month of every year for the next 20 years to keep up with demand
  • Eradicating the shortfall in the necessary supply of new homes to these cities would add £53bn to their combined economic output over the next 20 years
  • The construction sector would need to increase its productivity by 30% if it is to build the homes these cities needs

The paper argues that unless the construction sector and the Government embrace MMC, the UK will be unable to deliver on the number of homes that have been pledged by politicians. The report also sets out a number of recommendations to reform the sector and establish Britain as a global leader in MMC including:

  1. Accelerating planning consents for projects using MMC that can demonstrate faster, better and greener developments than traditional approaches
  2. Using major events such as the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022 to showcase Britain’s expertise in MMC
  3. Earmarking unused or underused urban spaces for pop-up off site construction sites
  4. Creating ‘construction clubs’ in schools to teach students the basics of how buildings are designed and built using new technologies such as 3D printing

Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive of Mace, said “The construction sector can be a jewel in Britain’s post-Brexit exporting crown. Thanks to a legacy of pioneering achievements, the UK is respected throughout the world as experts in delivering major, complex and innovative construction projects.

“Embracing modern methods of construction and exporting our knowledge around the world could lead to billions of pounds more in trade and help build new relationships with major markets around the world.”

Read the full report here.

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