Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards 2019

17 LEGAL AWARDS 2019 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM United Kingdom Trowers & Hamlins LLP CONSTRUCTION & ENGINEERING LAWYER OF THE YEAR IAN REID “Modern methods of Construction” (MMC) is a term used within the construction industry to refer to a wide range of construction methods that involve either a high degree of off-site or factory pre-assembly or on site techniques intended as a more efficient alternative to “traditional” building methods. Traditional building methods can perhaps best be characterised by the labour intensive process of placing one brick on top of another and gluing them together with a bed of wet mortar which has to be allowed to set. But are they really modern? One thing to appreciate about so-called “modern” methods of construction is that they have been around for a long time. The drawings that you see alongside this article and on the front cover of this magazine are designs that I produced as an architectural student some 30 years ago for a scheme involving a tetrahedral steel lattice, supporting pre-manufactured polyhedral modular living pods and geodesic domes with not a brick in sight. But even when I was a student the use of modular pods was pretty old hat. Over half a century ago the work of the Japanese metabolist architects had lead the way in showing what could be done with pods. Japanese Metabolism Japanese Metabolism was a post war architectural movement that fused ideas about architecture and organic biological growth. One of the most significant buildings to come out of the movement was the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo designed by the architect Kisho Kurokawa. The Nakagin building was a mixed-use residential and office tower built between 1970 and 1972. It is considered the world’s first example of “capsule” or “pod” architecture built for permanent and practical use. The building was composed of two interconnected concrete towers which housed 140 self contained prefabricated pods. Each pod measured 2.5 metres by 4 metres and functioned as a small living or office space. Pods could be connected and combined to create larger spaces. The pods were welded lightweight steel truss boxes, clad in galvanised rib reinforced steel panels and coated with rust preventative paint. The pods were fitted with utilities and interior fittings at a factory before being shipped to the building site where they were attached to the concrete towers by high tension bolts. The intended users of the living pods were Tokyo’s legions of bachelor “salary men” (office workers). Why are “Modern Methods of Construction” in the news again now? Two features of the UK’s construction industry in recent years have been a chronic shortage of housing being delivered to the market and a chronic shortage of skills in the labour force. In 2015 the UK government asked its advisory body the Construction Leadership Council to identify actions to reduce the construction industry’s vulnerability to skills shortages at a time that many refer to as a ‘housing crisis’ The Council commissioned Mark Farmer to review matters and produce a report for the government. Following a period of consultation and investigation the “Farmer review of the UK Construction Labour Model - Modernise or Die – Time to Decide the Industry’s Future” was published in October 2016. Whilst the report was being compiled the UK voted to leave the European Union. A move, many would say, guaranteed to exacerbate skills shortages within a UK construction industry heavily dependent upon migrant labour. Mark Farmer’s report pulled no punches, painting a bleak picture of an industry which he identified as being characterised by low productivity, dysfunctional training models, fragmented leadership, adversarial pricing models, uncollaborative and outdated working practices and lacking any meaningful investment in research, development and innovation. He predicted the industry faced a 20-25% decline in the available labour force within a decade based on the existing workforce age and current levels of new entrants. He went on to identify ten wide ranging recommendations to modernise the industry. His recommendation number 8 focused on pre-manufacture: “The government should act to provide an initiation stimulus to innovation in the housing sector by promoting the use of pre-manufactured solutions through policy measures. This should be prioritised either through the conditional incentivisation of institutional development and investment in the private rented sector; the promotion of more pre-manufactured social house building through Registered Providers; direct commissioning of pre-manufactured housing; or a culmination of any of the above. It should also consider planning breaks for pre-manufactured approaches.” The report said of pre-manufacture: “Many different terms are used in the role of construction innovation (Post) Modern Methods of Construction

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