Mark Farmer to Chair Liverpool City Region’s Modern Methods of Construction Programme

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has announced the appointment of construction industry expert Mark Farmer as Chair of the Liverpool City Region’s Modern Methods of Construction Strategic Steering Group.

The programme will develop cutting edge manufacturing techniques to make 10,000 homes more energy efficient over the next ten years, while building 6,500 energy-efficient new homes over the same period.

Mark Farmer is CEO of Cast Consultancy and independent Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) adviser to the government.

He has 30 years’ experience in construction and authored a review of the UK’s construction labour model entitled ‘Modernise or Die.’ He is a member of the Construction Innovation Hub industry board, the Construction Leadership Council advisory group, West Midlands Combined Authority’s Advanced Manufacturing in Construction Advisory Group, and chairs the MHCLG joint industry working group tasked with enabling greater use of Modern Methods of Construction in the residential sector.

Speaking about Mark’s appointment, Councillor Graham Morgan, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Housing and Spatial Framework, said:

“We identified our Modern Methods of Construction programme as a key part of our £9 billion economic recovery plan for the city region as we build back stronger from COVID-19. Developing and using modern manufacturing techniques will play a key role in improving and increasing our housing stock, and in our drive to reach net zero carbon.

“This programme offers the opportunity to improve the quality and quantity of our housing stock, whilst delivering significant social and environmental impacts, and could have a hugely positive impact for the UK as a whole, by enhancing design and production quality for housing, along with ensuring lower carbon and energy use.

“Mark is the leading figure in this work nationally and his appointment to this vital role shows just how committed we are to ensuring this innovative programme’s success.”

Reacting to his appointment, Mark Farmer said:

“I am delighted to be taking on the chair role for LCA’s MMC programme. We are at a critical stage in the evolution of the UK’s MMC market and the role of demand aggregators including Mayoral Combined Authorities is going to be increasingly important in creating a sustainable industry where there is more uniformity and scale that can be used to better shape the manufacturing market.

“Liverpool City Region’s ambitions align with the vision of Government, both in terms of new build homes and retrofit of existing stock. There is also an opportunity here to collaborate with other like-minded aggregators including other Combined Authorities and Housing Association groupings as well as to interface more strategically with Government. I look forward to helping make that happen.”

Liverpool City Region’s Modern Methods of Construction programme will develop cutting edge technology to retrofit existing homes and build new homes with new, state-of-the-art, methods of construction. It is being developed in a collaboration between the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Construction Innovation Hub, Peel Land and Property, Torus Group, Housing Associations, and Industry Partners.

The programme will aim to retrofit 10,000 homes over the next ten years, bringing them up to at least the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) “C” rating for energy efficiency, as part of a post-COVID recovery stimulus package, whilst developing and upskilling the workforce by applying new methods and systems of refurbishments and construction.

Under the new build element of the programme, the MTC and LCR stakeholders have aggregated an initial pipeline of over 6,500 homes to be built over 10 years. At the same time, it will support the development and success of the modular, digitised manufacturing sector in the LCR, increasing productivity, ensuring a strong supply of employment opportunities across the supply chain and supported by an apprenticeship programme.

Today’s announcement is the latest phase of the LCR National Centre of Excellence in Modern Methods of Construction for Homes programme, one of the key projects in the city region’s £9 billion ‘Building Back Better’ economic recovery plan, launched in August 2020.

The programme has already started on an initial pilot using a sample of Torus properties, which will provide insight and intelligence to inform the larger programme. Torus is a social purpose regeneration and housing group, the largest in the North West where all profits are reinvested to build stronger communities.

The Modern Methods of Construction programme will develop specialist technologies which aim to achieve significant reductions on initial and life cycle costs, halve delivery times, and realise the following benefits:

  • Process innovation – in partnership with the MTC, and in line with our ambition to become the National Centre of Excellence of Modern Methods of Construction, the programme will be deployed using cutting-edge methodologies, reducing unitary costs and increasing quality, whilst developing new trade skills for the supply base

  • Carbon Reductions – the work will contribute to reducing carbon emissions in all those properties retrofitted, providing a first stage to retrofit for the remaining homes not reaching the standard in the city region in line with carbon targets.

  • Reduction in Fuel Poverty – many of the homes targeted will contain households who are in fuel poverty and the work will reduce energy bills.  The Liverpool City Region has a high incidence of fuel poverty compared to the national average (14% in LCR above the national average of 10%)

  • Health Benefits – linked to the reduction in fuel poverty residents will also be able to adequately heat their homes leading to a reduction in poor health impacts especially those with existing health conditions such as asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses.

  • Shared and Assisted Living: There is currently a lack of diversified housing stock to meet the needs of younger generations, the aging population and social minority groups. Affordable housing alone cannot fulfil this need. Modular housing allows for the creation of contemporary shared living models. This can offer a solution to the challenges facing society such as unaffordable rent, loneliness and isolation, and the mobility requirements of an aging population.

  • Increased Skills & Employment – the work will provide new and increased jobs in many trade skills with a wide range of levels of learning opportunities. Housing retrofit is one of the best generators of jobs for expenditure with an estimated 30 jobs per £1.3m spend. For every £1m spend there will be at least one new apprenticeship created as part of the contracts as well as other learning opportunities at schools, colleges and local SMEs.

  • Innovation – several companies in the city region and the NW have already created new technologies such as Infrared Radiators which can be tested at scale in real-life situations to demonstrate their effectiveness for more wide spread usage. Further innovations will be developed and tested with our MTC partnership to further reduce costs and innovate in retrofit housing. Our industrial and academic partners will also be involved in ensuring innovation is incorporated into the programme and its delivery.

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