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NFCC issues position statement on Modern Methods of Construction policy

10 December 2022

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has issued a position statement on the Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) policy. The ambition to build homes both quickly and sustainably should not be prioritised at the expense of building safety, with the NFCC duly calling on the Government for tightened rules on testing procedures when it comes to the MMC policy.

Gavin Tomlinson, chair of the NFCC’s Protection and Business Safety Scrutiny Committee, explained: “The NFCC is concerned that MMC buildings are being designed, approved and built despite a lack of understanding about their performance. Given that the current regulatory system has already been described and accepted by Government as ‘not fit for purpose’ even for traditional construction techniques, this merely serves to realise additional uncertainty in the built environment.”

The NFCC welcomes the current reform of building safety. However, “significant cultural change” in the system must take place to improve competency levels across the sector and ensure that MMC is promoted and used in a manner which provides safe buildings for all. The NFCC comments: “We believe that building ‘better’ means buildings that are safer for residents from the risk of fire, and for firefighters who respond when a fire does break out.”

Strategically significant

The construction sector is a strategically significant part of the UK economy. The sector has been struggling to meet growing residential demand, with supply and demand imbalances contributing to unaffordability, tenure shortages and homelessness.

The NFCC understands that the Government is very supportive of MMC and views MMC as being central to the delivery of ambitious housing targets and the Affordable Homes Programme.

Across Government and the built environment, the NFCC cannot just speak for ease and speed [of construction]. The safety of residents and that of operational fire crews in fighting fires in these buildings is vital, as is the need to prevent problems arising before remediation of them is required (usually at a greater cost).

Mark Hardingham, chair of the NFCC, commented: “It’s vitally important to make sure that products and technologies are safe for use. This must encompass their likely performance in a fire before they are used in the built environment for real. Not only is this important for safety, but it also helps to protect leaseholders from unnecessary costs that can arise when buildings need remediation, or interim measures such as ‘Waking Watch’.”

Environmental impact

The NFCC supports reducing the environmental impact of construction wherever possible and recognises the role that MMC can play in achieving that goal. However, this must not be at the expense of safety.

Ben Brook, the NFCC’s lead on climate change, concluded: “We are understandably seeing a focus on sustainable building approaches and materials, including the use of timber and ‘living’ walls. While these may present useful solutions to help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, they should also be supported by evidence and testing to demonstrate their long-term suitability and safety in order to provide reassurance for the lifetime of the building.”

The NFCC’s position statement asks for a range of measures to ensure that new construction products and technologies do not contribute to the risk of fire, while in parallel pointing out that there should not be a conflict between sustainability, improved building standards and fire safety.

*Read the NFCC’s position statement on the Modern Methods of Construction policy here