MMC mark farmer

Navigating the future of construction with Mark Farmer: Australia's opportunity to learn from UK's MMC challenges

Mark Farmer presents his take on the lesson-learnt from the UK’s MMC journey at MBV, CIOB, Built Offsite event on March 20, 2024.

In a thought-provoking presentation at Master Builders Victoria on March 20, UK-based Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and a leading international advocate for modern methods of construction (MMC), shared his insights on the future of construction. (main pic: Mark Farmer, CEO and co-founder, Cast Consultancy.)

With a focus on the lessons Australia can learn from the UK’s experiences, Farmer’s message was clear: Australia has a unique opportunity to avoid the pitfalls encountered by the UK as it embraces MMC.

The event was organised by MBV, CIOB and Built Offsite and formed part of the CIOB / Built Offsite collaborative series, sponsored by CSR: Constructive Change with Modern Methods.

The event audience

The series aims to propel the Australian building industry towards the adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC), connecting government to industry, encouraging debate and positioning it for a transformative future.

Corrie Williams, Executive Director of Collaboration and Innovation, MBV.
Corrie Williams, Executive Director of Collaboration and Innovation, MBV.

The event was opened by Corrie Williams, Executive Director of Collaboration and Innovation, MBV: “It is with great pleasure today that we welcome you to a joint MBV, CIOB, and Built Offsite event. We’re honoured to have Mark Farmer, a distinguished fellow of the CIOB and a leading authority in the field of construction, join us today.

“Mark is renowned for his advocacy of modern methods of construction, and will share his valuable insights into how the industry can transition towards innovative, efficient, and sustainable building practices.”

Martin Fenn, CIOB MMC lead Oceania, and independent MMC advisor.
Martin Fenn, CIOB MMC lead Oceania, and independent MMC advisor.

Martin Fenn, CIOB MMC lead Oceania, and independent MMC advisor, said: “This event is part of our MMC series and follows on from our Sydney event several weeks ago. It’s about showcasing what good looks like in Australia today, as well as bringing in global perspectives. This afternoon, Mark Farmer, CEO of CAST Consultancy, advisor to the UK government on MMC, is here to share his lessons learned.”

Watch Mark Farmer’s entire presentation at the MBV, CIOB and Built Offsite event.

Mark Farmer, CEO and co-founder, Cast Consultancy
Mark Farmer, CEO and co-founder, Cast Consultancy.
Key issues that Farmer identified during his presentation:

Addressing the Skills Challenge
Farmer, who has been advising the UK government on MMC, began by addressing the construction skills challenge, a pressing issue that both the UK and Australia face. “We have a construction skills challenge. We don’t have enough people to do the work that is put in front of us,” he stated. He highlighted the ageing workforce and reliance on migration as key factors contributing to this challenge, drawing parallels between the two countries.

The Loss of Government Confidence
The loss of government confidence in the construction sector’s ability to deliver projects on time and within budget was another critical issue Farmer addressed. This loss of confidence, he explained, is largely due to workforce issues leading to high costs and inflation. “A lot of this is linked back to the fact that all of these problems we have around our workforce are manifesting themselves around high costs,” Farmer elaborated.

Embracing MMC for Onsite Productivity
Farmer stressed that MMC should not be viewed solely as a solution for offsite construction but as a means to enhance onsite productivity as well. “MMC is not just about doing stuff offsite, it’s actually doing stuff onsite better and improving productivity in a two-pronged attack,” he advocated, urging the industry to adopt a holistic approach to modernisation.

Success Stories and the Importance of Government Confidence
He shared examples of successful MMC projects in the UK, such as high-rise volumetric modular buildings in Croydon, London. These projects, he noted, are a testament to the potential of MMC when implemented effectively. However, Farmer also underscored the importance of maintaining government confidence in the sector. “We’ve got to face the reality that there’s so much waste that goes on in our industry. If we were to try and attack supply, we wouldn’t have half the problem we have in terms of not having enough people to do the work,” he remarked.

Learning from the UK’s Experiences
Farmer’s call to action was clear: the Australian construction industry can learn from the UK’s experiences and adopt a responsible approach to innovation. “You’ve got an opportunity to do it and not make the mistakes that perhaps others have done,” he concluded, emphasising the need for a sustainable and long-term solution for the industry’s challenges.

The Importance of International Learning
Throughout his presentation, Farmer highlighted the importance of learning from international experiences and embracing modern methods of construction in a way that avoids the pitfalls encountered by other countries. By taking a thoughtful and informed approach to modernisation, Australia has the chance to lead the way in sustainable and efficient building practices.

A Call to Action
Mark Farmer’s message to the Australian construction industry was one of caution and opportunity. By understanding the challenges faced by the UK in its journey towards MMC, Australia can navigate its own path with greater confidence and foresight. The future of construction, as Farmer envisions, is one where modern methods are not just adopted for their novelty, but for their ability to revolutionise the industry in a sustainable and efficient manner.


View/Download the entire presentation transcript HERE (pdf)

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