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mark farmer

mark farmer

Modular design should be on architects’ syllabus, says government tsar

mark farmer
  • 8 Comments

Architects should be better trained in designing modular and prefabricated buildings, according to the government’s new tsar for modern methods of construction (MMC)

Mark Farmer was named MMC ‘champion’ by housing minister Ester McVey last week as part of the government drive to boost the use of off-site construction in the development of new homes.

Farmer, who trained as a quantity surveyor and who set up housing consultant Cast in 2016, authored the government-backed report Modernise or Die in the same year.

Now Farmer has told architects they do not need to feel threatened by the increasing use of MMC – but that MMC training in the sector must get better.

‘It’s really important that architects learn much more about MMC systems and design for manufacture and assembly when they train,’ Farmer told The Architects’ Journal.

‘There is still inertia at the moment in terms of modernising training and course curriculum. [Various] stakeholders need to make sure architect training is better future proofed.’

A spokesperson for the Architects Registration Board, which accredits UK architecture courses and sets out the criteria for architects to be registered, said the regulator would review whether what is taught needed updating. 

She said: ‘We will, in the future, be reconsidering whether all of the current criteria are sufficient to produce competent architects capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century’.

Farmer also acknowledged that some architects remain wary of a shift to designing for off-site construction, but said fears about ‘cookie-cutter architecture’ or ‘identikit buildings’ are misplaced.

‘Some architects get it, but others are more regressive, or perhaps just nervous. Ultimately MMC can liberate architects from a lot of repetitive, monotonous work – they will have more time to work on the more creative aspects of design,’ he said.

‘The reality is that the nature of delivery architecture will change. The genie is out of the bottle. Change is coming. The design profession doesn’t need to see it as a threat if it thinks intelligently about how it interfaces with technology and manufacturing principles.’

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes all the same,
    There's a pink one and a green one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.
    And the people in the houses
    All went to the university
    Where they were put in boxes
    And they came out all the same
    And there's doctors and lawyers
    And business executives
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.
    And they all play on the golf course
    And drink their martinis dry
    And they all have pretty children
    And the children go to school,
    And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same.
    And the boys go into business
    And marry and raise a family
    In boxes made of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same,
    There's a pink one and a green one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they're all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.

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  • John Kellett

    Whilst an excellent idea what difference would that make? Architects very rarely design the mass housing that is rubbished in these reportes. Don’t they understand that the best way to improve The ‘design’ of buildings is to restrict the design of buildings to architects and the associated chartered professionals who are the only ones qualified to design buildings.

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  • Of course it needs a QS to be prefab tsar, what do architects know about it? Someone called Le Corbusier tried it in the 1920s and look what happened to that. Modernise or die indeed, is that the Tory mantra?

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  • The technology available in modular homes continues to improve at a rapid pace, architects will soon be able to design a great development using modular and offsite methods. It is not the holy grail some suggest it could be but it can play a huge role in the construction sector going forward and help to solve the housing crisis in the UK.

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  • David Nossiter

    ‘Little Boxes’ just made me laugh out loud!

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  • Death sounds preferable...as MMC housing doesn’t require any design, I am sure that a QS or builder could sketch something on the back of an envelope. Just make sure that it contains enough flammable material for it to burn well. We don’t want any survivors who might contest that it was all the fire brigade’s fault.

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  • Should have acknowledged composer Pete Seeger for Little Boxes. We don't like it when architects don't get credited.

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  • David thanks for the comment, Louis we apologise you’re quite right it was simply an immediate response to what we see as an incredibly depressing thought on the part of the ‘tsar’

    What we need is a bit less of the ‘fordist’ obsession with all things technological and and a bit more discussion about our cities as embodiment of our shared culture and what we want leave behind

    Just pop down to Croydon and you’ll see what we’re getting at

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