So Much More to MMC than Modular!


21. 06. 2023

Did you know that there are 7 Categories of MMC?


The 2 main ones are:

Category 1 – 3D Units/Volumetric/Modular – large boxes are made in factories and transported to site.

Category 2 – 2D Structural/Panelised – each wall is made up of panels that are manufactured and delivered to site.


Recent events surrounding several large Category 1 Modular Manufacturers have caused some trepidation from developers and providers who are considering Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in their development plans. The new Part L regulations have already begun to have an impact on sites and as the Future Homes Standard looms,  it is important to consider all of the options when deciding how the homes you build (whatever the tenure) will meet the new regulations and more importantly supply homes that will not require retrofitting as soon as they are complete and provide the occupants with a safe, warm home that wont cost the earth to heat.

It’s becoming apparent that to achieve higher U and air-tightness standards adapting traditional or timber frame build ups adds width, cost and time to each home, along with the risk that overtime  one element of the build up will fail.  The Etopia Hyper SIP panel exceeds the Future Homes Standard with a single structural panel that doesn’t rely on supplementary layers to achieve its high performance.

The issues surrounding Category 1 MMC are numerous leading to several high-profile casualties including Urban Splash and Legal & General Modular Homes. The common denominator is that they started BIG, requiring orders of thousands of homes to break even or reach “peak productivity” to deliver a return to their investors.  This approach has burnt through hundreds of millions of pounds before “patient investment” finally reached the end of its tether.

Additional factors including the quality of the product, on-site delivery setbacks, lack of flexibility and the need to change delivery models from supply and install to turn-key compounded the difficulties in securing the thousands of homes required to keep the enormous factories busy, not to mention a leadership gap caused by the high turnover of Housing Ministers in the past 18 months and the Future Homes Standard – yet to be confirmed.

Everyone knows or has heard of Cat 1, Volumetric or Modular manufactures but there are a lot of Cat 2 or Panellised options too.  Etopia is delighted to be sponsoring the Delegate’s Lounge at CIH’s Housing ’23 Conference this year, to introduce the sector to Etopia’s panellised system, you can book an appointment through this link:


The Etopia system has the following benefits:

U and Air-tightness performance that excess the Future Homes Standard meaning homes are Future Proof and can easily achieve EPC A with an air source heat pump and solar panels.  Homes built with our system are efficient, drastically reducing the risk of fuel poverty and can be installed quickly reducing time on site.

Design flexibility
Panellised construction provides greater design flexibility allowing architects and builders to customise the size and layout of each panel to suit the specific needs of a project. This is particularly useful for projects with complex or irregular floor plans. Additionally, panellised products can offer many different types of exterior finish options, meaning that the aesthetic can look and feel however the client wants.

Panellised systems typically require fewer large vehicles to transport components to a construction site, resulting in lower transportation costs and less embodied carbon. Smaller lorries are used for projects that are in areas with narrow roads meaning delivery is not restricted by road access.

Site access
Panellised system providers can use a small panel format to access restricted or hard-to-access sites, as there is often no need for large cranes. This can be particularly useful for developing constrained brown field or garage infill sites.  Just like our scheme with Bristol City Council. Affordable eco-housing to be built on disused garage plots (

Reduced Overheads.
One of the main benefits of panellised systems is the cost savings associated with factory operations. Panellised systems manufactured in a factory have lower overheads as they only produce one element of a building, not the completed home. Factories tend to be smaller, resulting in lower rents, with fewer full-time employees. This allows panellised systems to be nimbler and more adaptable if orders are delayed or cancelled due to circumstances outside of their control.

Furthermore, as houses from different projects are often produced using the same panel sizes, panellised systems can stock and store, meaning even less manufacture time and waste.

Scaling up
Scaling up operations for MMC providers is a big investment in time and capital. Panellised providers can often scale up more easily than other forms of MMC. This is because factory space, number of personnel, and requirement for upfront costs are considerably lower, as they produce just one element of the building. Similarly scaling down and budget management is much simpler for panellised build solutions.

Stage of involvement
Panellised systems allow for greater design flexibility which means in the correct circumstances they can get involved at a later stage of the design process and at later stages of planning applications.

Delivering for the communities you build in:
Social value is another important factor in construction. Panellised systems offer a lot of social value to the areas they build in, as they do not replace many onsite trades. The only possible exception being bricklayers. Furthermore, if there is a project big enough, panellised providers are likely to open a local manufacturing, delivery, and installation training facility close to the site, adding to jobs in the local area and up-skilling the workforce.

Lead Times
Panellised systems often offer shorter lead times as they can stock and store panel types for future client developments.

To discuss Etopia’s system and services, please reach out to us today. Nicola Clayton and Alex Fink will gladly discuss your requirements or queries.

Download a copy of our brochure.

Download a copy of our brochure.

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