The shift in focus from traditional construction to advanced, automated, offsite modular builds is gathering pace, with a growing contingent of manufacturers, contractors, and consultants all vying to showcase their expertise and bring new efficiencies to projects. The fast-developing state of the MMC market, both in the UK and the US, is exciting but it also means those researching the sector for potential partners and suppliers face challenges. A lack of visibility into MMC firms, products and completed projects can make it difficult to investigate the various options, cross-check performance and compile optimum supply chain lists.
KOPE set out on a mission to tackle this conundrum by developing the world’s first fully-maintained directory for the offsite industry. KOPE Market is a global connection network where clients, contractors, consultants and others wanting to delve into the MMC ecosystem can find answers to their unanswered questions.
The online tool was created in partnership with Cast Consultancy, a specialist consultancy and pioneer of offsite whose CEO, Mark Farmer was appointed as the UK Government’s Champion for MMC in housebuilding in 2019. It comes in two flavours: MMC Market covers the UK and Ireland and Offsite Market, launched last month, gives access to the United States and Canada. Cast’s hard-won industry knowledge and experience helped shape the platform, which features searchable data on hundreds of MMC suppliers across all seven categories of offsite products, from volumetric modular solutions, to 3D printed systems, 2D panellised products, and assemblies.
Now is the time to embrace and accelerate the adoption of offsite construction and KOPE Market provides the means for manufacturers and consultants to get themselves known and showcase the positive outcomes achieved on high quality projects. Construction directories and 3D content directories already exist, but none are specifically tailored specifically for the MMC sector. Visitors to both MMC Market and Offsite Market gain instant, free and unlimited access and, much like Google, the search engine requires no log in to use.
That’s enough of an intro, let’s dig deeper into how the system functions in practice…
Each website is divided into three search categories: ‘suppliers’, covering all categories of MMC products; ‘consultants’, who specialise in offsite manufacturing including architects, engineers, and quantity surveyors etc.; and ‘projects’, covering hundreds of case studies of exemplar projects across the UK / North America.
If a user is searching for suppliers, they can search by company name, MMC category or building element, a set of sub- menus makes it possible to filter the results to refine the selection criteria. For example, users can sort results by distance from a chosen location, compliance with specific certifications, such as NHBC Accepts or the Buildoffsite Property Assurance Scheme, or a set of MMC product types. A handy zoomable map displays the locations of all listed suppliers and their factories, which can be clicked on to pull up further details.
Cast set out to increase transparency and grow confidence in the sector's ability to fund, develop and construct successfully utilising MMC. To this end, they developed detailed definitions of seven different offsite categories and what they mean. These categories are all fully searchable within the tool and mapped to each of the different manufacturers.
Want to have houses built in the factory, put on the back of a lorry, then craned in? In that case, select Volumetric Systems. Looking for non-structural pre-finished kitchen or bathroom 'pods'? Select Assemblies.
The UK and Ireland site currently has around 400 manufacturers listed in the directory and each listing includes a brief description of the company, their location, contact details and information on their products, when they were formed and the size of their outfit etc. Data on products is structured to allow those procuring a solution to find and interrogate them in a consistent manner.
Suppliers that really want to get their message out can register free for ‘verified’ status. This gives them full control of their own dedicated portal and products listing, where they can upload and update product details, projects and images so users can see for themselves how their systems work on site. Consultants in the directory can also claim and configure their own portal page in the same fashion.
And things get really interesting if suppliers also opt-in to KOPE’s 3D configurator, which enables users to to test out product capabilities, within the bounds of the manufacturers’ intent, and how they measure up to alternatives, to unlock maximum project benefits.
For example, the configurator for sustainable MMC housebuilder Etopia allows users to visualise its wall panels, flex their size, alter the sill heights and calculate the number of panels and the weight within a specified wall length. This information can be used to begin work on a foundation design and other design aspects, the file can also be downloaded as an IFC model for integration into BIM software, like Revit.
KOPE Market is in essence a search solution for the research and discovery of offsite construction partners, systems and products, but the longer term vision is to integrate the tool more deeply into project workflows and design.
Innovative functionality currently in development will allow design and construction teams to bring products in KOPE Market into their own projects in the KOPE Construct platform to get a full understanding of their viability in the real-world context of a house, a school or a hospital etc. For instance, users will be able to compare and contrast, like-for-like, different manufacturer solutions for external walls or flooring systems in their project models then choose the best performing options to add to a procurement list.
Our exciting roadmap also includes plans to introduce new data insights on factors like embodied carbon, fire and water ratings, structural integrity and more. Users will be able to track their journey within a project timeframe, from early design through to construction and handover.
KOPE Market is already the leading marketplace for offsite construction - the Google for MMC - and we’re determined to advance the growth of the sector by extending its scope and functionality in the months ahead. Watch this space!