On 8-9 September the Construction Industry Summit, the flagship conference and event attended by individuals from across the construction industry, was held in London. The key note speaker at the Summit was Dr Peter Hansford, Chief Construction Adviser to the UK Government. Dr Hansford’s address focused on progress with ‘Construction 2025’, the sector strategy for transforming construction, supported by Government. This strategy sets out a vision for the construction industry in the UK to become world-class by the year 2025, so the world looks to the UK for excellence in construction projects.
What is ‘Construction 2025’?
In his opening remarks about ‘Construction 2025’, Dr Hansford stressed that ‘Construction 25’ represented a continuum of the journey that the construction industry has been going through for the last 20 years, rather than existing in a ‘vacuum’. However he did state that it was a new and different strategy, produced by industry and Government working together.
|‘Construction 2025’ was launched in 2013 and is a joint industry and Government strategy to transform construction in the UK. The strategy sets out a vision of where industry and Government jointly wish construction to be in this country by 2025, and how this will be achieved by working together. It’s a vision of a world where buildings and infrastructure are conceived and built much faster, with greater whole-life value and better carbon and energy performance. It’s also a vision where construction is driving growth across the whole economy, and where UK companies are working in partnership in markets at home and overseas.|
At the heart of the strategy are four bold ambitions:
• a 33% reduction in both the initial cost of construction and the whole-life cost of assets;
• a 50% reduction in the overall time from inception to completion for new build and refurbished assets;
• a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment, in line with the Low Carbon Routemap to 2050 – for example,innovation in LED lighting has led to much greater flexibility in design and is enabling bespoke design at much lower costs;
• a 50% reduction in the trade gap between total exports and total imports for construction products and materials – with more products sourced and manufactured in Britain.
Themes of ‘Construction 2025’
Dr Hansford talked through the five broad themes of ‘Construction 2025’:
This theme covers image, skills, working conditions, diversity and attracting and retaining the people needed for driving a world-class construction industry. Dr Hansford commented on some of the achievements that had already been reached with regards to this theme:
• A ‘young persons on site’ statement has been published, covering how young people can be protected on sites.
• Progress has been made on developing a Common Gateway for potential entrants to the industry.
• Work is underway on health issues in the industry; and creating a more diverse workforce.
• The housebuilders have embarked on a new image campaign, together with initiatives to recruit new housebuilding talent.
• TrustMark was relaunched, demonstrating Government’s support to this consumer protection scheme.
This theme covers Building Information Modelling (BIM), off-site construction, better use of technology, innovation and a more co-ordinated approach to research and development. Progress already made highlighted by Dr Hansford included:
• Priorities for innovation have been agreed by the Leadership Council – industrialisation, smart infrastructure and buildings, new industry business models, and retrofit solutions. Work on these strands has already begun.
• BIM has progressed well towards Level 2; and Level 3 BIM is being developed.
• Progress has been made in developing and promoting off-site construction solutions.
This theme covers green and low carbon construction, and also addresses how to create a sustainable industry for the future. Dr Hansford mentioned some achievements reached under this theme:
• The Infrastructure Carbon Review was published, with its core message of “reducing carbon reduces cost”.
• A ‘Switch the Lights’ campaign was launched in the retail sector, encouraging a switch to LED lighting (note – an article on this campaign featured in the 102nd edition of Innovation & Research Focus).
• The Supply Chain Sustainability School has been created by the industry.
• The ‘Built Environment Commitment’ has been established to encourage sharing and showcasing of low-carbon best practice.
• A Review of Solid Wall Insulation for domestic properties is under way.
This theme includes building a strong and resilient supply chain; supporting the many SMEs in the industry; as well as promoting overseas trade and investing in UK manufacturing capacity so as to substitute for imports. Dr Hansford commented on some of the achievements that had already been reached with regards to this theme:
• The Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter was published, promoting fairer payment across the industry.
• Work is under way in simplifying the prequalification process.
• Work has continued on infrastructure and construction pipelines, together with work on supply chain and skills capacity.
• UK Export Finance resources have been increased to provide further support to the industry.
This theme looks at taking forward the strategy between industry and Government. This is the role of the Construction Leadership Council, formed in June 2013, and which has met 6 times since then.
The Government Construction Strategy
In parallel with Construction 2025, and complementary to it, is the Government Construction Strategy. Published in May 2011, and launched by Dr Hansford’s predecessor Paul Morrell, this sets out how Government will improve as the client for around 40% of the work performed by the construction industry. Ultimately, given that the Government is the industry’s largest single client, Government has an important role to influence the whole sector.
Dr Hansford stated that The Government Construction Strategy had been focussed on the period May 2011 to May 2015. However he stressed that this journey of improvement is not finished, although significant progress has been made. Over recent months, through the Government Construction Board, work has been in progress developing the next state – the Government Construction Strategy 2015 to 2020 – expected to be published in the next few months. Dr Hansford commented that he is expecting the strategy to spell out how Government will continue to improve how it operates as a construction client. He expected that it will feature important themes such as procurement and early supplier engagement; fair payment; digital; skills and apprenticeships; and achieving whole life value.
The Construction Leadership Council
The Construction Leadership Council was set up at the time of the development of ‘Construction 2025’. This started as a Council of 31 members. Talking about the Council, Dr Hansford remarked that, originally being so large, the aim was to get all the key parties into one tent. However, he added that being such as large group does not make for the most effective action. Consequently the Council has been streamlined and now consists of 12 members.
Constructing Britain Productively
In concluding his address at the Summit, Dr Hansford drew attention to the fact that the role of Chief Construction Adviser would not be continued beyond the end of his contract, the end of November 2015. Dr Hansford stated that he was proud to have taken over from Paul Morrell back in 2012 and that Paul had achieved a great deal – in establishing the role, developing the Government Construction Strategy in 2011, and setting the industry off en-route to a low-carbon built environment by 2050. He said that he had been pleased to carry the baton for the next leg of the relay race – particularly with developing, promoting and implementing Construction 2025; with focusing on the image of construction; giving profile to schools initiatives, such as ‘Adopt a School’; and raising the importance of innovation in achieving our long-term ambitions. However, he stated that it is not quite over yet – for example at the beginning of November he will be publishing a report on Solid Wall Insulation, as a vehicle for reducing carbon emissions in our domestic properties.
It had been viewed that the role of Chief Construction Adviser was no longer required, mainly due to the significant strengthening engagement mechanisms for ongoing dialogue between industry and Government. Dr Hansford stressed that he is working with Government and industry to ensure that any gaps created by the loss of the role are plugged in effective ways. He finished his address saying:
“Now is not the time for the baton to be dropped. It is incumbent on us all to ensure that that does not happen. One of the key issues for this new Government is increasing productivity across UK industry and the UK workforce. This totally accords with the ambitions and direction of Construction 2025. The task for all of us in construction is to find ways to construct our built environment by more-productive means. It is clear to me that the big prize for our industry is to construct Britain productively. That important journey continues.”