Our construction TV series Building the Future brought us to this industry summit, which focussed on the Government’s industrial strategy Construction 2025. This aims to make UK construction world class by 2025, with ambitious plans to improve productivity by lowering costs and emissions, speeding up delivery and improving exports.
Harnessing innovation to improve productivity is essential in meeting these targets. This is an exciting era for innovation with smart technology, internet of things and 3D printing just some of the influential areas. The UK operates one of the largest Building Information Modelling (BIM) programmes. BIM allows projects to be virtually modelled, and breaks down complex projects to capture and share data more effectively. This shows the entire life cycle of products, helping to demonstrate the value of projects and also quantify environmental performance and supply chain costs. Over the next couple of years the Government plan to only work with companies who use BIM modelling.
Another major issue is overcoming the skills shortage. With the market picking up quickly, we’re in danger of not meeting the demands. The average age of construction workers is around 40 and more needs to be done to bring the next wave of construction workers through. Despite Government plans to bring through 200,000 construction apprentices, several speakers said this wouldn’t solve the issue as the necessary skills take many years to acquire.
With 22% growth by 2019 forecast, we will need another 200,000-300,000 skilled workers. People I spoke to stated the need for continuity of employment, more professional development and an improvement to low-wage areas like architecture. Construction also needs to do more to promote the exciting areas within the industry to young people and start vocational training to those aged 14 or younger. Tailoring skills training to the areas where work will be available is also essential.
Construction was hit hard by the recession and a certain amount of short-termism was inevitable. The emphasis for many was price and not quality. This now needs to be reversed and companies must continue innovating and improving. Contractor profitability of 1.2-2.4% risks the sustainability of the industry as does the lack of cash-flow.
One strange thing for me was that the housing crisis wasn’t heavily mentioned throughout this summit. The Construction Products Association state that 142,000 homes were built this year, which is less than half the amount needed. The number of affordable homes built is even more inadequate.
Our construction series Building the Future features the Construction Industry Council CEO, Graham Watts alongside innovative construction companies. For instance, socially enterprising architects Astudio discuss their project to build 63,000 affordable homes modularly each year. Churngold Group and AET Flexible Space share their insight into the industry.
This series broadcasts on Sky Channel 189 from mid October. If you are interested in appearing on the series please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Written by Martin Stocks | @Stocks1986