Productivity must be top priority
Construction productivity must improve if the industry is to make a success of new infrastructure projects – and Brexit, argues Mark Castle, COO of Mace and Chair of New Build UK. In his view, anyone who has worked in the UK construction sector can’t have missed that we have a productivity problem.
Way Behind Europe & Other Industries
“In real terms”, he points out, “ we haven’t improved productivity in decades – and we lag painfully behind our European rivals and other UK industries”.
“In the last 10 years, manufacturing output has increased by 50% and by 30% in the service sector – but it hasn’t improved at all in construction.”
Attitude & Time NOT the Problem
This isn’t because our workers work fewer hours, or because our attitudes aren’t right – it is in part because we’re not adopting new ways of working as quickly as we should. Among the UK’s big industries, we lag behind on innovation, research and development, diversity – we’re at the back of the queue on so many important metrics that could help us improve.
“It is just not an acceptable position”, he states. “Our productivity needs to improve if we’re to have a hope of delivering the infrastructure and development we need to keep the UK economy growing sustainably – and indeed to have a hope of making a success of Brexit.”
Greater Speed & Efficiency Needed
As asset values peak and we are still experiencing labour and material cost increases then development appraisals are coming under pressure. As an industry we must find ways of delivering projects quicker and more efficiently, otherwise projects will stall as viability will be questioned. We need to come up with ideas on how to do things differently.
Agenda – “Driving Innovation”
As the new chair of Build UK, Castle has made improving productivity and driving innovation a key component of his agenda – one of three priorities for the two years he’ll be in post. This includes reforming pre-qualification for procurement. Beyond improving productivity, he aims to reduce costs, improve risk management, drive efficiencies, and evidence high standards by adopting a new common assessment standard to reduce the number of assessment schemes – and increase the transparency and relevance of pre-qualification assessment.
Build on Farmer’s Lead
Working with the rest of the team at Build UK, he believes there are many more incremental improvements that collectively will make a really tangible difference to industry productivity. Many of these were laid out by the Farmer report last year, supported by government in its response in July.
Early Engagement KEY to improving Productivity
While it is often misunderstood, early engagement of Off-Site frame manufacturers produces both better results and greater time savings (typically up to 35%). From early design, through technical development of the structure and manufacturing to transport and erection, our timber based pre-fabrications minimise the need for special equipment and make delivering the affordable high-quality buildings that Architects and their clients want – especially on difficult to access sites.
Empty Shells for “CUSTOM Self-Builds”
Our ‘Benfield Homes UK’ division is now working with architects & developers to take over the burden of dealing with the latest government planning requirement for ‘Custom Self-Build’ homes on every development. Observing agreed Design Codes and Plot Passports for planning permissions, our in-house architects and designers use advanced timber frame technology to provide ‘empty’ shells for ‘Custom Self-Builders’ to plan and fit out interiors to suit their own ideas. Four stages of completion are offered, from bare shell, with elevations completed, through to ‘turnkey’ delivery.