There’s hardly a business across the globe that won’t benefit from modernisation, and for the construction sector, the case is no different. Covid-19 has pushed businesses everywhere into new ways of thinking, and for construction, this period is an opportunity to embrace new challenges as catalysts for positive change.
For the post-Covid-19 economy, improving construction means improving economic recovery, employing a skilled workforce to build necessary new and up-to-date hospitals, offices, schools and transport solutions. Whilst the sector was fortunate to be able to continue working through lockdown both in the UK and in the US, returning to the “norm” is perhaps beneath what this sector really needs.
Instead, this could be the point in which construction takes a long-overdue step towards Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
The Construction Industry in Scotland is predominantly made of low-tech SME’s where Research and Development is rarely a priority. MMC, digitisation and Off site manufacturing has a long way to go before the benefits can be realised with these sizes of organisations.
To enable traction Government Investment, Education and Training needs to be put in place because until SME’s can see the benefits change will be minimal.
Construction Director, Privately Owned Mid-Size Construction Contractor
In April, Laing O’Rourke completed work on several sections on The Grange University Hospital in Gwent, South Wales. This project was delivered early, taking just two and a half years instead of a forecasted four. This allowed a significant section of the hospital to open ahead of schedule in line with Covid-19 plans – all thanks to MMC.
How does the process differ?
For MMC projects, exteriors and interiors are produced in sections by a specialist factory before being transported and assembled onsite.
The drivers for projects are changing and the implementation of Zero Carbon Operational Buildings and Low Embodied Carbon Construction is becoming more prevalent. This with the increase in smart technology is leading to a significant step in the evolution of our building designs. The biggest challenge is the pace of this evolution and the steps that our clients have to take can sometimes be into the unknown. At Atelier Ten we see it as our duty to assist our clients and help them understand the these changes and what impacts they will have.
Director, International Design Consultancy
What benefits are we seeing?
This modern method not only reduces cost, waste and emissions, but also means 70% of construction on UK projects is now taking place offsite. This has led to a massive 60% increase in productivity and a 30% reduction in build time, according to Laing O’Rourke.
Not only that, but MMC is also able to consistently secure long-term, highly-skilled, inclusive and well-paid positions on both sides of the Atlantic. This will also create opportunities that are permanently located in communities, allowing much of the construction workforce used to working away from home to work locally. For the UK workforce, this will also help to spread out labour across the country that is currently heavily concentrated around the capital.
Before the coronavirus crisis, the UK Government was focussing on offering some much-needed investment in infrastructure, leading the sector to feel like change might be on its way. Following the crisis, it is vital that this funding goes ahead for us to see positive transformation in the sector, with a partnership between Government and public authorities essential in making this happen.
There are three stand-out priorities for the Government to ensure progression:
Off-site solutions offer significant benefits to our industry in terms of improvements to safety, time, quality and cost. With regards to safety the health and wellbeing benefits to the workforce cannot be overstated, particularly as we strive for safer systems of work as we learn to adjust to Covid-19 influenced working practices. We do however need to temper ambitions to balance the mix of off and on site to ensure that the blended solution delivers optimum returns. Procurement routes also influence the outcome. Longer lead-in projects with early contractor engagement and good use of digital model design integration provide confidence to commit to early and robust decisions to fix design and proceed with off-site solutions, which is essential to secure the holistic benefits that can be realised.
Operations Director – National Top 10 Main Contractor
However, by October 2019, it was found that no single health, transport or defence projects with an offsite component have been obtained across 2019, with the MoJ awarded just one. On top of that, despite housebuilding sitting at the top of the priority list, MHCLG was also found to show no commitment to offsite construction.
If MMC is to be the cure for post-Covid-19 construction that it has the potential to be, then the Government’s commitment to offsite funding needs to step up. But if the sector is able to transition more projects to MMC, there is really no doubt that we will see significant benefits quickly.
For more insights on the challenges facing construction transformation, you can find our construction leaders survey results here soon, or request copy from: Richard@jamesgrayrecruitment.com