Funding for Lending and Help to Buy, which were introduced a few years ago to much fanfare, have continued to gain traction ever since. Announced in 2012 and 2013 respectively, industry has subsequently called on the Government to take action and formalise plans for expansion within the sector.
An industrial plan document entitled Construction 2025 saw the Government respond when it got together with industry leaders in a vow to overhaul the sector over the following decade. How far along are we in the implementation of our strategy, and what remains to be done?
Released in July 2013, the 76 page Construction 2025 statement was ambitious in its ambitions with sustainability, efficiency and aspirations for worldwide growth high on the list of ten main pledges. A few of the main goals listed in the inaugural text to increase the dialogue between government and industry were as follows: A reduction of 33 percent in the initial construction costs as well as the total lifetime costs of constructed assets a 50% reduction in the time it takes to complete a new development or a renovation of an existing asset • Reducing emissions – 50 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment
• Improving exports – 50 percent reduction in the trade imbalance between total exports and total imports for construction items and materials
The plan has taken off swiftly since its inception, with the creation of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) being a particularly encouraging development. Consisting of Network Rail co-chair Sir David Higgins, Vince Cable MP, Steve Hindley of the CBI Construction Council and Anna Stewart, group chief executive of Laing O’Rourke, to mention a few, the CLC has the ability to exploit existing possibilities in the industry – and react to future ones. There are five pillars of the plan that its members are working to move forward: people; leadership; intelligence; sustainability; and, of course, growth.
Council members have been particularly concerned about payment procedures. Discussions around the matter culminated in ‘The Fair Payment Charter’ was released earlier this year. Consisting of 11 main promises, the Charter intends to undertake initiatives that include sending payments electronically and avoiding delaying payment, as well as shortening payment terms to 30 days by January 2018.
Nine of the Council’s represented firms have adopted the project in an effort to “practise what they preach.” Whether the Charter will be taken on board by the wider sector remains to be seen — businesses are presently requested to follow the procedure internally rather than needing to make a contractual commitment.
Payment methods are an integral component of the equation in the Council’s objective to promote efficiency within the sector and drive down costs. The plan points to Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a way to better drive projects forward by leveraging technology.
Reducing gas emissions will also assist drive efficiency. Designing for sustainability and low carbon emissions has come a long way in the last several years, but it still has to be integrated into more aspects of the industry. As the UK’s energy strategy evolves in the coming years, the government’s increased commitment to investing in the sector will help.
One of the primary challenges identified by Construction 2025 is to shake up the image of the industry in an attempt to remove the existing skills gap. For a more diversified workforce to flourish, we must prioritise the development of human capital by making significant investments in education and training.
There are already a number of efforts on their way to help with this – the set-up of an HS2 college planned to debut in 2017 and the first national UK Onshore Oil & Gas College announced this November are two particularly encouraging projects. The training and skills body CITB has pledged to increase investments over the next two years in order to help fund more training grants, and local councils are also doing their part by developing long-term relationships with business leaders in order to seek out opportunities that will help employees develop new abilities.
As with any long-term plan, time is a significant indicator and the next two years will be crucial in assessing the success or failure of Construction 2025. There is no doubt that the industry will keep the pressure on as we wait to learn more about some of the big changes that may have an influence on the sector with the general election only a few months away.
While assessing success will be something of a slow burner, it is vital that the industry doesn’t rest on its laurels in monitoring the progress of the objective. A lot of this is dependent on businesses being ready to set an example and jump on board on a regular basis. If the industry continues to welcome plans for development and sustainability with open arms, the UK construction sector will be well poised to take advantage of opportunities heading forward.