Dame Judith Hackitt Calls on Construction to Embrace Digital

Dame Judith Hackitt

DAME JUDITH HACKITT has called for construction manufacturers and the wider industry to improve standards and embrace digital technology to help boost building safety and quality.

Dame Hackitt made the speech at a NBS event in Birmingham, where she also expressed her frustration with the lack of progress since the Grenfell Fire and underlined that forthcoming regulation would be robust and lead to a radical change in culture and processes.

As a result, she believes it will directly impact the construction product materials supply chain, that the sector can expect to see less substitution, and ‘value engineering’ will move from being about cost reduction to focus on quality.

The list of concerns in terms of materials is also growing beyond Aluminium Composite Material to include EPS, Timber frame buildings, wooden balconies and facades

Dame Hackitt, Chair of the Transition Board to establish the new Building Safety Regulator, said, “Product testing, marketing, labelling and approval processes are flawed, unreliable and behind the times.”

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to leave the race to the bottom behind and change industry practice for good.”

Industry reaction

Richard Waterhouse, CEO, NBS, said, “It is clear manufacturers, specifiers and construction firms must act now and get their houses in order, otherwise they will not be able to do business. Very soon, digital will be as essential to a build as bricks and mortar are today.

“Digital drives up standards, reduces mistakes and saves costs. Information is key at every step of the way and this starts with the materials manufacturers and their product information. There’s a move to consistency and a more structured approach, and manufacturers must seize this opportunity. That way, specifiers can make better decisions based on up-to-date, verifiable product information.”

“Let’s take this opportunity to build a safer construction industry.”

John Carpenter, Associate at architectural practice Allies and Morrison, said, “Specifiers require highly accurate product descriptions using the most relevant and latest industry standards. We need to be able to compare similar products, and thus product information has to be clear.

“Are we comparing apples with apples or apples with oranges?  All too often the product information is unclear and performance data ambiguous.”

“This is unnecessary, taking up a huge amount of our time while we try to work out if a product is genuinely compatible and if meets the specification brief. It’s all too easy to see how this can lead to mistakes.”

Sam Stacey, Challenge Director, UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) said, “Construction is an essential pillar of the economy. Right now is the time to fundamentally improve what we build and the way we build it.

“Digital is key, especially as the sector has been trapped in low innovation and low productivity.

“BIM has helped on the innovation journey, however, the opportunity is there to do much more.”

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