The government has today published its Construction Sector Deal as part of its Industrial Strategy.
The Construction Sector Deal aims to develop the sector’s low productivity through greater use of technologies and training a more highly skilled workforce, following the findings of the Farmer Review in 2016.
The Deal also aims to improve build times and costs, reduce building energy use, train more apprentices, increase construction industry exports and get better value for taxpayers on infrastructure projects.
The document outlines greater use of digital technologies such as BIM through the whole building lifecycle, offsite manufacture and a shift in focus from construction costs to whole life asset performance. It also highlights halving energy use of new buildings by 2030 as part of the Clean Growth Grand Challenge.
On building safety, the Deal says: “Digital techniques and offsite manufacture offers the potential to significantly improve the safety of buildings, and to support the implementation of the recommendations of the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety [Hackitt Report]. These information-enabled technologies will enable better designed buildings which meet both Building Regulations and best practice in relation to safety.”
Contractual and payment practices are also mentioned, saying: “the government is committed to improving payment practices”.
The government says it will provide £15 billion of new financial support for housing over the next 5 years, taking the total to £44 billion in 2022- 2023. It aims to establish a network of centres of excellence and demonstrator projects to support the development of smart construction for housing this summer.
There will be 12-month review of the Sector Deal implementation by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) next year which will publish an annual report on the progress made.
The construction sector, including contracting, product manufacturing and professional services, had a turnover of around £370 billion in 2016, adding £138 billion in value to the UK economy – 9% of the total – and exported over £8 billion of products and services.
Peter Caplehorn, Construction Products Association Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director, said: “These are ambitious plans that will improve and modernise the construction sector, whilst providing much-needed reassurance to the supply chain as Brexit-related uncertainty continues to weigh on activity. We welcome government’s recognition of construction as one of the UK’s most important sectors, and construction product manufacturers are at the very heart of its success – with 80% of all products used in the UK being made in the UK, we support nearly every construction project.
“Our sector has already demonstrated where we can spark the ‘bytes and mortar revolution’ through off-site manufacturing and advanced manufacturing technologies that deliver high-quality buildings more quickly and efficiently, boost productivity and make a more interesting offer to our workforce.
“We were also pleased to see the Construction Products Association’s work around LEXiCON and product data referenced in the Sector Deal, as we believe this will be key to ensuring that homes and buildings perform as intended and are safe for those who use them.
“It is promising to see government commit to a long-term vision. Now government and industry must work together deliver real results on the ground.”
Balance and benchmarks
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC, said: “We welcome the long-awaited Construction Sector Deal as an opportunity to transform the capabilities of the industry and deliver more sustainable places. The move towards considering the whole life value of assets will bring into greater focus the importance of balancing the running and
maintenance costs of a built asset with the initial investment. It is also good to see a commitment to the development of consistent design and performance benchmarks, which will allow the industry to better understand how well buildings actually operate and provide feedback to improve designs.
“It is encouraging that the 2025 target to halve emissions from the built environment sits at the heart of the sector deal. The Government’s Clean Growth Grand Challenge can help to drive this transition and set us on a path to a net zero carbon built environment. But targets and aspirations will only get us so far and it is vital that these low carbon objectives are swiftly integrated into the wider policy framework for building regulations and energy efficiency.”
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said: “This is a deal that recognizes all parts of the construction industry and how, alongside the Government, can work together to deliver growth and a positive global reputation for UK plc.”
Funding will transform construction sector
The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has welcomed the Construction Deal, in particular plans to invest £170 million in the Transforming Construction programme, matched by a £250 million investment by the industry.
MTC strategic development director Neil Rawlinson said the programme, backed by significant funding, had the potential to transform the construction sector by encouraging innovation and technological advances. “We are inevitably going to see major changes in the way buildings are designed, manufactured and integrated into the built environment as safety, performance, productivity and energy efficiency become more important. This announcement will encourage much-needed innovation to keep the UK at the forefront of this important sector,” he said.
Several of the UK’s biggest construction and infrastructure companies are members of the MTC, and the centre is in the vanguard of technological advances in the sector.
Neil Rawlinson added, “The core purpose of the MTC is to support advances in UK manufacturing, but the expertise of the centre and its staff is fundamentally about process control and realisation, which does not necessarily have to be directly associated with the manufacturing sector. Remote technology, robotics, cybernetics, visualisation and simulation are core competences of the MTC, all of which can be appropriate to the needs of the construction sector.”