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Talk Construction, hosted by CIOB revealed the vision for ‘Construction 2025’ and the challenges and opportunities facing the industry in the coming years. As one of the key sponsors of the event, we witnessed first hand a series of discussions and debate from key individuals and policy makers in the construction industry on how the sector could achieve the industrial strategy’s objectives first published in July 2013.

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Three key themes were evidently cohesive throughout the two day event with speakers from a range of disciplines including Peter Hansford, UK Government Chief Construction Advisor, ‘Is UK construction on the road to recovery’ by Mark Berrisford-Smith, Head of Economics at HSBC and many more insightful addresses.

So what will the construction industry look like in 12 years time …?

Collaboration:

“We are heading towards a digital Britain”, David Philp, Head of BIM at Mace Group. Level 2 and more importantly Level 3 BIM will enable all across the construction supply chain to make smarter, faster and more accurate decisions.

Visual prototyping and 3D printing will compliment BIM as digital technologies of the future enabling the industry to fully collaborate and drive efficiencies. BIM consistently shone through as one of the biggest catalysts for cost and carbon reduction in buildings of the future. Those across the supply chain from contractors to product manufacturers now need to engage with BIM to realise it’s true potential.

My concern was that us as product manufacturers create BIM content with all the product data, features and approvals we can find and whether this data-rich or perhaps ‘bloated’ BIM model was required at certain stages of the construction process. The panel reassured that data is at the heart of BIM and the key to intelligent buildings. Frameworks such as the RIBA plan of works 2013 along with other BIM & COBIE standards coming to fruition will enable users to understand and filter what data is required and what data will be therefore visible at different stages in design.

Sustainability: 

“The vision is an industry that leads the world in low carbon construction” Peter Hansford, UK Government Chief Construction Advisor. At the core of ‘Construction 2025’ is Green as highlighted by Paul King of the UK Green Building Council. Zero Carbon homes by 2016 and Part L regulatory policy provide the carbon reduction framework to deliver this objective but with the existing housing stock accounting for half our green house gas emissions, what is our Government risking by potentially removing the ‘green levies’ used to fund retrofit programmes such as ECO that target the fuel poor and elderly?

And Green Deal: does the industry need an incentive similar to the automotive industry whereby stamp duty is staggered in line with the energy efficiency of a property to prompt a psychological shift in the same manner that miles per gallon (mpg) has for consumers purchasing cars?

The panel challenged whether sustainability and carbon reduction should only materialize when enforced through regulatory policy or should it be in fact industry that recognises the benefits of low carbon construction? The ‘Business Case for Green Building’ was recommended as a good starting point by the UK GBC to understand the merits and potential higher returns/rental income that is proven to be linear with low carbon buildings.

What about considering sustainability as much more than carbon reduction and looking at the bigger picture, striving to achieve a sustainable model for the industry. ‘Construction 2025’ sets the scene for an industry that becomes less cyclical and less elastic with economic upturn/downturn preventing situations like today where construction output has shrunk by an eighth when compared to pre-2007 levels.

Growth: 

“Only now are we seeing the vaguest of recovery in the construction sector”, Mark Berrisford-Smith, Head of Economics at HSBC. Growth and stability were identified as key for ‘Construction 2025’. Not only has the industry suffered one of the most severe downturns in its history, but forecasts are predicting it will take until 2018 to be back to pre-recession output levels. The industry needs to average 3% growth per annum until 2018 to recover back to its previous size. It’s expected that the Chancellor will announce in his autumn statement growth of just 1.5% for 2013. Consumer confidence and spending which has sparked an improvement in the wider economy recently will need to be replaced by a more sustained approach, through investment spend.

The bright spot for the near future remains with new-build housing. The housing shortage has driven an attempt at political point scoring by the Labour party who have vowed to increase the number of homes built per year to the 200,000 mark followed by a pledge from Boris Johnson to double housebuilding in London for the next decade.

‘Construction 2025’ sets out the vision for the future of the construction industry. Growth is key to attracting investment and kick starting the sector to efficiently tackle the issue of a growing global population. More salient however is that in order for the industry to grow and achieve the objectives set out in the industrial strategy, it must place collaborative working processes with sustainability and carbon reduction at its forefront to prevent the mistakes of the past re-occurring. Do we want to look back at buildings again in 2050 and realise that the growth of our towns and cities have once again been a consequence of building unsustainably? It’s twice as effective to reduce carbon emissions from buildings as anywhere else in the economy. Collaborative working and adopting a culture towards building sustainably is by far the most vital ingredient of shaping the future construction industry.  

Source: Construction 2025 industrial Strategy