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One year of Transforming Construction

One year of Transforming Construction

Sam Stacey

One year in to the government’s £170m Transforming Construction challenge, we hear from programme director, Sam Stacey.

The Transforming Construction challenge is about improving the industry.

It is about improving the cost-effectiveness of construction, the speed of delivery and lowering carbon emissions, and in a sector worth over £100 billion a year in the UK, around 6% of GDP. It is one of the most vital industries in the country.

But it has been recognised that about 50% of activity in the industry is inefficient process waste. A report by Mckinsey suggests that 15% of costs could be saved by straightforward improvements in productivity. There’s a vast amount of waste to go at.

Transforming the industry

The programme will change the industry by developing standard products and processes for construction, particularly through the Construction Innovation Hub, in which we are investing £72 million.

Another key aspect is to develop plug and play solutions for energy positive buildings through the £36 million investment we’re making in the Active Building Centre.

We are also helping supply chain capability through our investment in collaborative research and development (CR&D) and demonstrator projects.

Recent notable projects include:

  • The SEISMIC consortium has launched a universal connection solution and standardised structural frame for the offsite manufacture of primary schools– resulting in significantly reduction in costs, carbon emissions and construction material.
  • Advanced Industrialised Methods for the Construction of Homes (AIMCH) is developing industrialised offsite solutions to meet housebuilding demand. Their aim is to deliver housing faster and more efficiently.

The plan

The overall plan for Transforming Construction is to:

  • use digital techniques to deliver more certain outcomes for the industry
  • apply manufacturing approaches to improve productivity, quality and safety
  • optimise the lifetime performance of built assets

There are 3 ways we are going to do it: :

  • identifying the innovative solutions for construction
  • ensuring buyers are asking for the right things from their supply chain
  • supporting supply chains in developing the right skills and capabilities to deliver

Digital manufacturing

All of the projects in the programme are in line with our fundamental aims: to use digital manufacturing and whole life approaches to the industry. Everything needs to improve productivity, safety and quality.

To transform the built environment, there’s ultimately going to be the need to address existing stock. The programme is focused on new build, the logic being that we can fix the construction ecosystem by focusing on how we construct new buildings. Once the construction industry has been repaired, it will be a much more powerful machine to address retrofit.

Systems thinking

There’s no magic bullet. The solution is systems-led, not based on technology. We will work to change components of the system.

Collecting and sharing of data and the application of machine learning to that data. Of the CR&D projects that we’re committed to so far, about 50% of them have machine learning components, which is only recently being used in the construction sector. I think the application of AI and machine learning will transform the industry.

Export potential

There is tremendous export potential, particularly regarding services. The UK already has a positive balance of trade in terms of architecture, engineering and project management services.

There’s actually a lot of reasons why the UK construction industry should be among the most sophisticated in the world. Principally, government has been supportive of construction. I travel a lot and see that the UK consistently punches above its weight and that is a very good basis for export of expertise such as site safety, use of digital modelling, construction productivity, application of sustainable technology, and in terms of major projects, build quality.

Success of the programme

Success looks like one third better value for money from the industry. It looks like much more rapid delivery: 50% faster delivery of construction assets. 50% improvement in carbon emissions associated with new build. 50% improvement in the balance of trade with regards to construction products and services.

We are only 1 year into the programme. But within the challenge’s entire lifespan, I want to build up momentum for change, render existing wasteful approaches to construction obsolete and demonstrate that there’s a better way of building.