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NMBS 2014: Peter Hansford outlines construction vision

Construction is picking up, according to Government chief construction advisor Peter Hansford and outlined the vision of Construction 2025, a strategy led by government and industry to promote success.
Speaking at the NMBS Conference in Tenerife last week, Hansford told delegates that although London didn’t see much of a recession, the rest of the country certainly did. He said: “Things are changing, we’re now starting to see construction projects spring to life around the country and it’s very encouraging.”

The construction advisor said the South East is seeing confidence grow from the housing shortage fuelled by the Help to Buy scheme, but also confidence in the market is coming from private investors.

He revealed the construction industry contributes around £90 million a year to the UK’s gross value added (GVA), which is a measure in economics of the value of goods and services produced in the industry and is 7 to 8% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Also, the construction industry generates around 3 million jobs, 10% of the total UK employment.

The overall global construction market is forecast to grow by a massive 70% by 2025. “This is phenomenal growth,” said Hansford. “Growth in construction benefits many other parts of the economy.”

Hansford outlined the vision for Construction 2025, an industrial strategy led by both industry and government to promote the success of the construction industry.

He said the vision is to have an industry that leads the world in research, development, innovation, and sustainability. A vision to have a construction industry that’s respected by society, with girls and boys aspiring to take up careers in built environment and a vision to have UK construction really at the heart of the economy.

Industrial Strategy has some ambitions for 2025, with 33% lower costs, 50% reduction in time for delivery from start to finish, 50% lower emissions and a 50% increase in exports.

“Clearly we’re not going to get there by small incremental changes, to achieve this vision the whole industry needs to do things very differently,” said Hansford. “The strategy doesn’t set how these ambitions will be achieved, it puts into place the framework to develop and implement action plans to make these ambitions a reality.”

The strategy has five broad themes, with the first being about people at the heart of construction and the need to attract the right people. “We want construction to become an industry of choice and that means competing against other industry sectors to get the people we need,” said Hansford.

To achieve this, the construction advisor claimed the industry needs to improve its image. The first focus is to improve safety at the workplace, with the HSE saying 70% of fatal accidents are happening on very small projects. Hansford also called for focus on the general public’s perception of the industry, with its reputation often judged on smaller companies, and the need to be more diverse both in gender and ethnic balance, and employ more apprentices.

The second theme is the need for a smarter industry, with better use of technology. Hansford said: “Building information modelling (BIM) is increasingly being used on building infrastructure projects and I firmly believe that the BIM revolution is gaining momentum and is becoming unstoppable.”

The third theme is sustainability, with the vision of an industry that leads the world in low-carbon and green construction exports. “Environmental considerations are transforming what we build, what materials we use and how we build it,” added Hansford.

The fourth theme is growth, with the vision of an industry that drives growth across the entire economy. The strategy wants more products to be manufactured in the UK for the global construction market.

There is currently a significant problem with cash flow in the industry, which is putting supply chains under stress, according to Hansford: “One of the immediate tasks was to get clients and suppliers to agree to an industry standard supply chain payment charter, which was published in April.” The key points of the charter are to reduce payment through supply chain down to 30 days by Jan 2018, 60 day payments immediately for new contracts, reducing to 45 days by June 2015 then 30 by Jan 2018.

The final theme for the strategy is leadership and to achieve this the Construction Leadership Council has been formed. “The council is where the partnership of council and government comes together,” said Hansford. “It’s co-chaired by the Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, and Sir David Higgins, Chief Executive of Network Rail and comprises senior business people representing the main industry bodies and senior representatives of government departments.”

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About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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