Time for a construction revolution?

I’ve seen plenty of posts and blogs talking about how the culture of the construction industry has to change. About how the terms imposed by some main contractors are unacceptable. About how retention and main contractor discount (MCD) are outdated and misused relics of the past. This fresh perspective should extend beyond contractual arrangements and shape the technologies and techniques used to deliver modern construction projects. 

It is a fact that there is a shortage of skilled labour in the United Kingdom. Construction isn’t the only industry looking to recruit young men and women into its ranks. The modern tech-based industries have an appeal to Millennials and Generation Z that construction may not be able to match. This means that without a shift in perspective the skills gap is only going to widen. 

The industry has reacted, and suppliers have invested in products that have the potential to bridge the skills gap. The success or failure of these innovations is a subject for debate. From my own view point I have seen changes on sites, but we still rely on techniques that have remained unchanged for decades. It might be a case of if it isn’t broken don’t fix it or, as I suspect, the industry is resisting change. 

One technique that is gathering pace, however, and has great potential is offsite construction. From modular offices to hotel bathroom pods, it’s not unusual to see cranes lifting completed building elements into place with teams of specialists fixing and commissioning. This technique is filtering down to the residential sector. Last year Urban Splash and Homes England partnered with Sekisui House to, in their words “transform housebuilding”. More recently work on sites at Newholm Court in Hartlepool and Rosemary Avenue in Mansfield has started with modular homes and offsite construction at their heart. 

The United Kingdom is still playing catch up when it comes to offsite construction. We understand the techniques and we have the capability to be global leaders but, we don’t yet have the manufacturing infrastructure to meet the challenge. It’s easy to demand government support but as we all know there are a lot of industries crying out for support at the moment. The construction industry needs to react and demonstrate that large scale investment in this opportunity is not optional. This movement needs to be supported across the board and embraced by professionals and trades alike.

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