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UK construction strategy aims to halve project lengths by 2025

The government has launched a new construction strategy aiming for a 50 per cent reduction in the length of time from planning to completion

The construction industrial strategy, published today (see attached file), creates a new Construction Leadership Council established, which will meet three times a year and will be co-chaired by business secretary Vince Cable and Network Rail chairman David Higgins.

Construction 2025 sets out a series of ambitious plans to ‘radically transform the industry’ from now until 2025, reports sister title Construction News.

It sets out to find 50 per cent reductions in the time taken from planning to completion of projects, and in the trade gap between total exports and imports for construction materials and products.

It also aims for a 33 per cent reduction in the initial costs of construction and whole life costs of assets, and a 50 per cent reduction in built environment greenhouse gases.

Government chief construction adviser Peter Hansford said: ‘They are ambitions but we are not calling them targets. The other thing to say is that these have not come from government. The government was talking about some numbers and there were [industry] people saying “no, we can do better”.

‘On faster delivery [for example], it’s about embracing technology such as BIM and off-site manufacturing. People in the Highways Agency will tell you they are now looking at projects that could be done in half the time of traditional highways schemes.’

Payment and tackling waste in supply chains is also a recurring theme, and the Institute of Credit Management will develop a construction supply chain payment charter as part of a series of actions set out to change industry’s image and reputation.

Hansford said: ‘[Construction 2025] is a partnership between government and industry to work together to transform the industry over the next decade.’

The document sets out many “action plans’ including one to explore the appetite for a trade ‘grouping’ of UK based contractors through UKTI by autumn 2013

Hansford said: ‘We will see how it develops but the opportunity for overseas trade is enormous and UK contractors can be small compared with some international competitors like those in Spain, France and Italy.

‘Would they be more powerful if they could work together on international contracts?”

The strategy calls for more action to be taken to provide clearer pipelines for industry.

This includes the Department for Business identifying ‘local champions’ to develop regionally-focused pipelines, while government, the CBI and industry will work to create a new demand map including infrastructure, RMI and new build to 2025.

Construction 2025 has also secured support from the Local Government Association which will establish a construction procurement group and develop a local government construction procurement strategy by spring next year.

Hansford said the difference between central government and local procurement was constantly brought up to him, and that where government had a ‘high degree of influence’ it wanted to improve client and procurement skills in that middle ground.

He said: ‘People that buy construction projects all the time are generally pretty good these days although there is still room for improvement. But the area where we have concern is in the one-off or occasional clients.

On pipelines he added: ‘I’m very conscious that the pipelines are all about government projects. You have the infrastructure pipleline through IUK and the construction pipeline from Cabinet Office, but they are only a part of the story.

‘Industry wants to know about the work for the whole industry so we need to look at private sector clients.’

Other actions include a review or update to CSkills/ HSE-funded research of all recognised card schemes within a critical mass of industry or by sector by winter 2013.

It also seeks to identify one card scheme which will be promoted through public procurement by spring 2014.

Hansford said: ‘Card schemes are under-utilised, there is a tremendous amount of data you could hold [within the data protection act] about where a person worked before, training, it’s not just about health and safety.’

 

EC Harris analysis:

Analysis carried out for BIS by EC Harris and has shown that for a “typical” large building project (in the £20–£25 million range) the main contractor may be directly managing around 70 sub-contracts of which a large proportion are small – £50,000 or less.

For a regional project, the subcontract size may be even smaller – with examples of projects where 70 per cent of sub-contracts were below £10,000.

Construction 2025 states: “This is clear evidence of the fragmentation of the industry and a real demonstration of the challenge of building integrated supply chains with a close focus on the end product and customer value.

“Notwithstanding the structure of the industry, the study found plentiful evidence of effective use of frameworks, early contractor engagement on projects and high levels of cooperation amongst supply chain members on projects.

“The study also found evidence of the impact of the downturn on the supply chain, as well as the pressure that is being placed on well established relationships as a result of increased competition.

“The emerging findings from the same study identified a number of crucial factors which determine successful delivery of a construction project.

These include:

  • equitable financial arrangements and certainty of payment;
  • early contractor engagement and continuing involvement of the supply chain in design development;
  • strong relations and collaboration with suppliers;
  • capability for effective site management including the ability to respond to change flexibly.

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