Positive news for the construction industry
The UK construction industry has had its fair share of challenges recently, from the impact of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and supply chain issues due to the war in Ukraine.
So, what positive things are going on in the construction industry?
Increased Investment in Infrastructure
The UK government recently announced their plans to invest heavily in infrastructure projects. They outlined their commitment to high-quality infrastructure to boost growth across the country, which included over £600bn public sector gross investment over the next five years. The investment will cover new roads, tunnels, railways, road repairs, and housing developments, creating thousands of new opportunities and jobs, and boosting the economy.
The 2023 National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline will soon be published to provide further details.
Emphasis on Sustainability
Sustainability has become the number one priority in construction projects. Buyers are stipulating low-carbon solutions in their tenders and contracts, and bidders are committing to low-carbon and sustainable practices and materials. Sustainable approaches include the use of renewable energy sources (e.g. solar panels and wind turbines), sustainable materials (e.g. recycled steel and timber), and on-site manufacturing (e.g. to reduce transportation emissions).
The recent updates to PAS 2080 (managing carbon in infrastructure) and the adoption of this standard in projects going forward will help to accelerate decarbonisation in the built environment. It focuses on designing low-carbon projects and centres on key themes such as net zero, whole-life carbon reduction, and collaboration across the value chain.
This emphasis on sustainability is excellent for our ever-increasing climate worries, supports industry innovation, and can provide maintenance cost savings and improved building performance.
Innovation in Construction Methods
Innovation in construction methods is bringing new technologies and techniques to light.
One example is virtual and augmented reality, which has improved tenfold over the last few years and can enhance the design and construction process. These technologies allow architects and engineers to create immersive 3D models of buildings and structures, providing a better understanding of how the final product will look and function.
With the increasing need for a ‘digital twin’ for significant construction and infrastructure projects, such as the Lower Thames Crossing, these technologies will continue to evolve and improve the industry and its practices.
Another great example is prefabrication and modular construction, which is the construction of components and buildings off-site – they are then transported and assembled on-site, reducing construction time, waste, and safety risks.
Increased Collaboration and Local Engagement
The UK construction industry is seeing increased collaboration and partnerships between developers, local authorities, and community groups, leading to better-designed and more inclusive developments that meet the needs of all stakeholders. Partnerships between the public and private sectors also lead to more innovative funding models and a more effective use of resources.
Many tender processes require bidders to work with and engage local communities, businesses, and affected stakeholders to have their say in delivering a project. As part of this, bidders continually develop ways to improve engagement and provide tangible benefits to local people during delivery.
A great example is HS2’s efforts to improve employability near to the project. Contractors helped develop a Skills Academy to help local people into skilled employment and minimise skills shortages for the project – a win-win situation. In January 2023, HS2 reported “Over 2,700 people who were out of work have now secured a job through our construction partners and wider supply chain. The Balfour Beatty VINCI Skills Academy has helped hundreds of local people in the West Midlands secure work.”
These topics demonstrate the positives emerging from the construction industry and how it’s evolving to support broader issues and concerns such as costs, carbon, safety and skills.
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