Over the next 10 years, the UK’s construction industry could see a 25% decline in available workforce. That represents uncharted territory, according to a report by Cast Consultancy’s CEO and founder, Mark Farmer.
Commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council, the report, ‘Modernise or Die’, identifies solutions to fix the UK’s looming and cavernous skills gap.
If the UK construction industry does not modernise to meet developing needs, the Farmer report estimates that industry symptoms will only worsen within the next decade and the decline will become irreversible.
Matthew Goff, director of UK operations at Actavo | Building Solutions, discusses his top four ways the construction industry could look to modernise its practices over the next decade:
1. Skills set
The UK construction industry has the highest proportion of workers aged over 55 and, as it stands, faces serious labour and skills problems. In the coming decade, professionals in the under-resourced and ever-changing construction industry need to take active roles in producing new talent. This new cohort will need to be digitally-savvy. They will use technology in powerful ways which have eluded their elder peers. But each will rely on the other, as the elders’ experience will inform how best to leverage the technological know-how of the younger generation.
Modernise or Die sets out a vision to the Construction Industry Training Board. That vision will re-organise the current grant funding model for skills and training. It will better reflect what a future modernised industry will need; greater skills will call for more rigorous training.
2. Offsite methods of construction
Although the popularity of offsite construction has grown phenomenally over the last decade – a trend we’d expect to continue across the next – there are still old-fashioned beliefs that bricks and mortar represent the highest standard of building quality.
Modular methods of construction often exceed the performance of traditional. Offsite must meet the same regulations as traditional construction, but it reduces waste and improves sustainability due to the efficient factory environment in which module units are built.
Changing the mindset of UK construction is key for construction targets to be met – e.g. sustainability and improved trade performance. The Government must start to promote the use of pre-manufactured techniques across the board, as suggested in the Farmer report.
Although initial modular construction costs are comparable to traditional methods, the whole-life cost and efficiencies weigh in favour of offsite building techniques. The speed of delivery and reduced onsite timeframes of modular deliver tangible benefits over traditional construction.
Manufactured in factories and then assembled onsite, offsite buildings are also safer, due to the controlled environments in which they are created.
3. Development of sustainable buildings
Over the next decade, we will start to see more buildings, both modular and traditional, being designed and built to higher sustainability standards such as BREEAM, PassivHaus and AECB.
As modular build reduces up to 90 per cent of waste generated compared to traditional construction, we’ll see an increase in sustainable, high-profile offsite construction projects across the UK.
In order for various Government strategies to be met, modular will be increasingly deployed across the industry as the go-to construction method which, in turn, will see more buildings designed to adapt and flex to changing needs – whether that be to increase space or reduce it.
4. The growing use of BIM
Using just one model, BIM pulls everything and everyone together as well as optimising a building’s environmental performance and identifying any clashes even before the construction process begins.
In order for a building to perform to the highest standard throughout its lifecycle, from its conception to its demolition, BIM relies heavily on stringent initial planning and design stages.
BIM’s techniques are further enhanced when coupled with offsite construction, as it can achieve higher quality standards more cost-effectively and sustainably.
The government is already leading the way. As of July 2016, a main contractor tendering for a public building must have BIM Level 2 fully engrained into its business.
There are currently five levels of BIM (Level 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4). Over the next 10 years, we may see further levels, such as ‘5D’, which would include cost management and ‘6D’, for facilities management purposes.
There’s every chance that someone retiring from the building sector today would return in 2027 and recognise the process, but not the technology enabling efficient delivery with higher quality standards at a fraction of the budget.