The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has called for a radical overhaul of the construction sector for fear that the UK will struggle to meet future housing and infrastructure needs.
The construction sector as it currently operates cannot meet the UK’s need for housing and may struggle to meet the need for infrastructure, according to the committee.
It argues that the UK already lags behind other countries in construction productivity and is facing a labour shortage. The committe said that the government and the construction sector must urgently find solutions and this call for change has been welcomed by geotechnical engineers.
In a report published yesterday, Off-site Manufacture for construction: building for change, the committee says that off-site manufacture (OSM) can help to increase productivity in the construction sector while reducing labour demands, improving the quality and efficiency of buildings, and reducing the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction.
However, the report states that the take up of OSM is limited because it is working with out-dated and unsustainable business models and the sector is fragmented and lacking in trust.
Committee chairman Lord Patel said: “There are clear and tangible benefits from off-site manufacture for construction which make a compelling case for its widespread use. We heard evidence that OSM could increase productivity in the sector by up to 70%.
“The construction sector’s business models are no longer appropriate and are not supporting the UK’s urgent need for new homes and infrastructure. The construction sector needs to build more trust and create partnerships so that companies can work together to improve the uptake of off-site manufacture, and the Construction Leadership Council should provide the necessary leadership.”
“The role of the Government and the wider public sector is pivotal in a move to greater use of off-site manufacture. The report sets out actions that the Committee thinks the Government should take including implementation of the Construction Sector Deal, committed execution of the ‘presumption in favour’ of off-site manufacture and a greater move to procuring for whole-life value rather than lowest cost.”
Bauer Technologies managing director Martin Blower cautiously welcomed the report : “One lesson from the Carillion failure is how operating a broken business model can lead to disaster for clients, suppliers and specialists.
“While the recommendations of the report are generally to be welcomed, government needs to provide strong strategic leadership in rooting out retention and payment abuses, abolishing so called ‘early payment schemes’ and requiring its agencies, the Ministry of Defence and local government to comply with its Fair Payment Charter as a necessary precursor to releasing cash for the specialist supply chain to invest in skills”.
British Drilling Association director John Grainger adds: “The UK will struggle to meet housing and infrastructure needs if commission of companies for investigation is based on price, with quality and particularly correct scoping at the start is secondary and not first – too may specifiers are using techniques they know and not a more modern approach, using most suitable investigation techniques which may cost more.
“However cost will be insignificant to cost savings on build costs with reducing ground risk – final result of investigation should be a full ground model which is compatible with BIM.”