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The UK government recently announced a £420 million (€476 million) Construction Sector Deal to make the industry more efficient and productive.

It is intended that the partnership will help to improve the construction sector through the development of innovative technologies and a more highly-skilled workforce.

As part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, it includes a drive to halve the energy use of new builds by the year 2030 and provide 25,000 construction apprenticeships and 1,000 placements by 2020 to develop young people’s skills.

Focus will be put on three strategic areas. The first is the deployment of digital technologies at all phases of design; the second is offsite manufacturing technologies that help to minimise wastage, inefficiencies and delays; and the third is to put greater emphasis on whole-life asset performance rather than just the cost of the construction phase.

The deal has met with praise from various bodies in the sector.

High ambitions

Peter Caplehorn, CPA

Peter Caplehorn, deputy chief executive and policy director at the Construction Products Association

Peter Caplehorn, Construction Products Association (CPA) deputy chief executive and policy director, said, “These are ambitious plans that will improve and modernise the construction sector, whilst providing much-needed reassurance to the supply chain as Brexit-related uncertainty continues to weigh on activity.”

He added, “Our sector has already demonstrated where we can spark the bytes and mortar revolution through off-site manufacturing and advanced manufacturing technologies that deliver high-quality buildings more quickly and efficiently, boost productivity and make a more interesting offer to our workforce.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) said the deal was an ambitious one, with the potential to create a globally competitive sector.

As well as being a sweeping deal that sets out grand challenges, it also addresses fundamentals such as contracts and payments, setting the tone for relationships across the supply chain, according to the NFB.

Richard Beresford, NFB

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said, “This is a deal that recognises all parts of the construction industry and how, alongside the government, we can work together to deliver growth and a positive global reputation for UK companies.”

At the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET), Rick Hartwig, lead for built environment policy, said, “We are inspired by the ambition of the sector deal.”

He went on to say, “We want to highlight the importance of supporting the development of high-quality skills and education. The built environment will become an interconnected system of people and technology, so we will need to think about how the IET supports the development of digital engineering capability.

Rick Hartwig, IET

Rick Hartwig, lead for built environment policy at the Institute of Engineering & Technology

“With many high-value jobs being created through digitalisation, there has never been a greater need to focus on tackling the skills gap and prioritising the quality of training provision. This will ensure the industry retains and recruits a competent workforce with the right practical and technical skills for careers in modern construction.”

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) is also in support of the government’s commitment to transform construction through the use of digital building design.

It said, “Where there are advantages to offsite construction, concrete offsite elements and solutions are uniquely placed to provide performance benefits such as fire resistance, thermal mass and resilience to climate change related issues such as flooding and overheating.”

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