Eliminating Inefficiency

Ron Lang, Impact Director for Value at the Construction Innovation Hub, illustrates why value-based decision-making will accelerate the shift towards adopting an offsite methodology. 

Whether you work in offsite or the more traditional side of the industry, 2020 has been momentous for all of us in construction. The lockdown, which at times felt endless, saw a whopping 60% of building activity grind to a screeching halt, leaving our sector staring at the greatest period of uncertainty in its very long history. Even as I write this, we are once again faced with another period of uncertainty which is bound to leave many of us feeling just as concerned as we did back in March. 

Despite the bleakness that has characterised much of 2020, something else has been happening this year which has given me a genuine sense of optimism. My role as the Hub’s Value Impact Director gives me a unique and privileged insight into what construction professionals in all corners of the sector are thinking and feeling. COVID-19 is naturally preying on everyone’s minds – not least with the recent rise in infection rates – but what is also unmistakably clear from the conversations I’ve been having, is a growing consensus that construction’s future needs to look very different. 

Building Momentum for Change
While the momentum for change in construction has been growing steadily for some time, what has become more noticeable in recent months, is the growing sense of urgency. Those long lockdown months have undoubtedly provided us all with a rare opportunity to pause and reflect on what kind of future we want for our sector. In truth, we’ve all recognised for some time that practices which have long been the modus operandi of our sector need to give way to new and better ways of
doing things. 

With a comprehensive Roadmap to Recovery now in place and supportive measures provided by Government, we have a unique opportunity to come together as never before and ensure that the slow march towards a transformed sector becomes a full-on charge. The stimulus for this will be getting to grips with value. Value is one of those deceptively simple concepts which is in fact frustratingly nebulous and difficult to define. All too often, value is seen through the narrow prism of pounds and pence. But if we are serious about accelerating that charge towards new and better ways of doing things, then we really need to get to grips with value in broader terms. We must agree on a consistent approach to defining, articulating and measuring value in the context of what we deliver and how we deliver it. Only then, can we consistently drive positive social, environmental and economic outcomes. 

Laying the Groundwork
This may seem at first like a tall order, not least in the present climate we face, but the good news is that the groundwork is already proceeding apace. In recent months, I’ve had the privilege to work together with some of the best and brightest minds across construction, leveraging the networks of the likes of CLC, ACE, Constructing Excellence, CECA, UKGBC, Social Value UK, CIOB, RIBA and RICS (to name just a few) to develop the ‘Value Toolkit’. The Toolkit will help clients and project teams embed value-based decision making throughout the investment lifecycle from business case through to procurement and delivery and operation improving overall sector performance in line with key policy objectives such as driving modern methods of construction (MMC), delivering social impact and accelerating the path towards net zero. 

Grasping the Opportunity: the critical role of offsite
Value-based decision-making is particularly crucial for the offsite sector. By embedding this new model at scale, it will be far easier to demonstrate clearly and systematically that offsite construction and the emerging platform approach can deliver the social and environmental outcomes we are striving for as a sector and as a nation. 

To give an example, by setting clearly understood, value-based expectations right at the outset of a build project, the offsite market would have a far greater opportunity to demonstrate close alignment with those key drivers. If value-based decision-making were to become the new modus operandi, then it would become increasingly difficult to justify why MMC such as offsite, were not being embedded right from the outset, rather than part-way through a project as happens all too often at the moment. For the offsite sector therefore, being at the forefront of the movement for value-based decision-making is very much a ‘win-win’. 

It’s difficult to predict in any meaningful way what the next few months has in store for construction and indeed the country. What we can say however, with a reasonably degree of certainty, is that the demand for housing, schools, hospitals and other vital buildings will only continue to grow. Against this backdrop, we are at a unique crossroads as a sector. We could take the safe route and go back to the way things were, but we all know that’s simply not sustainable. I’m confident – now more than ever – that we will choose the latter and embrace this once in a lifetime opportunity to embed real change. Be in no doubt however, we will not get there without the offsite sector at the forefront of the movement for change. 

For more information visit: www.constructioninnovationhub.org.uk

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