As countries around the world continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, RICS professionals, including Ann Bentley, reflect on how construction has coped so far and what the future of the industry looks like.
“Throughout the pandemic, the greatest strengths the UK construction industry has shown are its flexibility and ability to keep going. Companies large and small have adapted to new ways of working on site, working from home, using digital technologies and off-site manufacturing, and improving communication, to ensure that the industry has kept on building. The value of specific construction sector skills – project planning and execution – was demonstrated to the highest possible level by the way that the Nightingale hospitals, temporary hospitals set up by NHS England, were completed.
The construction industry has remembered that it is capable of phenomenal collaboration and speedy action. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has acted as a convening body and focus for the widest possible range of industry interests, and collectively this group has provided site operating procedures, guidance on contracts, a methodology for assessing productivity, and national access to materials and PPE that have enabled the industry to continue to function effectively and safely during lockdown.
The CLC’s Roadmap to Recovery is clear – to emerge from this crisis stronger, the industry must focus on professionalism and invest in training, collaborative business models and fairer contracts and payment. This will require a change in behaviour for many in construction, with the development of much better soft skills such as empathy, communication, coaching, feedback, and constructive – rather than destructive – challenge. At the same time, there will be a need for different technical skills – new forms of contract, a greater understanding of off-site manufacturing, a new approach to value-based decision-making and, of course, continually enhanced digital skills.
We have already seen evidence of the pandemic accelerating changes in the industry. At site level, social distancing has forced contractors to look at the way projects are planned and their logistics, placing a greater emphasis on off-site manufacture. At client level, we are seeing an increased demand for value from their investment, and this has sped up the development of the Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit.
Any crisis exacerbates both strengths and weaknesses. Well-run, forward-looking businesses will thrive in the changed environment in which we find ourselves, but marginal businesses that want the world to return to the old normal will struggle.”
This is an extract from an article that originally appeared in the RICS Construction Journal.