With the government’s recent ‘Build, Build, Build’ announcement outlining how construction will be vital to driving our economy post the pandemic, RLB UK’s Head of Infrastructure, Andy Stamps, gives his view on the part infrastructure has to play.
Last week the government announced its Build, Build, Build initiative with a “multi-billion pound” investment in the construction industry and infrastructure at the centre of its economic growth strategy.
As with many other of the sectors’ financial pledges much of this ‘new deal’ was not really new with many infrastructure projects committed and invested in previously with years of planning. However, what this announcement did signify is the government’s acknowledgement that the construction industry and infrastructure in particular has a pivotable part to play in the economic upturn of the UK. As a global construction consultancy with offices located as far and wide as Singapore to Sydney, RLB has been talking to our colleagues worldwide over the last few months monitoring and analysing the impact of the pandemic on our industry region-by-region, sector-by-sector. We know that infrastructure is one of the few sectors that has been resilient in the last quarter with long-term projects continuing apace. The Prime Minister’s announcement and the Build, Build, Build strategy signifies this will continue with investment in not only traditional infrastructure – roads, rail, transportation links and the like – but also in social infrastructure – housing and education for all.
As an industry, and as a consultancy working within the built environment, we have all worked hard over the last few months to be collaborative – with contractors, suppliers, government, industry bodies and even competitors – to find ways to keep our industry moving, to continue to build. Whether this is through designing new guidance, for example to help social distancing on sites, or looking at procuring locally for labour and raw materials. This has resulted in keeping construction operational and driving output during the pandemic.
More speed, less haste
We are now in a position where the gauntlet has been thrown down to the industry to how we can help rebuild our economy. Government has signalled they will invest and have confidence in us and now we need to show our ability as a sector to have more speed but less haste.
We need to take a breath at planning stage and follow the National Infrastructure Strategy which combines infrastructure with schools, health and housing. We must plan for programmes not projects with a macro not micro mindset. We need to facilitate better informed decision making at the front end with early contractor involvement and procurement to be turned on its head to offer value not drive the race to the bottom and to procure for whole-life cost benefits. We all need frameworks to select the best people to deliver the best solutions rather than process for process’s sake. We have an opportunity to rebuild confidence in the sector and make the right decisions for our industry, rather than our individual organisations – so this might mean sometimes taking the decision not to build but repurpose. We need to use technology to drive efficiency – whether this is through digital adoption of MMC or digital processes at procurement stages. We need a change in mindset and embrace efficiency through productivity.
This is our golden opportunity to show as an industry that can work together for the better good. One that can put infrastructure at the heart of our building and one that can show as an industry we can integral to the economic future of our nation.