Construction gets £420m technology boost

A £420m joint investment from the sector and the government in new technology and techniques is at the heart of plans to improve productivity in the UK construction industry.

The so-called Sector Deal announced at the end of last week – six months later than originally planned – will build on existing initiatives such as the Centre for Digital Built Britain to boost digital technologies and offsite manufacture to speed up housebuilding and infrastructure.

It is also advocating a standard approach to how built assets are procured, based on whole-life asset value and digital designs, with benchmarks that will allow performance to be measured clearly; and a new, fairer approach to contract and payment practices to ensure SMEs are not unfairly disadvantaged, reducing risk to SMEs and supporting collaborative supply chains.

The government will give £170m to the project as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with £250m coming from companies in the construction industry.

Greg Clark (pictured), business and energy secretary, said: “Major infrastructure projects like Hight Speed Rail 2 and the commitment to deliver 1.5 million homes by 2022 mean that we need a construction sector that can drive innovation, delivering homes and infrastructure quicker.

“As buildings account for around 30% of total emissions, we also want to ensure that we are at the global forefront in designing and building smart, energy efficient and affordable homes and buildings through the Clean Growth Grand Challenge, saving families money on their bills.”

The Construction Sector Deal sets out an ambitious partnership between the industry and the government that aims to transform the sector’s productivity through innovative technologies and a more highly skilled workforce.

The Deal sets out plans that include:

  • Developing digital building designs for use in procurement for all projects.
  • Continuing the development within the product and manufacturing sector of tools to allow accurate, repeatable, machine-readable product information to be used across the sector.
  • Industry funded and led initiatives such as digital object indicators as well as LEXiCON from the Construction Products Association that can significantly increase construction speed and confidence in product performance and overall building safety, supporting productivity improvements.
  • Developing a common metrics methodology for the capture and analysis of data on the use of smart construction in the housing sector – starting with a data dashboard and a series of case studies in spring 2018.
  • Development of digital technologies, including BIM, sensors, data analytics and smart systems technologies and the Information Management Landscape, which will increase the efficiency of construction techniques.

Andrew Wolstenholme, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council, said: “We are an industry that must be at the forefront of the UK’s drive for future growth and prosperity – and I’m confident that this deal will help to achieve that.”

Build UK chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “Today’s announcement sets out a bright vision for the future of UK construction along with a plan that the industry can, and should, all get behind.”

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