Seizing the day: Positive change from lockdown for the construction and infrastructure industry. A Balfour Beatty paper.

5 July, 2020

A view across the construction spectrum looking forward as to how the industry can build on the flexibility and ability to adapt as shown through the lockdown. Nine key recommendations, well worth a read.

Cost management

COVID-19

Collaboration

Social Value

The future

Key points and recommendations 1.The Government should consider establishing a body to oversee and drive through to delivery schemes which are prioritised as being in the national interest as part of the economic recovery. Schemes such as renewable energy, zero emission transport infrastructure and large-scale housing developments are controversial and can face years of delays. 2.Government and others should also bear in mind that, while new schemes can have long lead times, vital upgrades, renewal and maintenance of existing assets can be much quicker to implement because gaining approval for them is usually much less complicated. These schemes are just as successful at pump- priming local economies across the regions and local communities of the UK and often have supply chains already in place which can be quickly scaled up. 3.Those commissioning infrastructure and the industry itself must use this crisis, with its ongoing social distancing requirements to finally pave the way for the adoption, at scale of prefabricated, offsite, modular construction and other modern methods of construction (MMC). The Government and its agencies and arms- length bodies should all implement a presumption in favour of these approaches as a default, to accelerate change. The industry will only invest fully in these approaches if customers are committed to them. 4.The industry has the chance now to bring about lasting, positive change by modernising working practices across the sector. Measures should include remote working, flexible working patterns, and a greater commitment to staff working 3 or 4 days a week and to job sharing. Customers must ensure that there is enough flex in the way contracts are drafted to support different working styles, something which is not currently always the case. 5.To help the industry address its skills shortages, there is potential to attract, retrain and deploy highly skilled engineers from other harder hit sectors which will experience a slower recovery, for example, the aviation and automotive industries. Given that many of these people will come from industries which are more advanced in terms of automation, this would play to the construction industry’s need to modernise. However, capitalising on this will require some flexibility in terms of considering which skills are transferable and which areas will require some retraining. 6.Businesses across the sector must remain committed to apprenticeship and graduate programmes to ensure that the industry is in a position to recover and that it is resilient over the long-term, ideally committing to having 5% of their workforce in earn and learn positions (including apprentices, sponsored students and graduates on formalised training schemes) and joining the employer-led organisation The 5% Club . We must not retreat from our responsibility to young people. 7. Cooperation across the industry and close working with Government have increased as we all united against the common threat that is COVID-19. This very welcome wider understanding and cooperation is something we should build on as we move into the post-COVID-19 period through regular, open dialogue between a wide representation of the industry and Government. 8. Given budgetary pressures the public sector will be facing following COVID-19, there is likely to be a temptation to undo the baby steps which have been taken to move away from a focus on lowest- price in bids and to begin to drive costs back down to undeliverable levels. This approach is ultimately unsustainable and must be resisted by those commissioning infrastructure. The hidden cost is that it damages the sector over the long-term and hampers its role as a job-creater. 9. To allow the sector to play its role in rebuilding the economy, the issue of risk must be addressed – both by the industry’s key customers, and by the sector itself. Commissioners must stop driving down the price below what it costs to deliver schemes: driving down costs generally actually increases the final price.

Attachments

  • seizing-the-day.pdf ( 10 MB )