August 5, 2021

What lies ahead for the UK construction sector?

The 2020s promise to be a positive time for the UK construction sector with a government pipeline worth some £600bn of infrastructure investment and plans to boost productivity by a further £15bn annually by driving innovation in the industry. Our friends at Actuated Valve Supplies, have commented on the future predictions of the construction industry.

At the end of 2017, the government published its National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, a ten-year plan of infrastructure investment, along with the details of Transforming Infrastructure Performance.

Transforming Infrastructure Performance, commonly referred to as TIP, relates to the delivery of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, and in particular to making sure the £600bn of projects are delivered efficiently and effectively.

It aims to make the UK a global leader in high-tech construction, using new and innovative building methods to derive an estimated £15bn per year of industry productivity gains while bringing new infrastructure online on time and on budget.

Andrew Jones, Exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said: “We are backing Britain with a record amount of infrastructure investment as we build an economy fit for the future. That’s why we’re working with the industry to skill up and scale up for the challenges ahead.

“Investing in infrastructure boosts productivity for the economy as a whole. The scale of the investment we are talking about here will deliver a step change for our country.”

Savings on government estates

The government is leading the charge by making changes to its own construction projects, including a recent announcement about the way future Ministry of Defence buildings will be delivered.

In the UK, nearly a quarter of a million hectares of land are part of the MOD estate, including training grounds, airfields, barracks and offices, yet in many cases the construction projects undertaken are very similar to those in the private sector.

The MOD has now published new standards for the planning, costing and delivery of these projects, which aim to achieve up to a 20 per cent reduction in construction costs by using modern technologies like 3D digital modelling, interactive virtual and augmented reality, and modular construction techniques.

Graham Dalton, chief executive of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, said: “The revised standards make it absolutely clear what our requirements are and will contribute to a significant cost and time saving on our infrastructure projects.”

Lessons for the future of UK house building

The same methods being employed by the MOD formed the core of housing minister Dominic Raab’s speech to the Design Quality Conference on 25th April, a further indication of the close parallels between defence infrastructure construction and the UK house building sector overall.

He spoke of nearly £1bn of funding already awarded to 11 schemes designed to use modern methods, including faster construction of over 1,000 homes in Crowthorne in Berkshire through the use of modular construction.

“Design quality has an important role to play in boosting supply,” he said. “It is not just about quality, but it is interlinked with the number of homes we build.

“Looking at good practice from some of our large-scale developments demonstrates that taking a long-term view [and] making sure that you have got great design, along with the right targeted infrastructure investment, delivers more of the places where people really want to live.”

He added: “We should take great pride in our design heritage and feel inspired by it as we gear up to deliver those 300,000 homes that we will need [each year] by the middle of the next decade to meet the demand in this country.”

With such targets in place and a new framework for innovative delivery across residential and infrastructure projects, there is plenty to be positive about as the UK construction sector moves into the 2020s.