CIC Blog: innovation
Director of Sustainability
BRE Global Ltd
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will present his first Autumn Statement to Parliament next month. This is a golden opportunity for the government to set the tone for its relationship with British business, by pulling out all the stops to support investment, infrastructure improvements, and business confidence. But what are we likely to hear?
Based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility for the economy and public finances, the Autumn statement will be an important glimpse to understand the direction that the Government is taking particularly for the construction industry. Announced on the 23rd November, it will be Mr Hammond’s first statement as the newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. So the question is what can we expect from him?
Well he has already stated that a shift in economic policy is needed to see the UK through ‘a period of turbulence and uncertainty’. He has also come out in support of the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid who at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham earlier this month, announcing a package of new measures to build more houses, more quickly, in places people want to live. These measures include the launch of a £3bn Home Building Fund to help to build more than 25,000 new homes this Parliament and up to 225,000 in the longer term; direct action to fix the housing market, using public land and £2bn of investment to encourage the building of up to 15,000 homes; and ringing forward urban regeneration and levelling the playing field between brownfield and greenfield development to regenerate inner cities.
Early indicators seem to point to a commitment to the construction industry but it is important that we see fresh thinking and new ideas and not a statement that is a rehash of previous statements from George Osbourne. What we need is something that gives the industry confidence and ensure that we see a debate driven by quality and quantity, which we may not get if you listen to the underlying currents of Mr Javid’s announcement which seem to infer the government is looking to build cheaper houses in greater density to reach its target of building a million new homes by 2020.
We also need to think long term, not short. Sustainability, with energy efficiency being a prime motivator, needs to be front and centre. When talking to a well- respected architect and developer in the housing sector, their response was a simple and clear one - all new homes need to generate at least 70% of their energy demand from onsite or near site solution. The question is how are we going to achieve this without any mandate?
Although there has been a heavy emphasis in the past on large scale infrastructure projects, there will need to be investment and faster sign- off of projects which give rapid delivery, to take us through the more immediate period of uncertainty and to build more confidence in internal markets. The Home Builders Fund will provide £1bn of short term loan funding that will be used for small builders and custom builders to deliver 25,500 homes by 2020 but it will also include £2bn of long-term funding for infrastructure. So fingers crossed, major infrastructure investment will continue.
However I believe that key to driving this success will be the new industrial strategy. Business Secretary Greg Clark stated that a successful industrial framework ‘has to be local’ and warned that ‘for too long government policy has treated everywhere like it is identical’. This is something that was reinforced at the recent Telegraph Britain’s Smart Cities conference where the strong message was that change, innovation and reform was being driven at local level, often under the radar.
BRE has argued that for a new industrial framework to be successful we need to ensure that any strategy drives UK innovation. A process of driving innovation and market transformation has been at the heart of BREEAM, BRE’s internationally recognised measure of sustainability for buildings and communities, for many years. Innovation is one of the UK’s strongest assets and in a time of mass uncertainty, we need to remind everyone of just what we are good at and what we can achieve.
Next month’s statement is a chance for the Government to restore some stability and set out a long term, robust plan. The question is what is the plan and we will see what I believe are the fundamental attributes of quantity, quality and innovation.
Time will tell.
Contributor: Martin Townsend is the Director of Sustainability for BRE Global Ltd
CIC 2050 Group Member
The recent release of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) 2050 Group national survey results and analysis addresses the future of the industry across four key themes: Attitudes to the Industry; Progress on Sustainability; Social Media; Innovation.
With over 700 people responding, it represents a cross-section of the professions, including those in facilities management, academia and sales and marketing; and experience levels from recent graduates to those with over 20 years industry experience.
What inspires you to work in the construction industry? What does the future of construction look like to you? What are the challenges and opportunities facing the future of our industry?
The survey and results provide a valuable data source for the future development of the industry, highlighting areas that continue to challenge our industry. The survey illustrates there is an overall positive attitude to the industry, with 83% saying they are proud to work in the industry and 55% believe theirs is an inspiring job.
Many of those who responded listed the collaborative nature of the industry, opportunities for working with a wide range of people and across a variety of projects, shaping a more sustainable built environment and being able to see designs built and realised as reasons for working in the sector.
However, despite the general positive outlook of the industry diversity remains a major issue, with only 33% of respondents inspired by the achievements of their organisation on diversity. The survey analysis shows that women are much more likely than men to leave within 10 years, implying ongoing issues in ensuring gender diversity and challenges in retaining women in construction professions.
Over half of the respondents indicated that social media is underutilised and could help to tackle some of the image challenges facing construction, including: communicate ‘making the difference’ to the world; showcase an industry with a wide range of entry points and roles; create a more ‘human face’ of construction; and demonstrate the impact you can have with the sector.
Progress in sustainability and innovation were raised as ongoing issues which will continue to affect the construction industry and its impact on society, in particular developments and innovation in materials, ICT and prefabrication. BIM is seen as an important tool for further innovation in many areas.
There is also concern that there is insufficient effort across the industry on sustainability, in particular in water and biodiversity, as 72% feel that not enough is being done. Reuse and refit of existing buildings will continue to be of growing importance to tackle the demands on current housing and buildings stock.
On publication Louise Clarke, Chair of the CIC2050 Group, had this to say: “"The CIC 2050 Group survey sought to understand what inspires people currently working in the Industry, to help encourage future recruits into the industry. We were overwhelmed by the response we received and pleased that there was such a positive reaction from people about being proud to work in the industry. The results have provided us with a detailed data source in which some key themes have emerged. The CIC 2050 Group intend to shape its future work around these responses in order to continue to be a voice for people at the early stages of their career."
The survey highlights both the inspirational and challenging aspects of a complex and varied industry, and offers insight into opinions across the industry.
Contributor: Ruth sits on the CIC 2050 group and has a degree in Architecture from Dublin Institute of Technology. Ruth is the Network Manager at CIRIA and oversees CIRIA’s knowledge transfer network. You can find Ruth on LinkedIn or at www.ciria.org/network .
To read the full findings, the CIC2050 Group Construction Industry Survey 2014 report is available here.