11th July 2018
Focus – Bytes & Mortar

How the Construction Sector Deal could herald a ‘bytes and mortar revolution’

Summer is proving to be an uplifting time for the construction industry. After experiencing a period of enforced idleness courtesy of the ‘beast from the east’ that brought snow and ice to many parts of the country earlier this year, bright sunshine and warmer weather since May has helped builders get back to work.

According to a recent survey from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, June saw the largest upturn in buying construction materials for two-and-a-half years. Experts have long underlined the importance of major construction projects, such as the third runway at Heathrow and HS2, seeing them as crucial to the success of the UK economy after Brexit.

More good news emerged when Energy Secretary Greg Clark addressed the Northern Powerhouse Summit in Newcastle on 5th July. In his speech, he confirmed the launch of the Construction Sector Deal. This was first mooted in last November’s Budget, but was then delayed following the collapse of Carillion.

What the deal means for the construction industry

Under the deal, which represents the biggest investment in construction in a decade, the government is bringing together the construction, manufacturing, energy and digital sectors. Together they will spearhead a drive to deliver innovative ways of improving productivity in construction, and accelerating moves that will ensure buildings are safer, healthier and more energy-efficient.

The government’s current ambition is to build 1.5 million new homes by 2022. This £420m partnership between government and industry, dubbed the “bytes and mortar revolution”, will explore amongst other things the use and implementation of digital design and off-site manufacturing techniques.

Under the Clean Growth Grand Challenge, the target is to achieve a 50% reduction in the time it takes to deliver much-needed homes, a 33% reduction in their cost, and also has the goal of halving the lifetime carbon emissions.

Training and apprenticeships

Part of the proposed programme is designed to deliver 25,000 construction apprenticeships and 1,000 Construction T level placements by 2020, with around £34m being earmarked to provide the training support required. It is hoped that these moves will drive continued economic growth and create well-paid and highly-skilled jobs across the UK.

Making it happen

The government hopes that by harnessing the power of the construction industry in collaboration with a range of related industries, innovations will be forthcoming, and productivity will increase. It is also looking to make significant inroads into winning bids for projects being undertaken in the £2.5 trillion global infrastructure market.

Any vision for the future also requires a strategy in place to ensure it happens. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) will be tasked with developing a delivery plan and reviewing its progress on a quarterly basis.

The Deal sets out a clear and ambitious vision for the future, backed by mechanisms to plan and monitor progress. In order to ensure success, everyone involved in the industry must work closely with local and national government, education providers, industry stakeholders and the wider public.