As we start a new financial year, I find myself reflecting on just how far we’ve come at the Construction Innovation Hub. The programme has brought together three vastly different organisations, and in the process, created one of the most passionate, diverse and dynamic teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with. This dynamism is rooted in the sharing of one clear vision: To drive the transformation of the construction sector. Perhaps more astonishing though, is that this energy has been equally and proudly matched by our industrial partners and stakeholders. I have never seen a greater imperative or opportunity to fundamentally shift the way we work and the value we deliver. With such opportunity comes great responsibility of course, and we are determined to demonstrate our commitment to the cause.
Against this overwhelmingly positive backdrop, it is of course appropriate for me to acknowledge the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear that the impact of this unprecedented crisis will be felt deeply across multiple sectors, including construction, and the Hub is committed to working closely with industry, leading sector trade bodies and government to do all we can to provide stability during this challenging time. We continue to enable cross-sector dialogue, delivering a programme that reflects industry’s longer-term needs whilst drawing on the progress we have made to date to accelerate those elements that can help to shape a recovery that sees us emerge stronger and more resilient to future challenges. Indeed, that same dynamism is now more evident and more important than ever.
Working across our four central themes of Value, Assurance, Digital and Manufacturing, the Hub’s sole purpose is to ‘Catalyse’ the transformation of the sector. Our work is neither contained within the individual Hub centres nor within Hub as an entity. If we are to drive genuine change, we must focus on identifying the right things to do, the right time to do them, and the right people to do them with. As such, this year we will be shifting the balance of our programme, reinforcing our engagement with government and industry to ensure we are delivering the impact we have committed to demonstrate.
To support this approach, we now have established a central Impact Team to drive engagement with the sector and to shape the strategic priorities of the programme and the themes within it. Accordingly, I write to you as the new Impact Director for Value, and I am delighted to be joined by Trudi Sully as Impact Director for Manufacturing, David Philp, as interim Impact Director for Digital, and Ellie Jenkins, as Head of Engagement. We will announce the appointment of our Impact Director for Assurance in the coming weeks.
Over the coming months, we will each give a periodic account of the Hub’s activity in each core theme. For the first of these Impact Blogs, I wanted to give a brief insight into the work underpinning our Value theme and my current take on where we’re going next.
Back in the Autumn, the Hub announced that we would be partnering with the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to progress their work on Procuring for Value. Led by Ann Bentley of Rider Levitt Bucknall, the Procuring for Value working group has made great progress over the last few years in building the case for value-based procurement over the predominant lowest-cost-wins practice. In fact, I would argue this case has now become a movement, and one I am extremely proud to be a part of. In response to the vision of the industrial strategy and subsequent construction sector deal, the Hub is absolutely committed to driving better outcomes for society, for the environment and for the economy. The CLC’s work provides an ideal taking off point for this.
Although the original title of ‘Procuring for Value’ suggests a focus on the procurement phase, the combined workstream will see the development of a new methodology – underpinned by Forum for the Future’s 5-capitals model – to support the clear and consistent articulation and measurement of Value across the asset lifecycle. Development is already underway for a new web-based tool, based on this methodology, which helps clients to weight value categories, set performance criteria and compare scheme options from the outset and in a way that can be designed, procured, measured and optimised through life.
We acknowledge the plethora of work being undertaken in the space of performance measurement and benchmarking as well as existing schemes and tools which look at one or more elements of value. Therefore, this work is drawing in other related initiatives and schemes to kickstart a genuinely joined-up approach to data collection. For the tool to be a success, it must be underpinned by consistent and robust as-built data, driving improvement in design-stage predictions and providing clients with the evidence they need to make informed decisions. In time, we see the opportunity to drive better industry behaviours, with data shining a light on those in the supply chain that consistently deliver better value. As it stands, the disconnect between client expectations, design predictions, tender stage promises, and value delivered does not encourage such behaviours.
Of course, the drive for an industry focused on outcomes above cost asks fundamental questions of our delivery models and commercial strategies. That is why we are quickly ramping up our activity in this space, working alongside the Association of Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) to explore the ecosystem within which projects and programmes are delivered. We share the ACE’s hypothesis that the optimum delivery model and commercial strategy for any given project or programme must be driven by a clear definition of value (served by our work on PfV) and a detailed understanding of the context within which that value needs to be delivered (e.g., risk profile, client capability, market context).
Of course, these is little point in helping clients to ask for things differently if the supply chain is unable to respond in kind. This work will also provide the supply chain with the insight they need to transform themselves, ensuring they are ready to respond to new ways of working and new measures of success. Work already conducted by the ACE through their Future of Consultancy Campaign has made great progress in defining how the consultancy industry may need to transition to new ways of working which look differently at the value they bring. We will be building on this work, looking across the supply chain to understand where new business models may be required as well as identifying gaps in the broader ecosystem, from insurance products to contracts and procurement practices.
As the landscape in our sector continues to evolve at pace due to the COVID-19 crisis, and based on the work I have outlined above, it is clear that the success of our programme is contingent on our continued engagement with government and industry. As uncertain as the current situation might be, we will continue to be as proactive as possible, helping the construction industry to move forward, and to emerge from this crisis more resilient and more connected on the other side.
Through the value framework, we will support government policy on outcome-based decision making, whilst harnessing the appetite of the private sector to drive investment through value rather than capital cost. At the same time, our work on delivery models and commercial strategy will ensure we have the right ecosystem to support these ambitions, driving the right behaviours and ensuring better outcomes for all.
Ron Lang is the Impact Director for Value at the Construction Innovation Hub.
Ron takes on responsibility for driving whole life performance, outcome-based procurement models and data-driven decision making at the Hub. He works closely with industry and the public sector to develop and embed an agreed methodology for measuring future success in the built environment, taking into account the whole life value aspirations of the transforming construction programme.