Evangelism in construction

Trudi Sully
Trudi Sully 21-10-2021

The beginning of October saw the welcome return of UK Construction Week, and it was an absolute delight to spend the three days of the show at the NEC soaking up the reunion-like atmosphere. Old acquaintances refreshed, some colleagues met in the flesh for the first time and new contacts made. We’ve all got so used to being online that I think for many of us it was like an elixir to be out there ‘in real life’ again.

And this showed through too in many of the presentations and panel sessions I witnessed or took part in. There was a revitalised passionate undercurrent throughout. If there were to be a word cloud of the show, I’d place bets that ‘tipping point’ would feature highly. This term was used widely, said with vigour, urgency, as a plea, with anticipation, as well as some frustration and anger. There was a sense of ‘we are back, we’ve done the talking, we need action, we have the tools, we are ready. Are you with us? And it was inspiring!

Over the last year, we have witnessed the production of a range of hugely important reports, policies and commitments. To highlight but a few:

The Construction Playbook set out 14 key policies for how the government should assess, procure and deliver public works projects and programmes, which all central government departments and their arms-length bodies are expected to follow on a ‘comply or explain’ basis.

The Hub’s Defining the Need report resulted from analysing pipeline projects from  Department for Education (DfE), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG, now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). In support of the Playbook policy to ‘Harmonise, Digitalise and Rationalise’; it found that 70% of the pipeline could be suitable for delivery using a platform approach. That’s a potential market of £35 billion pounds in the next five years.

The Construction Leadership Council’s Skills Plan details challenges, required actions and owners to progress addressing the skills gap (both in terms of current and future needs.)

The Transforming Infrastructure Performance: Roadmap to 2030 –‘describes a vision for the future in which we collectively prioritise the societal outcomes we need, and use modern digital approaches and technologies, alongside improved delivery models to achieve them.’  Through the Hubs work on value, information management and the platform approach we are delivering a range of tools to support the mandates in these areas.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report on climate change, described as a “code red for humanity” by the head of the United Nations. In the UK, 43% of CO2 emissions are relevant to the construction sector. The CO2nstruct Zero is the sector’s campaign to respond, and it has determined nine priorities to focus our efforts both as an industry and as individual businesses to maximise the impact we can make.

And coming soon, the 2021 Spending Review and the much anticipated United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) will no doubt be huge influencers on our industry going forwards.

So, if not now…?

During a drinks reception at the event, some more impassioned debate about innovation in construction resulted in me being called an evangelist. It is far from the worst thing I have been called when I get on a soapbox, and in fact, it was meant and taken positively. I’m glad to be amongst those speaking up and shouting out for action, unity, collaboration, and change. One of the other members of this congregation is Gaynor Tennant, the founding superstar (my words, not hers) of the Offsite Alliance. Only two years old, this group has grown from a small group of forward-thinking collaborative offsite SME’s to a rapidly growing and thriving industry group that members are flocking to. During a panel session, the participants were asked for their three word ask of industry. Gaynor simply said, ‘Change tomorrow together.’

We are on the threshold, but a tipping point can go two ways. Yes, we have done a lot of talking and we do have the tools, and the policy, and impetus. So this is a call to arms. Get involved, sign up, speak up, shout out, act, trial, challenge, be the change. You’re in good company.


Blog post written by Trudi Sully, Impact Director for the Construction Innovation Hub.