We cannot afford to ignore the Farmer Review and we should see Brexit as a catalyst for change

Martin Wright

The report pre-dates Brexit and the overriding effect of leaving the EU is uncertainty - a buzzword which sadly isn’t going away any time soon. We need to get our heads around this and pull together to find the solutions. I use the plural here quite deliberately. There has never been a one-size-fits-all answer to the issues raised and I suspect, based on the current political, economic and societal climate, this is now more true than ever.

We have always championed innovation and, to hijack Farmer’s medical analogy, see this as a cure. Naturally, technology has a role to play in providing innovative solutions. Our teams have pioneered the use of BIM, geomatics, DfMA and volumetric design and we have used drones, 3D printing and site robotics. However, we must also talk about innovation in a more human sense; let’s not forget the times we use interpretation, logic or imagination to overcome a problem.

Modular construction is without doubt an example of how technology can be used to add value. We have used these techniques across a variety of sectors to reduce costs, save time and enhance quality. The industry should be primed for supply and demand in this area to reach critical mass and grab the opportunity. Farmer suggests the desire for new approaches could diminish if the labour market cools; a backwards step I feel we should avoid.

The industry is feeling the pressure of margins being squeezed and it is all too easy to clam up and adopt siege mentality

As a practice we see the benefits of working collaboratively every day. We fully support the assertion that the construction industry needs to collaborate more efficiently and the notion that BIM must underpin this. We recognised the potential for BIM early on and invested heavily in software, training and resources. We have seen the benefits of the use of this technology, the value added for our clients, and believe the surface has only just been scratched. A more open approach across the industry and breaking digital silos is key to achieving further enhancements.

It is fantastic to see Class of Your Own included as a case study. We are proud to be an Industry adopter for this initiative, and of our involvement in similar programs, which provide school pupils with built environment skills early on. Whether future funding for skills is levied through a charge on clients or not, the workforce is currently in our schools and we all have a duty to bring them through.

The industry is feeling the pressure of margins being squeezed and it is all too easy to clam up and adopt siege mentality. This ‘survivalist’ attitude is not sustainable. The construction industry cannot afford to resist change and we need to take our clients with us on this journey. Instead of fearing uncertainty, we should view Brexit as a catalyst and the ambiguity in its wake as a reason to modernise and adapt.

We will continue to invest in R&D, technology, skills, training and people. In addition we will actively encourage and advise our built environment colleagues and our clients to do the same. In my view what we need is quite simple - quality professionals working together making us stronger than the sum of our parts.

Martin Wright is managing director - architecture for AHR