We saw construction beginning to pick up in 2013 and a few pieces of the construction strategy jigsaw fall into place. This year the onus will be on the industry to lead change that will deliver better value, faster

Peter Hansford

As we enter a new year, it’s good to look back over the past one. 2013 was a good year for me, and I hope it was a better one for the industry. Construction work seems to be picking up across the country - particularly of course in the South-east, but encouragingly also in cities and towns across the UK.

The industrial strategy for construction, Construction 2025, was launched in the summer. Publications in themselves don’t change anything, but we seem to be creating momentum around the joint industry-government agenda for change in construction. It’s starting to feel good.

I’ve spoken at many industry events since the launch, outlining our joint vision and the key themes in the strategy: People, Smart, Sustainable, Growth and Leadership. And my apologies to those of you who may have heard this message from me twice in the same day.

Since the launch of Construction 2025 a few other pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place.  The Infrastructure Risk Group published its report in the autumn and the Infrastructure Carbon Review was also launched, jointly by the Green Construction Board and the Treasury. Both of these documents have relevance to the world of building. 

The new Construction Leadership Council has met twice now and is beginning to get to grips with some of the key issues for our industry - supply chains, payment practices, procurement, critical skills, innovation challenges. Piece by piece the framework is developing for creating an industry that will deliver better value, faster, with greatly improved carbon and energy efficiency, and with more products and materials sourced in Britain.

Rarely now do I hear people asking: ‘Should we do BIM?’ Instead the question has become: ‘How quickly can we do BIM?’ This is encouraging. Construction is becoming smarter

Inevitably, much of the work of the chief construction adviser is in London. But I’ve visited many parts of the country during the year - Barnstaple, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cambridge, Coventry, Dudley, Leeds, Loughborough, Maidstone, Manchester, Newcastle, Newmarket, Reading, Rugby, Sheffield and lots of other places. This has given me a reasonably good insight of the industry outside London and put me in touch with many people. 

It’s been interesting to see that the BIM revolution is definitely taking off - rarely now do I hear people asking: “Should we do BIM?” Instead the question has become: “How quickly can we do BIM?” Again this is encouraging. Construction is becoming smarter.

So what will 2014 bring? Over the winter we’ve been working on an implementation plan, demonstrating how the parts of the strategy join together and how they contribute to the overall change we’re trying to achieve. We all know where we’re heading in the long term, but where do we need to get to in the next three years? We will see more of an answer to this in the spring.

Work continues on the low carbon route map. An area that I’m leading on for the Green Construction Board is the retail sector, and particularly on lighting and heating. There should be something to say on this at Ecobuild
in March.

And I’m working with industry bodies to make the changes in Construction 2025 much more industry led. That will be a real sign of success. 

There remain big challenges ahead. One is awareness. In a recent poll, 47% said that they hadn’t heard of Construction 2025 or knew what it was all about. For me, that’s great news - it says that 53% had heard about it!So I make no apologies for continuing to reinforce the messages during 2014.

In a recent poll, 47% said that they hadn’t heard of Construction 2025 or knew what it was all about. For me, that’s great news - it says that 53% had heard about it 

Another big challenge is innovation. Construction is an industry that has been slow to change. We need to find those things - approaches, processes, technologies, products - that can make a massive change to the value our industry brings to the economy, society and the environment. What are the barriers to innovation and how can we remove them? So I see a big focus in 2014 being on innovation in construction.

And the other big challenge for 2014 is to mobilise the industry and government behind the implementation plan to make sure it really happens, and to accelerate the shift to this becoming a much more industry-led process.

So there’s a lot to go at in 2014. I’m looking forward to it.  

Peter Hansford is the government’s chief construction adviser