With 2015 seeing London heralded as ‘the most expensive city in the world to build in’ and with plans for hundreds of high-rise projects, there has never been such a focus on the cost of construction.
For those in the concrete sector using a tried and tested construction methodology, stripping out cost can be difficult.
This is why in 2015, the sector will have to embrace innovation that will be driven by BIM and 3D modelling.
In addition, businesses will also have to find new ways of working and address the impact of the skills shortage on the sector.
The biggest trend that has already made and will continue to make an impact is BIM.
2015 will be all about how front-running businesses drive further innovation by using technology and smart design to plan the concrete works programme flow of a project.
With 3D modelling, early engagement and a focus on the way design-and-build projects are delivered, real savings can be made.
This process not only saves time but also allows for more practical benefits, such as clash detection and site layout, to be taken into account.
This in turn helps to develop a whole-site approach that is ultimately more efficient.
Just as important as getting the design right is how a project is managed during the build phase.
The vital part of the cost equation in the formwork build phase is the role of the temporary works co-ordinator.
Even though this is a role that, by law, every site using temporary works has to have, it has unfortunately become much more of a hat to wear in addition to many other demanding responsibilities, rather than a dedicated, properly trained and respected resource.
“The temporary works co-ordinator has unfortunately become more of a hat to wear in addition to many other responsibilities, rather than a dedicated, properly trained and respected resource”
Why is this significant?
On virtually every job that uses more than 25 tonnes of equipment, a good temporary works co-ordinator can save their own cost and much more, by properly managing the site, equipment flow and erection processes.
Even with new equipment, the efficiency gains achieved by hiring a good TWC far outweigh anything else.
Already a rare breed, it is up to the industry to address the shortage of TWCs and for good ones to be recognised for the positive impact they have.
Take for example probably the most significant recent change in the UK concrete formwork sector: the move away from the use of formwork tables for high-rise construction, due to the health and safety concerns of using cranes to fly tables between floors.
Used globally, table forms (a fixed grouping of formwork and shoring that can be lifted by crane from level to level) have been responsible for major reductions in cycle times and therefore cost.
Now formwork has to be erected, dismantled and transported from one level to the next, requiring a lot more co-ordination, more labour, different safety parameters and a different approach to working.
It is here that if costs are to be lowered, new solutions and methods of working will be required.
The success of delivering this change further highlights the importance of TWCs.
With London driving trends for the rest of the UK, we have already seen a big shift in 2014 to prefabrication.
This has been particularly important in the growing high-rise market, with safety screens such as our Ascent product being lifted straight onto buildings at the point of delivery.
Similarly for composite bridge projects, demand for just-in-time section delivery has increased by 30 per cent, a trend we see continuing to grow in 2015.
So with BIM and 3D modelling now becoming more mainstream in the concrete sector, those who embrace the opportunities presented by cradle-to-grave design solutions will certainly help drive down cost.
Mike Follett is UK managing director for RMD Kwikform