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Time to do things differently

With so much focus on the forthcoming election you may have missed reading about a recently published document which did not receive much coverage but has the potential to totally change the way we work in construction.

‘Low Carbon Construction’ is the interim findings from the Innovation & Growth Team, chaired by Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Advisor. This sets out how the industry can contribute to achieving the legal obligations of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan.

Not very exciting so far. Well although much of it is focused on getting government and clients to change their approach to procuring buildings that are low or zero carbon, there are a few key points which should make people pay attention. Item 10 of the executive summary says “if the industry and its clients working together can make the cost savings of 10-30 per cent mooted as the rewards of integration and modernisation, then that holds out the prospect of delivering net zero carbon buildings for the same price or less than a building conforming only to current Building Regulations.” Or to put it another way, to meet the costs of sustainable products the cost of construction will need to come down.

So how is this going to be achieved? Well one proposal is to reduce the “plethora of policies” from government. If that can be achieved, especially against the background of the changes that we can expect with a new government, then it is to be commended.

Another proposal is to address the “lack of collaborative integration of the supply chain”. So are you ready for some collaborative integration? This is not new; it was proposed by Latham and Egan in the 1990s and is the purpose of Constructing Excellence. So lots of talk, but will it happen this time?

So not only is this report about the sustainable agenda, it is also about taking cost out of construction. This can be achieved in two ways. The painful way is when you have to reduce your prices to compete – either because your company does not tick all of the sustainability boxes or because you have not worked with your suppliers and customers to be as efficient as possible. Or the profitable way, working as an integrated part of the supply chain to take out unnecessary costs. This will represent a threat to some businesses, an opportunity for others.

Despite the confrontational approach that still exists in much of our industry, it’s time to start thinking about how your company can work more closely with its suppliers and clients. And if the Innovation & Growth Team can persuade clients that it is value not lowest cost which is important then that would make things a lot easier.

Chris Ashworth, founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy, provides strategic marketing services to the construction industry. He is a member of the organising committee for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group.