Why we need to connect smart construction expertise to drive adoption

13 December 2018
Ben Lever

“Let’s use the great expertise we already have to drive smart construction for housing”

We have seen some really exciting announcements for the construction sector recently. Whether it’s the flagship Construction Sector Deal , Transforming Construction programme, Core Innovation Hub or investments by construction firms in innovations such as manufacturing processes or digital infrastructure; the path to a more modern, smarter industry is well signposted, and the industry is taking steps along it.

Buildings and housing in particular is no exception. The past 12 months have seen regular announcements of investments in offsite manufacturing by some larger housebuilders and housing associations. BIM and other technologies like augmented reality and new materials are also being more widely adopted. The challenge, as with anything associated with housebuilding, is scale. With so many clients, a fragmented supply chain and the need to build so many new homes in the coming years, real change will only be felt if the sector at large can experience the benefits of new technologies and innovations.

Unlocking modernisation at scale and pace has many dimensions, which is why the CLC Innovation in Buildings work stream has established a number of working groups tasked with addressing the most pertinent ones. The group I chair – Centres of Excellence – is focused on how to best generate, share and apply innovations and knowledge with the supply chain.

We know there are already a lot of innovative technologies and techniques and the knowledge of how to deploy them that firms can benefit from. If it’s minded to, the housing sector can take much greater advantage of existing expertise and overcome perceived barriers to entry. To twist a well-used William Gibson quote “the future of construction is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”.

As a first step, the CLC has produced a list on its website (here) of UK centres which already possess great expertise. Longer term, the aim is to create a much wider network and body of specialist knowledge; making it easier and appealing for companies to engage and adopt smarter construction.

Clearly, centres don’t possess limitless resources, and creating better routes to market and connectivity will only go so far. Funds, initially public, will be needed to expand their work and offers. The Transforming Construction programme will inject capacity into the networks and supply chains. Alongside this, centres need to ensure they have the right knowledge and capabilities to support companies, particularly SMEs, with change management and entrepreneurial skills.

This initiative complements the investment and ambitions already committed to by industry and government through the Sector Deal and Transforming Construction. Our intention is to ensure the housing sector and its supply chains can take full advantage in terms of existing support.

If your organisation or centre is not included in the published list but can provide expertise in this area please contact the CLC at construction.enquiries@beis.gov.uk .

The list of centres is available here.

 

Ben Lever, Future Skills and Innovation Lead
CITB
CLC Innovation in Buildings work stream, Centres of Excellence group