News analysis with BESA

Industry must change to hit delivery targets

BESA President Tim Hopkinson warns that major construction and infrastructure projects will not be delivered unless the industry changes the way it works


im Hopkinson began his second year as BESA President with a call for wider adoption of off- site construction methods and digital

procurement to help deliver crucial projects like nuclear power stations; transport infrastructure and housing. He urged the building engineering sector to take its lead from the way the manufacturing industry transformed itself through greater automation and improved production processes. He predicted that, in the next two to five years, there would be a surge in the use of offsite and modular construction; much greater collaboration between organisations and professions; growth in the use of digital technology and procurement; and more (and more diverse) apprenticeships.

Speaking at the annual BESA President’s Lunch, he said revitalising delivery methods would improve productivity while helping to tackle skills shortages and alleviate payment problems. Employers have “no option”, but to move with the times and embrace new techniques, according to the President, with the UK’s shortage of construction manpower fuelling “an off-site revolution”. “The UK’s major infrastructure pipeline and housing needs will simply not be achievable – unless we work in a completely different way,” said Mr Hopkinson, who is managing director of E Poppleton & Son.


“The UK construction industry simply cannot deliver everything competently in a world of increasing opportunities and demands for higher standards with a shrinking pool of resource and talent.” He told his audience at the Oxo Tower in London that the sector was entering “a new era” with modern methods of construction redefining the way it approaches projects. Contractors will become less and less about people working on sites and more about digital procurement and design linked to off- site manufacture, he said.

“Like product manufacturers, we will have to

focus on producing more complete modules off-site. This will be partly driven by our acute skills and resource shortages, but also by a need to improve quality and compliance. “The industry is already at full capacity; there are

tower cranes all over our major cities and we are continually being exhorted to employ more skilled people, but where are they going to come from?” Mr Hopkinson pointed to recent figures from EngineeringUK predicting a need for 1.8 million new engineers (in all fields) by 2025. The latest call from the Chartered Institute of Building suggested construction needs more than 150,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with the current demand. ‘Mega projects’ like HS2, Heathrow’s controversial

third runway and two new nuclear power stations will put an increasing strain on our pool of available

skilled manpower – and the UK’s departure from the EU in March will step up the pressure still further. Heathrow is likely to need up to 15,000 site

workers, unless delivered differently, and the two planned nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point and Wylfa Newydd – could each pull in more than 6,000 site-based technical staff. “These numbers are simply unsustainable. We must deliver much more of our product in a factory environment, which will also give us a far better chance of finishing projects to a high standard and provide better and safer working conditions for our people,” said Mr Hopkinson. “It should also ensure that the finished product

works better in the long run – so addressing many of our

14 October 2018

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