Faster, Better, Greener – What’s Behind the Words?

The newly published Construction Playbook aims to kick off a transformation of the construction sector. If you look back over articles Osborne has published in recent years you’ll see that the Playbook incorporates many of the themes that we, and others in the industry, have been promoting for some time.

‘Faster, Better, Greener’ is the three word phrase that aims to encapsulate the future direction. Behind that phrase lies plenty of detail, as you might expect for such a complex industry with so much that needs to be reformed.

There are fourteen key policy areas that describe how things will change. These cover every phase of the project lifecycle from planning and procurement right through to the handover and the transition to operation.

Possibly more significant are the objectives that lie behind them. Projects should be set up to succeed from the outset. This will hopefully slash the time, resources and energy often wasted on dispute resolution. The objectives are to:

  • Set clear outcome-based specifications to drive continuous improvement and innovation.
  • Favour longer term contracting across portfolios.
  • Standardise designs, components and interfaces.
  • Drive innovation and Modern Methods of Construction through standardisation and aggregation of demand.
  • Create sustainable, win-win contracting arrangements that incentivise better outcomes, improve risk management and promote the financial health of the sector.
  • Prepare for the rare occasions when things go wrong by introducing resolution planning information requirements into critical contracts.
  • Front-loading time and resources to increase the speed of end-to-end delivery and set projects up for success.

That final point is critically important. It relies on early engagement of specialist contractors. We’ve seen first-hand across countless projects how this leads to better technical solutions and better outcomes in terms of costs, schedules and asset performance.

Faster will inevitably mean greater use of offsite manufacturing. If we know one thing, it’s that productivity and quality levels can’t be stepped-up to the required levels without significantly increasing the percentage of pre-manufactured content.

Better encompasses many aspects including social value, safety, and how well the built environment works for individuals and communities. Again, these aspects work more effectively when they are planned-in from the outset and supported by long-term thinking and partnerships.

Greener also brings us back to materials and methods. More sophisticated procurement processes must consider the environmental impact – from processing materials used in construction right through to the end of life of the asset. The capability to achieve net zero by 2050 very much depends on decisions we make today.

What Will the Future Look Like?

If the sector is transformed in the way the Playbook envisages, from a process point of view we’ll see longer term contracts, early supply chain involvement, greater focus on desired outcomes rather than input specifications, price and quality benchmarking, widespread use of digital technologies and fairer risk allocation.

On the technical side there will be more standardization of designs, systems and materials for similar types of building; and significantly greater use of offsite methods.

These are all positive steps that will contribute to fashioning a construction industry fit for the future.