CEWales E Bulletin March 2021

Wales did not get much capital funding in the recent UK budget announcement, so, it will be interesting to see if the Welsh construction sector will benefit or not.

We have however had ambitious commitments following the Welsh Government – Future Wales – The National Plan 2040, the full document can be found HERE.

One thing is clear, to meet these ambitions, we need to ensure a more collaborative approach to contracts, procurement, and project development which can all positively influence innovative activity. Construction projects often involve establishing new on-site focussed production facilities, which are by their nature temporary but many of the conversations I am having is framed around the fact that the industry needs to develop better products and better ways of working. Not just new, but better products and improved ways of working will help control and reduce the costs of construction, drive innovation, reduce carbon and ensure quality. In short, it helps us build back better and greener.

Drivers of innovation in the construction sector are often similar. Unsurprisingly, costs and profitability are some of the most important outcomes that affect decisions to develop innovations. But several other innovation drivers, which impact directly on construction companies are arguably just as relevant – think about environmental performance and sustainability, client expectations and perceptions, advances in technology, the globalisation of markets and the demands of end users (not just the client). Research has shown that getting these things right saves money in the long term and delivers better outcomes for everyone. In short, all of these drivers combined with the search for efficiency will deliver value.

So how can we play our part in providing sustainable growth for Wales from within the sector? Many Local Authorities, Health Authorities and contractors have accepted the benefits of modular construction and have begun their own journey to transition to modern methods of construction (MMC), however this is an independent approach which really needs strategic impetus.  MMC factory-based approaches and a design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) strategy for Wales seems like a tangible way to provide part of the solutions to net zero, the transformational economy, local employment, Welsh manufacture, and local supply chains. There are many challenges to this and an appreciated divergence of opinion, but one thing is for sure is that a move to MMC from conventional construction methods will require a completely new skillset particularly regarding digital skills.

CEWales is backing research and development of MMC and DfMA. What do you think?