18 December 2020


1. Digital transformation has accelerated 

In February 2020, we discussed at the Construction Products Leaders’ Summit, the need for construction to digitise - due to not just regulatory demands but also those of the clients on a project. As well as insights from McKinsey showing on the Digitisation index that construction is the most under-digitised, compared to other major industries.

Then the pandemic hit the UK and led to a need for us all to digitize, from socialising via video calls to relying on online shopping – and though the construction has traditionally been slow to adapt to such changes, we also saw the industry step up. NBS Chief Strategy Officer Richard Waterhouse noted in his opening remarks at the Construction Leaders’ Summit we hosted in October; ‘Digital transformation which would normally take two years has taken just two months’.

2. Going remote to keep things moving 

Due to the pandemic we saw parts of the construction industry initially come to a stop but other parts, such as architecture practices, rapidly adapting to remote working. According to the RIBA Journal, 81% of architects had started to work from home by March. Therefore the ability to work together remotely became a pressing issue and we saw usage of our cloud-based specification platform, NBS Chorus, grow by over 600% when compared to 2019.* Read how real estate consultancy Hollis rapidly adapted to remote working with NBS Chorus earlier in the year.

*Based on January-November 2020.

3. Collaborate to change culture 

The need for the construction industry to be more collaborative remains topical and was discussed throughout the Construction Leaders’ Summit. Many of our speakers named it as a priority when it comes to changing the culture of the industry. Speaker, Paul Morrell, the former Chief Construction Advisor to the UK Government, shared his forthright perspectives that the ‘industry needs to take ownership and recognise that the change needs to come from within - and collaborate!' And that many of the issues within the industry are around poor communication of information.

We see this remaining a key topic, and with the recently released Construction Playbook it’s sure to be a talking point throughout 2021. The Government-backed document in its essence is about collaboration and early engagement for a better supply chain and project delivery.

4. Prepare for regulatory change

On 20th July 2020, the Government published the draft Building Safety Bill - the most radical proposed overhaul of building safety regulations for decades. Dame Judith Hackitt laid out her plans for the ‘Golden Thread’ of information to be established in order to provide accountability and higher levels of safety and efficiency on construction projects. Although legislation is due to come into force in 2023, she asked that we act now, for the good of the industry.

In April we launched NBS Source, which aims to help support construction professionals provide and access this level of detail – by providing structured, high-quality product data, which can include all relevant performance criteria and certifications. All of this product data can then be used to specify products accurately within NBS Chorus.

To find out more about the impact of the Building Safety Bill listen to our recent webinar, and we also explain what is meant by the ‘Golden Thread’ in this webinar.

5. Digital product information is essential 

Shortly after the first lockdown, we looked at how COVID-19 was affecting manufacturers and business continuity. As mentioned, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the acceleration of digital transformation in the construction industry and our findings shows how manufacturers adapted to the changing landscape. A third of the manufacturers surveyed told us that they had seen an increase in specifiers requesting digital product information, nearly half were already providing more product information digitally and a further fifth intended to do so. Read the full report here.

6. RIBA Plan of Work 2020

The start of 2020 saw the launch of the new RIBA Plan of Workthe definitive model for the design and construction process of buildings. This came with some key updates following its previous publication in 2013. Updates included a focus on spatial planning at stage three to improve fire safety and that stage five now acknowledges offsite construction.

 We ran a series of webinars which shared insights on the RIBA Plan of Work 2020 and explained the updates. You can find the introductory webinar here and the rest of the series on our events page.

7. Mis-specification remains a concern 

Mis-specification unfortunately still remains an issue within the industry. Without access to detailed and accurate product information, unsuitable products are far more likely to be included in a specification – leading to unsafe projects.

This is one of the reasons we’ve developed NBS Chorus for Manufacturers, so manufacturers can work directly with specifiers in the project specification environment. This means manufacturers can write the specs for their projects and advise on the products and systems which compliment it. Take a look at how Franklin Ellis Architects and Dulux Trade used NBS Chorus to transform the specification writing process for them.

8. RIBA CPD is booming

Specifiers have begun to demand more online CPD and this accelerated in 2020. As RIBA members have requirements to meet, ensuring CPD content was accessible throughout the pandemic was critical. This led to a huge increase in RIBA CPD providers making their learning material available online - most popularly in the form of live online seminars. These opportunities for remote learning, helped remove barriers and meant furloughed workers could use it as a way of staying engaged and prepare for their return to work.

Find out how manufacturer ICB Waterproofing got on with delivering CPD and if you’re looking for CPD, take a look at December’s issue of the RIBA CPD Showcase. We also hosted an expert panel discussion explaining how manufacturers can create engaging CPD content.

9. BIM adoption is growing 

The 2020 BIM report marked its 10th year and reflects over 1,000 industry professionals’ views about BIM. It shows us how BIM adoption has grown substantially since 2011, in which 43% of respondents had not heard of BIM. Whereas today, awareness is almost universal, with 73% using BIM. It also offered a glimpse into the future, telling us that 80% of under 35s have adopted BIM and believe that digitisation will transform the whole construction industry. That’s something to take note of as this age group will become the next wave of leaders in construction and are likely to continue promoting BIM and digital transformation. Take a look at the full report.

10. Sustainability can't be ignored

The sustainability of the built environment remains a crucial discussion in the industry which simply can’t be ignored and must be addressed. At the Construction Leaders’ Summit Jade Lewis, Chief Executive at Sustainable Energy Association, detailed ideas for future initiatives, which included a Building Passport - a live document that shows a building's energy efficiency status and what measures to take to improve it -  and retrofitting the UK’s existing homes which account for 14% of the nation’s emissions.

To help specifiers make their projects as ‘green’ as possible we’ve developed tools such as the template clauses in Chorus, which allow users to set their own sustainability requirements.

11. The way we're working is changing 

Research we conducted has shown that this year has been a story of working from home for many designers and specifiers, with 48% working from home full time (53% in the UK) and over 20% splitting their time between home and office (as of September 2020).

Although specifiers have spent much of the year working from home, they’ve actually collaborated more than ever - over 50% surveyed told us that they’ve been collaborating more than usual on their projects. We’ve also seen how much this switch to working remotely has been embraced by specifiers, with over 50% writing and editing their specs from more than one location, while almost 30% have been using more than one device to produce the specs. 

12. Looking ahead to 2021

There’s been an incredible amount of change in 2020 and it doesn’t look like 2021 will be any different! While great strides have been made in the digitalisation of the construction industry, there is always room for more progress. And a thread that runs through all our learnings from this year is its link to culture. So is this the real driver? You can watch leading industry experts discuss what else needs to be done to change culture in our recent live panel, ‘Culture Change in Construction – What Will It Take?