by Richard McPartland
Predictions are always notoriously difficult. This year, particularly so.
When we put out a call for predictions for the year ahead from the construction sector we might have expected a fair amount of pessimism and, even, doom and gloom. However, while there are clear challenges ahead, there are significant opportunities too. For those organisations able to be fleet of foot, and willing to embrace new ways of working, there’s cause for cautious optimism and a new wave of tech innovations stand set to change the way we work, rest and play.
Here we present a mix of responses from across the industry. We’d love to know what you think the year ahead will hold for construction. You can tweet @theNBS using #nbs2018 and we’ll round up your comments in a follow-up feature early in the new year…
Our panel of pundits
In the aftermath of the financial crisis government was quick to recognise that the construction industry had a crucial role to play in getting the country back on track. Renowned for its inefficiencies and siloed working, technology and process were starting to come together, and the ripples of digitally-fuelled revolution were beginning to be felt. Thus the Government Construction Strategy committed to a stimulus programme predicated on the notion that government was a major client of industry and could use that position to bring about change in both the public and private sectors and empower the industry to reform. Seven years on from that original strategy it's amazing just how far we've come with BIM becoming the design environment of choice and the UK seen as a global leader.
In the year just gone government has once again recognised the importance of construction, just as Brexit nerves were beginning to be felt. We've seen support for the Digital Built Britain agenda, a renewed push to tackle the housing crisis and investment in the infrastructure projects pipeline. There's also recognition of the future skills and technologies that need to be nurtured and a hope that T-levels will equip a new generation of designers, builders and makers with the skills to transform the world in which we all live. For all of the inevitable doom, gloom and uncertainty, it did feel like there was real momentum building around the industry's direction of travel and a growing confidence in the ability to deliver projects digitally, collaboratively, effectively.
In 2017 I was fortunate enough to talk with designers, builders, creators, constructors, makers and do-ers of all descriptions, and across a multitude of projects and disciplines there were some very familiar themes. In 2018 I hope the industry keeps talking - to colleagues, to clients, to policymakers, to share best practice, to talk through problems and find solutions. To demonstrate ROI to enthuse those who are yet to get onboard. Collaboration is at the heart of the modern construction industry and coming together in whatever forum really does feel useful and worthwhile.
For as much as BIM now feels much more like business as usual, there's work to be done to get disciplines working together on a single model within a CDE. Some of the issues will be procedural, some legal, others technical. Digital Built Britain has laid out a clear agenda of what's needed for the industry to achieve full and truest potential and in 2018 I hope the industry can push ahead with purpose.
The pace of change has never been so great or so fast. It's very easy to get distracted by the robots, the artificial intelligence and the exoskeleton suits. My final wish is that we continue to innovate, but we never forget to hone the core process, to show the application and the value, and to never forget that process and technology is ultimately a tool to meet client needs efficiently and effectively.
In 2018 I hope the industry keeps talking - to colleagues, to clients, to policymakers, to share best practice, to talk through problems and find solutions.Richard McPartland, Editor, theNBS.com