Building Back Better: Construction Post Covid19

25 Sep 2020

This September, Northumbria University is teaming up with partners – IC3CENEDynamo North East, One VoiceCIC North East and MOBIE – to give members of the North East construction industry the opportunity to hear Mark Farmer’s take on future of the sector post COVID-19.

In 2016, the UK Government released the commissioned report ‘Modernise or Die’ penned by CEO of Cast Consultancy Mark Farmer. In it, Farmer argued that the industry faced ‘inexorable decline’ unless longstanding problems are addressed. In particular, the review highlighted the sector’s dysfunctional training model, its lack of innovation and collaboration, and its non-existent research and development (R&D) culture.

Despite the appearance of several green shoots that signal positive change is afoot in the industry since the report, the size and fragmentation of the sector has meant progress is slower than desired. A realisation of the benefits of Modern Methods of Construction seems to be driving most change. In 2017, the Government made the significant pledge to drive its five biggest procuring departments towards MMC by 2019. By 2019, the sector’s investment in R&D reached an all-time high also driven by adoption and innovation of MMC, bolstered by the £170million sector deal. Yet in the same year, Turner & Townsend’s annual industry report highlighted that productivity was still the Achilles Heel of construction, growing just 14.8% in three decades.

Now facing an unprecedented recession and with Brexit looming, construction, like many other industries, will experience huge pressures and uncertainties in the years ahead. While the IHS Markit/CIPS construction Purchasing Managers’ Index rose at its highest rate in five years from June to July, construction is still shedding jobs at its fastest rate since the global financial crisis.

In this session, Mark Farmer will give his take on the inherent weaknesses the pandemic has further exposed, and what the sector needs to focus on to ‘build back better’ in the wake of the crisis. He will highlight the importance of innovation & MMC in safeguarding the future of the sector and will emphasise how supportive policy and industry action is still needed to ensure construction accelerates its transformation. He will also cover what the resulting opportunities might be for the North East, drawing on its industrial prowess and leadership in digital construction.

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