Changing Construction

Is construction changing?
Does it need to?
I’ve attended two events recently where the emphasis of the discussions moved on from the topic in question to these more debatable questions.  I’ll accept that both events were focused more on the future of construction, but what struck me was the growing consensus both of attendees that are adapting and those urging for quicker and faster change.
The first event focused on Big Data and the opportunities for construction. The key conclusion for me was that opportunity does exist, but we need to focus on just getting the basic data right first as well.  The most striking presentation was provided by Gideon Farrell who, as a recent graduate with no pre-conceived views, is using technology to advance construction.  He is not focused on changing construction per se, but he sees the business opportunity to use technology which will in turn change construction.
The second event was CIRIA’s Future of Construction event.  I was struck by the positive overtone from the majority of speakers demonstrating how they are driving change within their own organisations and in turn changing construction.  Briefly:
  • Alan Clucas explained how Laing O’Rourke have put DfMA at the core of their strategy going forward;
  • Graeme Shaw passionately inspired others with his talk about how TfL are embracing lean and process improvement
  • The vision for Britain is digital as outlined by the BIM Task Group
  • John Boultwood talked procurement and highlighted that The IUK have produced excellent guidance in Project Initiation Routemap
The one salutatory warning was raised by Tim Chapman who eloquently raised concerns about the need to reduce carbon and how little we are actually doing about it; yet the built environment can and does have a significant influence over all aspects of carbon reduction.  I’d encourage you to review Highways England Carbon Routemap and the infographic (available at the bottom of the page).
Does construction need to change?  As one speaker said, if we don’t someone else will come in and take over.
Is Construction Changing?  It’s evident that there is much positive progress being made and I am personally optimistic that we are on the dawn of new era for construction, particularly:
  • if we realise the importance of Tim’s message that we must reduce carbon and realise the opportunity for the built environment in influencing this change
  • if we can get more Gideons involved; the younger generations need to be engaged in taking the industry forward
  • if more clients embrace Graeme’s passion for taking a common sense approach to improvement
  • if the supply chain adopt a similar value-added philosophy espoused by Alan based on DfMA and digital engineering
  • if we follow the guidance of the IUK routemap
Do you share my optimism? Add your comments below
Click here for click to the Storify of my tweets of CIRIA Future of Construction
Advertisements

Collaborate not clobberate …

Clobberation … what’s this then?

I thought I was being clever by making up the word clobberation to mean opposite to collaboration; but apparently not … just google it!  It’s been in my head for some time that, whilst the emphasis in construction is to promote collaborative working arrangements, in reality the majority of work is carried out in the traditional transactional way … where it’s more clobberation rather than collaboration!Collaboration

At a recent BECi* event Tim Fitch emphasised the benefits of collaboration in his talk on the “Adventures of Collaboration from Sub-Contracting to Mega Projects“.  Tim’s key point is that collaboration is a better way of managing risk and creating value in order to deliver outcomes to the satisfaction of clients.

Why doesn’t everyone do it then?

Tim’s view is that collaboration can be for everyone and every size of project, but it requires leadership, firstly on the client side and then on supply side.  In other words, for collaboration to work effectively, it must be an integral behaviour of those in charge.  Moreover, trust needs to be built on both sides and this is often demonstrated by parties giving something up, normally some aspect of control.  Collaboration is not an easy option, but the rewards are available in better client satisfaction, profits and repeat work for starters.

Tim gave illustrations of how collaboration has and has not worked. In all cases, it is important to establish collaboration as a core part of procurement and ensure the right behaviours are incorporated into the project from the outset; in other words avoid establishing a transactional approach that inhibits effective collaboration. The British Standard, BS11000, provides a framework for establishing Collaborative Business Relationships – for more information, visit Tim’s website or visit the Linkedin Group.

Tim concluded with a view on the future for collaboration in construction, citing the biggest barrier to wider adoption as the cyclical nature of construction demand.  However, Tim was confident that with the right leadership and by developing the right relationships, collaboration, not clobberation, is the way to achieve successful outcomes.

Click here for the event Storify.

*BECi (Built Environment Collaboration and Integration) is the part of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster.  If you are interested in talking as part of the next series of BECi talks, please leave a comment below.

Government Construction Strategy

What’s happened to the Government Construction Strategy?060111_1314_GovernmentC1.png

Firstly, I have to say I like the Government Construction Strategy (The Strategy). It was concise in articulating

  • the need for change,
  • proposing what needs to be done and
  • formulating an implementation plan.

In doing so, The Strategy was practicing what it preached by demonstrating clear leadership, one of its important tenets. Separate task groups implemented the plan and after 12 months, there was an update report. At the same time, Building held the first of what has become an annual Construction Summit, with the principal aim of coordinating the key messages and progress of the Strategy.

As I’ve blogged on the Strategy (previous posts link) and I wanted to review progress; not least because as we enter 2015, I was reminded that the principal objective of The Strategy was to reduce costs by up to 20% by the end of this Parliament (i.e. May 2015).

So what’s happened with the implementation of the Strategy?

In short, a lot has happened. Each task group has delivered outputs, with reports available on the Government website. The BIM Task Group has been the most visible with their own micro-site and twitter feed and has been instrumental in setting standards and coordinating the development of industry capability. Progress with procurement has seen the production of guidance on new procurement models and numerous trial projects take place. Moreover, work of the procurement task group has merged with Infrastructure UK who have *quietly* produced some outstanding documents on improving delivery in relation to the Project Initiation Routemap. And there is plenty more positive progress on, amongst other things, soft landings, developing client capability.

However, it’s unclear to me how the Government has done in relation to its original target for cost (and carbon) reduction. The 12 month update indicates savings, but there is, to my knowledge, no subsequent publication that clearly articulates progress. Don’t we need to understand how the Government has actually performed against the key objectives?

I have previously challenged whether The Strategy would result in any lasting change? On this note, in the interview with Stef Stefanou (£ Building) he lamented that despite being an industrial reformer, he no longer believes the industry will ever change. It’s my concern, that whilst there are persuasive arguments for change, we are a long way from reaching the tipping point of a more productive way of delivery.

The Strategy is a good document, a lot of good work that has taken place, however the question has be “how much influence has it really had?”

Do we need another Contract Form?

As one lawyer said “if two lawyers are in the same room, you’re unlikely to get agreement”; so what happens when you have a room full of lawyer-folk!

NBS_UCCC

Let’s cut to chase, my conclusion from the NBS Bond Dickinson briefing “Understanding Construction Collaboration Contracts” is that the lawyers aren’t that impressed with current collaborative forms.

But if collaboration is called for, aren’t collaborative contracts essential?

Ever since Latham constructed the team and Egan rethought construction, built environment professionals have been urged to find a different way of working.  If clients are to have successful projects, improvement must be through COLLABORATION!  Ad infinitum the message is that adversarial ways don’t cut the mustard anymore; the latest including the Government’s new procurement routes with collaboration at the heart; and if BIM is to achieve it’s full potential, “the only way is collaborate“.

I attended the NBS Bond Dickinson briefing Understanding Construction Collaboration Contracts because I recognise that if construction needs to collaborate, then collaborative forms of contract must be adopted. [Review my storify]

The briefing reviewed 4 contracts; three I knew about and one whose arrival had recently passed me by!  The NEC3 is 20 years old; it’s been around a while and is being used.  The PPC2000 has it’s plaudits and is shown in a favourable light by the Government Trial Projects.  The JCT adopted the Be Collaborative form as its own and hence we have the JCT Constructing Excellence form.  The new kid on the block is the CPC2013 (Complex Project Contract) authored by the CIOB.

NBS_UCCCx4The audience were treated to candid and informative series of presentations from principally lawyer-folk. My impression is that the lawyers aren’t that impressed with these collaborative forms. From their legal perspective, they didn’t appear to recognise the management rationale and instead focused on the fact that if the projects go wrong, the contracts will not stand up in Law; afterall what is collaboration in the eyes of the court! Certainly for anyone who attended the event, if they recommend a collaborative form potentially they could be held negligent given that barristers advised to stay well clear of one of the forms!

So I see we have a bit of stand-off.  We need collaborative forms, but what client advisors are/will be advising clients to use the current bunch?  In my opinion this is a pressing issue, and one that will affect the adoption of the new procurement routes and the implementation of BIM …

…. or shall we just leave the lawyers to have a reasonable disagreement!

This is a link to my Storify of the event.

Built environment education

Something isn’t working …

I’m relatively new to the world of academia (in the teaching sense that is) having been given the post of university lecturer in September 2010, so I’m finding my voice and slowly understanding the way things get done; and I’m coming to the conclusion things need to change.

Before I say more, I’ve been inspired to write by someone who I never met and who is, sadly, no longer with us. I’ve been inspired by the eulogy stating “there aren’t enough people who are prepared to challenge, consistently and persistently, in pursuit of a better built environment, a better world for future generations to enjoy“. I want to be one of those people.

My selective perception mode is currently picking up loads of vibes encouraging me to challenge the way we educate in the built environment. Below I will identify these vibes, but first I want to take you back a couple of years …

… and my first introduction into lecturing our future professionals of the built environment.

I was asked to lead a number of modules at levels 5 and 6 (this means years 2 and 3 for a full time undergraduate course). I was provided with some module aims and learning outcomes and told I had 36 hours of student contact time to fill, assignments to set that determined how well the students achieve the learning outcomes. Oh, I would also be marking those assignments.

Suffice to say, I have survived (I’m still there after all!) and more to the point I’m really enjoying my new found career.

Or is this the point; what is the purpose of my lecturing?

In my second year I started to appreciate that whilst I intrinsically wanted to be student-centred, I wasn’t. I’ve started to learn how to educate my students more effectively and I’ve started to understand how students learn, because I’ve been learning myself.

But something is not right:

  • Do we know if we provide graduates that employers want?
  • I teach the students what I think is important (based on learning outcomes obviously), set an assignment that I then mark!
  • I teach a piece of a jigsaw (the module), but have not really seen the whole picture! Do the students see the whole picture (which I original typed as hole picture; this might more apt!)
  • How do we integrate new things and ways of working into curricula? I’m challenging us to integrate BIM at the moment
  • Are we hamstrung by our accrediting bodies; we need our accrediting bodies as they provide an important validation (source of students), but we can’t adapt unless the accrediting bodies agree!

On top of my own experiences, I’ve learnt that:

  • Our students are the laziest in Europe1
  • The way we teach is outdated2
  • Children in the UK are some of the most pressurised, unhappy and commercially vulnerable in the world3

Having stated the negatives, I’m seeing a lot of positives too:

  • There is a significant amount of learning taking place in our approaches to education.
  • As with everything, education has not stood still over the past 60 years4
  • Enrichment helps students learn5,6,7 .

i.e. it can be different.

But relating this to the built environment, the vibes have come from:

  • Colleagues that recently visited Denmark and saw a different approach to educating built environment students.
  • The Building Futures Think Pieces, which was recommended to me by Sebastian Macmillian (one of the authors). I similarly would encourage everyone to read Sebastian’s view on education in built environment in 20 years.8
  • A debate held by Ryder Architecture that has created a blogsite: The Future of Built Environment Education & Practice9
  • Discussions with CIC Lifelong Learning director
  • And how are we going integrate BIM into our curriculum.
  • The debates in my own department about group work, the amount of assessment etc…

So I’m sensing a need for change and I’m sensing that I’m not alone.

I’ll write more on the specific drivers for change, but for now thanks for reading and feel free to add your comments.

Rob

Dedicated to the memory of Mel Starrs and a better world for future generations.

Notes

  1. Professor Graham Gibbs identified that students at UK universities studied (significantly) less than counterparts in European Universities Improving student learning through assessment and feedback in the new higher education landscape
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbzMTXRBcQk&feature=youtu.be
  2. Sir Ken Robinson Changing Education Paradigms “The gene pool of education still dictates way we educate is still largely based on the system created for the Industrial Revolution and switches our kids off to learning” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U
  3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9357146/British-children-unhappiest-in-the-world-say-academics.html
  4. http://www.kaizen-training.com/tips/celebrating-the-diamond-jubilee
  5. Ravens Wood School
  6. University of Westminster Learning and Teaching Symposium 5th July 2012
  7. My son participated in a fantastic end of year 6 production called The Keymaster based on travelling through time to important dates in history. I bet the kids didn’t even realise they were learning history, but could tell me now things about 1066 up to the Suffragettes ets
  8. The Future of Architectural Education http://www.buildingfutures.org.uk/think/year/2012
  9. http://2012bee.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/future-of-built-environment-education.html?spref=tw