The nature of UK construction is adversarial. This is what you often hear about the construction industry. We had no problems agreeing; during our combined working life we have seen more than enough of it! QSs, design teams, PMs, main contractors and sub-contractors, all having a right old go at each other over money. After that it’s Arbitration and that’s often followed by a trip to the Courts.
But, we believe that this is more of a UK construction culture thing (or maybe better to say a UK contract style thing, since you also see the same in the Middle East, Australia etc). After having a good look at the construction culture in U.S.A., France and Denmark, we noticed that these countries have much more of a consultation and co-operation culture.
Why is this so?
In the UK we had the Post-War regeneration period when we had to construct a lot of new buildings, particularly houses, in a hurry. To accelerate the process the Labour Government of the day produced various pieces of Legislation to help clients, particularly Local Authorities putting up Social Housing, to get the country back with roofs over our heads.
According to economists, the situation that was created had mainly the following characteristics:
-Any potential construction client was an effective monopoly
-Any party tendering for any part of the works was an effective free market
-Construction clients exploited this to drive their costs down, especially at the expense of their contractors.
Because of this we saw the “invention” of the Quantity Surveying role, and one of their primary functions was to try and make a profit for their employer, be that the main or sub-contractor. It was this function that helped to foster this adversarial culture.
Many UK construction clients – and main contractors have carried on in this same mindset through to the present day. Many of the recent and well known industry initiatives, such as **Latham and Egan Reports, have focused on trying to tone down this culture.
What do we need to change this adversarial behavior? Simply put, we at GenieBelt believe that deep down everyone involved wants to do a good job and to achieve a successful outcome for their business. In a nutshell:
The Client will be happy, if he gets a building which is finished on time, is up to the quality required and is, of course, within budget.
The design team and consultants will be happy, if they secure their fees for the projects and if the Client and project team wants to work with them again.
Check out also: Modernise or Die: The Need for Change in Construction
The Contractor and Subcontractors will be happy, if they receive their money on time, secure a good profit and ensure that the project team, their workers and most importantly, the Client, wants to work with them again.
All parties will be happy, if they complete a project, and were a part of a team, that they can all be proud of.
The role of new technologies
The 2016 Farmer review on the UK Construction Labour Model presented the way in which we could achieve this vital change in a pretty descriptive way. According to Farmer, here are the steps that the UK industry has to take:
Welcome new technologies
By embracing innovative technologies, the industry has a strong chance to revive and change drastically the construction management process.
Increase focus on Development and Research
Investing in R&D is surely the way that UK construction should follow. It may be a demanding and long procedure but its outcome can offer significant benefits for the future of the industry.
Actively combine new and old techniques
Clearing the path for new technologies doesn’t mean that every little old habit within the industry has to go. To the contrary, the big challenge is to find the proper manner in which the new could be integrated with the old effectively.
Establish strong guidance
Nothing of all the above will be possible, though, without strong leadership. The state has to join forces with the construction agents in order to elaborate a functional plan. Clients should definitely be part of this discussion, as well.
GenieBelt’s ambition is to become part of this effort and simplify a lot the construction project management process. If we work hard, we can all achieve a successful outcome and start promoting more pride in the work we all do in construction.