Collaboration will shape how we emerge from Covid-19

Stacey Temprell contributes to CPA debate on the future of the construction industry

The CPA Live Construction Debate was a great opportunity, now that the construction industry has largely returned to a new normal, to join industry colleagues and discuss some of the wider issues we face as a sector as we emerge through Covid-19. It was good to hear the perspectives from other businesses, at different stages of the construction supply chain, suggesting how collectively we can drive the industry forward, through what is still likely to be choppy waters.

The topics discussed whilst centred on the economic situation faced due to Covid-19 were varied and I was pleased to be able share my thoughts around the way we can continue to embrace new ways of working. Lockdown forced us to quickly adapt the way we work, firstly to change our standard operating procedures to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all our colleagues. We also had to quickly accept that we needed to be much more flexible and agile, certainly to meet the needs of some of the Government-essential schemes such as the Nightingale hospitals. Yet now, as we enter what is hopefully the recovery phase, we have an incredible opportunity to take-forward the working practices that got those vital projects over the line and will now underpin our economic recovery. 

In the debate we talked about a number of themes and these are my thoughts on those key subjects:

Economic recovery

Undoubtedly, government stimulus will certainly help our sector. And while we’ve seen a short-term surge in RMI activity during lockdown, recovery in the RMI and housing market is difficult to predict. Unemployment levels over the coming months will have a significant impact on consumer confidence. We’ve already seen property transactions stagnate, with mortgage approvals only at a third of the number at their previous lowest point during the last financial crisis, these house moves drive not only new housing demand but also RMI demand.

Changing construction behaviour

When change is thrust upon us, as it has been with covid – it compels us to do things differently, and to adapt quicker – at British Gypsum for example we had to quickly revise Site Guidance for how to handle Plasterboard under new social distancing rules. 

One important lesson this period has taught us is that whilst historically, much of construction has been performed by different stakeholders in sequence, we can come together to solve issues in a different way. Now, as we turn our attention to new, long-term working practices, we have an opportunity to embrace the use of data and digital technologies as the principle tools for project design and project management. We have to accept that productivity as we know it will remain compromised for a long time so we must drive out inefficiencies and accelerate our adoption of existing and new technologies that will facilitate the Government strategy of build, build, build. 

The road to recovery

Events such as the CPA Live Construction Debate give us an opportunity to pool our ideas and collectively discuss new working methods that will underpin how we recover from this crisis. Without question, our industry remains changed forever, how we respond to that change is entirely within our gift and an opportunity to protect future construction generations.

Stacey is also the BMBI expert for drylining systems and her views on the construction industry’s performance are published quarterly. Look out for Stacey’s views on Q2 2020 towards the end of August.