Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Largest Change Management Programme Since Victorian Times

Paul Morrell - Chief Construction Advisor: Image from

Paul Morrell has been at it again. As part of his role for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, he has issued a report which has looked at the implications to the construction industry of the low carbon challenge.

His report suggests that the industry faces the largest change management programme since Victorian times if it is to meet the low carbon agenda.

The report came from the Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) which is drawn from the construction industry and is asked by the government to consider how the construction sector could meet the low carbon agenda.

The Climate Change Act requires the UK to reduce its carbon account in 2050 to at least 80% lower than the 1990 base line.

Via the report, Paul Morrell has highlighted some of the good practice which is being carried out throughout the construction industry at present. There are some excellent projects where energy is right at the heart of the project. However, I believe that this is the exception far more than it is the rule.

In the past 12 to 18 months there has been a marked change in the approach to producing energy however, the continually disjointed nature of the process means that it is difficult to deliver efficient results.

Building regulations will continue to become increasingly onerous and our present methods of construction will make it increasingly challenging to achieve these stretching targets.

Over the past 10 years, the industry has proved that, even when there is plenty of work available, it is reluctant to invest in research and development. The industry shoots itself in the foot when times get tough in that it drives cost down without innovation.

Companies such as Laing O’Rourke have invested massively in research and development however, to continue this they need a considerable level of turnover. As part of the report there were some very nice platitudes from some Ministers stating how important the carbon issue would be to the construction industry.

I do not believe the industry will make this investment itself as it is naturally conservative and fearful of change, and the race for growth without investment is very raw to the industry at present following the spectacular demise of Connaught and Rok.

There is no incentive for the construction industry to invest in reducing energy and certainly if there is no commercial benefit to clients they are unlikely to invest themselves.

For us to get the significant improvements we need in energy performance, the Government needs to legislate to achieve these stretching targets. There will be kickback from the industry claiming the targets cannot be achieved however, this pressure will drive the industry to find ways to solve the problems.

Businesses who respond positively should be rewarded by the legislation and those who don’t should be penalised.

Unfortunately I do not have the answers to how this can be carried out but I do know that without it the industry will continue to progress as it always has done, with organisations continuing to undercut each other to win the next project.