1) ‘What is the single biggest policy change that would help the growth of a sustainable and world-leading construction industry in the UK?
We would like to see proper and meaningful incentivisation to building energy efficiency in buildings of all types. We have seen vehicle fuel efficiency improvements being achieved as a response from the industry to making an explicit link between fuel efficiency and vehicle excise duty. Similarly strong and long-lasting incentives need to be introduced for buildings – for example linking stamp duty and council tax to energy performance certificates.
2) ‘What do you believe are currently the biggest barriers to the growth of the construction industry in the UK?’
The historic pattern of cyclical economic growth and recession, and the often primary impact on the construction in industry as a result of using the industry to first put a brake on excessive growth and then to stimulate recovery, has several unfortunate effects. First it leads a to pattern of loss of skilled workers followed by shortages of the same skills during recovery (most recently in something as basic as brick laying); second it inevitably encourages any habits of short-termism in the industry and shortens the likely period over which any payback from a strategy of investment in skills and production capacity will be available. These impacts have the knock-on effect of making the industry less desirable than others not so subject to cyclicality, in terms of attracting and retaining the best talent whatever the discipline and in terms of investment in the UK.
Uncertainty around future regulation and policy, referred to above, tends to exacerbate the situation and increases the perceived risk level attached to investment in technology, people and capacity. There are good examples, such as the clear policy on the use of BIM, but we need more of this kind of strategic thinking.
The Construction 2025 strategy, owned by the new industry leadership council, sets out a way forward to bring many of these issues together and deliver the required outcomes over the coming years. Engagement with the education and training sector now is important in order that, as the industry grows and evolves, we attract and retain highly motivated recruits with the right skills.
3) ‘What do you believe is the most significant policy change the government could make to promote a greener built environment?’
We need government to be more consistent across departments between what is said and what is done. ‘Construction 2025’ marked the beginning of a possible means to gain more credibility for a government-industry collaboration in the short to long-term. We would like to see this develop as a way of increasing confidence in the future direction of government policy and implementation so that industry can take its proper place in determining how it can deliver what is required.
4) ‘What measures would you like a future government to take to encourage and support longer-term infrastructure planning?’
The introduction of the infrastructure pipeline data has been helpful. We are concerned that despite this work, future investment is still seen as being at risk and industry needs to work closely with government in order to reduce these risks and their impacts.
Extending the scope of the pipeline data to include private sector investments will be a great challenge but deserves attention – especially where private sector investment can be associated with public infrastructure such as planning gain.