Report: UK construction industry ripe for tech disruption


Investing in technology is imperative if the construction industry is to meet the UK’s housing needs, according to a report.

The Farmer Review, an independent study commissioned by Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, found that the construction industry is facing “inexorable decline” unless radical steps are taken to address this.

Led by Mark Farmer, CEO of real estate and construction consultancy firm Cast, the review highlights how greater innovation, collaboration and research and development (R&D) are necessary if the industry is to thrive. Additionally, the report says that an aging workforce and low productivity are holding the sector back.

Farmer commented: “Purposeful and strategic industry leadership is needed, driving investment in new technology and manufacturing capability that will grow over time to boost capacity and productivity and reduce the reliance on labour in line with the likely future reducing availability.

“With digital technology advancements pushing ahead in almost every other industry and with the construction labour pool coming under serious pressure, the time has come for action,” he added.

‘Ready for disruption’

Ray O’Rourke, chairman and chief executive at Laing O’Rourke, a Dartford-headquartered construction company, spoke about the need to disrupt the industry: “There is significant scope for radical transformation through the adoption of new technologies and advanced manufacturing approaches. This will deliver the quality housing stock the UK urgently requires and directly address the acute skills gap that threatens our very future.

“Government, developers and deliverers need to invest collectively to achieve these shared goals and future-proof the industry,” he added.

The report also calls for reformation of training and education, and outlines that construction needs to become a more attractive career option. With Brexit on the horizon, the possibility of reduced migrant labour could also result in a substantially reduced construction workforce.

Mark Reynolds, CEO at consultancy and construction firm Mace, added: “Farmer’s review makes it clear that the construction industry needs to invest in training and R&D to boost productivity and ensure we have adequate capacity to deliver the UK’s economic and social infrastructure.

“It underlines the importance of introducing new skills and technology to the sector. We all need to embrace this catalyst for change to attract a new breed of talent to revolutionise our industry,” he concluded.