The importance of programming, the shortage of workers, sustainability and technology: Here’s everything you need to know about construction this month

As we come to the end of the first quarter of 2022 it’s already been a busy time for the construction sector. The themes of sustainability and technological evolution continue to change the landscape of the industry and create a lot of new intelligence for businesses within it. Goals set during events like COP26 could take us closer to green targets than we have ever been and place an increasingly heavy emphasis on the changes that need to take place in terms of materials, products, emissions, etc. However, even though topics such as this are dominating the headlines today business as normal has to continue. That necessarily involves a discussion of challenges, such as a shortage of workers, as well as how best to manage ongoing projects. From the Coronavirus Recovery Visa to the importance of construction programmes, this is everything you need to know about the challenges and opportunities that the sector faces today.

Sustainability goals are here to stay

Carbon neutral – the balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere – has been pushed even further up the agenda thanks to the recent COP26. For enterprises in the construction sector, carbon emissions tend to either be embodied (generated by building materials and products, at every stage from production to demolition and disposal) or operational carbon emissions (generated by a finished building). There are many ways that construction sector businesses can start to push towards carbon-neutral goals including:

  • Improving material efficiency and sustainability – 28% of the total global emissions from the building and construction sector relate to materials.
  • Better use of light and daylight, as around 30% of the energy used in commercial buildings is wasted.
  • Switching to carbon-neutral ventilation options, such as Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery systems.
  • Proactively taking steps to reduce waste – every year the construction sector alone fills up 60 football pitches-worth of waste.
  • More efficiently using energy to generate heat – this is one of the best options for decarbonising heating in buildings.

Sustainability goals are here to stay and, given the impact, construction can have on them, the sector is under the spotlight when it comes to change.

Hybrid living and connected lifestyles

There is a big perspective shift happening when it comes to the spaces in which we live and work today. Thanks to the impact of the pandemic, in particular, as well as advances in technology, homes now need to be smarter, more energy-efficient and built around the priorities of the occupants, which are often focused on mixed-use. This is now reflected in the construction of a high number of new build-to-rent developments designed for hybrid living, combining functionality with comfort and homeliness and including features such as work-from-home lounges, roof terraces with sun loungers and even on-site work-from-home caravans with connected appliances.

Connectivity has a major role to play in hybrid living and consumers today are increasingly looking to enhance their lives by integrating smarter tech. From appliances to the IoT there are many different factors to consider when it comes to connected houses. This could include a range of different types of connected and smart appliances, from fridge freezers with built-in cameras that allow a user to see everything that is in their fridge and track food freshness, to appliances that play music or allow web access from their panels and connected ovens and dishwashers.

The Coronavirus Recovery Visa

Widely reported skills shortages have had a big impact on businesses across the construction industry. Whether it’s the result of Brexit restrictions or the impact of the pandemic, many projects have been interrupted due to the pressures on labour supply. Creating the opportunity to open up talent pipelines is the reason why the Coronavirus Recovery Visa has been suggested.

What is the Coronavirus Recovery Visa?

It has been proposed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a solution to the skills shortages across many different industries, including construction. A new visa scheme would allow more workers into the country who could make a difference to the talent shortage. The London Mayor has proposed that the visa should be valid for at least 12 months from the date it is issued and tailored to the individual sectors that would benefit the most from it. It’s not just the mayor who sees the value in this kind of scheme – bodies representing housebuilders have also started calling for it.

Why is it necessary?

There are currently significant skills shortages in construction – between August and October last year, there were 48,000 vacancies in the construction sector. This figure represents the highest for 20 years. Construction has a big role to play in the economic recovery of the entire country, it’s not just about the future of the industry itself. For example, continued labour shortages would have an impact on the London Mayor’s plan to build new affordable housing for London, including the 52,000 homes planned for the next decade. It could affect the training and development that is so necessary to hone the next generation of construction talent.

Construction programming – why do we need it?

Construction programming is the infrastructure that any project requires for management, oversight and ensuring that timelines and budgets are going to be respected. It will provide structure and goals as well as the scope of work, the outline of activities and information about the resources that are going to be required, human or otherwise, to make the project happen. Effective construction programming is vital for several reasons including:

  • Efficient scheduling so that projects can be delivered on time.
  • Organising activities, including which can be carried out simultaneously to save time.
  • Staying on top of the financial side of the project, both in terms of forecasting and monitoring.
  • Avoiding wastage between phases, whether that is financial or otherwise.
  • Managing relationships between stakeholders.
  • Ongoing review to ensure a project is on track.

Any construction project today needs effective programming to achieve a positive outcome. From data gathering to prioritising tasks and creating timelines it is part of every key decision that is made.

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