OUR commitment to support the UK economic recovery we all need
The British economy is facing the greatest contraction we have ever seen and the government got it right on Tuesday: the quickest way out of it is to “Build, Build, Build”.
With UK GDP having slumped by more than 20 per cent, some 470 infrastructure projects worth £6.5bn were on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This week, Ministers have rightly doubled down on Boris Johnson’s election call for an “infrastructure first” approach.
To deliver this desperately needed economic revival, the UK needs an innovative, productive and resilient construction sector. At Laing O’Rourke, we stand ready to play a leading role in transforming the sector and delivering the government’s ambitious plan.
Our unique operating model, based on DfMA 70:60:30, via off-site manufacturing in our own UK factories and on-site delivery by a directly-employed UK workforce of 8,000 people, has helped us weather the worst of the crisis.
It has been tough and we have had to make difficult decisions, but we have continued to deliver projects for clients and are on track to return to full productivity in our Europe Hub operations by the end of July.
In May, we consciously took a decision that now must be a time for confidence and commitment to our sector and its role in underpinning economic recovery, and in recent weeks have placed a series of advertisements in the UK mass media. These have communicated:
- How our deployment of modern methods of construction helped deliver a critical care hospital in South Wales to the NHS one year early, to support its pandemic response plan;
- How digital engineering and off-site manufacturing revolutionised construction efficiency at Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, enabling it to set new delivery standards and hit target dates that were selected by the client four years ago;
- Our appreciation to our employees and stakeholders for their continued support and outstanding efforts – which has put us on track to achieve our productivity targets in July
- How our operating model has underpinned the efficient handover of two world-class pieces of transport infrastructure in Manchester, and how delivery of these investments is helping level-up the UK economy; and
- That through the crisis, we have continued an unbroken 11-years of continual investment in manufacturing technology and innovation, including at our Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction in Nottinghamshire and other sites, which have been the birthplace of more than 350 precision-engineered buildings and infrastructure projects.
But ongoing success depends on an appetite for change – from government and industry.
To date, the government’s ambitions have been lofty – building up to 40 new hospitals, refurbishing and building dozens of schools and a continued commitment to major projects such as HS2.
The government must urgently publish its overdue infrastructure strategy and set out exactly what it wants delivered and by when.
This will enable the construction industry and its vast supply chain across the UK to plan ahead, retaining as many workers as possible, particularly as the furlough scheme begins to phase out from August.
Specific commitments coupled with a clear pipeline of projects will bring private investors back to the table. In return, the construction industry must play its own part in the recovery.
Our sector is still largely building in a way the Victorians would recognise. Unlike almost all other industries that have innovated, digitised and evolved, ours is yet to fully grasp the opportunities open to us to.
As we emerge from this crisis, we have to finally change how the industry operates to play our part in the country’s economic recovery.
We took space in national newspapers to demonstrate that future is available to us now. There is already a new, proven way of constructing the buildings and infrastructure society will rely on. Modern Methods of Construction shift the work away from construction sites and into safe, sustainable, high-tech manufacturing facilities – where new, inclusive, high-skilled jobs can be created, in regional centres.
Digital design and precision engineering work together to produce whole sections of buildings which can then be assembled on-site with much greater accuracy, efficiency and speed.
The more we do, the better it gets. We can now deliver a 600-bed hospital in 98 weeks, down from the four years it would take using traditional construction methods.
In the future, this will be the new normal, if we take the right steps now.
Ray O’Rourke KBE
Founder & CEO