'Digital technologies revolutionising the construction management'
The construction industry has faced an array of record challenges in the last few years. To mention a few- Labour and skills shortages, projects coming to a halt, rising material costs, and a need for better digital solutions. But there is still time and steps can be taken to tackle these issues that will help reform this industry in the long run.
In a conversation with LHC on our recently launched Consultancy Services framework, Euan Durston, Regional Director with ECD Architects, an organisation that specialises in the design of low energy, low environmental impact buildings, speaks about the measures we can take to reform procurement practices, thinking beyond BIM to harness new digital technologies, and how we can help the government achieve its net-zero target by building more energy efficient buildings.
Q. What according to you are the challenges facing the UK Construction Industry, particularly with retrofitting?
Euan: While funding streams such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund are driving the consultancy side of the domestic retrofit industry, a key challenge is the capacity of the supply chain to install retrofit measures at the scale required, while innovating to better integrate emerging technologies as well as overcoming the challenge of skills shortages. The retrofit industry needs to scale up to meet its targets and deliver benefits to clients.
There are also challenges regarding data management. Teams often commence retrofit projects with incomplete data on the existing building stock that leaves prevailing defects unrecorded, which further increases the technical and practical challenges of the projects. This in turn results in time and cost overruns for other remedial works which are falsely perceived as part of the cost impact of Retrofit.
Q. Do you think the government needs to do more with regard to its policies and the legislation on retrofitting?
Euan: There are some obvious things that could be done quickly to incentivise the industry such as removing VAT from retrofit works, revising the national planning policy framework to provide more guidance to planners about the need to prioritise retention and retrofit over demolition, and most importantly giving more power to local authorities to decarbonise the built environment through retrofitting.
Q. What according to you is the role of public sector frameworks in the building and construction sector, how it works for ECD in particular, and what benefits has it brought to your business?
Euan: Frameworks deliver numerous benefits to our clients and being appointed to a framework like CS1, by the LHC, establishes more coherent work opportunities for practices like ours and decreases the frequency of reprise and the need for lengthy procurement processes. Moreover, the collaborative nature of frameworks allows each business to benefit from each other’s consultancy and expertise, improving the project outcomes in return.
Q. ECD was appointed to our MDC1 framework and is now again for CS1. What makes LHC frameworks a preferred choice for ECD?
Euan: I think what sets LHC apart is the care taken to ensure the right combination of skill sets available against the right ‘lots’ in each of the frameworks, which helps clients access the services they need more easily.
Q. As one of the appointed companies on the CS1 Digital Co-ordinator lot, what would you say are the interesting digital construction technologies (such as BIM (Building Information Modelling) that could better support the delivery of projects?
Euan: Digital construction technologies are rapidly evolving and we are moving beyond BIM, which is now well-integrated. New opportunities are emerging with digitisation and the automation of planning, design, and construction management procedures. The concept of ‘Digital Twins’ is a key area of development now and will transform the way projects are developed and managed in the future. This will further allow for improved analysis of the outturn performance of the projects and better long-term asset management by clients.
Q. How do you think ECD could use its expertise in retrofit projects to help LHC clients?
Euan: At ECD, our goal is to help create high-quality sustainable buildings that will make a positive impact on our environment. Our talented team is made up of qualified Passivhaus designers who have extensive experience in designing low-energy retrofits as well as new-build projects. We also have expertise in retrofit coordination, and we support and advise clients on a series of successful SHDF (Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund) Wave 2 funding bids. We develop and promote industry best practices and adopt standards such as Passivhaus and EnerPHit standards that allow much higher building performance and comfort standards to be delivered and evidenced.
Q. Lastly what message would you like to give to the building and construction industry and what do you think the future of the industry will be?
Euan: We are at a turning point in the industry where we need to adapt new methods quickly to address a series of economic and environmental challenges. The response to the pandemic showed us that working practices can transform rapidly and dramatically when faced with a critical external challenge. We need to apply the same energy in response to the threat posed by climate change by breaking down procurement barriers within our industry and working more collaboratively to deliver a common goal of reducing the carbon footprint of our buildings and reaching towards a more regenerative approach to the built environment.
The recently launched, LHC CS1 framework is suitable for public sector projects of all sizes and enables organisations to access high-quality pre-approved consultancy service providers who can deliver projects across a range of public buildings. To learn more about CS1, click here.
Euan Durston has 25 years of experience in the design and delivery of housing for public sector clients, including local authorities and housing associations. He is currently working as a Regional Director for ECD Architects (Energy Conscious Design) covering London and the South of England. He began his career working on large-scale Estate Regeneration and Community Architecture projects in East London under the Government’s ‘Estate Action’ programme. He has since worked in private practice at a range of scales, delivering new-build and regeneration schemes, and continues his interest in community involvement in the design process.