Last edited 25 Dec 2020

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The Institution of Civil Engineers Institute / association Website

Perceptions of the construction sector



[edit] Introduction

At forums, seminars and conferences, it is repeatedly stated that the construction industry is light years away from the aerospace and automotive sectors in terms of innovation – and this is often backed up with figures and graphs.

But are the common perceptions of the construction sector - too traditional, lacks innovation, doesn't collaborate - fair, and if they are, what do we need to do about it?

[edit] Innovation

Why is it we are unable to convey all the innovation ‘buried’ in every motorway, bridge, tunnel or airport that is built? Innovation that has been generated, day after day, for centuries and that is a faithful reflection of the engineering involved in designing, developing new materials and defining new processes.

[edit] Collaboration

The second criticism of the sector focuses on collaboration. Considering the time taken to carry out a construction project we are one of the most agile sectors when it comes to not only mobilising a work force but also redistributing its members to the next project in record time.

We set up joint ventures according to market needs and the expertise each firm can contribute. We are able to work for six or seven years with common procedures as if we were one single firm, which we then dissolve in a quasi-magical way.

We have a chain of sub-contractors that enter and leave our projects with millimetre precision and that we share without reservations among the firms within the sector. So why is it we are still labelled as a poorly collaborative industry compared to other sectors?

[edit] Traditional

On many occasions, the negative attitudes towards construction can be summed up in one word: ‘traditional’.

We do not want to be complacent or justify ourselves. We must improve and continue innovating, collaborating and strengthening our work. Although not the only one, one of our pending challenges is the use of new technologies and digitalisation.

I believe that the true and consistent adoption of building information modelling (BIM) – which is more than just about 3D models – is a catalyst for the adoption of new technologies and, in particular, for the efficient management of information.

It is a great leap forward but, still, there are more questions than answers as to why we are unable to change our image in terms of innovation and collaboration.

[edit] Questions needing answers

With all these questions in mind, I wonder if we will succeed in changing the image of the traditional construction industry? I am convinced that, with time, we will.

This article was originally published here on 6 Sept 2017 by ICE. It was written by Teodoro Alvarez-Fadon, Global Head of Innovation, Ferrovial Agroman.

--The Institution of Civil Engineers

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