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Last edited 18 Jan 2021
Sustainable Living research project
The government’s 2017 housing white paper is critical of the construction industry - just as a major piece of research looking into materials choice in the construction industry supply chain gets underway.
Against the background of a severe housing shortage, falling numbers of new-build housing units and a skills shortage in the house-building sector, it accuses the industry of being 'slow to modernise and make use of more efficient and faster ways of building'.
 Doing things differently
The tone of the white paper - that the housebuilding industry is reluctant to embrace change - echoes that of the Farmer Review of the UK construction labour model 'Modernise or die'. It also reflects Farmer's assertion of the need for more offsite construction of innovative building products:
"What do we need to do to get the industry to do things differently – to change its practices towards those that result in greater productivity, more innovative construction practices, products and materials, and the sustainability of both the industry and the built environment that results from its endeavours?"
 Searching for the right solution
Among other things, this involves in-depth interviews with a sample of key industry stakeholders (including civil engineers, Tier 1 contractors, architects, clients, materials specifiers and end-users).
It also involves a large-scale, quantitative survey of such stakeholders and a focus group to consider the research findings. Readers of this blog are encouraged to participate in the project's interviews, survey and focus group.
 Influencing material choices in the supply chain
Chiming with many of Farmer's core recommendation principles, these include: finance, custom and practice, knowledge/training, regulatory compliance, communication, and client specification. (This is not an exhaustive list, and people are welcome to suggest other factors that have a bearing on materials choices.)
The aim of the UH-Tarmac sustainable living research project, Supporting innovation and best practice in the materials supply chain: Communicating and learning with suppliers and end-users, is to shed light on the barriers to the greater use of innovative, sustainable building materials, by exploring in-depth both the nature of the barriers themselves and the relative significance of each of them in influencing purchasing decisions.
The 3-year, £150,000 research project aims to explore and understand purchasing decision-making processes and contexts in the construction industry supply chain, and the impact of these on the demand for sustainable building products.
 How can I get involved?
The anticipated project outputs include a detailed report on purchasing decision-making in the construction industry supply chain, and briefing notes for industry stakeholders in respect of how to overcome the multiple prima facie barriers to innovation and modernisation that the research will address.
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