There’s a lot of noise about construction’s need for a ‘new normal’, putting the lessons of the COVID-19 response into practice to deliver the long held ambitions of improved productivity and sustainability.

But isn’t this the shift in paradigm that the construction industry has been talking about for years while doing the same old thing over and over again?

McKinsey recently published its “The Next Normal in Construction” report on how disruption is reshaping construction. The report offers an excellent analysis of the sources of disruption for a sector that has consistently underperformed for decades. It predicts a more standardised, consolidated and integrated construction process than today’s highly complex, fragmented and project based process.

The report reiterates what the industry and government have wrestled with for some time. It’s four years since the Farmer’s Modernise or Die report was published and two years since the Government’s Construction Sector Deal was announced. Yet up until March this year, there was little evidence that many of the recommendations were gaining traction.

We are now at a moment in time where the construction sector needs to reset, capitalising on the momentum of innovation and disruption that was accelerated by COVID-19. Artificial Intelligence, digital engineering, offsite construction, along with collaborative procurement all have a major role to play in driving a new approach to increase productivity and quality across the sector.

There is no reason that change shouldn’t be immediate. Yes, there are new safety regulations about distancing and contact to comply with, but the resource, knowledge and expertise that drove rapid innovative solutions during the pandemic have been ignored for years in a sector unwilling to change.

The UK Government has just announced an infrastructure pipeline that includes 340 procurement contracts, across more than 260 projects. It’s a broad range of work that covers construction and civil engineering, repair and maintenance, architectural and consultancy services and is worth £37 billion over the next year.

The pipeline is the perfect opportunity to implement the ‘new normal’ and focus on modern methods of construction to deliver a new normal that is efficient, productive and sustainable.
The tools are all there to achieve the ‘new normal’. The sector just needs to pick them up and get on with it.