Modern Construction Transformation needs an evidenced business case

To much is taken for granted in construction. The view that construction's traditional chaotic practices and culture will prevail is still as dominant, just as the opposite views tendered by those who voice a future which is smarter, better, safer, faster, more reliable and cheaper. But, the advocates for change mostly come to this conversation looking through a lens of self-interest. Those advocating these interests lack any independently verifiable evidence to support change. In the academic world it is easier to continue looking to that future through a 'business-as -usual' lens, or by jumping onto less than rigorous funding to help support the case of one vendor or policy initiative.

Its no wonder the industry's customers and policy makers are confused.

Research Week at the University of Western Sydney provided an opportunity for an Industry perspective to be shared with Academics. It was an opportunity to ask more questions than could be answered without some serious new investigation. It was an opportunity to ask how new insights into modern construction may find their way into the construction program to help better prepare the next cohort of constructors to be future ready. It was also an opportunity to put it to researchers that they were the ones that are best placed to evidence what might work better to inform clients and policy makers about what they could be doing to get a better deal out of modern construction.

I was asked to speak to the role of Prefab Construction or Off-Site Construction Manufacture (OSCM). This conversation could have just as easily been centred on BIM, DFMA, Quality Assurance, Sustainability, CPM (Critical Path Method) or other potentially game changing innovations for our industry. Blockchain will be next. I believe that a progressive shift to OSCM will occur, but this alone will not change the game unless the industry radically rethinks how construction's pieces and parts will all join-up to assure customers that what they have ordered is what they are assured to get.

The Fifth Estate has just published the discussion paper I prepared for Research Week.

Prefab: Solution or Symptom article (opens in a new window).

The construction industry does not need any more regulations or fads to resolve how tomorrows built-world could be fit-for-purpose, compliant, resilliant, smart and low impact. But, the industry does need to give serious thought to what 'Smart Buildings' will be like and how to make them. Smart is a new notion for those who might snap to a preconceived image and say 'Oh I know what that is'. Similar questions to those raised in my Prefab conversation with researchers will apply. I think the answers are just starting to unfold. We will be investigating answers to these questions at the Centre for Smart Modern Construction in the Construction Management program at Western Sydney University. This will involve close collaborations with our Law, Business and Computing colleagues, and guess who else, Social Sciences. Yes ethics will be needed.

Our Centre for Smart Modern Construction will be introduced to the Western Sydney Construction Community next week. For those who are interested in becoming part of the Centre and helping to contribute to building the industry capabilities that will be needed to deliver the massive pipeline of projects planned for Western Sydney over the next 20-years please join us and register your attendance below.

Smart Modern Construction Breakfast registration (open in a new window).

Written by:
David Chandler OAM
Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University
10 November 2017