The government’s construction pipeline forecasts £600 billion of infrastructure investment over the next decade, and encourages offsite construction methods.
In the 2018 National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline and Call for Evidence on Offsite Construction, published last week, billions were announced for investments in roads, hospitals and schools, alongside proposals to use modern technologies to build infrastructure in the most effective way.
The investment includes schemes announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his recent Budget, such as the £28 billion national roads fund, flagship projects like East West Rail, upgrading the M6 to a smart motorway, and Hornsea Project One – the largest offshore wind farm in the world.
To ensure maximum efficiency in building these projects, ministers are encouraging greater use of modern approaches such as offsite construction, and they have called for people’s views on how to encourage greater use of these cutting-edge techniques.
The report says that, despite significant contributions to the UK economy, the construction sector’s productivity is weak compared to other sectors like manufacturing.
It argues that applying modern manufacturing approaches to building projects can boost productivity and reduce waste by as much as 90%. For example, a school that typically takes a year to build could be completed in just over four months.
This manufacturing technique has already been used in several projects, including the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme. Parts of these bridges were made in a factory, meaning they were built more efficiently than if traditional methods of construction had been used.
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick said: “As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction.
“With £600 billion of investment over the next decade, including the largest ever investment in our strategic road network, we are taking the long term action required to raise productivity and ensure the economy is fit for the future.”
Highways England is the government-owned company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England's motorways and major A roads. Its Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “In recent years we have encouraged more computer-led design, automation, and pre-assembly across all of our construction activities.
“As well as driving productivity and efficiency, it improves worker safety and reduces delays and frustration for road users passing through our works.
“We will adopt ever increasing levels of automation and off-site construction on road improvement schemes and smart motorways in our next five year road investment programme.”