Research from Gleeds, has revealed that Covid-19 encouraged moves to more collaborative, less adversarial relationships. It found that delays and in response to programme pressures two thirds of contractors will seek to incorporate modern methods of construction (MMC) on future projects as a direct result of the pandemic, with 35% reporting an increase in the use of MMC during 2020.
The firm’s Autumn Market Report surveys main contractors, sub-contractors, suppliers, and colleagues operating in the UK construction market. More than 90% of contractors questioned suggest that the implementation of Covid-safe social distancing measures will lead to delays in project completion, with 10% believing that delivery schedules could be delayed by over 20%.
Programme pressures could explain the desire to expedite the adoption of MMC on future schemes which would not only help to improve the quality and predictability of delivery, but also potentially reduce the need for the presence of a considerable labour force on site.
A reduction in manpower would be particularly useful in addressing the fears of the 30% of respondents who are concerned that implementing Covid-19 safe distancing measures will be more difficult during the winter months.
Some sites had been using marquees or similar over the summer in a bid to extend usable outside space, however these solutions will be unviable in poor weather. It follows, therefore, that there may be a further impact upon productivity, with many in the industry believing that site output will not reach 100% until social distancing is fully relaxed and labour on site is at full capacity.
One positive to emerge from the pandemic is the apparent commitment to more collaborative ways of working. Previous surveys had indicated more adversarial approach to contracts was inevitable going forward. That figure has dropped by 30% this time round (71% in 2019), with only 41% of respondents noticing a more adversarial attitude over the quarter.
It would appear that many in the industry are taking a longer-term view, recognising the importance of supply chain stability and smarter, more collaborative procurement to achieve better project outcomes.
Douglas McCormick, executive chairman at Gleeds UK, said: “Over the past seven months there has been a conscious, collaborative drive to keep things moving. Our research shows that the construction industry has stood firm in the face of adversity, ensuring cost-efficient shut-down and reopening of sites; turning to innovative construction approaches, such as modern methods of construction (MMC); and maximising the use of digital tools, supporting revised site health and safety procedures.
“As we move forwards, the buildings we construct today will embody the resilience demonstrated during the pandemic. Flexible for adaptation to alternative uses, innovative in design from the outset, and future-proofed with the needs of their occupants at the heart.”