Calum Murray: Construction must grasp collaboration

Construction is traditionally slow to embrace change. But in the face of skills shortages, materials shortages and rising demand, our sector needs to innovate and become more productive to support the delivery of ambitious national housebuilding targets.

CCG (Scotland) delivered 700 homes for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes village. Picture: Robert Perry

We face a shortfall in housing supply across Scotland, with rising demand for private, affordable and social homes to be built faster and to higher quality standards.

The Scottish Government aims to build 50,000 new affordable homes over the next five years to address the housing shortfall. To support this, the construction sector needs to be more creative in our response and look to new approaches to housebuilding. These already exist and it is my belief that as an industry we need to increase how quickly we adopt them.

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Off-site modern methods of construction are already in use and widely proven. This method has significant advantages allowing buildings to be constructed quicker and safer, with cost benefits, quality and environmental advantages. At our off-site manufacturing facility in Cambuslang, CCG OSM, up to 60 per cent of a house can be built indoors, including insulation, doors and windows.

If used more extensively, particularly in the delivery of affordable housing, it could transform the way housing and other buildings in Scotland are delivered, making the industry as a whole stronger and more resilient. It will have a key role to play in helping to meet the Scottish Government’s housing target of 50,000 homes in this parliament.

In construction, legislation has traditionally been the main driver of change, but with new approaches gaining traction, it is my hope that this time the industry will itself rise to the challenge. Last week I attended an event hosted by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and Off-Site Management School which looked more in depth at design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) and how off-site can be used across a range of project types. Already, this inherently collaborative approach is being applied in housing, commercial buildings and even large infrastructure projects such as the Queensferry Crossing.

I am very proud to say that CCG (Scotland) is one of the companies which has already embraced off-site and DfMA with great success. It helped us deliver 700 homes in 700 days for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes village, now an exemplar low-carbon residential community.

First, we must acknowledge that, like many other industries, we are already changing. DfMA and a variety of associated “new” construction methods are here to stay. The industry needs to work collaboratively and learn together so that we can take full economic advantage of the value of innovation.

We already have excellent resources in Scotland to help us achieve alll this and become much more productive. CSIC offers advice and project support to help companies find better and faster ways of delivering their products and services, as well as various training sessions and workshops to help the industry network and learn. Next month the centre is hosting a course directed at those in the affordable housing sector on the building information modelling (BIM) process, which helps manage assets across the whole life of a building to make its ongoing maintenance simpler and more considerably more cost-effective.

It does seem clearly that clients and procuring authorities are increasingly recognising the need for innovative building techniques. Both the good turnout and the tangible sense of excitement in the room at the CSIC and Offsite School event confirmed this.

My hope is that the industry increasingly sees the potential and more quickly grasps the opportunities. As one delegate leaving the conference commented: “Why wouldn’t you want to do it this way?”

• Calum Murray is director of CCG (Scotland)