For the Road Review section this month, we asked the industry decision-makers, ‘What factors help the industry build up more capability to deliver the current pipeline of construction work?’
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the key to capability development, both in technical and non-technical areas. Technical learning provides industry professionals with knowledge of contemporary best-practice in the areas of infrastructure design, sustainability and technology, whilst non-technical learning can address resource management, project leadership or business administration skill gaps. The regulation of built environment engineers in Queensland and Victoria brings with it a mandatory professional development obligation but whether registration renewal is the driver or not, a commitment to ongoing professional development and lifelong learning is vital at a time of rapid, ongoing change in the construction sector.
The Civil Contractors Federation encourages a joint effort between industry and governments to address some key constraints to help alleviate capability issues in our issue. Firstly, addressing skill constraints, which are illustrated by the recent historical downturn in vocational education completions, is a significant risk to industry capability. Secondly, procurement constraints hinder the effective delivery of projects and increases costs to businesses, which also limits their capacity to invest in upskilling. And thirdly, cyclical constraints, as evidenced by a historical ‘boom-and-bust’ cycle, amplifies constraints during periods of strong investment and then worsens structural issues during periods of low investment.
Fewer available resources to deliver the current pipeline of construction work forces industry to adopt new and innovative ways to deliver designs. For instance, driving reliance on 3D modelling during the design process to reduce the number of 2D drawings will increase productivity during design, and provide efficiencies across the supply chain during construction. Designs are also being more closely scrutinised, ensuring that only elements that provide value throughout the project’s lifecycle are designed and constructed. The key to innovative and efficient design is leadership which encourages creativity and continuous upskilling with new technology, while balancing project risks.
With skyrocketing works’ volumes, steel and timber price hikes, an increased focus on reducing carbon emissions and a skills shortage, the post pandemic key to boosting construction capability will be to work smarter. Fundamental changes in culture and construction practices are needed if construction productivity – which typically lags behind manufacturing productivity – is to be improved. Collaboratively embracing off-site manufactured products through engagement of industrialised construction and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) methodologies will be key, as will be making better use of the less-price-affected available products. Using high quality elements like precast, which are factory manufactured and simply bolted into place rather than being poured or built from scratch on site, has flow-on benefits. These include reducing site waste, lowering site activity, improving site safety while delivering higher quality, more durability, and more environmental benefits – all of which lead to superior, more energy-efficient structural outcomes.
The construction industry is the second largest industry in Australia; however, it hardly receives any attention from the Australian Research Council. Construction has not been a research priority for the government for so many years, as a result of which many researchers try to associate their projects with other fields to enhance the chance of success in attracting funding for their projects. This will have significant impact on the innovativeness and performance of the industry. Having a research-informed construction industry that is innovative can result in more efficient practices, where projects are delivered with less resources.
This column initially appeared in the April edition of Roads & Infrastructure magazine. Read the magazine here.
If you or someone at your organisation is an industry leader and would like to be a part of this monthly column in 2022, please get in touch with Editor, Tara Hamid: firstname.lastname@example.org