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NIC chair labels UK construction industry as 'laggards'

Sir john armitt speaking at bentley yii2018 3to2

The chair of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has described the UK construction industry as the “laggards”, saying it needed to improve productivity to keep pace with other industries.

Speaking at the Bentley Year in Infrastructure conference in London, NIC chair Sir John Armitt said over the last 20 years, productivity in the UK construction industry had flatlined, and had lagged behind other UK engineering sectors such as the automotive and aerospace industries.

The former Olympic body chair questioned why so little investment was put into finding more, new efficient building materials as alternatives to steel and concrete.

“Why do we use steel and concrete to build everything, there must be other materials available, but yet we never seem to get to grips with that,” he said. “Fibre reinforcement instead of steel in concrete, we’ve been talking about it for 30 years but then someone will say to me, it’s not possible we’ve done it so many times in university laboratories.

“My answer is, I don’t care I want it cheaper, I want it faster I want it better, in the same way as the car industry works and the aviation industry works.”

In a cash strapped society, he said more needed to be done to make the industry more efficient to attract private investment and new technology should be seen as an enabler to match the pace of the other industries.

“The technology advancement is fantastic news as it ought to start to enable us to make the changes that are necessary to allow us to keep up with other industries as at the moment we’re not, we are the laggards of the industry,” he said.

“Everyone in this room pays for infrastructure,” he said. “Government doesn’t have money, it only has our money. The energy companies and the water companies, who’s money are they using, they’re using our pension schemes and our savings but they’re charging us for it.

“It’s our money and no other money and therefore we have to make sure that it’s used in the most cost-effective way.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Car industry is designing for 15 years, or much less with the electrical items in its modern products. Consulting Engineers are not noted for living the design-life of their Civils Prototypes. Discuss.

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  • The point is well made. The UK industry positively refuses to actually invest money and there are two reasons, procurement and cheap labour. Contractors and consultants alike are equally guilty, lots of talk but the people who do the real work, the sub contractors see no reason to invest in the hostile environment whilst many of the older well proven ways of doing things have been thrown on the bonfire of imagined commercial risk reduction; I purposely exclude most Tier 1 contractors as they just buy and sell rather than build these days.

    with regard to the previous comment would it not be sensible to be building stone or mass concrete arched structures for HS2,? Avoiding putting steel in concrete and standardising our designs would seem a logical step forward to the past. where the longevity of the structure has been well proven.

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