Nuclear ready to meet UK infrastructure challenges

Two years ago, Government and the construction industry jointly published ‘Construction 2025’. This sets out how both the industry and Government wish construction in the UK to be transformed by the year 2025, to become world class.

ICE hosts the Nuclear conference on 17 July 2015 in Westminster
ICE hosts the Nuclear conference on 17 July 2015 in Westminster
  • Updated: 17 July, 2015
  • Author: Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Adviser

It describes a vision for 2025; some bold ambitions; and the five themes to be developed: People, Smart, Sustainable, Growth and Leadership.

The nuclear new build programme presents an imperative for the industry to change. To meet the challenges of this ambitious programme – alongside the other large programmes for transport, flood defence, housing and much more. The industry really does need to transform itself. ‘Construction 2025’ points the way. Nothing short of a step-change is required.

‘Perfect storm’

Probably the biggest issue facing the construction industry at present is a skills shortage. Could this be our ‘burning bridge’? With a growing capital works programme, an ageing demographic and the industry failing to attract the next generation in sufficient numbers, construction in the UK is facing a ‘perfect storm’.

There are solutions. By providing confidence in the pipeline of future projects, industry is more likely to invest in people, plant and processes – to invest in its future growth. But more people are only part of the answer; we have an urgent need to improve productivity.

This is where new technology comes in – BIM, smart processes, innovation, mass customisation, off-site techniques. This should not be seen as a threat to ‘traditional construction’ – we need both, and a lot more of it.

Carbon and cost

And at the same time, we have another imperative – to reduce the carbon emissions associated with our industry. As the Green Construction Board has demonstrated, reduced carbon does not mean increased costs. On the contrary, there is a direct correlation between reducing whole-life carbon and reducing whole-life costs. This is an important finding.

ICE Nuclear 2015 will, I’m sure, address the challenges and opportunities of the nuclear new build programme that the UK is embarking on. But for me, the real prize will come from grasping this opportunity to transform our construction industry – delivering greater whole-life value, faster and with massively reduced carbon emissions. And importantly equipping the UK construction industry to, once again, play a far greater role on the international stage.

‘Construction 2025’ is our opportunity to radically transform construction in the UK over the next decade. Programmes like nuclear new build will be significant beneficiaries.

About the author

Peter Hansford FREng FICE is chief construction adviser to the UK Government.