As construction costs skyrocket, can skills make a difference?

Construction costs Ellis Fox Blog

A recent review indicated that London is now the most expensive city to build in. More expensive than Geneva, Zurich, Munich, New York City and San Francisco. It’s not just London making the list, there are seven other UK cities in the top 20. Why is the UK is so expensive to build in?

Industry voices suggest that the lengthy planning permissions process has a lot to do with it. Combined with how UK construction contracts are structured, a shortage of key skills, and materials inflation, no wonder Main Contractors are always on the back foot. It doesn’t make it any easier that most major infrastructure projects are plagued with endless delays and interruptions as funders debate whether or not to proceed, given the escalating costs.

With no simple solution in sight, can skills help construction gain some ground in the interim?

It’s been reported that the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel Project has already spent more than £800 million and most of that has been on planning applications. Endless delays and changing requirements have the potential to scuttle major projects before they even start. There are few that know how to navigate this complex world. Yet there are opportunities for collaboration.

Many of the hold ups in planning permissions relate to environmental concerns, including encroachment on sensitive habitats and ecosystems. Rather than seeking ways to get around these requirements a better approach may be to understand their importance. There are many skilled professionals that are well versed in environmental legislation and can advise how to go about planning so that risks are greatly reduced. When these concerns are addressed in initial submissions it may help to accelerate the permissions process.

Once projects are underway, construction is well aware of the need to manage costs more effectively. As a result, the demand for quantity surveyors remains high. It takes more than a mathematical brain to manage project costs. QS’s are required to have strong negotiation skills and be able to develop good industry relationships with various stakeholders. These skills become invaluable in helping to keep projects on track and mitigating losses when projects invariably don’t go according to plan.

The industry may be slow to change but skills can be the driver to make it happen. Investing in the right people shouldn’t be viewed as a cost, but rather a way to keep ahead of industry challenges.