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The impact of the covid-19 pandemic is causing extra productivity losses of around 15% on UK construction sites.
The virus has triggered programme delays and spiralling
costs that have aggravated the sector’s underlying performance problems, according
to consultancy Suiko, part of Turner & Townsend.
Using data from 70 medium-sized UK construction projects,
Suiko modelled that a £20m commercial real estate project with an 81-week
programme before the pandemic would typically suffer productivity losses of 20%.
Now, a project of this scale is seeing this rise to 35%
productivity losses with project completion delays of up to 32 weeks and
increases of around £600,000 in preliminary costs alone.
Analysis of 45 projects delivered during the pandemic showed
that that labour shortages together with the impact of social distancing is
accounting for around 7% of productivity losses. A further 1% is being lost
through the poor transfer of design information while remote working. In
addition, late material deliveries or unavailability is leading to another 7%,
according to Suiko.
Pinch points in the domestic materials supply chain are also
continuing to impact productivity with delays being reported in the arrival of
plasterboard and aggregates, it added.
Stephen Gallagher, principal consultant at Turner &
Townsend said that poor planning and inefficiency was a major contributor to
the problem: “UK construction has systemic productivity challenges. In
particular, the final phases of a project are typically the most inefficient as
contractors are often behind schedule and must throw extra labour at sites to
try and get buildings finished on time. This usual fix will not be possible with
social distancing and reduced labour.
“In the age of covid-19 the internal fit-out phase is the
most challenging because numerous trades are working on site (often out of
sequence), and there is a high volume of and variety of materials arriving to
Turner & Townsend called on the construction industry to mitigate the impact of covid-19 by embracing digital platforms, offsite construction methods and adopting the ‘lean’ approaches used by the manufacturing sector to boost performance.
Gallagher said: “Boosting construction’s productivity is key
to supporting the UK’s wider economic recovery. With low productivity and low
margins, the construction sector has poor resilience to weather the immediate
and long-term consequences of covid-19 on the economy.
“Short-term, the sector needs to look at whether it can
recover lost productivity on-site through smarter working practices. Lean can
help increase productivity whilst dealing with lower resource levels, by
removing large amounts of process “waste”. Planned versus actual progress can
be demonstrated in three dimensions using photo-realistic representations of
activity on site and validated using the contractors’ 4D schedule in order to
increase efficiency. By embracing modern methods of construction, the covid-19
impact on resource levels can be mitigated by taking processes off site.
“These solutions have been present for some time, but their
adoption is now urgent. We need to see a complete mindset shift to close the