A new independent review commissioned by the British government found that the country’s construction industry is foundering. Poor training, a shortage of skilled workers, and a dearth of industry innovation are the main factors contributing to a stalling construction sector, according to the report (PDF) alarmingly titled “Modernize or Die.”
The study suggests that business-as-usual practices are leading to construction methods requiring a high amount of manual labor, but without the necessary training to make such labor productive and cost-efficient. Rather, the industry should invest in innovation and R&D that would bring in more manufacturing-oriented building models like prefab construction, making the sector less reliant on skilled labor and more efficient.
“The challenge the report sets us is to do things differently – to reduce the reliance on building in the same way that we have for decades if not centuries, with its heavy demand for on-site labour,” writes Andrew Wolstenholme, Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council, in the report. “We will not have the labour force to deliver what the country needs by working in those ways, and those ways will not create enough added value for clients or suppliers to allow construction firms to prosper, and make those investments in our people and performance.”
A 2015 report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (PDF) also found the U.K. to be in the midst of a housing crisis, calculating that home-building would need to more than double to produce the 250,000 new homes needed each year to meet present and future demand. At least one new prefab housing factory has opened in the U.K. to try and fill this niche.
But the latest report goes further, recommending government intervention to spur prefab construction methods, a reform of the Construction Industry Training Board, policies to drive innovation, and even a financial penalty for construction businesses that fail to revamp their methods.