Those responsible for delivering UK government major projects have been urged to make use of digital and robotics technologies to help soften the blow inflicted by the highest inflation rates seen in the country for over 40 years.
Major projects are the main mechanism by which the government invests in infrastructure, transforms services, and improves IT, including high-profile projects such as Crossrail.
The cost of materials for big construction projects has risen by 23% in the last six months, according to Nick Smallwood, the chief executive of the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA).
The IPA head, who was giving evidence to parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said that programmes to build schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure are now experiencing the impact of inflation as “a very real issue, [that] is beyond a risk: it is reality”.
To help counteract the huge spike in costs, Smallwood said that project leaders “have to really be focused on having robust delivery plans, long-lead procurement of the critical materials if that is possible, and looking to offset any inflationary pressures by being more productive”.
In his address, Smallwood emphasised the importance of using technology in the design and delivery of construction programmes, adding that there are “huge opportunities” to do far better projects with far less cost.
In his list of recommendations, the IPA head encouraged the adoption of digital technologies such as robotics and automated design softwares on government major projects. But most importantly leveraging modern methods of construction and offsite fabrication to take “work hours out of the field.”
Smallwood said that there has been a promising uptick in the use of such methods on government projects such as the hospital, school and prison building programmes.
“There is more to do, but there is a real opportunity to be a significant offset to all the inflationary pressures in the next couple of years,” he said
Appearing alongside Smallwood at the PAC session was Cat Little, HM Treasury’s director general for public spending, who commented: “I would not want anyone to think that this is all managed and fine. There are some really big inflationary pressures facing all departments and all programmes.
“The IPA has done some fantastic work in trying to evidence as much as we can, but it is really early days, and what I am really worried about is where departments are struggling to evidence what the impact is.”
Little added that the impact of inflation was being felt “not just [by] major programmes – we have big pressures just on basic running costs and particular pay costs within government”.
Image credit: ShutterstockProfessional/Shutterstock
Are you a building professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.