Promoting Change in the Construction Industry

Image showing building work

It’s no secret that the UK construction industry has suffered from a poor reputation over the years, particularly around poor standards of performance, which have inevitably translated to poor building energy performance; in turn leading to vast amounts of energy consumption and carbon emissions from buildings.

Reports criticising the industry stem from as far back as 1934 and over the last 30 years reports from Latham, Egan, Wolstenholme, Farmer and Hackitt have promoted change for a better quality, safer built environment; and suggested approaches to tackling the issues through change. In 2013, Construction 2025 set ambitious targets to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions from the built environment by 2025; and the Transforming Construction Challenge (TCC) fund was launched in 2018 to facilitate the industry to meet these targets.

The Significance of Culture Change

In order to implement any change in any organisation or industry, a focus on culture is a must. It is not enough to simply lay out a strategy, as the famous quote from management consultant, Peter Drucker, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”, suggests. Having a strategy is all well and good but, without addressing the culture of the organisation, industry, or society, it is almost impossible to make a change stick. This is no easy task however, particularly in an industry so resistant to change.

Challenges to Change

There are many challenges to implementing a change (such as enabling an industry to adopt the Active Building concept), which can act as significant barriers if not addressed properly. In recent research I carried out, I asked key construction industry stakeholders to identify the main barriers to adopting a new concept that they believed held them back and prevented innovation in construction. The responses fell into 9 main categories:

Procurement; Knowledge; Time; Cost; Risk; Lack of Feedback; Maintenance Worries; Aesthetics; Regulations/Policy

If we want the Active Building concept to be adopted on building projects, we must collectively address these challenges. Our Active Building Toolkit provides knowledge on Active Buildings and learnings from our Active Building demonstrators, with the aim of reducing risk and design time. Data we collect from our building demonstrators, coupled with technology developments, will help reduce energy, carbon and costs over time; and can be used to inform policy and regulations. The building demonstrators aim to show that any aesthetic can be achieved and that maintenance requirements are no more onerous than on other buildings. Addressing the ‘Procurement’ challenge is not within our remit at SPECIFIC, but is something others in the industry are focusing on.

Change Models

Many different change models have been developed to enable changes to organisations, and these can equally be applied to implementing changes to an industry. In finding a way to enable the Active Building concept to be adopted, through developing an Active Building Protocol, I have found Kotter’s 8-stage model for change the most useful, although some of the other models I reviewed have also been helpful when considered alongside this model. These included Bridges’ Transition Curve; Lewin’s Force Field Analysis; Roger’s State of Change Theory and Innovation Adoption Curve; and Johnson and Scholes’ Cultural Web. Here’s an example of how I think Kotter’s model could be applied to enabling the adoption of the Active Building concept through the Active Building Protocol.

Table showing Kotter's model applied t Active Buildings

The four main strands of the Active Building Protocol:

Table showing four main strands of Active Building Protocol

If you are interested in finding out more about our work on promoting change in the construction industry, or hearing more about our Active Building Protocol, please get in touch, info_specific@swansea.ac.uk.

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