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Lessons learnt during Covid-19 pandemic leave lasting legacy for the construction industry

Lessons learnt during Covid-19 pandemic leave lasting legacy for the construction industry

Chartered Institute of Building

4 min read Partner content
  • Report from Chartered Institute of Building highlights positive outcomes for the construction industry from the pandemic
  • More than half of small and medium sized construction business say payment times have reduced, but more still needs to be done to speed up time taken for clients and contractors to pay
  • More than half say mental health support and hygiene provision has improved since pre-pandemic
  • Findings good news for end users who can benefit from projects being completed in potentially shorter time frames and more efficiently.

While the impact of Covid-19 is still being felt across the globe more than two years on, a new report published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) suggests the pandemic has left some positive legacies for the UK construction industry.

The report, ‘Learning lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic to strengthen the construction industry’, looks at how adaptations in the sector throughout the pandemic have helped improve long standing issues including collaboration and communication between contractors and clients, and flexible working patterns along with payment processes and worker wellbeing.

It cites the construction of Nightingale hospitals as an example of how better flexible working, collaboration and communication on a scale not typically associated with the construction sector, led to projects being completed in just nine days. The CIOB says lessons learnt from such projects must continue to strengthen the construction industry, not only for those working within it, but also for those they build for.

Daisie Rees-Evans, Policy and public affairs officer at CIOB, said: “Covid-19 had a monumental impact on people’s lives and livelihoods with businesses needing to adapt how they operate to keep their workers safe while staying financially afloat. Since the outbreak of the virus in the UK, we have seen a shift in business practices with construction seeing large improvements in supply-chain collaboration, access to hygiene facilities and provision for worker wellbeing.

“Our report reflects on the progress that’s already been made and what further opportunities can be harnessed to deliver change that positively impacts construction businesses, workers and the communities they build for. With the UK Government committing to procuring for social value, the publication of our report is timely in its approach to seek true cultural change.”

In a recent CIOB survey of 1,400 construction SMEs*, more than half said they have experienced improvements to payment times, hygiene facilities and mental health support since the pandemic struck, with temporary measures introduced as a necessity to keep the sector operating safely during lockdown, having become business as usual.

In total 52% of survey respondents said they’ve seen an improvement in the time it takes to get paid by clients since the pandemic, with more than half also saying they now receive payments in 40 days or less. A survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in 2017 showed at that time, fewer than a third of construction SMEs were paid within 30 days and almost a quarter were waiting more than four months to receive payments from clients or large contractors.

While this positive step forward has been welcomed, the CIOB research does however highlight that further improving payment terms to under 30 days remains a priority for the majority of SMEs, backing up a call from CIOB in the report for the Government to revisit it’s Prompt Payment Code. The code was overhauled mid-pandemic in 2021 to ensure those signed up paid small businesses within 30 days, however signing up remains voluntary, and in January this year the code had a mere 3,500 signatories.

Paul Singh, Commercial director at project and programme management consultancy, EEDN, said: “The pandemic has definitely increased collaboration and empathy within the industry from clients to consultants and contractors, opening up dialogue and reducing the adversarial approach.

“Construction has really taken note of the need to prioritise mental health and wellbeing. Projects are now defined with a new, hybrid way of working in mind and spaces have wellbeing built right into them.

“We have also seen greater proactivity when it comes to invoicing and payments, with invoices often being settled before the payment period is up. There is undoubtedly still a lot of work to be done but the signs are certainly encouraging.”

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