Tuesday, 6 February 2018


At the end of January I had two trips to Westminster to discuss digital construction.

The first was to take part in an 'expert roundtable' chaired by Chi Onwurah who is Shadow Minster for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation. NBS provided some of the participants as did the Federation of Master Builders and the British Property Federation.

After doing a number of projects over recent years to support the Government's construction initiatives, it was nice to be invited to participate in an event to help shape the oppositions strategy in this area.

Whenever you do a roundtable, you know that you will not get too much time to speak. So in preparation I wrote notes on the train down as to some of the key points against the discussion topics. These are below...

A roundtable session helping to influencing political strategy
1. How can we ensure we have the workforce required to meet the needs of the nation with future potential impacts on immigration?

We have to not take for granted that our young people will choose a career in the industry. At secondary school, those with a talent for designing and with a talent for building things must be made aware of the opportunities in the AEC sector. We need to show it’s an innovative, modern, rewarding career for those wanting to design or build. And something like engineering isn’t just for white males. The best talent it school is from a diverse background – this then isn’t represented in industry.

Going further, for those attracted to getting a professional qualification and university. There must be support on funding to help with fees. Equally the case to choose a career in the AEC sector must be made – and we’re up against stiff competition from automotive, aerospace and increasingly digital industries.

As we grow our countries infrastructure, we will of course still need immigration to meet demand. But in parallel to pulling in talent from around the world, we need to maximise the opportunities for our young people coming through our education system.

- Design Engineer Construct in secondary schools
- Go Construct resources

6.3% of GDP
£45bn of government spend
16% of UK employment = 2.9million jobs

2. To what extent can modern-methods-of-construction (MMC) and digital technologies transform the construction sector and how we can maximise their potential?

To appreciate the impact of digital technologies, you need to simply look at ten year steps to see how much has changed and how much will change. Ten years ago we had desktop products, physical libraries and the prime exchange format was paper. Twenty years ago we were taught design on a physical drawing board.

In ten years’ time we will be working collaboratively in the cloud and the knowledge we consume will be from a feedback loop coming from actual operation data with processing from artificial intelligence. Undoubtedly, MMC will grow and grow, we’ve standardised brick, block, door and window sizes and produce these in a factory. The same will happen with bedrooms, classrooms, bathrooms and surgeries.

- Bryden Wood publications for Government last year

3. How do we drive up productivity and standards within the small to medium enterprise (SME) construction sector?

SMEs do not have the research and development budget that larger organisations have. They cannot afford the luxury of dedicated staff to manage and champion standard, process or information in their office.

To allow SMEs to drive up their productivity standards there must be organisations and groups that pull together best practice and distribute this knowledge. At NBS we recognised that there was standardised way of producing specifications in the 1960s. We filled that need and now have affordable offerings for all sizes of projects. Five or six years ago we recognised there was no standardisation around objects and classification for BIM. Again, we filled that need and this gives great efficiencies and reduces waste across the industry.

Big Ben is poorly

Some impressive architecture/engineering within Portcullis House

The most expensive meeting space in London in £/m2?
The second event (the following week) was in support of an iniative to build a hub for global construction in the North East. A project called ic3. This event was at the Palace of Westminster.

NBS are one of a large number of companies in the 'BIM arena' within the North East that are supporting this initiative. In the words of Northumbria University vice chancellor Prof Andrew Wathey... “Building information modelling, smart cities, sustainability and the digital industry will have the ability to come together to play a significant role in the economic future of the North East.

“This centre, building on core research strengths at Northumbria University, in association with other partners, will make a key contribution to this process. The new centre will establish the North East’s role in the global leadership and application of this work.”

To read more about the ic3 project see:

Inside The Palace of Westminster on the banks of The Thames

Artwork looking like the Throne Room in GofT!

North East Business Leaders and politicians address the delegates

NBS article from a North East Digital Construction publication
Read the full interview with Richard Waterhouse NBS below:

For all things ic3 Newcastle - see the new website at:

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