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Reshaping the industry to stop to ‘race to the bottom’ procurement

As the UK looks to build its way to a brighter future following COVID, construction clients are being told that they hold the key to ensuring the sector emerges from the crisis a more efficient, inclusive and greener industry.

Constructing Excellence Midlands (CEM) – which was created to lead the change agenda and is already backed by many of the region’s key construction industry players – has launched a new guide aimed at all clients procuring construction work and who are therefore positioned to significantly influence the sector’s processes, practices and outcomes.

Central to the Client Commitments Best Practice Guide is the theme of achieving best value over the lifetime of the project and through considering social value. It calls for a move away from the all-too-familiar ‘race to the bottom’ that can be the result of traditional and often wholly unrealistic lowest-price procurement processes.

The Client Commitments Best Practice Guide deals with six main areas of responsibility for clients:

  • Emphasising the need for strong client leadership – which is at the heart of delivering change
  • Collaborative procurement and integration of the supply chain from an early stage in the project
  • A commitment to people and the need for clients to ensure that this culture is embraced throughout the supply chain
  • Sustainability and delivering against the net zero carbon agenda
  • Quality and compliance, through design, manufacture and installation
  • Health, safety and wellbeing.

A guide was first published in 2006 to outline best practice for clients in the build-up the huge level of construction activity anticipated for the London 2012 Olympics.

The newly launched 2021 guide –  which we developed in association with Nottingham Trent university  –  was arguably even more important now in the aftermath of COVID and the need to address the climate emergency.

For the last 12 months we’ve endured the COVID crisis but we now have the Government’s call to ‘Build back better, Build back faster, Build back greener’ and the Construction Leadership Council’s Roadmap to Recovery for the industry, all of which is taken into account in the new guide and which plays alongside the Value Toolkit and the Construction Playbook.

For the first time in many years the construction industry is coming together with one voice through which more people are understanding the concept of value, whole-life building costs and social value, rather than simply focusing on lowest price build cost.

We all live in a society which is accepting that – post-COVID – the construction industry that we look forward to is not the same one we left behind and clients have a major responsibility for shaping this. I would therefore encourage all clients of the construction industry to read this document, take on board its recommendations and work towards driving the change that we all need.

CLICK HERE to view the Client Commitments Best Practice Guide

CLICK HERE to watch CEO, Andrew Carpenter’s video introduction to the guide

CEM leads the change agenda in construction regionally as part of Construction Excellence’s national mission to improve the industry’s performance and produce a better built environment.

It wants a greater collaborative culture within the industry and acknowledges the need for committed leadership and a customer-focused approach in the sector. It wants to work with the client base to encourage a more enlightened approach to procurement that focuses on quality and delivery – not only cost.

Alongside achieving more integrated supply chains and lean processes, the aim is to pave the way for improved productivity, the adoption of new digital and off-site construction technologies, a focus on people and wellbeing and to address the need to attract and recruit the next generation of industry leaders.

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