Constructive 2017, the New Zealand Construction Industry Forum under the auspices of the Registered Master Builders Association, was held in Auckland from 2-4 August. 

The event is the only “all of industry” forum, bringing together the entire supply chain, from finance, land, design and build, and enabling sectors such as research, training and regulation. The enduring theme is collaboration . The focus is on breaking down the industry silos to deliver the step change required to respond to New Zealand’s growing building and construction demands.

Last year’s Constructive Forum resulted in a mandate for change; this year’s Forum was about progressing that change. The transformation began last year and this year it has gained more momentum. The Forum focused on two areas – how to work better with Government, and how to use technology and innovation to drive transformation. 

The Forum underlined the importance of the building and construction sector to the economic performance of New Zealand and the opportunities for our economy, the environment and our social wellbeing. In New Zealand, the building and construction sector accounts for 10% of GDP, 10% of employment and 10% of all businesses. At the same time, we know that globally 30% of greenhouse gasses are caused by the construction industry. Globally, a 1% reduction in construction costs would save $100 billion annually. The industry has an important part to play in reducing New Zealand greenhouse gas levels.

Government collaboration

Mayor Phil Goff welcomed participants to Auckland for Constructive 2017.  He highlighted key findings from the Auckland Mayoral Housing Taskforce. These include initiatives to improve the Auckland City Council’s consenting process with its “consenting made easy” programme and the introduction of a 10-day limit for some consent applications. 

Finance Minister Hon Steven Joyce outlined key initiatives to increase housing supply and improve infrastructure. He stressed the importance of increased visibility of the construction pipeline, the whole of life approach to building projects and improving procurement practices. He welcomed the opportunity to hear a strong, united view from industry.

Opposition Spokesperson for Building and Construction Mr Phil Twyford’s focused on his party’s intention to build through the troughs and deliver 100,000 houses over 10 years. Mr Twyford highlighted the importance of developing and training the workforce. He noted that the Opposition would make it mandatory for New Zealand building companies tendering for work from the Government to include apprentices in their bids.

Developing an Industry Transformation Agenda

Mr Simon Miller, Managing Director and Partner from the Boston Consulting Group, briefed the meeting about their work with the World Economic Forum, which looks at the state of the construction sector globally. It was evident that the issues confronting New Zealand are also global issues, and we can learn from overseas experience. The multi-year project identifies best practice emerging overseas. An emerging theme is that technology and innovation are central to addressing problems that have become inherent in the Construction Sector.  

Mr Miller highlighted cloud/real-time collaboration and mobile connectivity; Business Information Modelling (BIM); pre-fabrication & modular construction; wireless monitoring/sensing and the Internet of Things; big data, predicative analytics and artificial intelligence as the technologies consistently considered most impactful globally.  He urged the New Zealand sector to be ‘unreasonably aspirational’ in moving the industry forward.  

Constructive 2017 discussed BRANZ’s Industry Transformation Agenda (ITA) for New Zealand. This Agenda was initiated by BRANZ, and based on the Boston Consulting Group and World Economic Forum’s agenda, it works to develop  a systems approach to  address our the perennial challenges we face as an industry. 

Developed by industry leaders, Chelydra Percy (BRANZ), Matt Crockett (Fletcher Buildings), David Kelly (Registered Master Builders Association), Warwick Quinn (BCITO) and Connal Townsend (Property Council New Zealand),  the ITA was tested with industry participants through a survey and workshop.

The core design team talked participants through the framework, the potential benefits for of transformation, and sought feedback from participants on proposed priority projects. Participants agreed the adoption of innovative technologies, integrated planning and risk management were priorities. They also flagged that other issues, including the cost of materials, needed higher priority.

The ITA’s challenge to the industry is to work together to focus on practical projects to achieve system wide change.  Participants universally agreed that there was an urgent need to address the challenges confronting the industry. The meeting recognised the need for the sector to get in front of changes and the trends making an impact globally.  The sector must meet the challenge now or risk letting New Zealand down. Participants universally agreed that there was an urgent need to address the challenges confronting the industry. Seventy-one percent said they would give their own time, skills and/or resources to progress the ITA.

Last year

The Forum acknowledged, that since last year, the collaborative approach demonstrated by New Zealand industry leaders following the 2016. Participants welcomed that since the Constructive Forum in Christchurch that Chief Executives of major contractors through SiteSafe had formally agreed to standardise their approach to onsite health and safety, providing the industry with a best practice approach open to all. 

The BCITO was also applauded for their work on hop on hop off qualifications which responds to the sector immediate need for specific skills. 

Future action

The ITA industry leaders agreed to meet to develop a work programme including re-prioritising transformation projects in light of feedback from Forum participants. 

The ITA will also look at engaging with global industry leaders from companies such as Acciona in Spain, Siemens in Germany and Aecom in Canada, to share their lessons about realising change. 

Registered Master Builders Association Chief Executive, David Kelly said the Forum was a continuation of the collaboration sparked by the inaugural Constructive Forum participants. Constructive 2017 provided the sector with a plan for transformation, to change the way companies, the sector and government collaborate to meet New Zealand’s building and construction needs. Participants look forward to Constructive 2018.