This month in our 4 Questions interview we spoke to Dr David Hancock, Director of Construction at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA). Having worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors, David now leads the Government Construction Team and chairs the Government Construction Board for the Cabinet Office and the IPA. Following the release of The Construction Playbook and the National Infrastructure & Construction Pipeline, David discusses the future of construction and how the industry can work together to create solutions and use data to their advantage.
Hi Dr Hancock, it’s great to see you representing the IPA at this year’s UKCW – what is your aim for the event?
My main focus is on the tech programme which involves the Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme and the playbook. For those quite high up in the industry, they get that. But as you go further down through trade staff, they don’t understand it so much. By being at the UKCW, we hope to expose them to what the government’s doing at SME level because I don’t think they’re as informed. I’m also interested to present them with some of the problems we are facing so they can help come up with some of the solutions.
What would you consider to be the main problems and how do you think these can be solved?
The usage of data is important to everyone and the work Barbour ABI does means we can see what’s being built, where it’s being built and where they can get involved, so I think that’s really quite exciting. Things are often spoken about, but it’s very poorly done. In the construction industry, it’s not going to collaborate as a whole – it’s hard enough on a project or a programme. If you think about the industry, we don’t really get information out. The information is available, but people don’t know it, so it seems to stop in a treacle somewhere around about first and second tier, and then the people below aren’t aware of all the things going on. So there’s a whole list of stuff which they can be involved in which is available to them and they’re not aware of it. With something like UKCW, it’s making not only them aware, but also young people in the industry. You can say to young people ‘look if you want to join us, there is a whole future for you out there’. A lot of the young people, particularly a lot of the students, are therefore able to say ‘I can see now if I were to work in the north east, there is work for me in this region for at least five or six years’, so I think it’s a really exciting time in the industry.
You’re really setting the scene for the industry with the playbook, which is also really important for the future, isn’t it?
I think you’re right, but to be honest, people know what’s good and what’s bad and so getting people in early is always going to be a good thing. It’s not just our ideas in government – we don’t have the mandate and ideas, it’s about giving them a problem to work on. I’ve found in the industry if you put them all together they actually will find solutions that work for everybody rather than just one particular company or one particular organisation and that’s what we’re looking for is an alliance that can work together.
So how did the playbook come about?
The playbook came out of good practice in the industry. We looked at what other people in the industry were doing and where they were saying ‘this is a good project, this is a good programme’. We also had the outsourcing playbook beforehand which had good acclaim, so we then said well really construction is similar to councils, but with its own nuance and specialities. So in a similar way, we looked at getting people together, both industry and government. We put them in a room and asked them what’s important, how they would like to use the solution and then to came up with a playbook that says ‘if we did this, would we get good quality?’ because quality is what we’re about.
To find out more about the government’s plans for the future of construction, read the IPA’s Transforming Infrastructure Performance – Roadmap to 2030.