As a business our purpose is to be sustainable; socially, environmentally and economically. We must continue to be profitable enough to grow and invest in our people so that we meet the needs of our customers and the challenges of the future by building better.
As businesses, we work on expectations to meet stretching long-term carbon commitments alongside expected revisions of environmental legislation from European directives, towards more nationally focused aims. We always want to remain legislatively compliant, to keep reviewing how we achieve that as new measures come into force, but we have company values that help steer us and our company purpose throughout the adaptation. For us, the changes in legislations (eg: ISO14001:2015) are helping to define how we might go forward.
Our stakeholders are a broad range of organisations and individuals, from end-user occupants and management staff, funds and investors, to residents living nearby. Our customers expect us to deliver the best quality and value for money, the communities we work within expect us to manage new developments with minimum fuss, disruption or nuisance from the construction site and our shareholders expect us to uphold the sustainable legacy that we have worked hard to deliver for over 70 years. There are ways to minimise the nuisance and maximise the value for money and quality, but they need a lot of planning and organisational rigour. A tenacious approach to this ensures we do our upmost to deliver the sustainable legacy we want to create.
Our long term vision for future Simons projects is of a very different world to the construction site of today:
- Many more materials and aspects of a construction project will be manufactured in factory conditions for assembly on site. Not only does this give fabricators a better home life, work life balance opportunities and more comfortable general working conditions due to less time spent on creating the different aspects; it also ensures clean and less variable products with minimised material wastage. Whilst on site, dust, noise and working time are minimized thanks to off-site fabrication.
- Robots and drones will do the repetitive and risky jobs, eliminating the need to work at height and ensuring precision quality and digital printing will replace expensive bespoke engineering. To do this we will need a new team of construction workers who can programme and pilot equipment away from the working theatre.
- This brave new world puts the real work in the hands of the users of Building Information Modelling (BIM), where information-rich environments are used to eliminate clashes, embed programming and ethical sourcing information, which can enable future building users to manage their assets more efficiently.
- We will also be able to see what’s going on in various locations more effectively, using 3D photography and viewing technology, dramatically reducing our company carbon footprint and the sometimes dreaded early starts for long car journeys to site!
What’s exciting about these is that each previous potential deterrence for young people towards the construction industry (dirt, noise, male dominated culture) will rapidly be eroded, if we get behind the adaptation that will be needed to thrive in the future. Construction will be safer, healthier, greener and better; for all the reasons above and also for the enthusiasm of the people in the industry and the variety in what we do. For more information check out the article ‘Girls that Build’ here.
Getting to this may take a number of big leaps in faith, some re-thinking in how we manage, control and evaluate processes. Much of the technology is already here and ready to use, it’s all about how we deal with our own inertia and welcome in pioneering spirit. We must be prepared to transform or our economic sustainability will be jeopardised, and with it any opportunity to do the right thing for the environment or society. That is our responsibility.