Ibrahim Imam, co-founder and co-chief executive of PlanRadar, explains why healthcare developers should be looking at ways to reduce waste in order to increase the overall profitability of projects
The construction industry has a long-standing problem when it comes to waste, remaining the largest user of materials in the UK and generating an estimated 120 million tonnes of construction, demolition, and excavation waste every year.
As such, a focus on greener building is driving decision making in every aspect of the built environment.
It’s also a concerning fact that build quality inconstancy has plagued construction for years.
The healthcare sector, which possesses the UK Government’s largest property portfolio, is leading the way to a more-sustainable approach to building
Putting this in context, statistics from sector-backed NPO’s Get it Right Initiative (GIRI) reveal the direct cost of avoidable error is around 5% of project value, equating to some £5billion per year.
If we consider the impact of unmeasured or indirect costs, it brings estimates closer to 10-25%, equating to more than £20billion a year in the UK alone.
And it all mounts up to a large amount of waste, arguably much of which is avoidable.
A more-sustainable approach
However, things are starting to change, and the healthcare sector, which possesses the UK Government’s largest property portfolio, is leading the way to a more-sustainable approach to building.
Significantly, the sector has played a central role within the nation’s sustainable construction strategy from an early stage, particularly around construction waste and ways to reduce it, and efforts continue today.
It’s no secret that public sector budgets, particularly in healthcare construction, face intense scrutiny, with more pressure to deliver on budget and on time.
The recent, soaring cost of building products has presented a real challenge, squeezing margins and encouraging a leaner approach to construction.
It’s no secret that public sector budgets, particularly in healthcare construction, face intense scrutiny, with more pressure to deliver on budget and on time
And this is especially pertinent, as healthcare facilities often require a higher number of materials compared to other types of buildings.
In such tough economic conditions, finding ways to reduce snags and defects should, and is, being seen as a top priority.
With fewer costly errors to fix and rectify, projects can remain as close to projected construction costs as possible, keeping all parties happy.
This has inevitably led the sector to become a pioneer for different innovative approaches, protocols, tools, and systems designed to help tackle waste.
A role for technology
For example, stringent sustainability frameworks, such as the Net Zero Carbon Hospital Standard, have been put in place by NHS trusts up and down the UK to meet its ambitious 2040 targets; and they’re working!
Importantly, these plans also place a greater focus on digital strategies to help create a greener health service, highlighting the major role technology will play in reducing emissions before, during, and post construction.
But contractors and asset owners alike have realised that, while the framework offers the essential guidelines for best practice, these protocols alone are not enough to ensure standards are being met throughout the project journey.
Crucially, detailed records are needed to monitor progress at every step to ensure safe, smart, and sustainable construction.
And this has led to the increased trialling and adoption of the latest digital tools on major projects, particularly collaborative construction management software to achieve these twin goals of higher quality and lower emissions.
Analysing the journey
These platforms are ensuring all site documentation and images, such as safety reports, videos, checklists, or maintenance sheets, are all recorded and saved in one place, making it easier to access important information through a central, secured location.
By ‘phygitally’ standardising the quality control process, it has reduced the number of errors and potential defects, delivering higher quality and lower waste across the board
In turn, the winning combination of these landmark frameworks and digital platforms is enabling those involved in the planning, construction, and handover phases to analyse the journey like never before in order to clear guidelines, monitoring work progress in real-time and creating a robust audit trail to ensure precision and accuracy and reduce the likelihood of mistakes.
The healthcare sector was an early adopter of this approach, one which is making reporting clear and unambiguous, and as easy to read at C-suite level as it is for a site manager on the ground.
Fundamentally, by ‘phygitally’ standardising the quality control process, it has reduced the number of errors and potential defects, delivering higher quality and lower waste across the board.
It’s also creating a culture where workers can enter data quickly and easily, providing a complete and accurate digital record that proves work has been carried out to the highest standard, achieving better results every time.
But this only scratches the surface – there’s potential for ConTech to go much deeper.
The significant increase of healthcare construction projects over the last five years, the pace of construction, and material requirements will inevitably have a significant impact on the environment.
And it’s further encouraging players in this field to look to innovative solutions and leaner methods to deliver best quality while meeting strict socially-driven targets.
The recent, soaring cost of building products has presented a real challenge, squeezing margins and encouraging a leaner approach to construction
We are seeing the development of more interoperative, ‘digital ecosystems’ where AI and AR are increasingly playing a greater role in reducing waste through smart sensor technology.
Centrally-controlled sensor technology is enabling greater oversight of construction projects, improving carbon reporting accuracy and integrity to ensure healthcare buildings are as sustainable as possible from the build start as they are once fully operational.
Ultimately, other sectors, not quite as far down the digital road, should take note of how healthcare construction is evolving.
Adopting similar modern approaches, and the latest digital construction tools, will inevitably help the wider industry to evolve, placing the objective of uncompromising quality assurance at the heart of the project, and delivering it too.