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The Construction Playbook - Is it the silver bullet ?

The Construction Playbook

Perhaps the most significant report to be issued by the UK Government recently is The Construction Playbook in December 2020, to be implemented by the end of 2023. The playbook will apply to all new public works projects and programmes undertaken by central government departments and arm’s length bodies (ALB) on a ‘comply or explain basis’. Apparently the term ‘playbook’ has been adopted from American football coaching to describe all the plays and strategies available, leaving it up to the team to select the most appropriate one. Aimed primarily at those within the public sector responsible for the planning, procurement and delivery of projects and programmes, it is hoped that the processes in the playbook will, in time, trickle down to the private sector.

Currently, main contractors find themselves in the situation where they are unable to make money by using the existing broken and unsustainable business models and what's more the industry is unable to dig itself out of this hole due to lack of resources. The Construction Playbook aims to re-balance the relationship between clients and contractors by moving away from selection purely on lowest price and trying to ensure that contractors and sub-contractors maintain sustainable profit margins. There is also strong emphasis on early supply chain involvement. The Construction Playbook has been structured around the main stages of a typical procurement and project life cycle:

  • Preparation and planning

  • Publication (Tendering)

  • Selection

  • Evaluation and award

  • Contract implementation

However, for those hoping to find a silver bullet in the Playbook there will be disappointment as it proposes little that has not been proposed previously. What is new is that previous initiatives are now incorporated into a single document. It is apparent and a constant theme running throughout the Playbook, that the Government believes off-site construction and MMCs will solve many of the industries problems. I for one, am not so sure. The playbook has its roots in the Carillion failure and subsequent supply chain fall out and the Government’s pledge to deliver ‘better, greener faster’ public works and is based on the perceived success of the Outsourcing Playbook now the Sourcing Playbook. The Construction Playbook aims to;

  • Adopt outcome-based specifications designed with the input of industry to ensure continuous improvement and innovation.

  • Where appropriate seek longer term contracting across portfolios instead of project by project.

  • Standardise designs, components and interfaces as far as practical.

  • Drive innovation and Modern Methods of Construction, through standardisation and aggregation of demand, increased client capability and setting clear requirements of suppliers.

  • Create sustainable, win-win contracting arrangements that incentivise better outcomes, improve risk management and promote the general financial health of the sector.

  • Strengthen financial assessment of suppliers.

  • Increase the speed of end-to-end project and programme delivery.

The Construction Playbook has 14 key policies, 8 have been adopted from the Outsourcing Playbook with another 6 policies new to the Construction Playbook.

Issues such as procurement and other many other challenges facing construction are discussed in detail in the 5th Edition of New Aspects of Quantity Surveying to be published in Spring 2023.

Duncan Cartlidge

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