At a recent summit Chief Executives of some of our leading construction contractors were asked to comment on prospects for the future. These are some of the phrases they used: Building information modelling, collaborative behaviours, drive around efficiency, working smarter, more for less, cost in use, energy in buildings, more sustainable construction.

Although this was the contractors’ view it gives a very good indication of how things will change. With it will change the significance of product specification and the way it is done. And with the return to growth I thought I would update my blog written a year ago on the changing dynamics of product specification. Now is the time for businesses to come out of hibernation and start taking action to ensure they reap the benefits from the predicted return to growth.

Green Construction

The major opportunity remains green construction, which is now center stage with a number of initiatives to encourage sustainable construction. There has been a fair bit of news coverage from the construction industry and government, with on-going debate on how best to deliver a low carbon built environment.

Major industry leaders and government ministers recently signed a joint initiative to reduce carbon in infrastructure. The initiative, called Infrastructure Carbon Review, looks to save valuable resources by using new technologies, construction techniques and low carbon materials to cut down on emissions.

The prime ministers’ recent announcement that he wants to ‘roll back’ green charges on energy bills has also intensified the debate around the Green Deal. Steve Heath, External Affairs Director of Knauf Insulation debates the scheme in his blog Green Deal and Black Holes, presenting Knauf’s five point plan to get retrofit right. And Facta’s whitepaper A Green Deal but a Fair One? reminds us that we are at the beginning of a 20 year journey and it is unrealistic to expect instant results.
In Bill Wright’s recent article Deal or No Deal? he presents the case for getting involved, despite the bad press the scheme has received. I also talk about reaping the benefits of green construction in my recent article for CNplus.
This Green Construction Board’s top tips help companies to be greener by explaining what funding and other support is available to the SME.

A scheme that is working alongside the Green Deal is ECO, this has the potential to boost the UK economy by £8 billion. And in a recent letter to the Prime Minister 140 organisations suggest solutions to the Energy Company Obligation, and ask that the government take urgent action to provide the housing sector with greater certainty.

In his Autumn Statement George Osborne did indeed change ECO, although not as the industry had hoped. Final details will not be known for a while, and his announcement had the effect of freezing investment by the energy companies. On the positive side he did promise more investment in house building and further support to the Green Deal.Being green is still a differentiator and can be utilised to help you to stand out from the competition. Being familiar with the latest government regulations and initiatives is important to identifying the opportunities for you and your products. Such as: How will Regional Social Landlords improve energy efficiency in existing housing; their upgrade programme, the options being considered and their product selection process? Or knowing how Architects design non-residential sustainable buildings and the information they need from manufacturers? Equally utilising the various accreditation schemes allows you to demonstrate your own sustainable credentials, an essential element of marketing your sustainable building products.

A good example of using sustainability as a marketing tool was one of the recent winners at last week’s Construction Marketing Awards. Carillion created a blog site which acted as a portal for other information about sustainability. What they did was use other people’s work to provide a good point of information for their clients, suppliers and stakeholders. They were able to become an opinion leader without the need to employ a raft of experts.It is also important to remember to keep your staff up to speed and to provide them with the necessary specification sales training, so they can help their customer and their customers’ customer understand the green credentials of your product. A recent study by the NHBC into Low and zero carbon technologies in new homes reveals that homeowner’s don’t understand green technologies and presents the need to help housebuilder’s demonstrate the advantages of these green technologies to potential homebuyers.

Further thoughts:

Building Information Modelling (BIM)

The government is keen to see BIM adopted as it has the potential to improve integration of the different elements of the project team (Architect, Engineer, Main Contractor, Specialist Contractor and potentially manufaturer) leading to reduced construction costs. But, more important, the potential cost savings during the life of the building could be much greater. This will be achieved through reduced maintenance and operating costs.

A report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2008 and based on extrapolation of figures derived from the USA suggested construction cost net savings of 5% for new build and 1.5% on refurbishment.

For a manufacturer the need to provide BIM objects will become as necessary as the provision of standard specification clauses or CAD details. At the moment we are talking about early adopters, but very soon it will become mandatory for companies that wish to achieve effective specification selling.

So what are the advantages to the manufacturer?

Providing BIM objects can provide early confirmation of design intent, and improve the likelihood of a design being specified. The use of manufacturer-specific embedded information gives the product visibility, raising the probability of it being referenced during procurement and reducing the chances of it being value-engineered out at a later stage.

More important are the benefits to the architect, which contribute to product value. The suggested benefits include a quicker understanding about how the product works, certainty of compatibility, and off-the-shelf selection of existing product design. All of this enables time saving and, because architects are often pressed for time, they can often opt for the quick fix, when two objects are similar.

Being at the forefront of providing BIM objects is a good PR exercise. If your business has invested in BIM it is one of the features you can promote, demonstrating that yours is a forward thinking organisation which potential customers can work with.

Peter Hansford, Chief Construction Advisor to the Government says “Innovation has to play a key role. We know that throughout the industry people are innovating but it’s all hidden. We need to bring it out and identify any barriers to further innovation.”

Ian Exall, Chairman of CIMCIG says “The construction industry is not just about muck and boots. Some of it is, but it’s also about creating things with the most advanced CAD and BIM technology, its high tech engineering and increasingly cutting edge off-site manufacturing as well.”

There are many marketing benefits when it comes to BIM that the product manufacturer should make sure to take advantage of.

Another crtitical aspect to consider is how BIM will affect the dynamics of the Decision Making Unit. Developing your specification strategy to reflect these changes will help you stay ahead of the competition. Incorporating BIM into your sales strategy is important, which is why we have produced an eBook on this subject that comes with our research into the Adoption of BIM.

Further thoughts:

Conclusion

The decision to specify a product is based on many factors, some of them conflicting. The overriding concern is that it is fit for purpose, performing its role effectively and throughout the design life of the building. Products are selected because of more than their performance or price. Government drives product selection with initiatives, building regulations and planning. Sustainability is a key factor in product selection but you must understand the issues of importance to your customers.

Different factors are important to different members of the DMU. You need to know what is important to each decision maker, how this will influence their choice and promote to them relevant benefits. With BIM the influence of different members of the DMU is changing. It is important to stay in touch with this and adapt your product messages accordingly.

Reviewing your specification strategy on regular basis is a good start.

Further Reading

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