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Construction innovation will boost productivity in public sector

The NHS could be boosted by the equivalent of 13,500 new nurses if there was a ‘construction revolution’ that could enhance productivity in the UK’s hospitals, according to new research from Mace.

Nurses, teachers and prison officers would all reap rewards from the introduction of the next generation of construction technology and processes, according to the analysis by a former Bank of England economist.

The report from Mace argues that the adoption of innovative engagement and production approaches to the design and construction of buildings could deliver a revolution in the delivery of our public services, not to mention the significant on-site productivity increases and cheaper, more sustainable construction.

By enabling more user-centric design and earlier supply chain engagement and product solutions, hospitals, schools and offices could be built in a way that improves productivity and delivers better outcomes for society.

The report calls for faster adoption of new technology and processes across the sector; and outlines a proposed model for product development that could be introduced to enable that to happen, based on the ‘Technology Readiness Levels’ originally introduced by NASA and adopted by the automotive and aviation sectors.

Researchers polled workers to establish the extent to which introducing new design, construction and operations approaches across the public sector could improve productivity. They found that:

  • Four in ten public sector workers felt that they currently lose more than two hours a week to unproductive workplaces.
  • If the UK’s 237,000 adults’ nurses in acute, elderly and general care were to work in new productivity-enhancing hospitals they would gain back a total of 25 million hours of time back every year. This equates to adding 13,500 full-time nurses to the NHS workforce.
  • If the UK’s 545,000 teachers were to work in productivity-enhancing schools they would reclaim almost 50 million hours of working time back each year. This equates to roughly 2.3 hours every week for every teacher, a reduction of roughly 4% of their average working week of 54.4 hours.
  • If prison officers in England and Wales were to work in productivity-enhancing prisons they would reclaim a total of 2.3 million extra hours of working time a year

The report recommends that the government implements four measures to bring about a construction revolution in the public sector. These include creating construction, engineering and manufacturing enterprise zones across the UK and overhauling the funding model for innovation in UK Construction.

Mark Reynolds, Mace’s Chief Executive, said: “The next generation of construction technology and processes will change how we build hospitals, schools, offices and other parts of the build environment in the UK – and in turn that will mean doctors and nurses have more time to treat patients and teachers have more time focus on educating our children.

“In order to make that a reality, we need a new mindset about innovation and product development in construction. We need to try to understand our end-users more, and work to deliver our projects in a way that respond to their needs – and to do that we need to change how we design, manufacture and assemble our buildings.”

Among the public sector buildings to have already realised the benefits of productivity-enhancing design is the Wrightington Hospital Orthaopaedic Centre where repeatable rooms and standardisation will decrease surgical downtime and give patients a better experience.

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