by Lee Jones
There are a number of routes to market for construction product manufacturers. However, with today’s modern technology, legislative changes and outside factors impacting how we work, specification would appear to be more crucial to the business model than it has ever been. In this article, we will take a look at five key points that re-enforce why getting specified is important for manufacturers, and key to being a player in today’s construction sector.
For the past four years, the Government has been working tirelessly to establish improved protocol for the design and construction of safer buildings. To quote Dame Judith Hackitt, this is ‘to avoid the mistakes of the past’. Under the new regime, the Building Safety Bill is aiming to improve these issues. The implementations of the new ‘stage gates’ throughout the construction timeline will have an important and direct impact on specification. Stage gate 1 has already been launched, which sees the requirement for a fire statement to be submitted with planning requests, which will all be verified by the HSE as the new building safety regulator. Stage gates 2 and 3 will come into force soon and will focus on the specification and design, prior to moving to construction, where the as-built credentials will be scrutinized prior to handover to the client.
Without satisfactory approval from the HSE, construction projects will not be allowed to proceed past these gates until the specification and associated design or building meets the new high levels of safety requirements. For manufacturers, specification will no doubt become the key factor in their route to procurement as a result of these changes.
As the milestones for safety become reality, and with the pandemic situation improving, sustainability is once more at the forefront of the sector’s focus. Many schemes such as the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge and the UN Sustainable Development Goals framework are already providing the path for a positive future. With COP26 just around the corner, and the UK’s desire to be seen as leaders in sustainability, the ways in which buildings are designed, built and (importantly) retrofitted are becoming increasingly scrutinized. Again, specification plays an important part in this.
Manufacturers must ensure that their green credentials are easy to access, in relation to not only products’ performance but also how they are made, and how their companies conduct sustainable business. For projects to be designed as sustainably as possible, key aspects must be met, and product/system selection is a crucial part. Ultimately, the designer must document what is going into the building, and back up the decisions made. The obvious process for doing this is via the specification. NBS Source can help manufacturers to communicate this information in a transparent manner.
Linking to the traceability themes set out in points 1 and 2, digital technology is an enabler for all of these elements to work. Through technology, all project stakeholders have the ability to work more efficiently, whilst designing and building more safely and sustainably. Collaboration is also a key benefit enabled by technology. Specification again sits within this, and NBS’ specification software NBS Chorus allows specifiers to create project specification in the cloud, enabling team working regardless of where colleagues may be. As it is also powered by the same background tech as NBS Source, those specifiers can (and do) select from the thousands of manufacturers products and systems at the point of specification.
Furthermore, for the many manufacturers that provide specification writing as a service, NBS Chorus for Manufacturers now provides an enabler to collaborate directly in the project with the specifier, or as a minimum allows their written specification to be provided in the format that the specifiers are using. This saves time and importantly, mitigates risk by avoiding content from Word documents or PDFs which needs to be manually entered into the actual project spec.
4. Blended working
The COVID pandemic has seen an unprecedented shift in the way that we work. Whilst the vaccination programme and measures put in place to reduce the impact of the virus appear to be working, what has become obvious is that the ‘old world’ (where we would all commute to an office, or the sales team would jump in a car and travel miles to attend a meeting with a client) may well become a thing of the past. The construction sector continued to operate throughout the pandemic. Despite notable product shortages and the disruption of Brexit, standards have been maintained. For the administrative side of businesses, meetings have been held via the web with great outcomes. This has demonstrated that we can all become more efficient, more sustainable and improve our work/life balance whilst still continuing with business as usual.
Since the end of 2019, Chorus usage has increased by over 900%, in terms of specs created this is over 600%. The cloud-enabled platform removes the need for downloading software on company machines, whilst removing obvious IT headaches, the fact that specifiers can simply visit a web browser and then log into their projects is a game changer. The important thing to remember here is that specifiers will need to access your product information at a time and location that suits them, often on the fly.
5. Modern methods of construction
MMC/off-site construction/DfMA – however you label it, it is here and it’s only going to grow. Bringing lean manufacturing techniques, plus the potential for improved safety testing and reduced waste, can surely only be a benefit. The RIBA Plan of Work 2020 acknowledges this, and Stage 5 is now aptly titled ‘Construction and Manufacturing’ to include MMC processes at this phase of projects. For any manufactured product or system, be that a car or a house, specified products and systems that make up the end product are imperative. Whilst there may be set designs, configuration of products allows the end client to still have choices.
In providing this customization or even set base designs, MMC companies will require specifications to be created. At our recent Construction Leaders’ Summit, NBS held a session on MMC, where amongst others we heard from the Goldman Sachs-backed TopHat, which is utilizing NBS Chorus in its practices to great benefit. For construction product manufacturers, being in the spec is as important, possibly even more so, in offsite construction than it is in traditional procurement routes. After-all the offsite companies are the designer and contractor in one.