The Government’s Construction Playbook, first published on 8 December 2020, sets out how the public sector can get projects and programmes right from the start, building social value into the foundations of the public procurement processes. We are set to see up to £31 billion of contracts across economic and social infrastructure being brought to tender over the next year ranging from building schools, hospitals and prisons to major infrastructure programmes undertaken by the public sector. The Playbook covers all aspects of the public works from preparation and planning to contract implementation which advocates for whole-life carbon approaches to emissions reductions in buildings and infrastructure. The Playbook aims to ensure these projects are right from the get-go by:
- Improving building and workplace safety
- Making further commitments towards the 2050 net zero target by using whole life carbon approaches; and
- Promoting social value through levelling–up local communities and tackling economic inequality.
This month we have seen the Playbook get a further revamp which includes five key themes. The revisions address carbon reporting, digital and offsite manufacturing technologies and the Building Safety Act.
The Playbook now refers and implements aspects of the Building Safety Act which came into force in April earlier this year. It includes accountability for safety through the lifecycle of a building, advice on embedding the right behaviours, and guidance for those involved in projects and procuring buildings.
The Playbook advises that projects need to be procured and contracts managed to make sure the right behaviours are embedded from the outset and that safety and quality is valued throughout. It emphasises that this is even more important at the handover between stages, with the seamless transfer of safety critical data and duty holder responsibility, together with a holistic view of risk and assurance.
If construction professionals are working on a project or a higher risk building that is in scope for the building safety regulatory regime, it would be useful to also read Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ guidance on Collaborative Procurement for Design and Construction to Support Building Safety to ensure compliance and commitment to higher safety and quality standards alongside the Playbook.
The new more stringent building control regime will provide rigorous inspection of building regulation requirements, ensuring that building safety is considered at each stage of design and construction.
The Playbook advises of the need for early supply chain involvement. Public works projects and programmes should contract for early supply chain involvement in order to achieve more effective designs, reduce changes and potential cost increases downstream.
Early supply chain involvement extends the principle of early contractor involvement by formally engaging the tier 1 contractor alongside tier 2 and 3 sub-contractors and suppliers in the pre-construction phase to input into the design, costing, risk management and structuring of a project or programme.
Sustainability was a key focus of the first version of the Playbook; however, the update emphasises the need for projects and programmes to undertake benchmarking of key project deliverables including cost, schedule, GHG emissions, social value and agreed outcomes at each stage of the business case development. This will be supported by a new data IPA benchmarking hub in 2022 and involves using analysis of information and good practice from past projects and programmes to create data reference points to improve consistency and the overall robustness of cost estimates.
Frameworks and contracts
Construction companies should create and implement ‘Gold Standard’ supply chain frameworks, framework contracts and action plans. The Playbook has published and endorsed the 24 recommendations in ‘Constructing the Gold Standard’ which reviewed the landscape of current frameworks and proposed a new ‘gold standard’ for improving the economic, social and environmental value through framework contracts.
Its aim is to enable contracting authorities to easily identify frameworks which meet best practices and embody the principles and policies set out in the Playbook. There are a number of framework options to ensure competition and flexibility across government and the wider public sector which are contained in the supporting papers to the Playbook.
To supplement the Playbook, the Government has published a number of additional papers / guidance notes, one being guidance on the modern methods of construction (MMC). MMC is a general term used to describe a range of alternative off-site and on-site manufacturing techniques and the Government has said MMC has “the potential to deliver significant improvements in productivity, efficiency and quality for both the construction industry and public sector”.
The new MMC guide explores when the adoption of MMC or a platform approach would be most appropriate for contracting authorities and contractors and appreciates that it is not a one size fits all method. The problems lie when traditional contracts have developed in a manner that suits traditional methods of construction, where each element of the construction is developed incrementally. MMC and platform approaches require product-led thinking, an increased fixity of design and earlier decision-making associated with manufactured elements.
The guide helpfully provides a table comparing the typical contracting stages against alternative approaches to contracting that could be taken when adopting MMC.
It is worth a reminder that the goal of the Construction Playbook is to create a contracting environment that delivers a sustainable, resilient and effective relationship between contracting authorities and the supply chain, focused on outcomes, and that creates long term value for all.