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Opinion Piece

Revolutionising the Construction Industry: Embracing an Iterative and Integrated Future

Futurebuild Hasman Speaking

Opinion piece by Mina Hasman ARB, RIBA,  FRSA, LEED, BREEAM, WELL AP TIME 100 Climate Leader, Sustainability Director, SOM | Founder, Climate Framework

The construction and buildings sector, a powerhouse of the global economy, is at a critical juncture. Despite its significant contributions to GDP and employment, the industry’s outdated, linear operating model is falling short, leading to glaring performance gaps and inefficiencies. This article unpacks these pressing challenges and makes a bold case for a radical transformation. We champion a shift to an integrated, iterative design and delivery process that promises to revolutionise collaboration, boost performance, and drive sustainable outcomes. These visionary changes are in perfect harmony with the Climate Framework Initiative‘s mission to fast-track the move to a low-carbon, resilient built environment by fostering continuous collaboration across the construction sector and even beyond sectors. Join us in rethinking the future of construction—because the time for incremental change is over, and the era of groundbreaking innovation is here.

Challenges of the Current Linear and Siloed Approach

The conventional linear process in the construction industry has been leading to isolated decision-making, often unaware of its broader implications on building performance. Key stakeholders—such as investors, designers, contractors, and end-users—tend to work in silos, focusing solely on their specific responsibilities without considering the project’s overall performance. This disjointed approach results in significant performance gaps, where final outcomes frequently fall short of the intended design and performance objectives.

One major issue is that performance evaluations typically occur only at the end of project stages, leaving limited opportunities for substantial improvements. This rigid process confines projects to predetermined paths, making any necessary changes later in the project lifecycle costly and detrimental to the overall performance.

The Case for a New Industry Model

To address these challenges, the construction industry must adopt a new operating model that encourages continuous collaboration and iterative assessments throughout a project’s lifecycle. This model emphasises the importance of involving all the key stakeholders from the beginning, establishing a clear and balanced project brief that aligns with their diverse priorities and performance criteria.

By transitioning from a linear to an integrated approach, the industry can ensure that decisions are made with a comprehensive understanding of their impact on various performance outcomes. This shift is crucial for achieving holistic and sustainable results that balance competing priorities, such as carbon reduction, energy efficiency, cost reduction, and occupant health and wellbeing. This approach aligns perfectly with SOM’s vision, especially in their Whole Life Carbon Accounting Service, which advocates for integrated design, planning, and construction approach, as well as continuous performance evaluation to close ‘carbon gaps’ between predicted performance at design stage and the actual data in-use.

The Necessity of Streamlined Knowledge and Skills

For the new industry model to succeed, effective collaboration and a shared understanding of climate change and sustainability are essential. Therefore, all key decision-makers must possess a foundational level of climate-focused knowledge and skills. The RIBA Climate Guide, structured around the Climate Framework, is a crucial resource for this purpose. It offers detailed insights into sustainable design and construction practices – with precedents all around the world – ensuring that stakeholders are well-informed and capable of making sound decisions. By fostering a unified grasp of sustainability principles, the Guide facilitates the industry’s shift toward a more integrated and collaborative operating model.

Conclusion: Towards a Resilient and Prosperous Future

As the complexity of construction projects increases and global pressures mount, the industry must adapt its operating model and evolve to harness data-driven insights. A new, process-embedded, iterative, and integrated model can foster a new form of intelligence and revolutionise the built environment sector, boosting overall performance and sustainability, while also ensuring long-term resilience and prosperity.

By embracing this new model, the construction and buildings sector can make significant strides toward meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and the global net zero carbon economy target by 2050. This transformation is essential for delivering high-quality, resilient built environments that improve people’s lives and safeguard the vitality of future generations.

The Climate Framework Initiative serves as a crucial guide in this journey, providing a structured approach to integrating sustainability and resilience knowledge into the built environment. By aligning industry practices with the Initiative’s principles, speaking a common language around climate change and leveraging key resources like the RIBA Climate Guide, we can ensure that our sector not only meet today’s needs, but also contribute positively to a sustainable future.

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