Constructive the driver for major industry change

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Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly

By RMBA chief executive David Kelly

This month we held our fourth Constructive Forum. We started Constructive to encourage and facilitate greater collaboration across the sector, and judging by the high calibre industry and government leaders that were part of the programme this year, it’s evident we achieved this.

Our speakers included all the key parties needed to drive change to achieve this greater collaboration; from contractors — vertical and horizontal — to subcontractors, to clients, advisers, and Government.

It’s worth reflecting on what we have achieved since our first Constructive in 2016.

We’ve firmly established the Vertical Construction Leaders Group with a strategy in place to improve the health and vitality of the sector, our Contractor Guidelines are widely used across the sector, and last year’s Constructive was the driving force behind establishing the Construction Sector Accord.

This year’s discussions continued the focus on risk management and procurement practice. Meaningful change will only happen when all parties play their role.

We heard many panellists confirm there are still contractors not reading or understanding their contracts. This must stop. As Downer chief executive Steve Killeen put it — “if you don’t understand it, don’t sign it.”

Panellists also discussed contract special conditions at length. We need to make sure contractors are confident enough to walk away from negotiations when there are too many conditions.

Ministers Phil Twyford and Jenny Salesa both remarked that they want to hear from the sector when it’s a government contract that’s causing problems.

MBIE deputy chief executive, building, resources and markets, Chris Bunny backed up the Ministers’ stance.

Mr Bunny also talked about the MBIE’s commitment to resetting the culture around contract negotiations to lift business and sector performance.

He referred to the Government’s new Procurement Guidelines. From October, they will provide a greater opportunity for the MBIE to hold other government agencies to account.

It’s pleasing to see the Government is willing to hold itself to account, which bodes well for its commitment to the Accord.

The key now is to ensure we all follow through on what was discussed and committed to.

Real and lasting change will only come if the sector commits to behaving differently. This means calling out those who continue the bad practices that tarnish the sector.

The conversations we had at Constructive provide me with assurance that the sector is in a good place. It is not as doom and gloom as one might think by reading the news headlines.

While there are some signs of a softening economy, those who we heard from feel cautiously optimistic for the sector’s and their own business’s future.

The discussions around the innovations and approaches that are improving what and how we build provided a positive outlook.

Building Information Modelling (BIM), in particular, is revolutionising the way we build, and is gaining momentum locally.

At Constructive, we were excited to launch the BIM Innovation Awards, recognising the valuable contribution this technology makes to the sector. And it was heartening to see so many high-quality entries.

Congratulations to all the entrants of these awards, and especially to the winners — Russell Property Group and Dominion Interiors, NZ Strong Group and Southbase Construction.

These great examples show the benefits of using technology to improve team collaboration in delivering better quality building outcomes.

This is a great development for our sector, and I am looking forward to seeing how BIM can continue to push the envelope to achieve superior outcomes, not only for commercial property, but also for residential.

Constructive is all about moving the sector forward, and bringing the sector together to hear differing views and perspectives.

This helps us to see that we are all on the same team. As one of our speakers remarked — “collaboration starts with a mindset where we all can win.”