Collaboration and the construction industry — why, and why now?

Guest blog by Jill Clancy, collaboration, change and coaching expert and Founder of Jill Clancy Ltd.

There is so much that is great about the construction industry at the moment, even in these challenging and changing times. I have just read about intelligent bricks which is certainly a wow moment for me, and I guess for many others. Smart bricks are capable of recycling wastewater and generating electricity from sunlight and are being developed by a team of scientists from the University of the West of England. The bricks will be able to fit together and create ‘bioreactor walls’ which could then be incorporated in housing, public building and office spaces

The UWE Bristol team is working on the smart technologies that will be integrated into the bricks as part of the European ‘Living Architecture’ (LIAR) project led by Newcastle University.

Here is collaboration in action… a TEAM of scientists — not one on their own, integrated into the LIAR project with a different lead university (Newcastle) and including a number of different organisations: Trento, the Spanish National Research Council, LIQUIFER Systems Group and EXPLORA. No one part of this collaboration would be as successful as they are together.

So why is collaboration within the industry so low?

They were the first sector to look at BIM and how to share data from initial idea through the entire lifecycle including ongoing maintenance and eventually demolition and to adopt the technology to make this possible and even adopting standards to make it happen.

But embedding collaborative working with other parties (partners, supply chain, etc.) and internally within organisations is still very low, compared to other infrastructure sectors such as Rail, Highways and Water.

The benefits of working collaboratively and building great relationships are now well documented. Working with others who have different skills, experiences, greater diversity, etc. has been proven to deliver greater value than working individually. The intelligent bricks show how successful this can be.

Financial benefits are being delivered through reduced cost of project management and more joined up governance (up to 30%), through reduced (or no) man marking, through identifying different ways of doing things — creating additional value, through reducing conflict and improving issued resolution. And this is just the start….

So what can be done to improve collaboratively working?

Building an appropriate and simple framework is a start. Recognising and embedding collaborative behaviours is critical — and that it is led from your leadership teams. Making the best use of tools can ease the implementation of the framework — digital and social technology and a great conversation!

In my next blog I share some of my experiences of building a successful framework that is simple, effective and works.

If you liked my blog, and want to talk more about collaboration and the future of work — I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at:

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