With a new decade nearly upon us, we decided to reflect on the events of the past 10 years, and the impact they’ve had on the construction industry. Here’s our take on one of the biggest stories of 2012…
When the IOC awarded the 2012 Olympic Games to London in 2005 amid the celebrations there must have been a moment’s pause. Would the construction industry be able to deliver the infrastructure, venues and accommodation on time and on budget?
Construction had to be completed by 27 July 2011 to allow for testing before the Games. The challenge had been set.
Over the next few years, a highly contaminated brownfield site in East London was transformed:
- £6bn of contracts awarded
- 220 building demolished
- 35 new bridges built
- Energy, sewage and communications infrastructure installed
- Eight venues built
- A new public park created
- Expanded public transport infrastructure provided
Remarkably, everything was delivered on time, on budget and safely – it was the first Olympic Games in the world without a fatality during the construction process.
Regenerating east London
The Olympics is usually a once in a lifetime event for the host nation. The consensus is that they offer an opportunity to drive significant regeneration and provide a legacy if done correctly.
The latter point was one of the main messages of the Games. Much of what was delivered was temporary or had adaptability in mind. An example was the athletics village, designed to be converted into housing post-Games (with a high proportion of these being affordable).
Construction industry reputation
For construction the legacy opportunity was two-fold, both in terms of skills and experience as well as reputation.
Initially, those involved in the design, planning and delivery of the project had to battle to get recognition, due to a “No Marketing Rights Protocol.” In place to protect sponsors, it had a knock-on effect for those in construction. Many companies were prevented from mentioning that they were working for LOCOG in the run-up to the Games.
This changed in 2013. A new licencing scheme, led by the British Olympic Association, allowed successful applicants to talk about their contribution. The scheme attracted 752 applicants in the first ten days, showing just how wide-reaching this project was.
A Populous poll at the time found that public sentiment was positive towards the construction industry post-Games. Two-thirds (62%) said that the Olympics demonstrated that large-scale projects could be completed on time and on budget. It was considered a turnaround, after well-publicised issues with Wembley Stadium had created a lack of confidence in the industry’s ability to deliver.
Seven years later and where does the construction industry find itself? Battling huge reputational crises on multiple fronts; safety, regulations and competency (Grenfell), procurement (Garden Bridge), company failures (Carillion), poor payment practices, quality issues, and budget and cost overruns (Crossrail).
It is not positive reading for a sector facing a skills shortage and needing to attract new recruits.
As we move into the next decade, it would be great if the sector could recapture some of the that post-2012 glow. That means recovering from the negative headlines of the last few years.
My suggestion? The sector must proactively take a stand on the issues that matter most – delivering better safety, quality and value. By doing things the right way (and telling people about it) the industry can begin to rebuild its reputation.
More posts in our ‘Construction Decade in Review’ series
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