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University of Westminster’s construction economist proposes new approach to the Government's industrial strategy

Property and Construction 13 March 2015

Dr Stephen Gruneberg, Reader in Construction Economics at the University of Westminster’s Department of Property and Construction, has proposed an alternative approach to the government’s construction strategy, ‘Construction 2025’.

The renowned construction economist claims in his paper entitled The Alternative Construction Strategy that setting arbitrary targets for the industry has become outdated and irrelevant, and therefore the time has come for an approach to strategic planning for the construction industry that replaces targets with priorities.

In his three part review of the government’s construction policy, Dr Gruneberg offers his criticisms of the target-setting approach, and proposes an alternative construction strategy consisting of six proposed priorities. Dr Gruneberg’s review also describes some of the economic features and constraints of the construction industry and the property market that the alternative strategy attempts to mitigate.

“Construction strategy needs to move away from a target-setting culture, where no one can be held responsible for failing to adhere to the targets. Instead the strategy should be based on continuous improvement and review,” concludes Dr Gruneberg in his paper.

The proposed six priorities would ensuring that the construction industry is:

  1. A competitive industry
  2. An industry that produces a quality output
  3. An industry that is efficient and the output it produces is efficient
  4. An industry that employs a workforce that is professional in its behaviour and skills
  5. An industry that has an excellent reputation and has confidence and pride in itself
  6. An industry that is productive and embraces innovation

The alternative paradigm expresses that “The overall vision is to achieve a vibrant, competitive, internationally engaged construction sector, which meets the needs of government and private sector clients in safety with reliability and consistency. However, no industrial strategy can offer a panacea for the volatility of construction.”

The proposed alternative strategy “seeks to challenge and enable firms throughout the construction industry to find their own solutions by putting them on a path of continuous improvement with the help of a national strategy for construction managed by a new integrated Ministry of Construction and Works.

Dr Gruneberg’s work was also quoted by Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan in the Construction Industry debate at the House of Lords: “the University of Westminster has suggested that construction as a whole contributes more than 15% of our gross domestic product.”

Besides being Reader in Construction Economics at the University of Westminster, Dr Gruneberg has previously undertaken consultancy work for a number of organisations, including the Office of Government Commerce (now HM Treasury), KPMG and ConstructionSkills.

Prior to joining the University of Westminster’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Dr Gruneberg lectured at University College London and was a Research Fellow at the University of Reading. His research activities are focussed on economic theory applied to the construction industry, and more recently, global construction.

The research conducted by the University’s Property and Construction Research Group covers a wide range of activities, specialising in particular areas which include property valuation, construction and project management, construction economics, and energy use in buildings. The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment’s research quality was recognised in the recent Research Excellence Framework 2014. Twenty per cent of the research in Architecture and the Built Environment was judged as ‘world-leading’ with 45 per cent judged as ‘internationally excellent’.


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