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    AECOM’s Blue Book reveals trends disrupting productivity across Australia’s construction sector

    Geraldine Chua

    AECOM has released the 2014 edition of Blue Book – Property & Construction Handbook, which contains insights from key thought leaders on the disruptive trends that are impacting productivity across the Australian, New Zealand and global construction sectors.

    Jason Prior, global chief executive of buildings + places at AECOM, notes that enhancing productivity is of paramount importance to realising sustainable economic growth for the construction industry, which is facing many challenges, such as shifting demographics, limited public funding, the tightening of credit systems, and a lack of sufficient investment in infrastructure.

    Some these factors are part of the cyclical nature of the industry, but many are not. These structural changes, which are reshaping the Australian economy and warranting a new way of thinking, include:

    • Growth in the Australian economy which has been hampered by a lacklustre non-resources economy and a cooling in resources investment and export earnings.
    • Government infrastructure plans and new dwellings which are the main activity in the construction market.
    • The return of the two-speed economy, but in reverse as those regions that were seeing an increase in demand from the mining and resources sector have now dropped down a gear or two.
    • Continued appeal of the Australian property market to foreign investors, as the Asian investors seek better yields and more transparent property markets. As a result, foreign investment interest in Australian property has more than doubled since 2009, and investors are increasingly targeting the commercial sector.

    Despite the challenges presented by these changes, Prior also points to great opportunities being offered by new technologies, the application of new materials, the leveraging of alternative financing, and the rapidly sharing of knowledge and resources across borders.

    Here are a few key ideas and ways to unlock productivity across the design, build, finance and operate stages of projects in the midst of these structural shifts, courtesy of AECOM:

    Design

    • Build resilient places – the complexity of cities must be considered when planning or transforming communities. This involves thinking about how buildings, infrastructure, governance, businesses and natural resources can work together from an early stage.
    • Enhance the user experience – the performance of buildings can no longer be limited to simple metrics such as operating costs. Instead, focusing on enhancing the user experience – meeting community needs and allowing for more productive use of a city’s spaces – is key to unlocking higher revenues and extending the life of assets.

    Build

    • Innovative construction – advanced customisation and materials manufacturing are bringing about financial and environmental benefits, while new emerging industries and ways of working will bring design smarts to the fore.
    • Restructuring labour – shift labour to higher productivity tasks as manufactured solutions and customisations gain ground. Global flows of work, enabled by better collaboration tools and team culture, will lead to efficiency gains.

    Finance & Operations

    • Alternative financing – new financial mechanisms are needed to help meet infrastructure demand and renew existing assets. The private sector should increasingly partner with the public sector, creating hybrid financing and procurement methods where there is a shortfall of funding to deliver better value. Collaborative procurement models will address disconnects between future owners or operators, and the early procurement, concept and design stages. This is crucial to reducing lifecycle risks.
    • Reshaping industry with technology – the capture and analysis of data is transforming the delivery and operation of buildings and infrastructure. Rethinking cultural and industry behaviour is essential to capitalise on these structural changes and technology integration. Evidence-based decision making should replace intuition, led by a more comprehensive capture of information, and ease of access.

    To download the Blue Book, visit www.aecom.com/bluebook.

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