Future of Construction Summit 2021 Series [Volume 1]

Teresa Allison June 4, 2021
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As Helix’s newest admitted lawyer, I am always encouraged to chase innovation and continue to learn about future developments headed for the construction industry.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was offered the opportunity to attend the Future of Construction Summit 2021 in Sydney alongside Janelle Kerrisk, Michael Chesterman and our friends at Morrissey Law + Advisory.

The Summit, presented by Future Place, was held over 2 days being 12 and 13 May 2021, showcasing numerous innovative practices and products set to change the way the industry operates.

With over 40 world leading and local speakers delivering keynotes and panels, the Summit provided a valuable window not only into how the entire industry’s ecosystem is expected to change, but how companies can collaborate and leverage innovative approaches in order to create a more profitable and sustainable industry. I must admit that some concepts were entirely new to me, ranging from business information models (BIM) to digital twins. Although this did not make them any less fascinating.

Click below watch a short re-cap video from our time at the Summit.

Before attending the Summit, it hadn’t occurred to me that attendees might be surprised by the attendance of a lawyer at a construction conference. However, when talking with other attendees, I found that a frequent question I was asked was ‘what is a lawyer doing at a construction summit?’

My simple and honest answer would be ‘to learn and observe.’

In order to best serve their clients, I think it is integral for lawyers to understand the nature of their client’s business, from what their day-to-day activities are, to their long term goals and plans.

There were many insights I gained throughout the Summit, of which some of the more memorable sessions I have reflected on and are discussed in the Future of Construction Summit Series to be released over the next month.

As a fresh construction lawyer, the most significant takeaway for me was the active role that lawyers can play in facilitating and encouraging innovation for construction companies.

Keynote Presentation: The story and vision behind the success of Built

One of the first speakers of Day one was Brett Mason, Managing Director and CEO of Built. His presentation touched on some of the essential business basics that Built has implemented throughout its successful story, including the following values:

  1. Safety and quality above all else;
  2. Learn from your mistakes;
  3. Strategy, structure, rhythm; and
  4. Culture.

A memorable example Brett made was Built’s implementation of learning from their mistakes through the use of the  ‘F*** up wall’ which sets out some of the biggest mistakes Built has made. Housed on the back of Brett’s locker door, he notes that it’s something he looks at every day as a reminder of what they have learn and how to do things differently.

This really aligned with what I would consider lawyers can offer those in the industry.

If you can think of all those mistakes and situations which taught you ‘what not to do’, it is likely that at some point a lawyer was involved to help resolve any conflicts. Our range of experience from the formation of contracts to managing disputes makes us experts in what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

By collaborating with our industry partners, lawyers can offer insight and advice to prevent these ‘mistakes’ and support an effective and compliant way of practice.

CEO Panel Session: How new technologies and innovative approaches are transforming the planning, design, build, safety and cost management on modern construction sites

The CEO Panel Session highlighted key issues within the industry such as the length and complexity of supply chains being a barrier for the adoption of technology, and how tight margins also play a part.

The panel consisted of executives Lousie Adams of Aurecon, Rowan Hindmarsh of Hindmarsh Group, Alison Mirams of Roberts Co and Adrian Hondros of Porter Davis Homes. The session was also facilitated by Jon Davies, CEO of Australian Constructors Association (ACA).

One of the standout responses for me was given by Alison Mirams when asked how technology is both a challenge and an opportunity for Roberts Co?

Alison spoke about the challenges of how innovative technology is implemented on site, especially by older-generation contractors who commonly request physical plans. This can be problematic in situations where Projects may be based off 3D models and have the inability to be printed into 2D plans with dimensions. She gave an example of a situation where the site manager and foreman on site would request that plans were printed and for workers to write the dimensions on the page for them because they could not take the model on site. Highlighting the importance for innovation to also be accessible and reliable for workers performing on site.

She also spoke about the investment construction companies are making in innovative technologies and software, and how this is inevitably going to affect tender pricing. One of the most significant challenges for the industry and clients is to start looking at the value for money and quality that comes from proposals, rather than just the cheapest price.

Jon Davies touched on this issue last year when he was interviewed as part of our Helix Essential Series. In the short clip below, Jon considers that investment in innovative technologies will not happen until the issue of sustainability is addressed and contractors look beyond immediate profits and see the long-term value in innovation.

Click here to watch our full interview with Jon Davies.

This is not a new concept to the construction industry and was a repeated point made throughout the Summit. Specifically, the point was made that in order to for the industry to truly innovate, a change must be made to the way the industry views value within a project and the bottom line. The benefits of taking up the challenge of innovating will provide industry members with greater transparency of information which has flow of benefits for efficiency and improving the way a company can trade. Leading to a better way to build and better buildings.

Summary

I can appreciate that these revolutionary changes are not something that will happen overnight, but it is important that the topic of innovation and development continues for the betterment of the industry.

As a new construction lawyer, it is important to me to understand where our industry is headed and how best I can support my colleagues and clients. At Helix Legal we are dedicated to producing practical outcomes for clients that go beyond legalise and address issues on site and in the office.

I am proud to be part of a legal practice that not only is dedicated to the future of construction by keeping a finger on the pulse for innovation, but also being part of the development of our own home-grown innovative products.

Tune in for Volume 2 of the Future of Construction Summit Series to learn more about the emerging ConTech within the industry.

Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Teresa Allison June 4, 2021

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