Over the last few months, we've published a series of articles on the future of construction. Now, having worked with so many construction and property professionals for many years, I thought I knew quite a bit about our industry, but over the last few weeks and months I’ve learned a vast amount about the ways in which our world is changing. We need to remember just how important our industry is: a desire to create housing and shelter are basic human instincts, and the need to design specialist buildings and structures (like the Roman bridge in Salamanca shown here) for the multiplicity of different types of work that have developed since industrialisation began in the 18th century has taxed mankind’s ingenuity and brought us so many new and exciting ideas, inventions and innovations.
However, we delude ourselves if we think that we’re the only generation who have ever made major breakthroughs in construction technology. Have a look at this amazing timeline, which starts with basic stone construction c. 400,000 BC, before the first, hand-made mud bricks c. 7,500 BC and concrete some 500 years later. Things speeded up a bit after that, with plaster in 6th century BC, glue c. 4,000 BC, plywood and lubricating grease c. 3,500 BC, then welding, arched span bridges, glass, fired bricks and metal nails all appearing before we move into the AD period. The 19th century was then a key period, with many inventions and innovations, such as the cantilever bridge, steel girder skyscrapers and reinforced concrete.
In the 20th century, we’ve seen lots more change and some of it goes back a lot further than you might think. For example, did you know that CAD began in 1963? In contrast, plastic (PET) bottles, now the scourge of the planet, didn’t begin life until 1973.
The 21st century has seen yet more advances. Our awareness of the damage some of our previous use of materials has done (blue/brown asbestos, anyone?) is leading us to a more guarded approach to modern construction. Green design and the other major changes I’ve described over the last few weeks are a natural response to our need to keep the modern construction industry in tune with our concern for the environment. In the meantime, we’ll still be hiring sparkies, tele-handlers and site managers for quite a few years to come, but in the (unlikely) event one of my children takes over Peace Recruitment (while I head for the Bahamas on an electric-powered jet!) then the hiring business they run will be very different indeed. I can see a world where firms like ours become clearing houses for robotic operators and highly-skilled humans, engaging with government and business and building infrastructure and homes in ways not yet thought of; but in the meantime, let’s not kid ourselves, there is a shed-load of work out there needing done, so if you are a QS, roofer, labourer (or whatever), give us a call!
Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment