Building Magazine


On the international stage, construction industry needs overhaul to bolster productivity: Economist

A new report published today by The Economist Intelligence Unit says the construction industry internationally needs a major overhaul if it is to bolster its declining productivity. Rethinking productivity across the construction industry: The challenge of change, sponsored by Autodesk, reveals that 74 per cent of construction executives say productivity is a major challenge recognised by their leadership. But almost half (48 per cent) admit that their firm has failed to develop a coherent strategy to address the decline.

Productivity is an industry-wide issue rather than firm-specific. Executives identified the biggest obstacles to improved productivity as: a lack of skilled labour (first); clients’ procurement methods and contract terms (second); and government requirements (third).

The report also finds that the early adoption of technology can help firms buck the trend. Nearly three of four (74 per cent) high-productivity firms are likely to be early adopters of productivity-enhancing technologies. Respondents say technologies supporting greater collaboration and information-sharing are best positioned to boost productivity in the next three years.

“Productivity is a very relevant topic right now,” says Craig Halvorson, senior vice-president of operations at ARCADIS, a Netherlands-based design and construction consultancy. “The increased competition for talent, coupled with ongoing pressure from clients to be more cost competitive, are making things very intense.”


  • 74 per cent of construction executives say lagging productivity is a major challenge for the industry
  • Productivity is an industry-wide issue rather than firm-specific
  • Lack of skilled labour most cited obstacle, followed by procurement methods, contract terms and government requirements
  • Nearly three of four (74 per cent) firms with high productivity are early adopters of new technology

Read Rethinking productivity across the construction industry: The challenge of change here

The challenge of change draws on a survey of 250 global construction industry professionals conducted in November-December 2014. Among the study’s respondents, 28% are based in North America, 26% in Asia-Pacific and 24% in Western Europe. They hail from seven industry sectors, including residential and non-residential construction, civil and industrial infrastructure construction, architectural services, engineering services and supply chain organisations. The respondents are all relatively senior—73% hold C-suite positions—and they work in organisations of different sizes, with 42% earning annual revenue of US$500m or more. More than half (58%) are from organisations with US$500m or less in revenue, while 23% have revenue over US$1bn.

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