Continued co-operation key to the sector’s recovery

Concrete NZ chief executive Rob Gaimster believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a gigantic blow to the New Zealand construction sector, the real consequences of which will not be fully understood for many months.

“Yet despite the upheaval there has been a reassuring display of co-operation amongst all groups, particularly as measures were developed for a safe return to work under Alert Level 3 in late April,” Rob says.

“This collaborative approach within the construction sector and with government, which has seen information shared, concerns acknowledged and announcements signalled in advance, must be maintained to cushion the downturn and stimulate recovery.” Health and safety

In the lead up to a return to Alert Level 3 the mutual support shown by the construction sector players in developing health and safety procedures was outstanding. Under the Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ) banner, an overarching COVID-19 standard for construction operations was released, along with protocols for horizontal and vertical construction as well as residential construction.

“These ‘living’ documents, developed by an array of sector organisations and endorsed by the Construction Sector Accord, provided a framework to restart safely and quickly, and to help ensure that the progress achieved during April in terms of controlling the spread of COVID-19 was not undermined,” says Rob.

“Concrete NZ also produced a set of protocols to enable the concrete industry to stay safe on-and off-site, and for builders and contractors to order and manage the delivery of concrete and concrete products.

“The Concrete NZ documents supplement the CHASNZ guidance and will be updated as best practice develops and further industry feedback is received,” notes Rob.

Sector developed health and safety guidance has been matched by the Government’s Unite Against COVID-19 initiative, as well as information from the Ministry of Health and the Building Performance branch of MBIE.

Together, this advice has enabled construction to recommence safely and seamlessly.

Construction stimulus

“While Concrete NZ applauds the Government’s swift action and fully respects the COVID-19 response, massive economic intervention will be required to ensure that the ‘new normal’ is not long-term economic chaos,” Rob says.

“A timely and bold reaction that, from a construction perspective, looks to expand the housing stock and address the infrastructure gap is needed.

“Government policy must not be developed in a vacuum. The same spirit of collaboration demonstrated in preparing for the return to work must also underpin the approach to recovery.

“Organisations such as Infrastructure NZ are already calling for ‘no regrets’ immediate stimulus.

“These ‘shovel ready / worthy’ projects could include an emphasis on less complex maintenance, connecting work programmes to align labour resources, adhering to proven delivery models and partners, and adopting social procurement (i.e. supporting local businesses and apprenticeships / trade training).

“To facilitate this rapid resumption or commencement of work, interim changes to policy and regulations will be required,” adds Rob.

“Therefore, it is encouraging to see the recent Government decision to fast-track construction projects through the Resource Management Act process by transferring the consent approval to panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge.

“At the same time, the Construction Sector Accord’s adaption of Auckland Transport procurement guidelines, developed in conjunction with Auckland Council for use across all government agencies and their construction suppliers, is another positive step.

“Having locked-in work of immediate priority we can then proceed to the long-term planning phase.

“Adopting a silver-lining mind-set we have an opportunity to reset our strategic thinking and instil a new culture.

“In short, now is the time to plot an agreed course for New Zealand’s future direction based on a shared vision,” concludes Rob.

Construction of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery in Whāngarei came to a halt under COVID-19 lockdown, but has since resumed.

Trade training has never been so important Concrete NZ chief executive Rob Gaimster believes that encouraging young people to takeup industry training through enrolment in a trade qualification is an effective way to help future proof a construction business, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

“Trade training finds itself in an unusual position at the moment,” says Rob.

“COVID-19 has definitely cast a shadow over the concrete industry and wider construction sector, not to mention the New Zealand economy.

“Add to that the current Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE), which is implementing significant changes to the vocational education system, and you could be forgiven for feeling uncertain about committing to trade training.

“However, training staff is an investment in your business’ future,” notes Rob.

“The positive return from it will be sustained well into the future, increasing the cumulative benefit each year.

“Training staff also helps deliver a consistent level of craftsmanship, enables you to keep up-to-date with industry developments and shape the next generation of qualified professionals.

“While COVID-19 has impacted on the RoVE timeline, the overarching objective to ensure the vocational education system delivers the skills that learners, employers and communities need to thrive, remains,” says Rob.

“In short, I urge businesses to keep training, whether that be through the Building & Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO) or a similar organisation.”

To this end, Concrete NZ is proud to again be involved in the Concrete Industry Apprentice of the Year Award in 2020; with entries opening mid-year.

“Concrete NZ and BCITO launched the award in 2016 for all those enrolled in, or who have recently completed, one of BCITO’s concrete apprenticeships, with the aim of celebrating outstanding individuals,” says Rob.

“Tremendous opportunities are available for those thinking about focusing their professional future in construction. A crucial first step on the journey is to sign up to an apprenticeship.”

Concrete production standard being revised NZS 3104:2003 Specification for concrete production sets the minimum requirements for the production of fresh concrete and was last amended in 2010 (Amendment No. 2).

“The much-needed revision of NZS 3104 will update the Standard to align with current practice and allow for better control of the production of concrete,” says Concrete NZ chief executive, Rob Gaimster.

The revision will reflect current recognised practice and will:

  • Allow an alternative method to calculate target mean concrete compressive strength based on normal distribution theory in clause 2.13
  • Update clauses relating to the introduction of the alternative method
  • Clarify and update clauses to reflect current practice and technology.

“The draft is available for public comment for a period of eight weeks, with all comments submitted during this period reviewed by the Standards development committee before the Standard is balloted on,” adds Rob.

The closing date for comments is 21 June, 2020. A copy of the draft Standard and the public comment form can be downloaded from the Standards New Zealand website www.standards.govt.nz.

Concrete NZ’s pathways to decarbonisation:

  • Education programme to inform the industry of new requirements to achieve goal
  • Updated policy and regulation to drive change in the industry
  • Continuing access to Supplementary Cementitious Materials, especially ones with low carbon alternatives, to allow a reduction in cement use
  • Innovation and technology to help with reduction of clinker in cement
  • Using tools like carbon capture and alternate, clean fuels to manufacture cement cleaner
  • Access to carbon offset credits when not technically feasible to completely decarbonised
  • Transition to low or zero emission transport.

CONCRETE BENEFITS

Concrete is a sustainable choice for the future and is a key link in the circular economy because of its recycling potential compared to other materials.

Major benefits of concrete:

  • Durability
  • Thermal efficiency
  • Acoustic performance
  • Fire resistance
  • Roading
  • Stormwater management applications.

Concrete NZ
Level 4 / 70 The Terrace, Wellington
admin@concretenz.org.nz | www.concretenz.org.nz

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