Lean construction

Lean construction offers clients and the construction industry a well-founded process that can deliver high-quality buildings for far lower prices, while at the same time offering supply-side firms (designers, construction contractors and trades contractors) a way of ensuring consistently higher profit margins. It does this by adapting lean techniques from the manufacturing sector that have been tried, tested and improved over the last 5 decades.

These simple to understand lean techniques can be used to drive out all forms of unnecessary costs from the design and construction process, which can add 30% or more to the cost of the completed building. Unnecessary costs can be caused by errors in the drawings, cluttered and congested sites, faulty materials, delays in the delivery of materials, delays by previous trades, lack of pre-planning and late changes in the client’s requirements.

Lean construction should never be confused with sustainability. The former is a high-level process that establishes strategic long-term collaborative alliances between key members of the design and construction team (known as a virtual company in other business sectors) in order to radically reduce initial capital costs, whereas sustainability is a low-level project-based process that defines the design approach and the selection of components and materials and could well increase the initial capital cost.

The successful and pioneering Best Value tender process developed by Iain Beaton, in response to the Rethinking Construction report, delivered massive savings in the St Helens case history by allowing the supply-side design and construction team to work together from the outset to eliminate inefficiency and waste.

This section is maintained by Christine Pasquire.

Related content

RICS journal article: Becoming lean from first principles