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New eyes on construction

Author: Niki Saukolin
Published: 17.2.2023

I’m a recent new comer to the construction sector. I’ve only been working in the area for a couple of years, and fully immersed in it for just a few months. This allows me to still look at construction with new eyes, and looking at it this way is a wondrous thing, mesmerizing while at the same time perplexing.

The mesmerizing construction sector

I find the construction sector mesmerizing. Not the least because it is one of the largest industries in the world, apparently around the fifth largest in by revenue, yet it still remains largely analog in nature. It is an industry of countless one-off projects and only containing few hints at process rigor. All the while, most people within the industry I speak to already seem to believer that it is on the cusp of a massive transition. In the not too distant future construction will be brought into the digital age. Those who come kicking and screaming may not make it, as digitalization inevitably results in new market entries and consolidation. Those who take the lead and start doing things differently are much more likely to win the day. But hey. This is said with some naiveté. Let’s see how I’ll feel about all this after my eyes are no longer so new.

The perplexing construction sector

I find the construction sector perplexing. This is because somehow the sector itself seems to view the construction of an average multi-storey residential building as an incredibly complex project, which to me just doesn’t appear to be so. While I can see that there are a lot of aspects where complexity is present, in my mind it pales in comparison to building an airplane. Yet I find that we are much more advanced at getting things in the air than we are at anchoring something to the ground. I wonder why this is? Especially given the fact that we’ve been constructing buildings a lot longer than we’ve been designing and assembling airplanes.

And there we get to what seems to be at the very heart of the issue in improving construction. Most anyone in the construction industry will be quick to point out that it is easier to develop a process for assembling a repeatable product in a controlled factory setting than it is to build a one-off building on-site with varying weather conditions.

It is easy to sense that I touch something a little sensitive with my airplane analogy, but I still believe it is a point worth making

It is obvious to find the differences between the two, make these differences the culprit and continue doing more of the same. It would be much more demanding to stop, start contemplating the similarities and the potential, and begin doing things differently. Though it may require tremendous energy and effort to change, especially in an industry so regulated, with a deeply ingrained ecosystem, and construction worker habits that are difficult to break, I still don’t see that it is rational to stay put and wait for change to come from the outside.

What I have started thinking, as a result of all the resistance to change, is that when something is too well justified, it is probably wrong. Where the resistance to change is the greatest, there we are most likely to find the greatest number of “reasons” for things being just so. Unfortunately things being just so will not help the construction industry overcome the challenges of the future (e.g. the economic pressures, the regulatory requirements, the labour shortages).

Working on collaboration

While these may be thoughts generated through new eyes, I’m truly humbled to be working with a team that includes a number of industry veterans who are able to envision what the future will look like, despite having grown up within the paradigm, and have the courage to empower others to do the same. I’m also incredibly excited to partner with construction companies, sub-contractors and suppliers who are paving the road for a different way of doing things in the future.

In the end, improving construction is about improving interaction and cooperation between people. Improving construction is not just about improvements within any one part, it is more about transformation of the space between the parts. Real transformation will only happen when there is seamless collaboration. This then is what I feel transforming construction is all about, enabling seamless collaboration. And that is why it made so much sense for me to join the movement, because it is difficult to imagine a better thing to be working on than improving collaboration.

About the Author

Sitedrive’s Business Lead, Niki Saukolin, brings his insight on construction industry with fresh eyes. With his expertise of scaling companies from local to regional to global he has taken the helm and steers the ship with his can-do attitude and down to earth leadership skills. When he’s not busy solving the challenges of the construction industry, you can find this free-spirited leader immersing himself in nature through hiking or biking adventures.

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