Future of Consultancy

Shifting ACE consultancy model to promote design for whole-life value.

Last updated: 24th August 2020

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Innovation Lead: Mike Pitts
Project number: TBC
UKRI funding: £200,000

Website:
acenet.co.uk/campaigns/future-of-consultancy/


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Summary

Consultant engineers have expertise that can help the construction industry design with long-term value in mind. And yet as a sector, construction consultancy is caught in old fashioned 'billing-by-the-hour' models and is at risk from being overtaken by AI and smart data that can design at greater speed and for better performance. To tackle this, ACE launched Future of Consultancy to rethink the way architects and consultant engineers add (and bill for) the value they provide. By embracing new technologies and techniques, this important sector can start to channel their expertise into tackling some of our bigger societal challenges around construction and infrastructure, and ultimately deliver designs that support a healthier industry, a healthier end user and a healthier planet.

Innovation type: Digital, Process, Skills
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer)

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Project pioneers

Faced with radical change to its long standing business model, the construction consultancy sector wants to adapt and shift away from being paid by the hour for their work and instead be paid for designs that maximise whole-life performance, namely designs that support a healthier industry, a healthier end user and a healthier planet.

The problem

Currently, buildings use more energy than they need, release more emissions than they should and typically are not optimised for the user. Consultancy business models for consulting engineers mean they are paid for design expertise by the hour. This model will not hold as construction evolves to a digital, design-led manufacturing approach that is focused on whole-life value rather than cheapest build. Consulting engineers in the main add value at construction phase, representing 6% GDP, and yet influence over 30% GDP as buildings and infrastructure affect wider productivity of the economy. The sector quickly needs to adapt to support a shift to design for whole-life value.

Vision

Switching its business model towards whole-life value will mean consulting engineers become a consultancy sector respected for delivering increased value to society, rather than projects that are late, over budget and don't work for the end user as they should. By embracing artificial intelligence that can design systems faster and cheaper than humans, and by using data streamed from smart assets to improve buildings performance, consulting engineers will be able to focus on the bigger societal challenges we are facing. This will lead to faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes that have the potential to deliver £15bn of annual benefits across the infrastructure sector.

Key Insight

ACE's Future of Consultancy campaign, sponsored by Transforming Construction, was based on the need to evolve the sector in the light of the changes to the sector being driven by Transforming Construction. The campaign prompted the sector to commit to change its business models and work with clients to be more strategic, ultimately delivering better outcomes for society and the environment.

First step

ACE's Future of Consultancy campaign aims to pivot an entire sector to seize the opportunities offered by a better connected, technology-first approach to the development, design, construction and operation of our built environment. To help make this shift, the sector committed £60m towards R&D and retraining, and sought match funding from government.

Barrier

Consultant engineers are not embracing and adapting to change enough. This often slow-moving and traditional approach means the expertise of this sector is being used to design similar buildings and infrastructure over and over again, from scratch and paid by the hour. Added to that, the consultancy sector capability is currently only really deployed at construction phase (6% GDP) and yet influences over 30% GDP as buildings and infrastructure affect wider productivity of the economy. This means the consultancy sector's contribution to construction doesn't feel like it adds value for the cost, nor does it feel like it has influence beyond the immediate build phase.

Process innovation

Future of Consultancy helps prepare the whole industry for a radical step-change. The first phase identified opportunities at home and abroad, explored new business models and contracts, and secured industry-wide consensus on the skills profile needed. Working in partnership with members, industry stakeholders and clients from the private and public sectors, the Future of Consultancy will build on existing initiatives and research to deliver tangible outputs in assessing the addressable markets for new technology and future consultancy services. The second phase will focus on implementing these more sustainable business models, successfully leading digital transformation across the sector, and piloting tomorrow’s training, apprenticeship schemes and contracts.

Digital Innovation

The Future of Consultancy will have a renewed focus on skills to help the wider industry seize the opportunities offered by technological advances in digital technology, offsite construction, big data and AI. Innovations like self-monitoring infrastructure, offsite and modular construction, design simulation, virtual reality, digital-first design, data-led decision-making and artificial intelligence are already radically altering the way consultants and designers operate, and architects and consultant engineers need to add value while embracing these new technologies and techniques.

Whole life innovation

ACE's Future of Consultancy programme will help companies to not only prepare for the future but enable them to confidently grasp the rewards presented as the industry moves 'from volume to value'. It will place design at the heart of longer-term strategic planning for construction that has a core focus on productivity, people and planet.

Collaborators

ACE has great potential to shape the strategy for change through consultation. As well as its financial and knowledge partnership with Transforming Construction and support from Construction Innovation Hub (CIH), ACE has also been working with its sister organisation, the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), which represents environmental consultancies and other sustainability businesses. EIC will also contribute to the campaign, receiving UKRI support for research into the innovation required by the environmental sector to deliver the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

  • Association of Consulting Engineers (ACE)
  • CIH
  • Environmental Industries Commission (EIC)

Lead support

Transforming Construction (delivered by UKRI) funded £200,000 towards the Future of Consultancy project, and provided support throughout the campaign.

Long Term Vision

Switching their focus towards whole-life value will mean consulting engineers become a sector respected for delivering increased value to society. But a big shift is needed. Through consultation with all its members, ACE is leading the Future of Consultancy project to encourage the sector to review its 'pay by the hour' models and, instead, offer a different kind of value. By up-skilling, embracing artificial intelligence and smart data, and considering the holistic role the sector can play, ACE wants to improve long-term performance and ultimately deliver faster, better, Net Zero designs that support healthier productivity, people and planet.

Human Stories

Consultant engineers have been associated with an industry that is slow to adopt new technologies and techniques to improve the long-term value of UK buildings. While their skills are only really deployed at construction phase, architects and consultant engineers have huge influence over the productivity of the economy, as buildings and infrastructure affect our wider society and environment. The Future of Consultancy project aims to redefine the value architects and consultant engineers add. It is starting by reviewing old-fashioned business models and up-skilling individuals and teams so they can embrace technologies like artificial intelligence and smart data.

Powerful Processes

ACE is supporting the whole sector through a radical step-change. In consultation with its members, ACE will first identify opportunities at home and abroad, explore new business models and contracts, and get industry-wide consensus on the skills profile needed. Its pioneering project, Future of Consultancy will build on existing initiatives and research to deliver tangible outputs in assessing the addressable markets for new technology and future consultancy services. The second phase will focus on implementing these more sustainable business models, successfully leading digital transformation across the sector, and piloting tomorrow’s training, apprenticeship schemes and contracts.

Fascinating Facts

ACE is consulting with all its members to bring about important and overdue step-change in how we design and consultant for more sustainable, whole-life builds. The consultation will include new business models for billing, new areas for training and up-skilling and ways to influence in a more holistic way. Currently the ACE sector capability is only really deployed at construction phase (6% GDP) but influences over 30% GDP as buildings and infrastructure affect wider productivity of the economy. The aim of the Future of Consulting project is to deliver faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes, which have the potential to deliver £15bn of annual benefits across the infrastructure sector.

Benefits

Assurance
The Future of Consultancy project will set new standards for architects and consulting engineers and will raise the bar around skills training and uptake of digital technology. To do this, ACE will showcase examples of innovation in action and share best practice of those using their consultancy to tackle some of the bigger societal challenges we face.

Collaboration
ACE is consulting with all its members to bring about this important and overdue step-change in how we design and consultant for more sustainable, whole-life builds.

Cost
The aim of ACE is to deliver faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes which have the potential to deliver £15bn of annual benefits across the infrastructure sector. Cost savings through the Future of Consultancy project will be a key metric over the next two years.

Emissions
The aim of ACE is to deliver faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes. Carbon emission savings through the Future of Consultancy project will be a key metric over the next two years.

Productivity
The aim of the ACE is to deliver faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes. Productivity improvements through the Future of Consultancy project will be a key metric over the next two years.

Time
The aim of ACE is to deliver faster, better, Net Zero design outcomes. Time savings through the Future of Consultancy project will be a key metric over the next two years.

Trade Gap
A focus on implementing new consultancy models, up-skilling the sector, and embracing artificial intelligence and smart data will allow architects and consultant engineers in the UK to not only apply their expertise to tackling bigger societal challenges across the whole construction infrastructure, but become more competitive in the global construction market.

Whole-life Value
The Future of Consultancy programme will help companies to confidently grasp the rewards presented as the industry moves 'from volume to value'. Rather than being paid by the hour for early stage designs, ACE wants to encourage the sector to channel expertise into designs for whole-life performance, namely designs that support a healthier industry, a healthier end user and a healthier planet.