The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction


Prof Raymond Levitt discusses barriers to innovation in construction at UCL and Imperial College

23 October 2017

In October 2017, Stanford’s Kumagai Professor in Engineering, Emeritus Prof Raymond Levitt visited two leading London universities to share his thoughts on innovation in the construction industry.

Prof Raymond Levitt delivers lecture at UCL

On 3 October, Prof Levitt delivered the first event in The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management’s 2017-18 keynote lecture series. The talk reflected on how, over the course of several centuries, political, economic, social and technological trends have shaped the structure of labour markets and firms in the US construction industry. Prof Levitt’s lecture traced the fragmentation of the industry in light of four key trends: technological, economic, social and political.

The UCL event concluded by considering how the key trends will continue this transformation of the sector, amongst other factors, with digitisation, prefabrication and extreme outsourcing are increasingly impacting the future of the construction industry.

The following day, Prof Levitt delivered a counterpart to his UCL talk in a CSEI 2017 distinguished lecture at Imperial College’s Centre for Systems Engineering and Innovation (CSEI). This lecture identified how productivity increases in developed country construction industries have lagged behind those in other industries such as aerospace and biotechnology, while noting a high level of innovation in components and work processes, such as lighting or windows.

Prof Levitt’s CSEI lecture considered two types of innovation: those that affect only a single component or module and its “swim lane” in the highly fragmented supply chain of the industry, versus those that cut across multiple components and multiple swim lanes of the supply chain, impacting both the designs of multiple components and their manufacturing and installation processes and sequences. The lecture discussed the many structural barriers facing both kinds of innovations in construction and other mature industries, and proposed some governmental policies and corporate strategies that could help to overcome these barriers.

Read Prof Levitt’s slides from both lectures: