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Hot Topic Highlight - Government Construction Playbook

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, Property Elite consultant, Abigail Blumzon BArch (Hons) MSc, MRICS discusses ‘The Construction Playbook’, newly published Government Guidance on sourcing and contracting public works projects and programmes.

Abigail is a Chartered Surveyor (Project Management pathway) and qualified construction project manager. She has a wide range of professional expertise in a variety of roles within the construction sector.

Essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates, this blog is particularly relevant to the Procurement and Tendering, Programming and Planning and Development/Project Briefs competencies. It will also be of interest to anyone involved in works projects and programmes across the public sector.

What is the Construction Playbook?

‘The Construction Playbook’ is a Government Guidance document about sourcing and contracting public works projects and programmes, published in December 2020.

The document captures best practices and sets out how Government will work with the industry to make sure public projects are delivered in a more collaborative, efficient and sustainable way.

The full Construction Playbook can be downloaded on the Government website.

When does the Construction Playbook apply from?

It applies to all new projects and programmes from December 2020.

Who is the Construction Playbook aimed at and how should it be applied?

The document is aimed at professionals across public sector contracting authorities who are responsible for the planning and delivery of public work projects and programmes.

The policies are mandatory for central government and arm’s length bodies on a ‘comply or explain’ basis, which aims to recognise that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for all public works.

Principles should be applied proportionately to the complexity and significance of each project or programme.

The wider public sector is also encouraged to take account of the recommendations, and they can be considered good practice for all professionals involved in public works.

What are the aims of the Construction Playbook?

The construction sector is key to the UK economy. It contributed £117 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and supports over 2 million jobs. The public sector is a key construction client. This means they have the potential to drive broad change through how they approach the development and delivery of construction.

The Construction Playbook aims to embed a new and more collaborative approach.

The five core aims include:

  1. Getting projects and programmes right from the start, on the principle that successful project initiation can take more time at the start but will ultimately increase the end-to-end speed;

  2. Taking strides towards the UK’s 2050 net zero commitment and focusing on a whole life carbon approach to deliver greener facilities designed for the future;

  3. Strengthening the financial assessment of all the suppliers the Government works with to make sure projects are delivered on time and to budget;

  4. Delivering a fairer industry, with stronger relationships between the industry and its clients, fewer disputes, and more equitable contractual terms;

  5. Ensuring that investment in construction projects creates the greatest economic, social and environmental value possible.

What is the Construction Playbook structured?

It is an 83-page document. The chapters have been structured around the main stages of a typical procurement and project lifecycle:

  • Preparation and planning;

  • Publication;

  • Selection;

  • Evaluation and award;

  • Contract implementation.

There are 14 key policies flowing through the Playbook. These key policies are the reforms or actions which will purportedly have the greatest impact in improving how we deliver public works projects and programmes.

What are the Mandatory Policies?

  1. ‘Commercial pipelines’ – formulating and publishing comprehensive 3-5 year pipelines of current and future contracts so that suppliers can prepare for future demand and opportunities;

  2. ‘Market health and capability assessments’ – considering the available skills in the market when planning projects, and using this assessment to identify opportunities and limitations, as well as considering what activities may help strengthen the market;

  3. ‘Portfolios and longer term contracting’ – designing contracts and frameworks around giving suppliers the certainty to invest in skills, resource, and innovation, e.g. contracting 8 years of relatively certain work using a 4+4 contract (with the extension based on good performance);

  4. ‘Harmonise, digitise, and rationalise demand’ – seeking opportunities to collaborate with other authorities to develop and adopt shared requirements and common standards to drive efficiencies, e.g. common specifications or digital object libraries;

  5. ‘Further embed digital technologies’ – using the UK BIM Framework to enable secure, resilient data sharing across organisations and ultimately improving the performance, sustainability and value for money of projects and programmes by providing data-driven insights;

  6. ‘Early supply chain involvement’ – investing time early, which will lead to better designs, resulting in both reduced design changes and unforeseen cost increases, and faster on-site delivery;

  7. ‘Outcome-based approach’ – adopting an outcome-based approach to quantifying success, with clear measures and KPIs set at the outset to drive improvement, inform the choice of route to market, and help suppliers understand ambitions;

  8. ‘Benchmarking and Should Cost Models’ – undertaking data-driven benchmarking of key deliverables including cost, programme and greenhouse gas emissions to support decision making, budget setting, incentivisation schemes, and Life Cycle Costing evaluations;

  9. ‘Delivery Model Assessments’ – following an evidence-based approach to decide the most appropriate delivery model for a project;

  10. ‘Effective Contracting’ – reviewing and consolidating frameworks to ensure competition and flexibility across government, as well as ensuring contracts are structured in a way that drives collaboration and continuous improvement;

  11. ‘Risk allocation’ – ensuring risks are appropriately allocated and ultimately owned or jointly owned by the parties best able to manage and bear them;

  12. ‘Payment mechanism and pricing approach’ – linking payment to the delivery of outputs and/or work value and performance, making prompt payments, and not asking suppliers to take unlimited liabilities (while recognising the financial capacity of suppliers when establishing limits of liabilities);

  13. ‘Assessing the economic and financial standing of suppliers’ – carrying out robust and transparent checks into economic and financial standing of suppliers to safeguard delivery;

  14. ‘Resolution planning’ – putting in place contingency plans for critical projects, as well as taking steps to mitigate the risk of supplier insolvency, e.g. bonds, project bank accounts, mandating suppliers to provide their own ‘service continuity plans’ and ongoing financial monitoring.

As the Playbook concludes, “experience has shown that successful project delivery requires cross-functional working bringing together different professional areas of expertise. The key is ensuring that we have joined-up teams with input from the right functions early in the process”.

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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