Introduction of the Construction Playbook - best practice guidance for Central Government and arms-length bodies in the procurement and delivery of infrastructure projects

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In December 2020 the Government published the Construction Playbook, being a guide to the procurement of construction services across the public sector.

The Construction Playbook sets out the government’s strategy and policies for procuring, delivering and operating contracts for major public sector construction infrastructure projects, such as schools and hospitals, from 2021 onwards.  

Referred to as a “Compact with Industry”, the Playbook has been developed with the Construction Leadership Council and the wider construction industry. It is signed by a number of industry bodies and senior executives of some of the major UK construction contractors and consultants.

The key drivers behind the Playbook are:

  • the government’s commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a particular focus to “build back better, faster, greener”;
  • boosting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • driving innovation and social value;
  • promoting modern methods of construction (“MMC”);
  • creating sustainable “win-win” contracting arrangements;
  • increasing the speed of end-to-end project and programme delivery; and
  • to prioritise building safety, both in terms of the health and safety of those working on projects, and building structures themselves.

The Playbook sets out best practice, describing what should be done at all stages of a project, from policy inception to operation post-completion.   

The 78 page document sets out 14 key policies. Some of these include:

  • Commercial pipelines – the government proposes publishing comprehensive lists of current and future government contracts to allow suppliers plenty of time to prepare to bid and engage early, with a view to achieving wider participation and greater diversity in the supply chain;
  • Portfolios and longer term contracting – use of longer term contracts and individual projects grouped into portfolios where appropriate, to provide certainty to the industry such that it becomes commercially viable for suppliers to invest in innovative new technologies and MMC;
  • Outcome based approach – focusing on whole life value, performance and cost with clear and measurable outcomes being set at the outset of a project that are evaluated robustly;
  • Effective contracting – development of a contracting environment that delivers successful relationships, is focused on outcomes and creates long term value. The use of standard contract terms is proposed to speed up and simplify procurement; and
  • Risk allocation – appropriate and equitable approach to risk allocation between the contracting parties, including caps on liabilities, and the promise of a fair return.

The policies are mandated for central government departments and arm’s length bodies on a “comply or explain” basis but the wider public sector is also encouraged to take account of the Playbook and use their discretionary rights to do so.  

This article was written by Katharine Rutherford and Sarah Wasniowski.

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