Laing O’Rourke chief executive Ray O’Rourke has warned that construction remains in the “dark ages” and has urged the sector to move to more offsite manufacturing.
The comment came as the 74-year-old Irishman, who founded the business in 1978 before buying Laing Construction from John Laing in 2001, revealed that he was considering floating the business on the public markets as part of his succession plans.
In an interview with the Financial Times, O’Rourke said: “We will float the company in a few years’ time. By 2024 we will be in good shape.”
He added that construction was still “in the dark ages” and said he believed the future of the industry was in offsite manufacturing. Laing O’Rourke’s Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction in Steetley, Nottinghamshire, employs 400 people and is one of Europe’s most advanced construction products manufacturing facilities.
But he added that the sector has been hampered by a rapid succession of construction ministers. Nonetheless, he told the paper he saw the aftermath of Brexit and the covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity for change.
O’Rourke said: “Democracy is a very expensive pastime. If we get rid of some of the red tape then that would be very helpful. I know China is totally different, but when you look at what they achieve in a short space of time, it takes us twice the time to get to the start point.
“I think if we had a more executive government and we were closer to the fire of industry then that would be helpful.”