Ray O’Rourke: ‘Construction still in the dark ages’

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.”

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  1. i live in Hong Kong and couldn’t disagree more with the sentiment of executive led governments.
    Iain Mowatt FCIOB

  2. Yeah, dictatorships are often good at getting things done quickly.

  3. The British Construction Industry is still in the dark ages Wet trades have been substantially reduced in North America. Masonry work has in the main been replaced with metal studs and offsite produced concrete wall panels

  4. Democracy is not a pastime. Ray confuses cost and value.

  5. Being a totalitarian state, of course China can ‘achieve (things) in a short space of time’…or else ! With all due respect, the irony seems to have escaped Ray O’Rourke that no-one with entrepreneurial views like his would be permitted to express them.

  6. Ray has the voice of truth, common sense and reality. The future of construction will come more and more from modular off-site manufactured components made up of more and more natural environmentally friendly products producing housing that produces zero waste, fits together tightly the way it should, holds together staying strong in all kinds of weather conditions for longer providing a healthier living atmosphere and more comfortable surroundings at a really affordable cost and built in a fraction of the current time scales more efficiently. Look for the slogan “Tomorrows buildings Today” to find that Ray O’Rourke is right. Michael R. Wolf31 August 2021

  7. Entertaining comment regarding autocracies which are usually quite dysfunctional and stifling towards innovation and free expression as alluded to by Mr. Collins above.
    I think Mr. O’Rourke’s reference to changing ministers is a fair criticism about government lack of consistency has us driving towards the demographic capacity and cliff edge with a MMC parachute that is still not suitable nor sufficient for clients and UK context. (If we stop using MMC or the rather imprecise ‘precision manufacturing’ terms and Offsite Construction instead then the risk averse neophobes will be more like to buy in.

  8. Well we’re in the dark ages yes we are to some degree, that being the way we treat the people within our industry,They need desent training,wages a pensions and sick pay.
    The process of design and procurement need to be adhear to not avoided by design. The resent events and public inquiry into Grenfel Towers fire show how bad the design and development of structures in our industry has failed and called.
    I have worked my whole life in the construction industry

  9. Ray had me nodding in agreement until I got to the last two paragraphs.

    It does indeed appear the irony of the ability to grow his business in an autocratic environment is utterly lost (unless he had spent the last 43 years being a sycophant – not a character Ray is known for), and that ultimately belies his lack of reference outside of his own business.

    I’d hoped he would focus the end of the article on building relationships with clients, ensuring we become the high quality employer of choice for those focused on driving genuine improvement and identifying clearly everything we do is about people and relationships.

    Perhaps he will address that next time.

  10. When you look at the wages that assistant site management amd site management are getting compared to trades these days you will see that trades earn £1200-£1500 a week on prices . So why take all the pressure and earn £15-30k less than the guys you are managing. Just like Jose Murinio says the Manager should be the highest paid person in the team . After all it is them who are ultimately responsible should the **** hit the fan .

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