Construction National

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Tue22082017

Last updateTue, 22 Aug 2017 2pm

Construction industry builds up a head of steam as confidence returns

Construction National blog logoRecent months have seen the steady building up of a head of steam in the construction industry. Output has been improving and confidence returning - albeit with a bit of a dip in the run-up to the General Election.

The publication of the latest Markit/CIPS Construction PMI survey reported the highest level of confidence in the future for over 11 years - since January 2004. Moreover, orders have been picking up - in the commercial sector as well as the residential - and employment is increasing at the fastest rate since last December. The skills gap is continuing to influence sub-contractor availability, with a consequent steady rise in fees.

There is always a 'however' to these stories. In this case it is the fact that the rise in activity is stretching the supply chain to the limits. As a result, delivery times have lengthened and supply of some materials has all-but dried up. In some ways it's a happy problem to have and one that we all hope will also fade as production increases to keep pace.

It is the housing sector that is leading the way, with significant boosts being attributed to various government schemes. There is, however, a significant school of thought that says supply is in no way satisfying the huge demand for housing across the UK and a new approach is needed.

One solution being suggested is an increase in the level of off-site modular construction, coupled with changes to policy to encourage better quality and sustainability in housebuilding. The proposal was put forward by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the form of a report by eminent Fellow, Dr Tim Fox.

The report also recommends more help and encouragement for social housing providers such as local authorities and housing associations as well as for self-builders. Whether that would result in even more sub-contractor shortages is unclear.

Self build and one-off projects are also the latest addition to the scope of the NHBC's Pride in the Job Awards, with the Single Plot Commendation category being added a couple of years ago. They were announced in June, together with the first round of the site manager awards. It is a multifaceted competition and we will be following its progress over the coming months.

The competition runs alongside another set of NHBC awards: the Health and Safety Awards. A profile of some of the winners and their sites can be found in this issue, along with winners of the LABC Warranty Site Manager of the Year Awards. It is heartening to see more and more attention going to those at the coal face, so to speak.

Reflecting the increasing optimism in the sector, a new exhibition and conference focusing on the capital's construction sector took place in June. London Build was hailed a success, with future events planned. As a media partner of the event, this publication partook of that success, making new friends and gaining many new readers.

A second in the series of regional events will be happening in November in Glasgow. Scotland Build will reflect what is hoped to be a boost to activity north of the border as a result of hoped-for additions to Scottish Government spending powers. Construction National will once more be acting as a media partner for that event. A further show is planned for the North of England next year, in Manchester.

Of course the biggest influencer of construction activity is government; and George Osborne's first 100% Tory Budget drew comment from most sectors of the industry. First reactions are looked at in this issue, but there will much further comment in the coming weeks and months as the industry digests the fine print. It is comment which we will be reporting on, both in print and online.