Two main factors have changed the pattern of the UK construction industry over the past year. Both the COVID-19 global pandemic and Brexit are greatly responsible for the reshaping of the construction industry. As the construction work environment changes, so do the types of construction industry opportunities in the UK. Engineering and construction projects have continued despite these changes, with an increase in refurbishments and repurposing of redundant commercial buildings. In the residential sector more people are renovating their homes to accommodate a work from home environment or looking for low rise family housing as remote working continues, a move away from high rise city centre accommodations located closer to commercial districts.
New areas of growth
In 2021 there is a shift from simply dealing with the global pandemic to adapting necessary changes to normalise life as much as possible. With the increased government funding there will be a growth in health, education and civil engineering. This growth will also be visible in the amenity and community sectors. It is predicted that construction markets in northern UK may outperform London and the South East over a period of time, reflecting the changes in government funding. It will be up to the construction firms to be aware and target the upcoming opportunities and ensure that they have the needed expertise and resources in place.
Further, new working practices will have to be adopted to adapt to the current global environment with new areas of expertise arising to cater to these changes. It will be beneficial for the construction industry as a whole to collaborate on the new roles and requirements to achieve a common goal of the growth of industry productivity.
Risk mitigation strategies
The construction sector work environment has changed significantly owing to work restrictions with the number of personnel allowed onsite being limited. This has resulted in the need for extended construction times with scheduled work time to try and minimise the impact on workloads, cashflow and turnover. Improving productivity and ensuring economic growth during a global pandemic are the key end goals that the construction industry works towards by bringing in risk mitigation strategies.
With the construction industry dealing with so many unknowns from employee numbers, to contract workers looking for alternate employment to social distancing regulations, to building materials not being delivered on time, there are many factors that can wreak havoc on the UK construction industry productivity. However, though at a slower pace the demand for continued construction work is strong.
Spreading a company workforce across a larger number of projects is one such strategy as it, to an extent, mitigates the slow pace of site work which leads to delays, which in turn leads to delayed payments. By working on a greater number of projects it is possible to counter the lower monthly revenues, as the business will no longer be dependent on one customer pipeline at a time.
Taking stock of newly arisen changes in construction projects such as interruptions in overseas product supplies and putting in place counter actions to those issues will help to a large extent reduce the industry’s exposure to a financial crisis. 2021 is the year to take a long term view and accept that project management systems may not immediately return to how they were pre COVID-19 and to work towards establishing new procedures that take the new environment into account.
With Brexit there is a reduction in the available skilled onsite labour and COVID-19 restrictions have made previous construction work practices difficult, resulting in increased construction costs and delivery time disruptions. All of these factors have forced construction companies to adapt to a new way of working from home. Unless where absolutely necessary construction companies have also adopted remote working with the help of new digital technologies.
As seen in other industries, construction too has made the shift to technology and digital tools to facilitate remote working, for jobs that do not require an onsite presence. By using Building Information Modelling or BMI, industry professionals can gain insight and access to needed tools to plan, design and construct more efficiently.
Another good investment for the construction sector is cloud-based software that helps automate some of the manual office-based tasks. It also allows the team to collaborate easily even though not physically together. Another effective way to streamline the working from home process is to have an effective platform which brings everyone in a company together for improved efficiency, where upcoming opportunities can be shared immediately, and work progress can be updated regularly. Though remote, having all parties connected in real time enables a strong work ethic and enhanced profitability.
At present, it seems highly unlikely that unrestricted access to sties or face-to-face contacts will be allowed to take place, and if the UK construction industry is to make use of the current opportunities and emerge strong from the global pandemic restrictions then forward thinking, risk mitigation strategies and digital transformations are essential.