So let us take stock. After a year of pandemic, the exit from the European Union and the ever rising climate risk it’s good to take stock. Unsurprisingly the construction industry naturally has encountered challenges: shortage of materials, social distancing restrictions and amendments to contracts. There has been a year of conserving cash and re-assessing projects.
This is the time really for organisations to think about how they can thrive in these new working environments. A starting point is always for contractors, housebuilders and suppliers to have the necessary liquidity to continue operating. The last year has shown that careful management of inventory / contract amounts lends itself to cash flow control. In the supply chain, those with automation embedded saw a quicker return than those relying on manual working (and therefore close proximity to people). There are broader matters to consider:
- Diversification: With the continued debate about the future of the office there is an increased demand for overhauling existing commercial property. Repurposing and fitting to reflect uses going forward. Organisations can utilise the skill set they have to advance areas in need.
- Modular: Modular construction – still unpopular in sectors of the UK construction industry – is an ideal solution. It is more cost-effective than bespoke design and can reduce onsite transmission risks because it is pre-assembled offsite.
- Supply chain digitisation – or in fact any digitisation. With technology advancing and robotics demonstrating that they can reduce labour costs and increase quality, repeatability and productivity. There is still a feeling of “stone age” within the sector and therefore making tangible moves more in this digital world would be beneficial.
- Delivery of affordable housing – many house builders appear to be progressing on well following the pandemic. Many smaller house builders face uncertainty and increasing risk in relation to a shortage of skilled labour. To continue to boost and allow more affordable housing, the government should invest in social housing to help increase the level of new homes (and maybe reach that 300,000 target).
- The future: buildings that will be around in 2050 are built now or coming soon. There is a need to fundamentally change what and how we built to ensure it is fit not just for now but for the future. The location and shape of our homes will change. As commuting declines, fewer people will need to live in or near to cities. As our dwellings become our place of work, in-home office areas will become a necessity, as will outside space or purpose-built gyms. Planning laws will need to reflect these changing needs.
There are tough times ahead but the sector can adapt and thrive – in fact it is adapting to thrive.