How will General election affect the Construction Industry?

20th April 2017

THE announcement of a snap General Election raises a number of questions about the future direction of the country, one of which is what does it mean for the UK construction industry?

While elections historically create uncertainty in the market, on this occasion the frequency with which the UK has gone to the polls may actually be of benefit. People, and by extension the markets, have become more accustomed to the shifts in focus and are far quicker to stabilise than elsewhere following the result. Although the parties, at time of writing, have not released their manifestos it is likely that they will be heavily focused on Brexit rather than the broader range of topics usually associated with a national election campaign. This has a mixed effect on the industry. It could be seen that it will be business as usual, as the parties focus their campaigns elsewhere, thereby providing stability within the sector, or without a clear statement as to what they will do it could increase uncertainty. The likelihood is the former though. All the main parties agree that there is a housing crisis in the country, which needs to be dealt with, this provides a measure of security for this area of the sector. Larger infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Hinkley Point C, are unlikely to be significantly impacted due to the amount already spent on them and the parliamentary deliberations which have surrounded them.

A shift in focus on businesses could potentially lead to changes in the number of commercial projects being undertaken. Due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit within the industry this is unlikely to have any further significant impact. If anything the outcome of the election could create a more certain atmosphere for how the EU negotiations will proceed, which would likely help to stabilise the markets in this area. The suddenness of the announcement does mean that parties have less time for consultation periods with industry officials, however, which does raise the concern that they may not base their plans on the requirements of businesses at present. This is further emphasised by the short duration since the 2015 General Election and the need for parties to prioritise their time. Based on this there is potential for them to use the data sourced during the previous General Election, which due to shifts since the referendum is now severely outdated.

The most significant benefit of this being a ‘snap’ General Election with such a limited campaigning period is that it does not give much time for the construction industry to wait for more certainty as to its future. Projects which have already started will continue as usual. There may be a period of hiatus in public sector contracts until after June 8th, however, this is less likely to affect those overseen by local authorities which were already gearing up for election in May and therefore had placed the necessary lags into their programmes. The clear focus of all parties during the campaigns is also likely to mean that there is little chance of market shocks to the industry from manifesto pledges, which helps to avoid any longer term negative impact effects.

Overall the conclusion is that the industry may see some slight shifts in focus but nothing which will be too significant. Housing will still be a key area of growth, schools may see more focus on budgeting for supplies rather than expansion depending on who gets in, however, increasing need to expand capacity is liable to mean that those projects already in discussion will still go head. Larger infrastructure projects which are already started, or heavily into consultation phase, should continue without interference, although it should be noted that there is the chance of a curtailing of new large scale projects for at least the next two years until EU exit has been formalised. For the most part, however, the construction industry should see limited impact from the election.

By Daniel Gibson, Marketing and Development Officer 

What does the budget mean to the construction industry?

9th March 2017

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s final Spring Statement provided a mixed bag of pros and cons for the construction industry. The main issue which people have latched onto is the rise in National Insurance Contributions for self-employed workers; however, there were plenty of positive notes for the industry. Better than expected growth forecast for 2017, from 1.4% to 2%, could help to reassure investors that property is the way forward and lead to an increase in contracts. The increase in animal spirits is slightly dampened, however, by projected decreases in growth over future years. As has been seen in the dramatic change of forecasting between the August statement and now though this could change again. Investors have started to view the forecast figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility with a degree of caution and could potentially seize on the higher growth forecast to regain confidence in investing in private construction projects.

A decisive boost for the industry was unveiled in the Chancellor’s £216million fund for school maintenance. At a time when a number of schools are seeking to expand capacity to meet current needs this fund could prove a boost to education construction as they can now look at extension projects. While the £300million allocation for 110 free schools is not solely aimed at development it also provides an element of optimism for the industry that more tenders could be issued to allow for the premises of these schools to be created. Likewise £620million for English councils to combat ‘urban congestion’ and £113million towards transport to relieve congestion on roads in the Midlands and the North of England will help drive areas of the industry forward. The knock on effects of this are liable to see an increase in housing and local infrastructure development as commuter areas become more accessible and occupancy increases in areas which have previously been discounted due to poor transport networks.

While there was little to suggest that the government would be doing more to recruit more apprentices into the industry to tackle the growing skills shortage, the creation of new ‘T-Levels’ may, in the long term, help to ensure that necessary trades are filled. A focus on technical education, and placing it on a parity with more conventional academic education, is likely to also reduce the stigma that not completing A-levels or a degree still has, and as such help in the campaign to introduce more young people into areas such as apprenticeships and NVQ’s over time.

Where the budget does hit home hardest is in the rise in NIC though. With 939,000 people in the construction sector being self-employed, more than any other sector, it is likely that the impact will be felt more in the industry than other areas. While the rise does bring NIC closer to those on PAYE it fails to account for the lack of additional benefits which employed workers receive, such as holiday pay, sick pay etc. Coupled with the uncertain earnings facing many self-employed workers, where receiving a rebate may not counteract the loss of day to day income, and the increasing squeeze of sole traders within the construction industry, this is liable to make it harder for a number of sub-contractors to operate, with a subsequent impact on larger firms as they struggle to meet already tight demands for skills labour.

So the budget, as with any, has its gains and losses. Overall the industry looks set to be in a strong position in terms of contracts, particularly if the future growth forecasts are viewed with a deserved degree of scepticism. The question will be, however, whether there will be enough trades around to fulfil the requirements.

by Daniel Gibson, Marketing and Development Officer

Skills shortage is greatest risk to industry

February 2017

WHILE a weak pound and concerns over Brexit are of concern to the construction industry, it is the increasing skills shortage which may prove the greatest issue for the sector.

An historic lack of investment in training and promotion of trades has left the construction industry facing a dire lack of talent which could both push up prices and deplete firm’s abilities to carry out projects if not addressed. With approximately 22% of the workforce being there 50’s and 60’s it is an issue which needs addressing immediately in a real and workable way if the firms are going to be able to keep up with the expected demand. A recent study by Arcadis has highlighted just how severe the issue is, with the industry needing to recruit 400,000 people between now and 2021, that works out at about 1 trained worker recruited every 77 seconds.

The question must now be “how do we cope with this right now?” Time has run out and we need solutions immediately. The first step is to start encouraging young people that construction is the industry to work in. Melhuish and Saunders Ltd, for example has been working with local schools and other firms, through its membership of Constructing Excellence South West Somerset Club, to demonstrate the variety of opportunities available, and how to go about training for them. There is an embedded image of construction being about working in all weathers on muddy sites, which granted some is. What we need to be doing as an industry is highlighting just how many different trades there are, how many skills and talents are needed, and how they all fit together to allow for a completed project to be developed.

A crucial asset in drawing people into the industry is the current rate of employment in the UK. With a number of technical industries already heavily overpopulated and employment currently running at 74.6%, its highest levels since current records started in 1971 it may seem counterintuitive to say that school leavers will have hard time, however, this is exactly the situation we find ourselves in. Those still in school are the missing data in the argument of how well the country is doing in terms of employment. When they start to leave, and become part of the government’s statistics they will rapidly find that a full employment in certain sectors makes it harder for them to go in particular directions. This will increasingly be the case if the number of people in public sector jobs continues to decline at its current rate and the private sector takes up the baton of leading employment provider.Construction can provide the younger generation with a secure career for life and a means by which to work in an industry where they can utilise a range of talents and skills.. Part of the problem, however, is that people don’t always see this. Construction is known for being a dips and troughs type of industry, which can put a number of people off joining. As a sector we need to be doing more to highlight the long term plans for construction and demonstrate that it is a secure place to work. This has not been helped by recent uncertainty as to development created by Brexit, however, with the rising need of properties to tackle the emerging housing crisis, the requirement for supporting infrastructure, such as schools and surgeries and a potential demand for industrial construction as Britain re-envisages itself as a viable location for companies to operate outside of the European Union, the future sustainability of the industry is one which must surely be used as a selling point.


As one year ends another begins

December 2016

THE year is drawing to a close and with that comes a focus on what has happened over the last 12 months and what that means for 2017.

There has been a lot of uncertainty reported during 2016 about the future of the industry, particularly in a post-Brexit Britain, however, by taking a close look at the data things do look like they are going to be brighter than expected. The government is planning on releasing a white paper on housing early next year. While the details of what this will focus on have not yet been released it is not unreasonable to assume that they will call for a significant number of houses to be built over the next five to ten years. Whether or not the paper does specifically state this the need for these houses is undeniable. Britain is facing a housing crisis, and it is one which can only grow under current circumstances. This needs to be tackled in some way. For smaller contractors, who may not have the resources to focus on the large scale developments, there will be plenty of smaller build projects which need to be carried out, along with refurbishing the existing stock of uninhabited buildings within the UK.

As housing increases so to does the need for supporting infrastructure, as more young families move into an area already overcrowded school facilities need to be expanded to provide additional capacity, surgeries need to be able to cope with the needs of the area, transport links, road and rail, need to be provided to allow for commuting. All of these things provide opportunities for construction companies of all sizes.

On a data driven level there is also a sign of optimism in the industry following the release of July to September’s planning application figures by the Office of National Statistics. During this period district level planning authorities across England received 120,800 applications, up by one per cent for the corresponding quarter in 2015. The number of granted permissions was up by three per cent from the same quarter in the previous year, with 101,800, of which residential applications rose by six per cent.As the need for more services and developments increases it seems likely that this rise will continue into 2017.

Although Brexit has caused some uncertainty in the market, and smaller firms have started to fear that modular buildings may supplant their current abilities, the number of large scale developments, for example Hinkley Point C and HS2, which seem likely to develop further over the coming months, will provide a substantial amount of smaller subsidiary works to meet their needs. A weak pound may increase the prices of certain materials, and a skills gap increase the wages firms are willing to pay of experienced staff, however, this will be balanced across the whole industry. While it could be argues that increased costs would impact on firms provided that they impact on all firms then no one company should suffer unduly as the market reaches equilibrium.

Gender equality shouldn’t just be hoped for it should be achieved

October 14th 2016

THE construction industry is one of the largest employers in the UK with an estimated 3 million workers and it is still growing. The Construction Industry Training Board, CITB, estimates that in order to meet current demand the industry will need to recruit a further quarter of a million workers by 2019.

With numbers that large it is still surprising for many that women in construction still only make up 1% of site staff and 11% of workers in the industry overall. Thanks to the work of a number of groups it is hoped that, and we really need to stress the “hope” part of that, that by 2020 women will make up a quarter of the workforce, but let’s be honest it still isn’t enough.

Recently a team from Melhuish and Saunders Ltd attended an event introducing college students to the construction industry. Held at Somerset College the event allowed the students to ask questions and gain first hand insights from industry leaders.

Everyone in the industry knows the importance of encouraging more young people to enter it. We have an aging workforce and a growing skills shortage which desperately needs to be tackled if we are to meet the needs of the future growth.

If the training and attitude of the students who attended is anything to go by then the industry can breathe a deep sigh of relief that there are some great candidates coming through. Candidates who will bring fresh insights and the drive needed to help the industry break out of traditional mind-sets and embrace the future.

What was disconcerting, however, was the gender imbalance among the students. Speaking to some of the female students it was clear that there are still concerns that the industry is not geared up to allow for women to work equally on site.

Why is this though? We live in an age of female world leaders, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, millionaires, billionaires, pilots, doctors, and lawyers, all manner of industries and positions where they demonstrate day on day the benefits of equality. We live in a world where the glass ceiling is being broken, slowly, and the old concepts of “women’s roles” questioned and altered, yet in construction there is still a perception that women cannot find a place unless they act like one of the boys.

We need more women in the industry. Not just because there is no reason why there shouldn’t be equal opportunities, although this is crucial, but because men and women are different. We think in different ways. What we need isn’t women entering the industry and trying to act like one of the guys and thinking the same way. We need people who will come at a problem from a different angle, people who will react to situations in different ways. We need fresh ideas and new insights to keep this great industry moving forward.

For the future of construction gender equality needs to be seen not as something to be hoped for but something to be achieved. We need the best and the brightest to create the next generation of projects and gender should have no impact on this.

If the female students we met are anything to go by then those women who do enter the industry are going to be some of its greatest driving forces but we need more and we need them now.

An alternative approach doesn't mean a second rate one

August 25th 2016

AS pupils across the country pick up their GCSE results today there will be many who want to progress onto further education and gain a degree. This is not always the right route for everyone though and it should be remembered that apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for many young people to enter a new career.

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Management suggests that less than half of students are being given adequate information about possible apprenticeships. Coming at the same time as the government has announced plans to create three million more apprenticeships by 2020 it seems clear that more needs to be done to show students the benefit of learning on the job.

There is a clear “brand” issue with apprenticeships with far too many people seeing them as somehow second rate compared to more formal education. This doesn’t reflect the importance of them though. While higher education may suit many it does not suit everyone. Education is not a one size fits all system.

The construction industry in particular has a huge part to play in the reversal of the stigma attached to apprenticeships. With a growing skills shortage, which currently looks likely to grow as more trained operatives retire, now is a crucial time to be promoting the benefits of apprenticeships and showing the positive impact they can have on young people’s lives.

Even firms where taking on an apprentice may not be practical, due to size, positions or workload, can play their part in talking to people about the benefits of construction and the opportunities that they have to enter the industry.

A number of organisations within the industry have already taken steps to address the issue and encourage people to see a career in construction as the fantastic opportunity it is. Constructing Excellence South West for example launched the ‘Adopt a School’ campaign to bring together businesses and schools to provide support and enhance classroom activities. Meanwhile the Construction Industry Training Board provides a vast resource of information about how to find the perfect career in the industry and many others are doing equally excellent work in promoting the routes and roles out there.

Apprenticeships can offer practical on the job training, which, not to denigrate formal education, may be more suitable to certain roles. It can also provide students who do not feel engaged in a more academic classroom setting an opportunity to explore their strengths and learn a trade.

For those already in the industry it provides us with something we so desperately need skilled tradesmen and women who will be able to pass on their knowledge to future generations.

So whatever the scores achieved today it is worth remembering that there are more opportunities out there than you may think. Apprenticeships must no longer be thought of as a second class option just an alternative one.

By Daniel Gibson, Development and Marketing Officer, Melhuish and Saunders Ltd

The need for construction remains, it's the confidence which has left

July 14th 2016

THERE is a term in economics of “Animal Spirits”. Basically it means that human emotion drives consumer confidence.

There has been a lot of news about a slowdown in construction due to Brexit and the effect it will have on the industry. It was something which was warned about before the vote and which appears to be coming to fruition now that the votes have been cast.

The key reason given for the slowdown is the uncertainty in the UK economy, aptly demonstrated by the dramatic fall in the value of sterling after the results were announced.

Mortgage lenders immediately started warning that there would be uncertainty among consumers which, despite lenders being open for business as usual, would put people off from purchasing homes. An ideal example of how animal spirits will affect the economy. People still need homes, there is still a housing shortage in the UK and yet because of human emotion confidence in the market has declined.

When emotion and politics is stripped away, however, the UK construction industry can be viewed in an objective light. Houses still need to be built; infrastructure needs to be created to support new communities. The need for increasing numbers of commercial construction projects, particularly warehouses as was predicted earlier this year, hasn’t changed.

Local communities still need schools, health centres, business premises and leisure facilities. Our needs in short haven’t changed in the last month. The construction industry is used to peaks and troughs in output. We know that there will be good times and bad. We also know that no matter what else is happening in the country people will still need construction.

At present Brexit has created uncertainty in the markets, yet it has also presented opportunities. Yields on government bonds have fallen to a record low which, while very bad for those looking to make money off them, brings down borrowing costs and thereby makes spending on infrastructure more affordable than it has been for a number of years.

A significant issue is that the markets have tended look at the big construction projects and companies as indicators for the industry as a whole. When companies such as Barratts announce that they are reviewing their commitments following the vote then it makes them panic and predict a downturn.

Where the industry needs to be focused, however, is on the numerous smaller scale projects which form its lifeblood. The construction of small affordable housing developments for local councils to help them meet their social housing commitments, construction of health centres and schools and development of facilities to allow companies to grow and expand in their own regions.

Construction is governed by animal spirits but it is also governed by necessity. The vote to leave the EU hasn’t changed our needs just our perceptions and the industry will bounce back as it always does.

By Daniel Gibson, Development and Marketing Officer, Melhuish and Saunders Ltd

Awards aren’t the end. They should be a beginning.

May 10th 2016

FIRSTLY we have a bit of a bang your own drum bit coming up. In recent weeks we have won the “Best Educational Building” category at the West of England LABC Building Excellence Awards, been highly commended in three categories at the Mendip LABC Awards, Best Partnership, Best Site Agent for one of our site supervisors Tony Allen and Best Commercial Building, and shortlisted for two awards at the upcoming Construction Excellence Awards, Best SME and Achiever of the Year for one of our Quantity Surveyors Jo Wells. Hopefully there will be more coming up but they haven’t been announced yet.

The awards are great, they look nice in the display cabinet and the certificates really cover the walls, they aren’t the end of it though.

It is all too easy, and seen many times, when firms win awards one year they try and hark back to them ever more. Sadly no-one really cares about the award you won ten, five, or even two years ago. What they want to know is what are you going to do next?

We are rightly proud of the awards which we have won. They demonstrate the hard work, commitment and talent of all members of the team involved. They are definitely something to feel good about. In the long run though it isn’t the projects which we have won for that will make us stand out. It is the ones which we are working on.

We are currently finishing off a project for the Cotswold Dogs and Cats Home which promises to be a stunning example of good design combined with good construction. It looks great and will meet the needs of the charity for years to come.

Elsewhere we are working on three sites for Bristol City Council building new social housing to Passivhaus standard, that’s the highly energy efficient environmentally friendly approach you see a lot of on Grand Designs for those who aren’t sure. We are carrying out an extensive warehouse refit and renovation for Nisbet’s in Avonmouth to provide them with a stylish showroom, a classroom extension in Brdgwater, new lobby and screening for another company and all of that is just for starters. With other projects underway and tenders being sent out we are still taking on work across the South West, which will be completed to our award winning standard.

This is the point though. The awards we have won are wonderful but it is the projects to come which are where we really are focused, and where any company looking to grow and thrice should be.

An award is not the end of the road it is a sign that you need to keep moving, keep building and who knows maybe add a few more to cabinet in time as well.

Lessons in sustainability could help steel industry

8th April 2016

THE steel crisis in the United Kingdom has gripped the consciousness of the country as thousands of people face unemployment and uncertainty in Port Talbot.

A number of solutions have been put forward for how the situation came about, and most importantly how it can be resolved. Among these have been suggestions that the industry should pay lower rates on electricity, that tariffs are imposed on imported Chinese steel to prevent dumping and, perhaps most drastically, that the government should step in and nationalise the whole thing.

This last idea has been all but dismissed by the current government as unworkable. Instead they have suggested that the construction industry, by far the largest consumer of steel products in the UK, takes more responsibility.

It would be irresponsible to try and shift too much responsibility for the crisis onto construction at this time, without risking long term damage to yet another industry. There is a way that changes in some practices could make a difference. They will require reciprocity of support from the steel industry though.

Many firms in the construction industry are used to being asked about where timber for projects originated, with checks on sustainability occurring more often. This doesn’t mean that all clients’ want to see it but it does mean that for those who do there is an additional check which can be carried out.

If, as is currently occurring, steel prices can remain relatively stable, ensuring that the price quoted at tender will still be the price by the time the steel is on site, then it doesn’t seem implausible for client’s to start requesting made in Britain guarantees for steel in the same way they ask for sustainably sourced for timber.

It may not help those in fear of their jobs at the moment but such a plan could secure at least some stability for the future.

By Daniel Gibson, Marketing and Development Officer, Melhuish and Saunders Ltd


Bringing balance to construction

8th March 2016

THE construction industry is suffering from a problem, a lack of gender diversity.

Based on 2015 figures women make up only 11% of the construction workforce and of these the majority are in office based roles. As if this wasn’t troubling enough women only account for 1% of all site workers.

The reason for these shocking statistics isn’t based on any practical reason. Instead it is down to perceptions of what have been termed gender norms. Essentially women find it harder to work in construction because they don’t work in construction. There is still a prevailing concept that manual labour is man’s work, even this argument doesn’t explain why there is such a low representation of female staff in office based roles.

A study in 2013 by the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency identified that firms which had a proactive approach to gender equality had greater staff retention, improved access to markets and an enhanced reputation.

Having greater staff retention means that firms pay less transaction costs associated with recruitment and promotes staff loyalty, which in turn links to demonstrably improved financial performance through enhanced morale in the workplace.

Further to this other studies have concluded that multinational firms which have at least one female board member were making on average more than $40million per year more than firms without.

With construction suffering a dire skills shortage the industry needs to be attracting more enthusiastic individuals to ensure its survival. Despite this and the overwhelming benefits of a diverse gender environment in the workplace women only made up 2% of construction apprenticeships in 2015.

Part of the problem may be attracting women into the industry. After all who wants to work somewhere where you will on average earn 12% less than someone else just because they are a man. As a note the pay gap then jumps to 33% for building trade and construction supervisors, despite both genders doing the same jobs.

The main problem however is the way in which women are still treated within the industry as a whole and the perceptions which surround them. In a study as part of UCATT’s Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) project, Building a Stronger Union 51% of respondents said they were treated worse at work because of their gender, four in ten identified bullying and harassment by management as a key problem and many felt that they had no promotion prospects when put up against male counterparts.

On International Women’s Day of all days it is time to address this, and then to continue addressing it until something changes. Construction is full of opportunities. It is an exciting and dynamic industry to work in, and one which should be attracting the best possible candidates no matter what their gender. It is time to change the perceptions and start to see the benefits of promoting gender equality across the board.

by Daniel Gibson, Melhuish and Saunders Ltd, Marketing and Development Officer

Market futures looking murky

25th January 2016

Don’t let the recent shock waves in the economy fool you we still haven’t figured out what the markets will do in 2016.

A drop in oil prices normally heralds a period of economic growth and the reasons are fairly obvious. We need oil literally greases the mechanisms of production. Lower fuel costs mean lower production costs, which in turn mean, theoretically, lower prices for consumers. As prices drop people buy more, which puts more money in the pockets of the people producing allowing them to either raise wages employ more staff. Either way it means more money being pumped into the economy which is good for everyone.

There is a problem though. When oil prices have dropped previously it has been due to an excess of supply, the more of something there is the lower its prices. This time round, however, it appears that the drop in prices is due more to a drop in demand. Oil just isn’t the commodity it once was. Not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that people are paying attention to renewables more after all which is, hopefully, good for the environment.

For the markets though it poses a serious risk. Oil has been a strong base for many investors and the thought that it could collapse is putting the frighteners on more than one. Economists don’t like uncertainty and that is exactly what they are facing.

Coupling this with recent developments in China and the markets for 2016 are looking as though they are likely to be in for a rocky time. This has been evidenced this week by the drop in the Shanghai index, due in no small part to the drop in the price of oil.

These developments have not come out of the aether however. China’s rapid expansion and construction boom has longed looked like a bubble set to burst. What keeps it stable though is the influence of the government over the whole situation. Should the growth of industry, without the supporting infrastructure, we have seen in China have been attempted by America or Europe then it would be a dramatically different story. As it is the Chinese government is likely to impose measures to prevent the spiralling decent of its economy. It won’t be pretty but it may just be enough to stave off collapse.

The issue of oil prices however is one which may not have such a hopeful future. Large swathes of the global economy are built on high oil prices, whether directly or indirectly, in some cases without it being evident to the industries themselves until it is too late. A curtailment of supply may help to drive prices up slightly, however, it would be an illusionary fix which defeats the object. Investors know the oil is available it is just a matter of them waiting until they can access it.

For now the future is uncertain and likely to remain that way. The loss of revenue from oil is likely to create further instability in the Middle East and create a domino effect of devaluation. As the main beneficiaries of oil wealth withdraw their support from other enterprises the economy as a whole will feel the pinch.

Whether we like it or not oil is still the life blood of market enterprise and right now the markets need a transfusion.

by Daniel Gibson, Marketing and Development Officer, Melhuish and Saunders Ltd

​  COP21 could be catalyst of change for construction

15th December 2015

The success of the Paris Climate Change agreement must be tempered by a realisation of how difficult it will be to achieve.

For the construction sector in particular it provides a challenge which will be hard for some countries to overcome. At present the construction industry is responsible for more than 30% of the world greenhouse gas emissions. As the delegates at the climate change conference fly back to their home nations on private airplanes it will fall to the construction industry to ensure that they can meet the target of below two degrees for global warming.

Recent statistics have given rise to the prediction that the global population could be nearing 10 billion by 2050, about the same time that global greenhouse gas is expected to rise by 70%. With such a dramatic increase in population comes and equally dramatic need for construction. 10 billion people need homes to live in, hospitals to be born and treated in, schools to be educated in, factories and offices to work in, shops to buy goods in, roads to travel along and on and on. The construction industry is set for a period of growth, even taking into account that the majority of those born between now and 2050 will be in developing countries without necessarily having access to all of the facilities which would be hoped.

If the global construction industry is going to meet the needs of these dual issues then it is going to need to start adapting to new technologies and embracing some existing ones.

The construction of Passivhaus builds for example could become the norm as an increasing number of architects and contractors see them to being the solution to meet the current climate change targets. “With innovative new technologies and expected cost reductions, climate-damaging emissions can be further cut, leading to an eventual complete decarbonisation of the sector”, Oliver Rapf,Executive Director of the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) writes on the subject in a publication for the think tank Friends of Europe.

The principles behind Passivhaus design are quite simple, and play nicely to the principles set out in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, Carbon Dioxide emissions are reduced as the energy consumption of these build is limited by their heat retention capability. Likewise in hot weather the buildings ability to maintain a constant temperature internally through its design prevents the need for air conditioning or other energy intensive measures. Even with a new focus on renewable energy the increased efficiency of Passivhaus builds is likely to be an area of growth in the future, after all preventing the need for the energy consumption is preferable to needing even green energy sources.

"Renewable energy is absolutely essential for climate protection, but better efficiency offers even greater potential", says Dr. Wolfgang Feist, Director of the Passive House Institute.

Forty-five years from now the world and the construction sector in particular will be a very different place. The evidence for this is simple just look at the construction industry in 1965 compared to today. By embracing new ecological and sustainable building practices the industry in 2050 can still be the driving economic force it is now, more importantly though it could potentially be the driving environmental one as well.

by Daniel Gibson, Melhuish and Saunders Marketing and Development Officer

Communities need commercial construction

3rd November 2015

RECENT announcements of increased focus on the housing market will have a knock on effect for the commercial sector.

The “expansion” of the housing stock proposed by the government is only the start of a much larger increase in the construction of supplementary buildings. For those planning their family home a good place to start is the location of the nearest school. If looking to downsize in retirement, how easy will it be to get to the doctors without transport. These are sweeping generalities but they are examples of the larger issues surrounding an increase in properties.

Where do you go to buy the groceries? How close is the local doctor’s surgery? Are you going to be able to buy the little bits and pieces which make a home a home? When planning for a large scale increase in housing it is not just homes which need to be considered.

The construction of commercial units, schools and clinics is something which appears to have been missed out of the headlines, possibly as it is not as dynamic or interesting as having a debate about the affordability of people’s homes. This does not mean that it is any less important.

The construction industry is essential to the economy just as much as it is to the individuals looking for somewhere to live. At present approximately 3 million people are employed in the UK construction industry. Not all of these on housing contracts and not all actually on site. It provides the means of production and it gives people the opportunity to invest. It is the economy, just a microcosm of the larger whole and the commercial sector is crucial to its continued success.

The construction industry is about more than just houses. It is about ensuring that shops are available when needed, that children can go to school, and have somewhere to go afterwards. It is about ensuring medical facilities are available when needed. It is in short about building a community and for that you need more than just homes.

While it is important that the newspapers discuss the housing situation in the UK it would be wrong to imagine that this is the be all and end all of the role of the construction industry. Provision needs to be set aside in any plans for the expansion of commercial products alongside the new developments. If the plan is to build communities then they must also provide opportunities.

Firms with proven track records in the commercial sector need to be included in the discussion before plans are set in concrete. Construction is all about supply and demand. The difference between other such industries however is that supply already needs to be in place before the demand is realised. For it to be done any other way will lead to a lack of structure for the future and greater problems down the line.

These problems will be avoided with clear planning and forward thinking and it is this which will ensure that the commercial construction sector is building towards a bright future.

by Daniel Gibson, Melhuish and Saunders, Marketing and Development Officer

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Melhuish and Saunders Ltd Building Contractors. Based in Glastonbury the company operates on construction projects across the South West, including Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Bristol and parts of Devon