As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes across the UK and we enter a new phase of working, the construction industry has begun to pick up the pieces and has been tasked by Government to Build Build Build.
The Construction Products Association estimates that construction output will fall by 25% in 2020, with the largest falls in activity in private housing (-42%), commercial construction (-36%) and private repair maintenance and improvement (-35%). Hopefully these damaging figures will be improved with Boris Johnson’s pledge of £5 billion in fast-tracked infrastructure investment to help rebuild the UK’s economy out of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes investment in new academy schools, homes, green buses and broadband with significant sums of money earmarked for hospital building and new roads.
While the Government’s spending plans have been welcomed, bigger questions over whether such a commitment is feasible remain, particularly given the challenges the construction industry has faced as a result of lockdown and the potential uncertain effects of Brexit at the end of 2020.
To provide a possible path to wider UK economic recovery, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has produced a ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ – a blueprint to drive the recovery of the construction and built environment sectors. The CLC anticipate that recovery from COVID-19 will be gradual with most of the recovery set for 2021.
The strategy aims to increase the level of activity across the construction ‘ecosystem’ (a wide set of merchants, manufacturers, contractors, housebuilders and related professions including architecture, engineering and consultancy) to accelerate the process of industry adjustment to the ‘new normal’ and build capacity in the industry to deliver strategic priorities including: decarbonisation, modernisation through digital and manufacturing technologies, and delivering better, safer buildings. There are three phases to the plan, to be delivered over two years:
Restart: increase output, maximise employment and minimise disruption (0-3 months)
Reset: drive demand, increase productivity, strengthen capability in the supply chain (3-12 months)
Reinvent: transform the industry, deliver better value, collaboration and partnership (12-24 months).
The guidance says: “The outcomes will create a more capable, professional, productive and profitable sector, which delivers better value to clients, better performing infrastructure and buildings, and competes successfully in global markets. Failure to act will miss an opportunity to deliver this, and risks the industry lapsing into a longer term recession, which erodes capability and skills and leaves a smaller, weaker sector as a legacy.”
“The coronavirus crisis has shown that construction really can do things differently,” said Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive, Build UK. “The Roadmap provides a clear plan not only to get the industry back on its feet but make change ‘stick’ for the longer-term sustainability of the sector. It is up to each and every one of us to grab this opportunity, lead the infrastructure revolution, and create the legacy of a strong and sustainable industry for the next generation.”