Lafarge Tarmac’s Dr Bill thinks things are looking up
Autumn is almost upon us, traditionally the time when we finish off all those little jobs at home that we have started in the summer in order to get things nice and tidy before the onset of winter and the inevitable feeling of being ‘shut in’. Similar considerations apply to building sites, where making the best of the (reducing) hours of daylight and the current good weather is a key priority. There will be a rush to complete any external work including fencing, paths, patios and unfinished external walls before the weather breaks.
On a wider front, the expectation of real growth in the housing market continues to build, with the NHBC saying (at least on local TV news) that new home registrations are up 25% and that there is an upswing throughout the country not just in the south east. If the weather is not too bad over the next few months, we should see some actual house building resulting from this trend. One possible hurdle to rapid expansion of the market however, is the (sadly predictable) shortage of skilled tradesmen, a complaint that also afflicts the civil engineering sector in a big way.
In recessionary times, skilled staff is often lost during the downturn, many of whom may then leave the industry and be unavailable when the volume of work increases. A history of successive ‘boom and bust’ in construction activity is not an ideal recipe for maintaining a skilled workforce.
Whilst there will always be a need for highly skilled people in construction, perhaps it is worth thinking laterally about whether manufacturers could develop new materials, processes and components that are more tolerant of lower levels of skill. This would possibly lessen the impact of a skills shortage on construction without compromising quality. Examples of this type of thinking include self compacting concrete, which eliminates the need for manually applied compaction, or pre-packed mortars and concrete which only require the addition of water, thereby reducing batching errors.
Let’s finish on an upbeat note though. We’ve had a remarkably good summer which hopefully will put us (nationally) in a mood for really driving for growth in construction in the months to come. Britain is good at building, so let’s do more of what we are good at!