The construction landscape in 2014

The construction landscape in 2014.jpg

There is no denying that 2013 was a challenging year for the construction industry. Yet despite predictions of the worst decline in construction activity for more than 30 years, Chalcroft has successfully completed a number of significant projects in the last 12 months. With a backlog in the pipeline, I expect many will see an upturn in volume this year aided by the increasing pressure on infrastructure as well as the opportunity to develop new, more efficient facilities.

In the summer of 2011, the Construction Products Association (CPA) forecast that recovery for the construction industry was unlikely until 2013. By the autumn of that year, the forecast had been revised to 2014 as the private sector failed to see strong enough recovery to offset the impact of government spending cuts.

In the wake of that gloomy statement, CPA Chief Executive Michael Ankers, said: "The hoped for robust recovery from the private sector, to compensate for these cuts, is not materialising...Recovery finally arrives in 2014, but by then we will have experienced the worst decline in construction activity for more than 30 years."

It made for sober reading then but as talk of economic recovery gathers momentum today, one could be forgiven for thinking that we're well out of the woods. Indeed the Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI® survey, released 3 January, reported strong output rises recorded in all three broad areas of construction activity (housing, commercial and civil engineering), with the fastest increase in commercial work since August 2007.

Commenting on the report, David Noble, Chief Executive Officer at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said: "Continued strong expansion marked an outstanding end to 2013 for UK construction, positioning the sector on a solid recovery path for 2014. Whilst housing remained the fastest growing activity and civil engineering maintained its pace, commercial activity reported the sharpest rate of expansion since August 2007; an indicator of the broadening out of the recovery."

Yet the pressure on productivity and profitability will undoubtedly remain high. These are challenges that the industry must continue to overcome and in 2014, it is likely that we will see the increasing adoption of collaboration solutions supported by overall growth of IT spending in construction.

The use of Building Information Model (BIM) technology, which helps all parties involved in a project work collaboratively will extend with construction teams consuming this information and contributing to the models increasingly via mobile devices. Simultaneously, mobile access to project information from smartphones and tablets will become a necessity rather than a luxury due to its impact on the speed and accuracy of project execution.

Collaboration solutions of this nature will be a significant factor in 2014 for successful project delivery that minimises cost. And that, despite the positive and very welcome signs of wider recovery, will be the key driver for all projects in the coming year.