Hosted by journalist Dan Walker, the Construction Products Association Live Debate – The Future of the Construction Industry pulled together experts, including our own CEO Iain McIlwee to interrogate the impact of COVID-19 on the future of the construction sector. Topics covered included:
- The Covid-19 pandemic has seen one of the greatest hits to both the UK economy and the UK construction industry on record. In its most recent Construction Industry Scenarios, the CPA estimates total construction output in Great Britain is expected to fall by 25% during 2020. Its most optimistic scenario doesn’t expect the industry returning to 2019 levels until early 2022, its more pessimistic ones won’t see it return to 2019 levels until Q1 2023.
With this in mind what could recovery look like?
- The CPA highlights that productivity on site has fallen by 30-40% recently (depending on site size) give social distancing measures. The construction industry has always adapted and evolved and with this in mind can you give some examples of where the industry has already adapted and started to improve on this by new ways of working. Are there others ways the supply chain can help the industry and the Country recover?
How will the construction industry really use this crisis as an opportunity to change itself and work more collaboratively?
- The Government has sent out sometimes contradictory messages about its expectations around things like standards, building regulations and planning, which might be confusing for much of our audience. Government talks, for example, of full support for net-zero and safer, better quality homes and buildings, but then it also suggests it would be willing to walk away from standards and regulatory alignment established with the EU, and to loosen planning regulations.
Is there a ‘disconnect’ here? And how is the construction industry supposed to plan, invest, train, innovate, and really put your shoulder to the wheel if the signals from your biggest client are unclear?
- Looking ahead, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised a ‘Rooseveltian’ programme of investment in Britain and has pledged to “build, build build” to bring the country out of recession after the coronavirus pandemic. The PM has announced a ‘New Deal’ with £5bn investment to accelerate infrastructure projects, create jobs and revitalise the economy. The CPA’s Economics team has pointed out however that this investment in “not new, additional money despite the spin behind it.”
What more do you think the government can do to stimulate construction activity and where should attention be focused? We heard the Chancellor’s announcement on energy-efficient retrofit last week, but what else could be done, for example, to boost house building, or on infrastructure delivery?
- We have seen so many fantastic examples of our industry stepping up during this crisis, from charity events and fundraising to donations of materials and PPE to various organisations and, of course, maintaining building and maintenance work on essential projects and infrastructure such as the Nightingale Hospitals.
What advice would you give to colleagues across the industry to ensure they all stay safe whilst helping the country recover?
The panel of experts included Peter Caplehorn, CPA; Philip Johns, SIG plc; Graham Edgell, Morgan Sindall; Angela Mansell, Mansell Finishing; Stacey Temprell, British Gypsum; Iain McIlwee, FIS; James Talman, NFRC and Jon Sinfield, BMI UK & Ireland.
The event was sponsored by FIS Members British Gypsum and SIG plc