It’s always difficult to predict how the UK construction industry will fare over the course of a full 12 months, but 2019 in particular will be hard to anticipate, with the final arrangements for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union still to be made.
With that in mind, what can we be sure of for UK construction in 2019 – regardless of the final decisions that are made with respect to Brexit?
Aluminium Composite Material cladding – more commonly known simply as ACM cladding – was banned by the UK government following safety tests carried out after the Grenfell Tower fire.
In late 2018 the government announced that it is giving local authorities powers to remove ACM cladding from privately owned buildings over 18 metres tall, and that building owners will be expected to reimburse the costs.
New buildings over that height must not use ACM cladding – not only including residential buildings, but also student accommodation, boarding school dormitories, residential care premises and hospitals.
The news represents an important step in terms of safety but could be costly for building owners, who may wish to look into having any current ACM cladding removed as a priority, before the local authority carries out the work.
Contractor prompt payment initiative
The government has also announced plans starting from autumn 2019 to award public sector contracts only to contractors who pay their suppliers on time.
Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said: “From 2019, if government contractors are late with supplier payments, they could stop winning public contracts altogether until they clean up their act.”
It’s part of the government’s broader commitments to levelling the public sector playing field for SMEs, which include a target to pay 90% of undisputed invoices within five days, and for one in every three pounds of government contract spending to be placed with SMEs by 2022.
Modular construction and MMC
Modern methods of construction (MMC) including off-site modular construction are on the rise, allowing construction firms to build new properties as individual modules off-site, which are then delivered directly into their final position.
Back in 2017, the government’s Housing White Paper pledged to create more opportunities in modular construction, as Sajid Javid promised that “British companies can become world leaders in this exciting and effective area”.
At the end of 2018 the government’s housing agency Homes England elected to use modular MMC in the construction of its new office at the heart of an 8,500-property development in Northstowe.
With environmental pressures leading to more construction on brownfield sites and in densely populated areas, modular construction offers a way to carry out much of the work off-site, minimising disruption and noise during the final installation – and will be a trend to watch throughout the coming year and beyond.