December 6, 2021

Glancing back at 2019, looking forward to 2020

It is still too early to gauge what impact the new Conservative government will have on construction going forward, particularly regarding Brexit. Putting this uncertainty to the side for a moment, we asked a cross-section of the industry, both at home and abroad, to give their hopes and aspirations for the year ahead, while also getting some insight into what 2019 meant to them.

Richard Kendrick, Marketing Manager at SIG Roofing

“It would be fair to describe the past 12 months as somewhat challenging not just for the roofing sector, but the wider construction industry in general.

“Ongoing political and economic uncertainty have, at times, stymied decision making right across the market, but there are encouraging signs of opportunity for construction (and therefore also roofing) as we head into a new decade.

“From our own sales, we have seen an upturn in demand for GRP and other liquid applications, alongside an overall increase of sales of EPDM materials. This has been driven in part by an increasing number of homeowners opting to improve their property, rather than sell-up and move on. As a result, we expect sales in this area to remain buoyant in 2020, as homeowners continue to add value to their current property.

“Looking ahead to a new decade, we must consider how we can bridge the industry skills gap. While there is no ‘silver bullet’ to hand, investment in apprenticeship schemes and training for existing staff, alongside engagement with meaningful industry schemes such as RoofCert, will go a long way in ensuring talent and knowledge doesn’t retire with an ageing workforce.”

* AMA Research Roofing Report 2017

Richard Dolman, Managing Director of AR Demolition

“The demolition industry needs to modernise. If we are going to attract new skills, improve our safety record and enhance our sustainability credentials, we need to innovate and accept that we need to move forward.

“In the past couple of years we’ve invested heavily in cutting edge demolition machinery and I’m constantly trying to think up new ways of improving what we do, to improve safety while reducing dust, noise and disruption to surrounding areas.

“I’d also like to see the construction industry in general taking more advice from the demolition sector. We have a unique, long-term viewpoint on building methods and I believe that the construction process should take demolition into account from the start, to optimise sustainability.

“We are proud of our urban quarry in Leicester – one of just a handful in the UK – where we recycle aggregates for an entirely circular process. We’re knocking down parts of Leicester and using the rubble to build the city of the future. That’s the way I believe our industry needs to go.”

Zac Cosgrove and Luke Drew of Cosgrove and Drew Engineering

“We believe the industry will continue to see a rise in use of workplace technology tools; we feel it’s a beneficial development, as it’s good for both staff and clients to be able to easily keep on top of essential processes. We use both project and document management systems and find their use positively impacts the running of our projects by helping keep track of targets and budgets.

“We take the training and development of staff seriously and over the past couple of years there has been a rise of apprentices coming into the industry. We believe this is a trend set to continue in 2020, and as employers we will keep on investing in new ways to give staff new high standard skills.”

Toby Randle, Partner of Fenwick Elliott & Lead Partner of the Alliance between Fenwick Elliott and Hammad & Al Mehdar

“As specialist construction lawyers active in every part of the Middle East, Fenwick Elliott has experienced steady growth in our Dubai office over recent years, and we anticipate this growth will continue.  We are continually building our team by recruiting the very best international construction lawyers. 

“This year we are seeing a significant appetite for specialist construction law advice in Saudi Arabia.  Fenwick Elliott has just struck an exciting deal with long established Saudi law firm Hammad & Al Mehdar which is solely focussed on construction law operating out of offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al Khobar.  Our construction law alliance, led by Toby Randle at Fenwick Elliott and Ali Al Toukhi at Hammad & Al Mehdar is unique in the Kingdom and has been very well received. 

“What is clear is that momentum in the construction market in Saudi Arabia is building now and that Saudi Vision 2030 (supported by a reported trillion dollars’ worth of investment) is now really starting to happen.”

Michael Knibbs, Managing Director of SafeSite Facilities

“2019 marked SafeSite Facilities’ 10-year anniversary. Since 2009 we’ve seen some huge changes in the construction sector due to technological advances, new planning regulations, increased health and safety legislation and other external factors such as Brexit, which continues to have an impact.

“2019 saw our best – and worst – month’s turnover in the same year and I attribute that to the uncertainty that Brexit has created within our industry. The project lifecycle that we usually see has become protracted as contractors are managing skills and labour shortages with an increased focus on health and safety planning. However, we are marking another year of exponential growth, which shows that, despite these challenges, the sector is weathering the storm.

“We’ve seen a big shift towards pre-fabrication and modular building meaning some construction can be carried out offsite. However, health and safety planning onsite still remains a crucial consideration for project managers both when their sites are being prepared for development and while construction is underway.

“The scale of new development continues at a pace. We have been involved in projects around most of the major cities in the UK, where investments in regeneration are being made in commercial and residential development such as in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London.

“[In 2019] the Government increased rates on vacant properties sitting empty and this is affecting the movement and use of housing stock. Now, more than ever, property owners are intent on maximising their investment, and site safety and security is key to this.

“The use of new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality means that construction planning – and risk management – can be carried out and tested before any building begins. This is helping to overcome delays on site caused by external factors, reduce project costs, and improve safety and security measures onsite.”

Robbie Blanchfield, Commercial Manager at Mainmark

“2019 has seen us bolster our UK division with five new team members, experts from across the ground engineering and geotechnical industry. These new team members will enable us to expand further into other sectors including rail and highways maintenance.

“We also expanded our fleet of proprietary vehicles with the introduction of custom-built compact vans earlier in the year. The updated fleet are specifically designed to house our proprietary Teretek® resin injection solution.

“2020 will see the company continue to support the commercial businesses and residential properties that require ground improvements, with an additional focus on tackling inefficient and ineffective road maintenance.”

Chris Gimson, Commercial Director UK, Ireland, Nordics & Baltics for Ravago Building Solutions

“2019 was a year of exciting change for Ravago Building Solutions following our acquisition from DowDupont Inc. The recent rebranding of our range of grey market-leading extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation boards as Ravatherm XPS X and the retirement of legacy brands is a landmark moment in our 60-year history and the pace of change won’t be slowing in 2020.

“Ravago Building Solutions remains determined to lead the industry in innovation, delivering exceptional products designed to meet the needs and desires of our customers, enabling them to construct some of the UK’s most energy efficient buildings while pushing design boundaries.

“For example, there is increasing demand for floor insulation with greater thermal performance. Next year we will have the full commercial roll-out of our new flooring products that are already being deployed in the construction of some of the UK’s largest cold stores. These will offer a 16% increase in thermal performance over their predecessor.

“2020 is going to be an exciting year and we can’t wait for you to see everything that we have in store.”

Amit Rai, CEO at MachineMax

“In 2019 there was a strong focus on emissions and machine connectivity and although positive strides were made, we anticipate an even greater focus in 2020. There will also be an emphasis towards data sharing between plant hire and construction companies and the broader ecosystem. Our hope is for off-highway companies to collectively work together to ensure all stakeholders can benefit from easy data access and reporting.

“Once companies can track all machinery in one consolidated platform, it becomes significantly easier to provide actionable insights to front line workers, so that they can make daily positive changes to productivity. In addition, new technology such as LoRa and NB-IoT continues to improve data connectivity, the construction industry is poised for an innovation drive in 2020 and we are seeing progressive collaborations amongst leading industry pioneers to ensure everyone benefits from the power of group thinking and faster adoptions.

“In 2020, MachineMax will continue to focus on revolutionising the global heavy equipment industry by delivering a real-time equipment management platform that can help reduce fuel costs, idling and lower emissions.”

Adrian Smith, Managing Director of ISD Solutions

“We’ve got major plans for the growth of our business at ISD Solutions and it’s based on three factors. One is specific to the provision of temperature-controlled buildings, the other two are wider social issues.

“Firstly, we are witnessing a revolution in improving standards in construction and it’s driven by accuracy of design. It’s important for us and our clients that our projects perform well, last for a long time and are safe. So as technology continues to revolutionise our industry, there is even more reason for subcontractors to be involved in the planning and design stages of projects so that our expertise can inform building design and project planning. Sustainability, performance and cost will all be enhanced if contractors, specifiers, consultants and architects all talk to each other and work together.

“The second reason for our growth expectation is that online purchasing habits are having a massive impact in the food sector, which is the main industry in which we operate. And thirdly, we are working to create a company culture which attracts and retains young talent within our walls.

“We believe the role of the subcontractor is changing and we want to be at the forefront of playing an important role in establishing change across the construction industry.”

Andy Batterham, Group Technical and Innovation Director at Ibstock

“This year will undoubtedly be remembered as something of a milestone for the brick manufacturing industry.

“In the face of a sometimes unpredictable economic climate, brick manufacturing has remained buoyant across 2019. Indeed, by June of this year, an additional 25m bricks had been produced when compared to the same period of 2018 – an increase of 2.2%. If that rate of production held across Q2 and Q3, UK brick output will top two billion by year-end – a sure sign of the sector’s ongoing recovery post-recession.

“For the brick renaissance to continue into 2020 and beyond, the industry must commit to bridging the skills gap – something that can only be achieved, we believe, via sector-wide collaboration right across the construction supply chain. From investment in the upskilling of current staff, to the development of meaningful apprenticeship and graduate schemes, the onus is on the construction industry to nurture the talent of tomorrow.

“From the perspective of a brick manufacturer, it’s also important to keep abreast of the latest housbuilding legislation. Recently published or amended policy such as the new housing act is likely to see demand for brick increase further still, while changes to safety legislation, particularly in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, will encourage manufacturers to continue to innovate to ensure their products are compliant.”

John Lovatt, Head of Marketing at Forticrete

“Amidst a year of political and economic uncertainty, it’s no surprise that there was some market reticence across the specification industry in 2019 and throughout last year, we concentrated on streamlining our product offering to ensure we meet the unique requirements of roofers.

“Looking ahead to 2020, we are implementing the work we have done into stock management and we are always working with our customers to predict future demand. In the last couple of years, along with other industries, we have become much more data driven which has allowed us to really focus on what’s happening and remain agile in our approach to maintaining supply.

“It is also clear that we must place a renewed focus on the skills gap within the roofing sector. With 68,000 roofers currently active in the UK, it’s a priority for us to ensure that more opportunities are placed for new apprentices entering into the sector. Through the development of CPDs and meaningful apprenticeships, we can expect to see a new generation of newly qualified and skilled roofers rising through the ranks. This development will not only improve market conditions but offer a positive playing field as we head into a new decade.”

Colin Abrey, VP Channel Sales EMEA, Nextivity

“Since Ofcom’s new mobile signal booster rules, the “IR2102 license exempt specification act,” came into play about 18 months ago, improving mobile coverage inside commercial and private dwellings is now a straightforward process. As such, we’ve seen a huge uptake in demand for our Cel-Fi mobile repeater systems. Property owners and managers are under increased pressure to guarantee 3G and 4G mobile coverage inside their respective buildings because tenants will just not accept the prospect of poor/zero mobile coverage. Given the hype around 5G, market demand for uninterrupted mobile coverage inside buildings is only going to accelerate.

“Over the next 12 months we’re predicting that market demand will increase further, especially in light of Government approval for shared rural networks and a staged rollout of the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) which will be 4G-based. Building owners will need to take responsibility for ensuring 4G coverage inside commercial, residential or mixed-use buildings and the construction industry needs to do all it can to ensure new builds are ESN-ready. If they’re not, then critical communications could be in jeopardy and no one wants to be culpable for that.

“All Cel-fI solutions meet the requirements of IR2102.”

Anderton Concrete

“As 2019 came to a close, we look back and reflect upon a year that was filled with business opportunities and growth. In a turbulent political environment, which has ultimately impacted the railway industry, we have concentrated on new product development so that customers are provided with unrivalled quality in our product offering and expertise from our technical team.   

“As we head into the first full year of Control Period 6 (CP6), we understand the focus and priority that is being placed on renewing and maintaining existing railways across the UK. With the major performance and maintenance schemes planned throughout 2020, we have recognised the demand for durable concrete products. As such, Anderton Concrete has worked to develop its bespoke product range, which can be designed and developed to meet individual and specific needs of specifiers and the various railway networks.”