Despite a slowdown in October, the construction sector has now expanded for 18 months in a row, the largest continuous period of growth since the start of the financial crisis in 2007. Despite a slower rate of growth in housing, overall construction firms are reporting a strong outlook for 2015.
The UK’s construction sector has been a key enabler for growth right across the economy, and over the coming months we can expect to see it take centre stage in the pre-election campaign. The government and the opposition recognise the importance of construction, and more specifically house-building, as a critical part of the economic recovery plan. This has already seen Labour pledging to build 200,000 new homes a year if they win the General Election, with the Conservatives also promising 100,000 discounted new homes for first time buyers.
It is clear to see that it is the private sector that offers the most opportunity for contractors. The high levels of house buying seen in 2014 will translate into a return to growth in the private repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) market in 2015, with roof replacements and extensions a big opportunity for smaller contractors. New build private housing should also continue to grow but not at the same rates we have seen this year. Within the social housing sector, there will be some ongoing refurbishment work but there won’t be huge opportunities for growth in this sector and we also expect there will be some decline in public new build, due to the continuing austerity measures.
With more financial stability in 2015, the environment will once again become a key priority for the construction industry. Although there is still confusion about the government’s zero carbon policy, there are clear signs that environmental product performance is definitely moving back up the agenda with central government, local authorities and specifiers alike.
At Marley Eternit, we are seeing growing demand not only for products that are environmentally friendly, but also those that are responsibly sourced. It is widely accepted now that almost every major public project from the Olympics onwards now includes responsibly sourced products. This is filtering through to local authorities, where responsible sourcing will be an increasingly important product consideration, particularly on BREEAM projects.
Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are one way of measuring and comparing the sustainable performance of products, including their embodied carbon data, more effectively. We expect to see growing awareness and interest in their use in 2015 and already offer them on some of our products, but will be looking to introduce them across the whole range.
Skills and transport
Two significant factors affecting the roofing and cladding industry in 2015 will be skills and transport shortages. In addition to the ongoing issue of labour availability, transport shortages are likely to become a real challenge in 2015 as the industry as a whole struggles to find enough drivers and vehicles to support the growth in materials handling for the construction sector.
At the same time, the roofing market will see one of the biggest changes in Standards for many years in 2015, with the introduction of the revised BS 5534 at the end of February. Of course many contractors have reservations about the new fixings standards and the levels of both preparatory and labour time as a result. Inevitably there will be a knock-on effect on the length of roofing programmes and more reliance on manufacturer fixing specifications. However, t