A number of high-profile industry surveys have downgraded forecasts for the construction industry during 2019.
The B-word continues to have the major impact on the uncertainty that has stifled the industry for well over 12 months now. Forward planning has become increasingly difficult when the future economic and political picture is so unclear.
But there is another challenging factor that is beginning to have a negative impact.
Changes to our weather patterns are undoubtedly having a significant influence on the industry as a whole. From the extreme winter conditions of late 2017 and early 2018, through to the record-breaking heat of last summer, the climate is undoubtedly creating issues for the industry.
Indeed, the harsh winter that impacted on the first quarter of 2018 was bad enough, but combined with the fall-out from the collapse of Carillion and the industry suffered badly through to late Spring.
We have also experienced heavier rainfalls than usual throughout the year which have also contributed to increased downtime.
Now, once again, we are starting to see severe winter conditions exerting an icy grip in early 2019. With the south of the UK particularly badly hit in late January and early February, projects were stalled due to the conditions and the availability of materials and products.
It’s not just on site issues but also deliveries and staff delays in getting to site
Weather … or not
Increasingly, the industry surveys and forecasts are looking at the impact of weather patterns.
Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said that a big focus on housebuilding and major infrastructure projects had given an overall boost to the industry throughout 2018, but both these sectors were also hardest hit by the Beast From The East and the industry took longer to recover from those winter conditions than anticipated.
It was not just the stalling of work on site, but delivery of materials and ability of workers to make it to the site that caused serious issues.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said the weather conditions of the last 12 months, combined with the availability of materials and workers was having a big impact on future forecasts.
“Together with ever-rising costs due to material price hikes and labour shortages, the headwinds are blowing in the wrong direction for the UK construction sector,” he continued. “These rising costs, coupled with steadily increasing material prices since the UK referendum, are squeezing the margins of constructions SMEs – making a profit has never been more challenging.”
Repair and maintain
Of course, every snow-filled cloud has a silver lining.
Repair work to frozen pipes and broken boilers after the big freeze of 2018 has been suggested as a contributing factor to a particularly strong rise in sales of plumbing products in the Builders Merchants Building Index.
Builders Merchants Federation chief executive John Newcomb said: “For the second quarter running the impact of the weather on construction output – and builders’ merchants’ sales – is clear to see.
“The warm, dry weather through much of Q2 has enabled construction work to catch up on sites that had stalled earlier in the year. The merchant industry was buoyed by Q2 sales in 2018 and, with above average temperatures forecast into the autumn, we saw continued growth towards the end of the year.”