Jane Embury takes a look at the future.
It’s easy right now to see the construction industry through the prism of Covid-19. It’s the elephant in the room that we wish wasn’t there.
But with a new normal on the horizon, what does the long-term future hold for our industry? More to the point, are we agreed on investing in that future?
The good news, if it is good news, is that population growth suggests that there will be nine billion of us by 2050. That in itself will bring construction demand.
The evidence is also that two out of three people will be living in cities by 2050, with all the associated challenges that will bring for rural economies.
It also means that, whether home-based or office-based, urban construction is likely to see long-term growth.
We’ve also made the point that redundant offices could be repurposed for other uses – perhaps as residential units.
We’ve also written about the need to protect all our towns and cities. We need them to be vibrant, with shops and cafes that are profitable.
Internationally, construction accounts for more than 11% of global GDP, so we’re an industry of strategic importance.
But we’re also an industry with challenges of profitability, and that’s what I’d like to address.
The main problem is that anyone can set up in business in the construction sector, often with little or no experience.
That creates an unregulated and competitive market in which contracts can be awarded to the cheapest bidder, even if they’re the least qualified.
We’d therefore like companies to award contracts who are accredited to the likes of CHAS, as we are.
This ensures compliance across different areas of risk management, and mitigates risks across the supply chain.
We can understand why companies often accept the lowest quotes. Profit is important.
But so too is the need for reputable companies to invest in new designs and new products.
For example, we recently conducted ground breaking testing on our WSL SR60 curtain wall framing system with SCHOTT PYRANOVA® 120 glass to 148 minutes integrity and insulation. A full report can be seen here.
It’s that kind of research and testing that requires levels of profit to invest in the future.
We operate in the advanced glazing system market, a highly-specialised area of the construction sector.
Over the years we have pushed the boundaries of what is possible. For example, we were he first company to develop and test unlatched fire doors.
It’s that kind of research and development that we need to build the future,
But what we see too often are contracts being awarded solely on the basis of cost, rather than on the basis of absolute tested safety.
Achieving that needs companies like ours to make reasonable profit that we can reinvest into helping to build a better future.
None of us quite knows what that future will look like but, post Covid-19, it mustn’t be built on the cheap.
It’s a message that the industry must learn if it is to have supply chains that are absolutely reliable.
And, in our niche of advanced glazing systems, a future that is safe.