Challenges facing the construction industry in 2022

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Rob Clay-Parker, director at Leeds-based property developer support provider Consult 44, shares his thoughts on the challenges facing the construction industry in 2022

A notable problem for some time, the recession of 2008-12 led to a mass exodus from the construction industry as skilled workers sought alternative work, took early retirement or moved overseas never to return. This is an issue the UK still hasn’t recovered from; a lack of interest in the construction industry among school leavers also remains an ongoing problem.

With statistics published by the Construction Skills Network (CSN) stating that over 210,000 construction jobs will need filling in the UK by 2025, it is clear that this is an issue that needs addressing urgently. Although the Government has pushed for more offsite construction in the hopes that this will incentivise more people to join the industry, this alone is insufficient, as many buyers still demand traditional site-built properties and housebuilders remain happy to oblige them.

In addition, we need to convince school-age children that careers in the construction industry are an attractive proposition, rather than a last resort, by educating them about the opportunities and benefits the industry offers. We must also encourage schools, colleges and universities to focus more on honing the next generation’s practical skills and offer suitable courses to ensure those with a talent and passion for construction don’t end up in other industries.

Changing young people’s views of construction will take a lot of effort, but by highlighting the variety of roles available – from designer to the auditor and everything in between – the ever-increasing use of technology and the increasing number of women entering the industry, hopefully, these young people will come to realise that a job in construction no longer means spending all day outside in the rain in a male-dominated environment.

Material and transport issues

Although the materials shortage that proved so damaging in 2021 is showing signs of easing, a worldwide shortage of timber and steel is still proving to be a real headache, while price increases on raw materials and long lead times on items such as bricks and roof tiles look likely to be the cause of much frustration over the coming months.

The disruption and uncertainty caused by coronavirus is partly responsible for these issues and, with no sign that the virus will be going away any time soon, we can expect to see the pandemic causing more supply chain issues and price hikes for the foreseeable future.

While it is still too early to say exactly how much of an impact Brexit will have on the construction industry in 2022, there’s no denying that some once-reliable exporters have switched their attention to supplying countries still in the EU, rather than dedicating valuable resources to dealing with so much UK red tape – at the same time, leaving British companies with fewer options than in previous years. Construction will also be one of the industries to bear the brunt of the ongoing HGV driver shortage.

Regulatory changes

During 2022 we’ll see a number of key happenings in this area.

Firstly, there are the proposed changes to Part F and Part L of UK building regulations being rolled out, this is after a second consultation was made on them earlier last year by the Future Home Standard. These two parts specifically deal with the conservation of fuel and power and ventilation, so we can expect to see an impact on how buildings are being constructed.

It’s essentially all about making them better for the environment and up to scratch for a greener future. This is because the changes to the regulations detail new enhanced energy and ventilation standards for non-domestic buildings, as well as proposals to mitigate against overheating in residential buildings. What this could then do is carve out a path towards the construction of very efficient non-domestic buildings that are subsequently zero carbon-ready.

Alongside this, we could see more regulatory changes following Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety. This found that the current system was not fit for purpose and that a ‘culture change’ was required to support the delivery of safer buildings. It also concluded that there was a lack of clarity around the roles and responsibilities of those procuring, designing, constructing and maintaining buildings.

So, to deal with these issues, the government’s ‘Building Safety Bill’ – which is likely to take effect during 2022 – will enable it to create new regulations to place duties on those involved in building work on all parts of the process. Those affected would also need to make sure they are actively shown to be following these regulations and present evidence they’re properly managing any building safety risks. While these changes are obviously good news in many respects, it is bound to take the industry time to get to grips with the new regulations. While they do so, there is every chance that productivity will be impacted.

Costs associated with unsafe cladding

The Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities recently unveiled a new plan that will aim to protect leaseholders and make wealthy developers and companies pay to sort out the current cladding crisis. This is sure to have some knock-on effects this year from both a legal and a physical working perspective, particularly as the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, has said that he will ‘guarantee’ that any leaseholders living in their own flats won’t have to pay anything if the building they live in needs to have any unsafe cladding repaired and resolved.

Mr Gove has even created a new team that has been tasked with finding, pursuing and dealing with the building companies who are at fault for unsafe cladding. The team will also ensure these firms or individuals take on the responsibility of making said buildings safe again.

A closer look at the plan by the Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities shows that it is broken down into four areas. These are:

  • Prioritising those most at risk from dangerous cladding in high-rise buildings and doing so by utilising another part of the £5.1bn government fund.
  • Rolling out the aforementioned new team to find and hold to account those responsible and/or at fault for the issues at hand.
  • Ensuring that building assessments follow the new guidance and that new reviews don’t fall foul of previously ‘misinterpreted government advice’, which the plan claims had ‘prompted too many buildings being declared as unsafe’.
  • Ensuring – via the new protections from the Building Safety Bill – that leaseholders in their own flats don’t face any bills or charges for the repair of unsafe cladding.

It’s also believed that with the Building Safety Bill, the government will be able to bring in a levy specifically for developers of high-rise buildings. This, alongside the 4% tax facing the country’s biggest and most profitable developers which were introduced in the most recent Budget, will also help pay for the remediation work. The government has said it will aim to raise ‘at least’ £2bn+ in the next decade via these payments.

In short, with all of the challenges faced in the cladding crisis, all this proposed action makes it seem as though 2022 will be a busy year in the resolution of these problems, to say the least. Let’s just hope positive strides are made and that people are made safe.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that while many in the construction industry will be up against these challenges, there’s no reason to believe that 2022 won’t also be a strong and prosperous year. After all, many of the regulatory changes will be for the better in the long term and other essential work is designed to make sure that the UK’s new building stock is to the highest standard and ready for the future. Yes, there will be difficulties but support is out there and with the right help, many of the obstacles in the way can be overcome.

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