5 construction trends in 2017

The SME construction sector is doing well and remains resilient so far to the impact of Brexit. None the less the run up to the snap General Election certainly put a number of planned projects on hold. According to the FMB, in Q1 2017 workloads increased more significantly than any time since Q2 2016 ie the quarter immediately prior to last June’s EU referendum. The Office of National Statistics has reported ‘output in the construction industry grew 3 month on 3 month for the fifth consecutive period, rising by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2017. So there’s plenty to be happy about.

As we enter the second half of 2017 these are the trends the team at HBXL HQ are watching…

1. Workload: private residential new builds on rise

Overall most firms seem positive with many HBXL software users reporting full order books well into 2018. One in two respondents to the FMB’s quarterly state of trade survey predict rising workloads in the coming months, with just 5% predicting a decrease in activity. Private residential new build is looking the most positive of all sectors together with social new build. Social R&M is also on the rise. But it’s important to secure every client with an impressive EstimatorXpress quote and a ContractXpert contract to nail down the start date – even if it is in 12 month’s time – as who knows what the future holds.

We recommend builders use ProjectXpert to ensure they run the most productive construction project possible. And use it to manage multiple, simultaneous jobs and keep track of how the whole year is panning out at any point, not just at the end.

2. Material prices: will continue to increase

In response to rising commodity prices, currency fluctuations and unavoidable operating costs, some material prices are increasing. Whereas at the end of 2016 when 51% of FMB respondents foresaw no changes in prices, 85% of respondents now believe that material prices will rise over the next three months.

Estimating software EstimatorXpress helps keep firms up to date with increasing material price rises – every user is plugged into live pricing from Price Tracker™ which is regularly updated. Plus they can connect their software to HBXL merchant partners so the prices being estimated are the prices actually being paid to suppliers.

3. Skills shortages: set to worsen

The Federation of Master Builders reported in Q4 2016 a significant skills shortages in ALL trades over and above bricklayers and carpenters. In Q1 2017 FMB reported that 58% are struggling to hire carpenters, a post-financial crisis high! This will of course push up construction costs especially if the economy stays as it is.

Scheduling labour in advance and managing subbies will become more critical as will ensuring contracts are in place so that they don’t lose the subbie to a higher competitive bid leaving the building firm high and dry.

4. Cloud computing: will get more traction

Cloud is growing its share of the construction market. For example builders can;

  1. subscribe to applications which actually run on the web (e.g. via your internet browser)
  2. subscribe to applications which you can access via a secure web log in which actually run on someone else’s server
  3. purchase desktop applications which run on your computer but simply allow you to save to the cloud e.g. save your files to Dropbox or Microsoft One Drive.

An example of point 3 is HBXL’s EstimatorXpress. Small building firms will appreciate being able to save their work from one device to say, dropbox, and then continue working on a second device. Medium sized firms may like that more than one employee can access those files. Whilst large firms can take it a step further and synchronise the company ‘settings’ to ensure everyone has the latest prices, specs, templates and so on.

5. Health & Safety: small firms still facing fines

The HSE continues its focus on SMEs as outlined in their 16/17 Health & Safety Plan. Construction remains one of the most hazardous industries, accounting for about a quarter of all GB fatal injuries to workers. The majority of fatal accidents involve small businesses and nearly half of reported injuries occur in refurbishment activities. So not surprisingly this is where the focus is staying as the HSE believe that there is a lack of awareness on obligations.

HBXL’s health and safety advisor Dave Price says “All building firms, no matter how small, have a duty of care to their employees and the general public. That’s the law. Non-compliance can mean massive fines, site shut downs or even prison sentences. If it’s not written down, how can you prove that you are doing it?”

HBXL’s Health & Safety Xpert software makes sure builders have all the right paperwork giving them the peace of mind that they are complying with latest regulations – and keeping everyone safe.”