From training the next generation to rejuvenating our high streets , Helen Hewi, CEO of the British
Woodworking Federation (BWF) explores what holds for the construction industry.
sector to develop innovative and forward-thinking
products to make our buildings more durable
and safe, and increase accountability in the
To further support these legislative updates, it’s
important that we do not lose our emphasis on
training, installation and ongoing maintenance to
ensure that buildings and their component parts
remain fit for purpose throughout their lifecycle.
Also highlighted in the Building a Safer Future
plan, this is crucial to the long-term success and
safety of our buildings and is why we continue
with our award-winning Fire Door Safety Week
– to raise awareness of fire safety and to educate
building owners and users about the importance
of fire doors.
Growth, innovation and rejuvenation
The continued focus on housebuilding will be
a huge opportunity for the construction sector,
following the government’s promise of £500m
for housing infrastructure to help build 650,000
homes across the UK. The development of these
properties along with the 13,000 additional
homes pledged for housing associations will
present opportunities for housebuilders of all
sizes, including SMEs and tradespeople across the
country. This will build on strong performance
in the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands
where Help to Buy has driven sustained growth.
Refurbishment of existing buildings will
also play a large role this year, following the
announcement of the Future High Streets Fund.
The Federation of Master Builders estimates that
as many as 400,000 new homes could be created
by making use of the empty spaces above shops
on our high streets, so the fund could be a vital
boost for residential accommodation and offer the
trades an opportunity to help rejuvenate our high
streets. But it’s crucial that the refurbishments are
completed to a high standard to add value, and to
provide communities with durable, quality spaces.
The recently formed Transforming Construction
Alliance will also help deliver on this promise, as
it modernises the construction industry. The new
alliance will bring together the industry, academia
and research organisations to share best practice,
improve efficiency and boost productivity, exports
and asset performance.
On the horizon
Despite the uncertainty around Brexit - the
construction industry remains resilient, with the
Markit PMI Index for manufacturing reaching a sixmonth
high and growth in new orders accelerating
to a 10-month high in December 2018.
It’s impossible to predict the outcome of Brexit
as the political debate evolves at pace, but it’s clear
that there are many opportunities on the horizon
in the housing, refurbishment and training
sectors. The BWF will be on hand to offer our
members technical advice and support throughout
this year of significant change.
This year is set to be one of both great
change and opportunity for the sector.
It remains unclear how Brexit will
take shape, and while many firms are
making preparations – for example by bolstering
their supplies of raw materials – it’s clear that
many aren’t yet ready for the impact it could have.
However, whatever the outcome of Brexit, we
are hopeful that the effect of broader initiatives,
including encouraging measures announced in the
Autumn Budget and the Building a Safer Future
plan, will be felt positively across the industry.
Training the next generation
One of the most positive announcements for the
construction sector from last year’s Budget was
a £695m fund to reduce apprenticeship training
costs. This will support smaller businesses to
offer apprenticeships – helping to attract the
next generation to the sector and invest in their
ongoing development. SMEs are pivotal to the
success of the construction industry and the
scheme, and I’m hopeful we can make headway
this year in addressing the growing industry skills
gap – providing a welcome productivity boost.
Building and maintaining a safer future
Following the Grenfell tragedy, an independent
review of building regulations and fire safety,
known as the Hackitt Review, called for significant
reforms to the construction industry – including
a cultural change and the introduction of a
regulatory system to hold people to account. In
late 2018, the government announced that it will
implement the review recommendations, in full,
through its Building a Safer Future plan.
The plan, which will hopefully come into effect
this year, will set clearer standards and provide
an effective regulatory framework – delivering
a much-needed step forward for the industry.
Focusing on product testing and certification,
the plan will help recognise those in the industry
that have been at the forefront of product safety
performance and traceability for many years, such
as the members of the Fire Door Alliance. These
positive measures, alongside the recent changes to
Approved Document B and 7, will go a long way
to driving lasting change to make our buildings
safer in 2019 and beyond.
I’m positive that the Building a Safer Future
plan will only be the start of the path for our
BUILDING PRODUCTS | FEBRUARY
The BWF will be on
hand to offer support
throughout this year of