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Building Products January 2018

NEWS | BUILDING PRODUCTS Find more construction industry news at: buildingproducts.co.uk Construction output ‘set to drag on economic growth’ ONS figures published earlier this month shows that construction output in November rose by 0.4% in both monthly and annual terms. However, on a rolling three-month basis, output declined 2.0%, the largest fall since August 2012. Rebecca Larkin, senior economist at the Construction Products Association (pictured right), commented: “Today’s data confirm what has been signalled by early indicators and industry surveys – that construction ended 2017 on a weak note. Past falls in new orders, particularly in the commercial and public non-housing sectors, now appear to be filtering through into lower volumes of work. On a threemonth fell by 5.4%. “It now looks impossible that the industry avoided a full quarter of contraction in Q4, with the £30 billion private housing sector contributing the only positive story. Therefore, construction is set to have caused a drag on overall UK economic growth during the quarter. Blane Perrotton, managing director of the national property consultancy and surveyor, Naismiths, commented: “Britain’s JANUARY 2018 | BUILDING PRODUCTS 9 UK construction companies have indicated an ‘uneven recovery’ in business activity at the end of 2017. A robust rise in residential building contrasted with falling work on commercial projects and stagnating civil engineering output. There were positive signals for the near-term business outlook, with new order growth reaching a seven-month high and job creation the strongest since June. However, intense supply chain pressures continued across the construction sector, while input cost inflation picked up from November’s 14- month low. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) posted 52.2 in December, down from 53.1 in November but above the 50.0 no-change threshold for the third month running. As a result, the latest reading signalled a moderate expansion of overall construction output at the end of 2017. House building Survey respondents indicated that house building remained a key engine of growth, with residential work expanding for the sixteenth consecutive month in December. In contrast, latest data indicated a moderate fall in commercial construction, thereby continuing the downward trend seen since July. Civil engineering work stabilised basis, commercial output during the latest survey period, which ended a three-month period of decline. December data pointed to resilient demand for new construction projects, as highlighted by the fastest upturn in new order volumes since May. Anecdotal evidence cited an improved flow of enquires in recent months, alongside a gradual upturn in clients’ willingness to commit to new work. The prospect of greater workloads ahead resulted in stronger rises in employment and purchasing activity during December. In fact, the latest upturn in input buying was the steepest for two years, which survey respondents widely linked to increased business requirements. Robust demand for construction products and materials contributed to another sharp lengthening of suppliers’ delivery times at the end of 2017. Strong cost pressures persisted across the construction sector, driven by rising prices for a range of inputs. In particular, survey respondents noted higher prices for blocks, bricks, insulation and roof tiles, alongside continued rises in the cost of imported products. Despite a rebound in new order volumes during December, construction firms are said to have indicated a ‘subdued degree of optimism’ regarding the business outlook for the next 12 months. Construction output growth eases in December housebuilding boom is no longer providing a ‘get out of jail’ card for the struggling construction industry. At best it’s sugaring an increasingly bitter pill. “Both commercial property and infrastructure construction suffered a steady loss of momentum during 2017, as investors have continued concerns over the future course of the economy. “Few industries are more susceptible to shifts in investor confidence than construction, and if the coming months fail to deliver greater clarity on what the real impact of Brexit might be, the commercial and infrastructure sectors will stagnate further.” GAI welcomes Hackitt recommendations The Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and Dame Judith Hackitt’s interim report, ‘Building a Safer Future’. The Hackitt review was established shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire, and has focused primarily on improving fire safety in high-rise residential blocks and other complex buildings. The report also looks at what can be done to address perceived system failings in the building regulatory system and deeper cultural problems in the construction industry around regulatory compliance and responsibility. The interim report provides the findings to date and direction of travel for the review, ahead of a final report expected to be submitted in spring 2018. Of the views put forward to the Hackitt review by the GAI earlier this year, several of its ideas are mentioned in the interim report, including the potential reintroduction of the Clerk of Works role. Douglas Masterson, GAI technical manager (right), said: “This was one of the GAI’s key recommendations, as a better regime of inspecting the installation of fire doors and ironmongery on-site by a trained professional who is aware of many of the regulations and standards, as well as their application, would eliminate many of the current gaps in fire safety. In the stakeholder evidence section of the interim report, Hackitt specifically discusses ironmongery and repeats the view that “many products are tested totally in isolation and do not account for the interaction with other elements. For a fire door to function, all of the components (seals, glazing, ironmongery) must be compatible. Many lack a formal process to check that products are as originally specified, or even whether the products that are delivered to site are as specification.”


Building Products January 2018
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