Against a backdrop of political upheaval, escalating fuel and materials costs, inflationary pressure and a rise in the number of liquidations, the UK construction sector once again posted monthly results that were above the accepted norm.   Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards attempts to make sense of an industry that is back to its contrarian best.

It is as if the UK construction industry missed a memo; like the entire sector agreed unilaterally to not switch on the TV or radio and to ignore the newspaper headlines. If the figures for the month of July 2022 had showed a slowing in demand, no-one would have been remotely surprised. Instead, the sector posted more than £5.7 billion in new contract awards, way above the £4.5 billion that has become the industry benchmark.

Having already seen off the double-threat of Brexit and a global pandemic, rising fuel and materials costs, political upheaval and a worrying rise in both inflation and company liquidations are apparently considered too trivial to break the sector’s stride now.

In a month in which 13 companies each secured more than £100 million of new work, Kier Group took the top spot on the BCLive league table, courtesy of a 23-project haul valued at a combined £679 million.   This includes a pair of notable highways-related projects, both valued at £210 million: one for North Northamptonshire Council; the other for West Northamptonshire Council.   Both contracts are for highways maintenance works and services, and include the provision of highways advice and services (including design and construction services) across the county.

Taking the number two position on the BCLive league table for the month of July 2022 is Sir Robert McAlpine which secured £567 million in new work split across three individual projects. The most notable of these is a new-build office block in London’s Finsbury Avenue. That new building is arranged over three basement levels, ground and 37 upper floors to provide an office-led, mixed use development comprising commercial, business and service uses, flexible commercial, business and service uses/drinking establishment uses. It also includes the creation of a new pedestrian route through the site at ground floor level; hard and soft landscaping works; and outdoor seating associated with ground level uses.

Also benefitting from a good month in the office sector is Lendlease which took the number three position with four new projects valued at £503 million. The company has secured the £450 million contract to transform the former ITV London studios. Project Vista centres around a 26-storey office building that is connected to two buildings of 13 and six storeys. Alongside high-quality office space, including affordable workspace, the scheme will create new cafes and restaurants, cultural venues and green spaces.

Morgan Sindall claimed the number four position on the BCLive league table while simultaneously topping the chart for the highest number of projects; securing an astonishing 35 new contract awards worth a combined £388 million. The most significant of these is £110 million refurbishment and repair contract for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. The 10-year contract will include the repair and maintenance, out of hour’s services, void and planned works of 9,500 council- owned properties across the council region.

Completing the top five slot is Hill Partnership which reported two new contract awards worth a combined £375 million. The largest of these is a £350 million mixed-use development at City Centre South in Coventry.

The project is a landmark regeneration scheme that includes 1,300 new homes and 37,000 square metres of commercial space, including an extensive selection of retail, leisure and healthcare facilities. The new homes will comprise of studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments available to buy or rent.

egionally, London rediscovered its mojo, reporting £2.7 billion of new work split across 94 individual projects. Any fears that the Midlands would see a decline with the end of the Commonwealth Games preparations have been allayed with the East and West Midlands reporting £160 million and £1.0 billion respectively. The regional news was less upbeat north of the border with Scotland slipping back to just £76 million across 18 projects.

The office sector finally wrestled the top sector crown away from housebuilding with a tally of £1.7 billion compared to housing’s £1.4 billion. Also enjoying an upbeat month was the roads sector which jumped to £862 million, seemingly as the government begins preparations for the next General Election. Yet those two other vote winning sectors – health and education – continue to lag behind with just £159 and £326 million.

So despite all that is going on in the world, the UK construction sector can ease into the summer holidays safe in the knowledge that it has an order book that is looking good well into the Autumn.

All of which just goes to prove that if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, then construction might just be the career for you.