Impressively Impervious

Despite the vagaries of economic fluctuations and geopolitical uncertainty, the UK construction sector appears to have developed a much-needed consistency in recent months.   The Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards looks back on yet another month of stability.

For as long as most of us can remember, demand in the UK constructions sector has been plagued with peaks and troughs; beset with rises and falls.   A diagram tracking construction workload over a year generally looks like the wave patterns experienced in the North Atlantic with perilous peaks and bottomless falls.

But since the beginning of 2018, that chart has looked as calm as the most serene of mill-ponds.   And that continued in May as the industry delivered a BCLive league table of £4.47 billion, the fifth consecutive month in which the sector has topped the £4 billion monthly total that is rapidly becoming the accepted and expected norm.   Mirroring that stability in the value of new contract awards are the figures for the number of projects which, at over 631, is almost identical to the number recorded in April 2018.

Adding to that overall picture of thankfully predictable consistency, only two companies have topped the BCLive league table in 2018.   Kier Group has worn the industry equivalent of the yellow jersey three times, and thanks to a notable and prestigious contract win this past month, Wates Ltd have topped the pile for the second time this year.

That contract award is the £650 million refurbishment and repair contract at the House of Commons as part of the Northern Estate Programme on behalf of the Palace of Westminster.   

One of nine new contract awards won by Wates in May, this pushed the company’s monthly total to just over £700 million.

For all the talk of consistency, however, the company that claimed the Number Two position on the BCLive league table is something of a surprise.   CJ O’Shea picked up two sizeable contracts this month, propelling the company to an unprecedented high on the table.   The largest of these was valued at £165 million and is for the construction of 764 flats in Portal Way, West London for Client City & Docklands Property Group.

Narrowly missing out on the second spot despite a late run was BAM which picked up nine new contract awards worth a combined £200.3 million.   The most significant of these is a refurbishment and repair contract for Network Rail Scotland which will see improvements in the Aberdeen and Inverness regions.

Graham Construction took the number four position thanks to a £80 million new build contract – the largest of four contract awards this past month – for student accommodation in Heslington for the University of York.

In fifth place was Vinci Construction which picked up four new contract awards with a combined value of £115 million.   This included a £65 million new build contract for Prime plc which will see the construction of a new 136 bedroom extension at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, West Midlands.

In another month categorised by stability and consistency, the fact that housing was yet again responsible for around 30 percent of all new contract awards will come as a surprise to absolutely no-one.   The fact that the schools and education sector came in second was every bit as predictable.

Regionally, Greater London once again claimed the lion’s share with 131 individual new contract awards worth more than £1.64 billion, more than 37 percent of the national total for the month.   However, Scotland (£360.9 million), the North West (£405.1 million) and the West Midlands (£321.6 million) each topped the £300 million mark to show a more even geographic spread than in recent months.

On the day the BCLive league table closed for the month of May, US President Donald Trump imposed steel tariffs that could conceivably result in a global trade war with further implications for the global economy.

But based on the way in which UK construction seemingly shrugged off the Brexit vote and has shrugged off countless economic fears and concerns ever since, it would take a brave man (or woman) to bet against the sector delivering yet another £4 billion month in June.

Quick review of BCLive table for May 2018

- 372no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during May 2018

- 631no new construction orders are detailed on BCLive

- Wates Group secure overall top spot with £714.8 million of new work

- New order winners in £1M to £5M category was Morgan Sindall with office throughout the UK & the £1M and under category went to Luddon Construction from Scotland

- Morgan Sindall Group secured the most number of new construction orders in the month with 19no closely followed by Luddon Construction from Scotland with 17No

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