Seemingly Impervious

As the UK construction sector racks up its eighth consecutive month in which the value of new contract awards exceeded £4 billion, The Builders’ Conference CEO Neil Edwards ponders whether the sector might maintain this unprecedented stability for the whole year.

It’s a tale as old as time. August rolls around and, while construction workers across the land head off on well-deserved holidays, new contract awards take a marked and predictable nosedive until that workforce returns with suntans and clutching straw donkeys. 

But not in 2018. In a year in which the industry has shrugged off ongoing Brexit concerns and fears over overseas trade tariffs to chalk up an unprecedented streak of £4billion monthly new contract awards totals, the majority of its workforce heading for the beach scarcely registered on the BCLive league table. In fact, during the month of August 2018, the BCLive league table recorded 511 new contract awards worth a combined total of £4.29 billion, extending that unbroken winning run to eight months in succession.

For the first time this year, Mace climbed to the top of the heap with a £475 million haul comprising four new contract awards to claim the top spot. The largest of these was a prestigious £400 million contract for the construction of a new headquarters for pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca in Cambridge.

With six new contract awards worth a combined £318.6 million, Countryside Properties romped into second place. The most notable among these is a £135 million new build for dwellings at The Peel Site in Kilburn, North London for client Brent London Borough Council. This contract will comprise 226 dwellings including 42 affordable and 184 private sale homes together with a new health centre and three retail units.

Morgan Sindall, a company that had recently lost its knack of winning the highest number of new contract awards each month, got its mojo back this month, bagging a total of 22 individual contracts worth a combined total of £313 million to claim the number third spot. The largest of these was a £200 million contract for the construction of a new two-line railway line at Werrington Junction in Peterborough for client Network Rail. That new line will link the Stamford, Great Northern and Great Easter railways to provide improved local services. 

Laing O’Rourke took the number fourth spot on the BCLive league table, bagging a brace of new contract awards worth a combined £262 million. This includes a £150 million mixed-use development combining offices, theatre and retail units at Soho Place, Oxford Street in London for client Derwent London. Interestingly, the company’s other contract was also thespian in nature: The Factory Project, an arts centre and theatre at Manchester’s South West Corner.

Balfour Beatty took fifth place, courtesy of five contracts with a combined value of just over £217.3 million. Winvic retained its place in the BCLive Top 10 for the second consecutive month with a five contract haul valued at a combined £143.8 million.   With two contracts worth a total of £115 million, Watkin Jones Group took the number eight spot.

Kier Group, which together with Wates Ltd has shared the number one position for six out of the last seven months, slipped to number six this past month while delivering a very respectable 15no contract haul worth a combined £213.9 million. The most notable of these is a £46 million motorway refurbishment and repair contract for Highways England that will see extensive improvements to the M6 between junctions 13 and 15 at Aston Bank in Stafford.

The housing sector contributed approximately a quarter of all the new contract awards won in August 2018; a total of £1.11 billion. The education sector maintained its buoyancy, delivering 112 contracts worth a total of £723 million. But it was pipped into third place by the office building sector which had 64 contracts worth an impressive £823 million.

Greater London topped the £1 billion mark (£1.12 billion) once again. But thanks to the contributions of Mace and Morgan Sindall, East Anglia saw a positive hike in its fortunes with 13 new contract awards worth a total of just over £650 million.  

The BCLive league table deals only in facts and pure data of the present and generally has no truck with what might be.   But having notched up eight uninterrupted months of stability, the temptation to speculate about a full year of £4 billion plus contract awards is irresistible. Of course, December normally marks a downward shift in demand as the industry makes ready for the festive period. But on the basis that August is also traditionally slow, it would take a brave man or woman to get against such an outcome.

Quick review of BCLive table for August 2018

· 310no companies were detailed as winning new contracts during August 2018

· 511no new construction orders are detailed on BCLive

· Mace Ltd secure overall top spot with £475 million of new work

· Morgan Sindall Group secured the most number of new construction orders in the month with 22no.

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