A journey into the unknown

While the challenges have been immense, construction's response to the Covid-19 crisis speaks volumes about the collaborative instincts of those who work in our industry.

We find ourselves in challenging times. The economic effects of Covid-19 are as widespread as they are profound. The UK economy, for instance, has contracted by 2%, and every sector has felt the effects of the pandemic.

Construction - so often a barometer for national economic health - is no exception; and the latest IHS Markit data, which reveals the inevitable slowing of activity, makes for difficult reading for anyone working in the industry.

And with the construction sector responsible for 6% of the UK’s economic output, the impact will be felt well beyond its site hoardings.

Construction was quick to react to the pandemic: sites across the UK immediately put in place measures to protect workers, be it the removal of canteens; a reduction in numbers on site at one time, or an increase in offsite working. As the warnings grew louder, work began to be put on hold, and even as early as the 26th March almost a third of firms had paused operations on 80% of projects. Since then, however, things have started to change, and there are early grounds for cautious optimism as sites start to re-open.

For one, the Government has made it clear how vital the industry is with both words and actions, typified by the commencement of HS2.

At the same time, what has been incredible to see is the degree of cooperation that has been demonstrated right across the sector.

The keynote of the last few months has been collaboration, not least through Build UK’s efforts to act as a conduit between parties and the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) regular publication of sector-wide guidance on how firms can work safely.

The Nightingale Hospitals - testament to the collaboration between firms and the commitment of workers - showcase the best of our industry in difficult times.

The CLC is working on its ‘Roadmap to Recovery’, outlining how the sector has the opportunity to ‘restart, reset and reinvent’. This must become the rallying call as we safely start to leave the lockdown.