Just how scary is 2010 going to be, we ask on the cover. Well, put it this way: if you want to feel uplifted in the next 12 months your best bet is probably to watch Toy Story III

The economy may start to recover, but few expect 2010 to be any easier for construction than 2009, when output is estimated to have fallen more than 10%.

The likeliest victims are smaller firms and housebuilders. The former tend not to have framework agreements and so are struggling with cash flow. The latter, like Crosby and Gladedale Homes, whose latest results are not for the squeamish, tend to focus on specific regions and therefore can’t spread their risk. And although the likes of Taylor Wimpey and Barratt managed to refinance last year, they are doing no more than dipping a toe in the market now. There are indications that demand is picking up, but there could be a double-dip in housing yet. And even if demand doesn’t fall, starts may be hit by Conservative plans to shake up the planning system, which is the last thing the industry needs.

There are also going to be some winners in 2010. The transactional side of the property market is stirring – according to DTZ, investment in the commercial sector will double from £18bn to £36bn – so building surveyors and fit-out firms should be getting more calls. Some architects say this is already happening for them as developers get mothballed schemes ready for the planners. In a couple of years we might even see work starting on sites … Meanwhile, lawyer Lindy Patterson is predicting all manner of wrangles this year as firms “get contractual” over disagreements. Good for lawyers, but treacherous for firms without eagle-eyed commercial directors like Laing O’Rourke’s Anna Stewart. The return of competitive tendering highlights this even more. Refurbishment specialists should do well as local authorities and hospitals adopt make-do-and-mend rather than new build. Infrastructure specialists can congratulate themselves on being in the safest sector of all, and facilities management firms are rubbing their hands at the prospect of more outsourcing from the public sector as public bodies look to improve efficiencies, whoever wins the election.

Well, that’s about it for the good news. Now where’s my Odeon guide?

Denise Chevin, editor

There are also going to be some winners in 2010. according to DTZ, investment in the commercial sector will double from £18bn to £36bn – so building surveyors and fit-out firms should be getting more calls

Home improvements

Will 2010 be the year that we finally do something about the state of our homes? Four years ago, we ran a campaign to try to get the government to come up with some ideas to improve the performance of all those uninsulated, single-glazed energy guzzlers. Some chance. The focus then was on Part L, the Code for Sustainable Homes and the drive to cut energy use by new homes 80%.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s just that much, much more can be achieved for the same money by adding insulation, low-energy light bulbs and condensing boilers to houses that don’t have them. Better materials and new technology may come along in the future to make hitting that 80% target more cost-effective, but it probably isn’t the best use of resources right now.

It seems that politicians have finally understood this. We’ve got the boiler scrappage scheme (a surprise in these straitened times), the Tories are talking about making a £6,500 loan available to householders and Labour has responded with a similar scheme, so events are moving rapidly. Tesco, Marks & Spencer and B&Q have detected the presence of long-term revenue and are making enthusiastic noises. Our contribution is a three-part series on the options - we’d like to hear what you think about them too.