It’s been a year of BIM, nuclear, PFI, consolidation … and the economy

Will you be glad to see the back of 2011? To help you make up your mind, take a look at our review of the year, grab a mince pie and consider these ruminations on the past 12 months and on the year to come.

1. The economy. Put the Brussels veto to one side, the construction economy has been marked by its unpredictability. Earlier in the year Building exposed official output statistics as unreliable. However, forecasters have consistently pointed to flat growth for the next two years - with a worst-case scenario of a dive back to the economic nadir of 2008. The best prepared, most risk-aware businesses will continue to win through.

In 2011 the government positioned itself as a leading edge client like never before

2. Trading. Tender prices have remained at rock bottom for most of the year and suicide bidding for contracts remains prevalent. How much longer will it go on? And will it result in an explosion in litigation?

3. Government as client. Spending may be dangerously down but in 2011 the government positioned itself as a leading edge client like never before. The Cabinet Office unveiled its Construction Strategy and the autumn statement signalled an intention to create a pipeline of work. The government also intends to overhaul its procurement processes and implement a credit easing plan. Let’s hope the rhetoric turns into action.

4. BIM. Construction adviser Paul Morrell has signalled his intention to make the use of Building Information Modelling mandatory on all public projects. That makes 2011 something of a revolutionary year in the way construction goes about its work.

5. Government as a regulator. Think green. Think solar. Think Building Regulations. Think localism. George Osborne made it clear that he will not inflict more red tape on business. But his political gestures have created uncertainty and confusion. In 2012 the government needs to be clear and bold but, crucially, create a stable regulatory landscape.

6. Nuclear. Despite the economic turbulence Whitehall has been focused
on the security of energy supply. It means renewables will be less of a priority and nuclear will take centre stage alongside fast-tracked planning permissions.

7. PFI. Will it be reborn? Reshaped out of existence? Or remain as a meaningful procurement mechanism, albeit with tighter scrutiny and safeguards? The government has opened the door in its autumn statement to institutional private investors backing infrastructure projects. The big question in 2012 will be how they are going to do it.

8. Labour relations. The row between left-wing electricians and Balfour Beatty has become increasingly militant. Let’s hope newly elected Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy can bring order and sense to negotiations.

9. Consolidation and casualties. As widely predicted, there has been increased consolidation this year - think EC Harris and Halcrow - as well as more companies and household names going to the wall. Will it be the contracting sector at the centre of the next wave of consolidation? And how will the future of independent QS advice pan out?

We’re back on 6 January - until then, all at Building wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.  

Tom Broughton, brand director