The London 2012 Olympics were the undoubted highlight in a year that had its fair share of setbacks

Sarah Richardson, editor of Building

The past year has been not so much a game of two halves for the industry, as a war of attrition with a spectacular victory incongruously, yet powerfully, won in the middle.

As the lighting of Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron opened the Olympic park to the world in late July, and the achievements of UK construction became the backdrop for a triumphant summer of sport, the skill of the industry was proven beyond doubt: elegant and practical design, precise project management and committed, efficient delivery.

Whatever else can be said about the industry in 2012, the delivery of the Olympic venues was the undoubted highlight, one that was able to lift the spirits of the country as well as the gloom from an industry still battling against surely the toughest market in memory. So this week, as you’d expect, the Games take centre stage in our review of 2012.

There were, however, other triumphs - and, of course, a fair share of setbacks. The year of 2012 has, in fact, had all the ingredients of the typical Christmas panto - albeit one with deeply sinister undertones. As well as that spectacular show-stealing scene of athletic and construction prowess, (thankfully one which lasted most of the summer), there was the romantic match - WSP becoming the latest high-profile consultant to succumb to the charms of an overseas suitor in its merger with Genivar in June. There was the appearance of some slightly late costume changes, as contractors in particular woke up to the fact that the structures that supported business four years ago are not the same that can deliver efficiently today - with Balfour Beatty and Carillion among those setting out on business overhauls.

The year of 2012 has, in fact, had all the ingredients of the typical Christmas panto - albeit one with deeply sinister undertones

And lurking behind it all was the sinister spectre of a downturn that still shows no sign of lifting. Construction activity suffered its third contraction in four months in November, according to Markit/CIPS analysis. Every business will have its own tale of the impact of the economic climate, but those that made the headlines - the collapse of Doyle Group and M&E contractor Airedale among them - have served as stark and painful evidence of the reality of the situation the industry is in.

So what does this bode for next year? Well, there may be no Olympics to look forward to, but the lessons from this year’s Games are ones the industry must continue to push to its advantage with clients both in the UK and abroad - whatever restrictions marketing rights might place on specific forms of promotion. With the economic climate set to remain tough for another year (at least), the ability to demonstrate UK construction’s expertise has never been more valuable. And the industry also needs to use that expertise to continue pushing the government to ensure policies for growth are targeted in the right areas - something that Building will focus on next year.

We’re back in print on 11 January, but coverage will continue on and in our tablet edition. In the meantime, as we bid farewell to a year that was both the best and the worst of times, everyone at Building would like to wish you a happy and relaxing Christmas and a successful new year.

Sarah Richardson, editor