Ann Bentley, global chair of Rider Levett Bucknall


The big issue

Productivity. This will come into even sharper focus, with the post-Brexit artisan skill shortage compounding the already aging population of construction workers. Necessity being the mother of invention, will 2017 finally be the year when we address this as a joined-up, grown-up industry? I will play my part with the work I am doing on the Construction Leadership Council. Simply aligning the vested interests of all parties in a project will increase everyone’s productivity ± so what’s stopping us?

The big challenge

Social infrastructure. The NHS, schools, social care, affordable housing, prisons; all are underfunded and oversubscribed. Our industry has the wherewithal to solve many of these issues. With digital information, greater levels of manufacturing and pre-assembly and a real emphasis on the long term-use of buildings we have the ability to model and address real needs and deliver cost-effective, long-term, people-focussed, solutions.

The big opportunity

Place is the word of the moment in government circles ± it appears to mean anywhere other than London! There is clear messaging about rebalancing prosperity across the country and the opportunity for our industry to facilitate this is immense. If the multiplier of almost three on every pound invested in our sector and the remarkably wide-range of roles and opportunities in the sector are catalysed with a little targeted investment this should be the year construction becomes in vogue.

The big project

Mega-data centres. Over the next five years most organisations will stop managing their own data infrastructure and turn to the cloud. We are seeing a surge in the number, size and complexity of data centres around the world. With typical new-build projects running into the hundreds of millions of pounds, often in remote places with limited infrastructure and with expert clients from a different industry, this will be a really fast-moving and exiting area to work in.

The big story

All of the above, with a little Brexit, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping thrown in. Political upheaval around the world and the global nature of businesses in the construction sector mean that many will be sailing in unchartered water next year. This could lead to some very positive, or very negative, headlines ± depending on how good we are at reading the runes.