Searching for a silver lining to recession for construction isn't easy. But there's growing evidence that, dire as the industry's current situation may be, the tough conditions are providing parts of the industry, just like the financial sector, with a much needed wake up call.
Bovis Lend Lease's business overhaul, announced to staff last week, is a clear example of this. The firm's workload has been badly hit by the recession, particularly because of its reliance on the commercial sector.
The strategy which saw it become the contractor of choice for top clients like Land Securities and Stanhope meant that the firm was left with few places to hide when the office market fell off a cliff. Sure, it has a strong track record in public sector work like education, but the company, unlike other giants such as Balfour Beatty and Carillion, was reluctant to muddy its hands in broader, less fashionable markets like infrastructure.
It wasn't always that way: Bovis has been known for its ability in the rail markets in the UK in the past, and Lend Lease, its Australian parent company, continues to provide the broader offering elsewhere - particularly in its home country and in the US. But somewhere along the way, the lure of prestigious city schemes led Bovis' UK operation to be dangerously constricted in its approach.
Nick Pollard, the chief executive, acknowledged as much this week, telling me that "the difficulties and challenges we face are because the company has become too narrow". His realisation that this needs to change may have been sparked by the recession, but his new strategy - to push on the waste to energy, rail and nuclear markets - isn't going to help the company's current fortunes. The type of large infrastructure projects the firm will chase are realistically going to take at least 18 months to get off the ground - by which time, you would hope, the industry will be on the up.
But by acting now, Bovis will be in a far better position to capitalise on new work when the money does return, without over relying on its commercial clients who will, first and foremost, be thinking about how to minimise their own risk.