Despite gloomy market forecasts this industry is making quiet progress and continues to innovate, and that deserves recognition
As the industry battles its way through the continual turbulence of spending constraints and troubling market forecasts (of which the Construction Products Association’s, published this week, is the latest example) it is sometimes difficult to peer above the stormclouds and see the progress that is surely, but sometimes quietly, being made.
We do just that this week in a special edition celebrating the winners of our Building Awards 2013, who were presented with their trophies at a glittering ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House hotel last Thursday. Their diverse achievements include stand-out schemes, such as the Shard, and more efficient ways of working, like the Scape framework. Crucially, these businesses and schemes show that the industry is continuing to innovate throughout the recession - whether in design, in business strategy, or in the continuallyevolving use of technologies such as BIM.
A quick history lesson reveals that progress in some areas relevant to today’s market has been painfully slow
The ceremony last week also marked the start of Building’s 170th year celebrations. This publication has been covering the industry since 1843 - recording the creation of landmark developments such as the Houses of Parliament, London Underground, the Liver Building, and, latterly, the 2012 Olympic venues. To mark this particular landmark in the history of both the magazine and the industry, throughout the coming weeks and months we will be posting highlights from our archive on www.building.co.uk, beginning this week with some pages from our first ever editions.
The material, as you would expect, shows how much the industry has changed during that time, but also reveals a continuity: that throughout the sector’s history, its leading companies have been characterised by a spirit of innovation and resourcefulness - the same spirit that lies at the heart of the winners of this year’s awards.
However, a quick history lesson also reveals that progress in some areas that are particularly relevant to today’s market has been painfully slow. Calls for the industry to approach the government with a more unified voice, for example, have been recorded in every economic slump since the seventies to the present day. Meanwhile, the creators of the world’s first “eco doll’s house” (featured in Building on 22 July 1977) presumably hoped that environmental awareness would be more embedded in development policy by now than is suggested by some of the current government’s policies. Apparently this particular toy was not a favourite of the six-year-old George Osborne.
So as the government gears up to produce the June Spending Review, which will dictate the industry’s priorities over its short and medium-term future, these lessons are well worth a thought. The construction industry today, as epitomised by this year’s award winners, has proved that it can respond adeptly and creatively to a changing market, and it must continue this path of reform and greater integration. On top of this, over the next month, it needs to push clearly and persuasively for the policies – on capital spending priorities, regulation and green investment - that will enable it to drive further forward still.
Sarah Richardson, editor