The most hyped year of all time begins with a whimper. The feared millennium bug fails to bring businesses to a standstill, but instead goes around infecting landmark construction projects. On new year's eve, a failed clutch on one of the London Eye's capsules means that as Old Father Time rolls into a new millennium, the millennium wheel stands embarrassingly still. The dome's annus horribilis starts when the great and good are marooned at Stratford Station, although a brief respite from the unending press criticism comes from Building's own Gus Alexander. "Shock horror: I like the dome," is our headline.
Meanwhile, in Cardiff, rock group the Manic Street Preachers almost bring the house down – literally. The Millennium Stadium has to be strengthened with steel props following concerns that pogo-ing fans might cause stands to collapse.
Jennie Price takes over at the Construction Confederation, pledging to make recruitment her top priority. But, instead, the fractious confederation proves too much for Price, who resigns from the job in October.
The winter blues set in. Family builder CJ Sims goes into receivership two weeks after receiving a royal warrant for work carried out on Prince Edward's pile at Bagshot Park, Surrey. The firm begins proceedings to recover £600 000 allegedly owed by the prince.
Cost-cutting at major contractors reaches epidemic proportions as Amec axes 2500 jobs. Mowlem had earlier slashed 170, and there are rumours of equally brutal staff cuts as other majors strive to boost margins, despite stable growth and bulging order books. Analysts describe it as the biggest rationalisation in the industry since the early 1990s – but warn firms not to go too far. "It's a bit like pruning the roses," says one. "If you prune too hard, you don't get any bloom back."
On a lighter note, Building dresses plucky quantity surveyor Nick Jones in a variety of outfits to gauge the reaction. Would NHS Estates chief executive Kate Priestley employ a QS dressed in sports casuals? "I wouldn't let him over the doorstep," she says. "He looks like he should be selling the Big Issue."
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment enters talks with the Treasury to revise PFI guidelines, with the aim of stopping "dog's dinner" designs.
Trouble is brewing in Scotland and Wales. Welsh first secretary Rhodri Morgan halts work on the Welsh assembly and considers scrapping the project as costs reach £23m. The Scottish National Party slams the Scottish parliament as estimated costs quadruple to £231m.
John Prescott opens the show homes at the much-troubled Greenwich Millennium Village, describing it as "a showcase to the world that we are taking our responsibilities to society and the planet seriously." Building's Gus Alexander is unimpressed. "What we actually seem to be getting is closer to a bog-standard housing estate on an unusually windy site," he concludes. Meanwhile, Martin Spring visits the Prince of Wales' Poundbury and finds it a much better example of Prescott's urban vision. "Look beyond Poundbury's chocolate-box styling and you will find a practical model for sustainable housing in the 21st century, as defined by Lord Rogers' urban taskforce," he writes.
Nick Raynsford leads a Movement for Innovation charm offensive to persuade City investors to look more favourably on construction firms as share prices plummet.
The best-value regime comes into force, replacing compulsory competitive tendering for local government procurement.
National Construction Week is marred by tragedy. Three workers die when a building collapses in Hull, marking the start of what is to be an awful year for industry safety. "People are being killed at an alarming rate in our industry and it has to stop," says UCATT general-secretary George Brumwell.
London's lacklustre mayoral race rumbles on, with candidates spelling out their policies on the built environment. Ken Livingstone hates the Tube PPP and loves skyscrapers. Labour's Frank Dobson loves PPP and hates skyscrapers. Perhaps sensing a Livingstone victory, property developer Irvine Sellars unveils plans for Europe's tallest building – a 420 m tower by architect Broadway Malyan on top of London Bridge station. In an interview with Building, Italian master architect Renzo Piano regrets never having built in London. "It will happen, though," he says. Did he know something we didn't? Within a few months, Sellars has appointed Piano lead architect on the London Bridge job.
Tony Blair falls in love with architecture, using his speech to the Building Awards – his first ever on construction – to launch his personal crusade to improve the quality of public buildings.
It's a blockbuster month for new buildings, with both the Bankside Tate and Salford's Lowry arts centre opening. "Far from being LS Lowry, this is Beryl Cook architecture," says Building's Martin Spring of the latter. "The blowsy forms and lurid colours evoke Cook's plump ladies on the razzle."
Enric Miralles' design for the Scottish parliament is approved by Scottish politicians by just 12 votes, averting threatened £60m compensation claims from the project team. Tragically, Miralles dies in July. But the Welsh assembly is put on hold for six months.
Building Design Partnership sets off a furious copyright row by proposing a slightly bigger version of the London Eye in Prague. "Copyright means nothing," says Derek Pike of BDP's special structures group. "I've spoken to our solicitors."
A bad month for the government. Ken Livingstone romps home in the London mayoral race and cocks a snook at New Labour by offering Lord Rogers, who is getting fed up with government inaction on implementing his urban taskforce report, a plum job.
Nick Raynsford, launching the DETR's new urban design guide, blasts housebuilders for building estates full of "tawdry little boxes". But the Millennium Village programme, designed to show housebuilders how it should be done, is put on ice following the fiascos at Greenwich and Allerton Bywater.
Two years on from Rethinking Construction, Building asks whether the Eganites are winning over the industry. Opinions vary – some compare it to a cult, others to a bandwagon. "The Movement for Innovation is something we want to align ourselves with, but for fairly superficial marketing reasons," confides the procurement manager of a major contractor.
The Design Build Foundation develops software to assess the efficiency of design teams, part of a broader trend to Eganise the esoteric world of architecture. The profession is terrified. "The thought of such a system horrifies me," says one architect. "The way consultants operate is inefficient, and that's why we like it."
Construction is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Following the deaths of three crane workers at Canary Wharf, HSE figures show site deaths have risen 20%. The Millennium Bridge opens – and closes again after an unpredicted wobble. "It's a tragedy for consulting," says Matthew Wells of engineer Techniker.
Dotcom mania is at its height. Following a rash of construction websites and e-commerce ventures, Amec, Bovis Lend Lease, Skanska, Hochtief and Turner join up to set up a £1.5m portal, Aecventure.com. But others warn that the e-bubble may be about to burst. "A lot of these sites don't seem to do anything," says Tony Merricks, head of the government's cowboy taskforce, of online builders' registers. The same could be said of the taskforce: only one company has qualified for the anti-cowboy quality mark by June. Fearing the scheme has gone flat, the government drafts in ad agency BDHTBWA, which also works for fizzy drink Tizer.
Building celebrates the new roof over the British Museum's Great Court as a triumph for Foster and Buro Happold. While the media fusses over the use of French stone on one of the porticos, Mace project manager Carl Wright adds some perspective: "The roof went in without a problem," he points out.
It seems the industry just can't win. Carillion comes under fire for earning too much money on the PFI Fazakerley Prison. A National Audit Office report finds the firm made £13m more than expected by refinancing its debts on the scheme. Our letters pages are full of support for Carillion. "Public money was not at risk, so how come the NAO wants to share in the benefit just because someone has made contracting profitable?" asks one reader.
The recruitment crisis looms large all year. Building travels to Birmingham to report on a Construction Industry Training Board initiative to interest Asian schoolchildren in a career in the industry. The feedback is not encouraging. "I feel construction has high-society opportunities for interesting careers in many professional disciplines … is that what you want me to say?" offers 14-year-old Moneeb Hafeez.
Wobbly bridge engineer Arup is in trouble again, this time over the glazing at Portcullis House. The firm faces a £250 000 bill to replace 40 glazed panels after cracking is found.
Gus Alexander revisits the NatWest Media Centre at Lord's to witness a historic England victory over the West Indies. Commentators seem unimpressed by their futuristic eyrie. "All this melamine – totally inappropriate for a sound studio," growls BBC Test Match Special producer Peter Baxter. "Cocooned in this thing, we can't sense the mood of the spectators at all," agrees Christopher Martin-Jenkins.
Ken Livingstone picks a fight with Tube PPP bidders. "The worst scum of modern British capitalism" is how he describes Balfour Beatty, Jarvis and Mowlem, citing allegedly poor health, safety and environmental records. Industry bodies rally to their defence. "If contractors are scum for building roads, then what are Prescott and Brown for introducing a 10-year plan to build more roads?" asks Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts.
Carillion's first anniversary is soured by news that it is to axe 900 jobs at its M&E subsidiary Crown House. The move is part of a restructuring aimed at taking the group away from high-risk ventures.
Lord Rogers runs out of patience and meets chancellor Gordon Brown for crunch talks in a final bid to get fiscal backing for the urban taskforce's proposals.
The construction millennium bug strikes again, with work on the Doncaster Earth Centre's spectacular entrance canopy halted when it is discovered that the wrong kind of steel has been used.
A month of merger mania: Skanska takes over Kvaerner in a £358m deal; Try and Galliford merge; Morrison is sold to Anglian Water for £114m. The rumour mill goes into overdrive, predicting a whole wave of further consolidation, although this turns out to be a hasty assessment.
The fuel crisis brings the country to a standstill. Sites are closed, deliveries paralysed and staff layoffs threatened as supplies dry up. Thieves break into Tarmac's Newport depot at night and siphon diesel from lorries.
Ken Livingstone is at it again, this time winding up housebuilders with the call for all future development in London to contain 50% social housing. Housebuilders claim that it will force them out of the capital.
As the bulldozers prepare to demolish Wembley, Bovis Lend Lease threatens to sue Multiplex after the latter is given a £326.5m contract to build the new stadium. Bovis is miffed because the stadium developer dismissed the two firms as joint preferred bidder, only to award the job to Multiplex a week later.
Changes to Part L of the Building Regulations threaten 500 000 buildings, including Buckingham Palace. Under the proposals, inefficient old windows would have to be replaced with more energy-efficient ones in the event of a refurb. "We won't change our windows, they are staying put," says a palace spokesperson.
Contractors and unions are set on a collision course over government-backed plans to give union safety officials swingeing powers to inspect sites. "It will lead to a lot of mistrust between employers and trade unions and between workers on site and employers," claims Suzannah Thursfield, Construction Confederation director of health and safety.
The first-ever survey of housebuyers' satisfaction gives poor marks to Barratt Homes and Beazer Group, among others. Redrow Homes, Crest Homes, Harwood Homes, JS Bloor, Jelson, Midland and General and McLean Homes achieve top marks, and 87% of all respondents say they are satisfied with their homes.
Finally, someone has something good to say about Portcullis House: Virginia Bottomley MP raves about her new office. "Without doubt, the improved facilities for MPs and the value placed on their work by this magnificent investment will reinvigorate democracy at Westminster," she gushes.
The news is dominated by the aftermath of the Hatfield train crash and the worst flooding on record. Rail contractors press for higher margins, while construction shares surge in the wake of Railtrack's increase in safety spending, and the revival of the government roads programme.
The climate-change talks at The Hague end in failure, but the floods transform global warming from abstract concept to frightening reality. John Prescott announces that he will push through new planning guidance to place the burden and cost of flood defences on developers – housebuilders are not amused.
The DETR also plans updated structural stability regulations to ensure that buildings remain safe in extreme weather conditions. The BRE calculates the cost of future-proofing buildings could reach £5bn, while changing weather will cause £1bn-2bn of damage to roofs and windows annually.
The industry is rocked by news of Laing's imminent sale and the collapse of Christiani & Nielsen.
More bad news on safety: HSE figures show a 59% jump in deaths. The government summons the industry to urgent talks.
Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement finally delivers long-awaited measures to promote an urban renaissance. He cuts VAT on conversions and gives tax relief on cleaning up brownfield land. The urban white paper, launched a week later, gives local authorities a shopping list of initiatives on which to spend Brown's billions.
Arup unveils a "belt-and-braces" solution to stop the Millennium Bridge wobbling, but arguments continue over who is going to pay the estimated £5m – and whether it will work.
The cowboys appear to have won the shoot-out with the government: the beleaguered quality mark scheme looks set to be mothballed until after the election, as insiders report that the DETR has run out of ideas. Another government scheme looks to be in crisis with the news that Constructionline, the government's industry vetting organisation, has achieved only a fraction of the subscribers predicted.
Sir Neville Simms gets his boots muddy in front of millions as one of the subjects of the BBC2 documentary series Back to the Floor. The Carillion boss is seen ripping out kitchens, knocking down walls and helping residents choose wallpaper on a project to refurbish a rundown estate in Birmingham.
Governors at Pimlico school finally reject the £50m PFI redevelopment after four years of controversy, saving the 1970 modernist structure, but leaving staff and pupils who have to use the creaking building back where they started.
The Movement for Innovation launches its Respect for People initiative, urging the industry to improve workers' health and site conditions.
And finally, John Prescott returns to Greenwich Millennium Village to open the first completed houses, all four of them. Maybe he can take comfort from the fact that the first year of the new millennium doesn't really end until 31 December 2001.
How was it for you?
The year 2000 was great for us. In general terms, there's been a marvellous crop of lottery projects – it's quite extraordinary that all these quality projects can be completed in one year. Another important issue is the rising awareness that e-commerce is going to change the construction industry. The key problem is transport. The great challenge for next year will be to build at higher densities close to transport links
Sir Stuart Lipton, chairman, Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
10 June [when the Millennium Bridge was closed after having wobbled under the tread of 1000 pedestrians] was a fairly obvious low for me. Interestingly, things sunk even lower after that. The worst part was three or four weeks later when we figured out what had happened, and nobody seemed to believe me. But that led to a double high another four months on. Independent research showed that what we had said was actually true. Our solution would make the bridge more or less as it was supposed to be. That was a real buzz
Tony Fitzpatrick, director, Arup
For Citex, the high point has been becoming the largest outsourcing manager in Asia. At a corporate level, there has been frustration about the time it's taking for the market to pick up on new forms of property ownership and management, such as PFI. It's a real pity that many of the fabulous buildings created for millennium events haven't been recognised. The notable exception is the London Eye – it's a terrific thing that will last for years
Oliver Jones, chief executive, Citex
The best thing was when the London Eye opened and people's overwhelmingly positive reaction to it: many critics' opinions turned through 180o. There seems to have been a turnaround in people's attitude to contemporary design generally. Fifteen years ago, heritage was thought to be only about looking back; now it's recognised that we need to be creating the heritage of the future
Julia Barfield, director, Marks Barfield Architects
The lottery and millennium funds have been good for architecture, as has Channel 4's coverage of the Stirling Prize. There were two good things for us – the opening and completion of the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum, and winning the job for a new BBC headquarters at Portland Place. There are some lows, but I don't think I can tell you about them – no public whingeing
Richard MacCormac, senior partner, MacCormac Jameson Prichard
We've had quite a successful year in PFI terms. Things are starting to come together and get a little bit easier in the market. The best thing for us is that the government is committed to investing further in PFI. The worst has to be the problems with transport. It's making things very difficult
John Tibbitts, investment manager, Kier
The best thing is that we have had a continued positive response to the use of our services. We had an impact assessment recently and found that we met the expectations of 90% of respondents. I just love the London Eye, and the Gateshead Bridge is spectacular, although it will get much less coverage than the Millennium Bridge fiasco. The worst thing about this year was my commute from Birmingham to London – it's been extremely frustrating. And the rail industry problems have had a negative effect on the construction industry
Zara Lamont, director, Construction Best Practice Programme
Our high point of the year was the start on site of BedZed – our zero-energy scheme for the Peabody Trust at Sutton. The low point is that, despite winning an RIBA housing award and doing endless Egan presentations, despite a fuel crisis and the worst floods on record, there seems to be little or no serious interest in carbon-neutral mixed development. What does it take for clients to see the connection between climate change and our built environment?
Bill Dunster, principal, Bill Dunster Architects
On a personal level, taking over the hot seat as chief executive of the Construction Confederation two months ago has been the highlight. The Comprehensive Spending Review and the 10-year transport plan have provided long-overdue government investment that we long campaigned for. The worst thing is the accident figures – they've been awful, and up significantly on last year. We must hope to do better
Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive, Construction Confederation
In general, it's been a good year for us. The whole tide of the Egan agenda sweeping through the building industry means our time has come, as the company was founded on the beliefs of Rethinking Construction. The year started off on a high note when the London Eye was officially opened on 31 December, although it was disappointing when it was closed straightaway for safety checks. Our biggest disappointment was that our new insurance-backed construction management contract hasn't been tried out yet on a real major project
Bob White, chairman and chief executive, Mace
We've been involved in two fantastic millennium projects, the Eden Centre in Cornwall and the National Botanic Gardens of Wales. Both have already exceeded their projected visitor numbers – and Eden hasn't even been completed yet. The one commission I would like to have won is a giant exhibition centre with sophisticated glass roofs, which we designed for Stuttgart. We could have opened a German office on the strength of that project
Tony Hunt, senior partner, Anthony Hunt Associates
Personally, the highs have been higher and the lows have been lower than at any other time in my life. The Eden Centre is going to be a real world-beater, because of the stunning architecture combined with the relevant messages plants have to tell us about mankind's future. My greatest sadness is the absence of decency through the evolutionary process of the project. This exposed me and my family to truly horrid risks, and has left me with no option other than to issue a £5.5m high court writ against the Eden Trust and the Eden Company, which I founded
Jonathan Ball, co-founder of the Eden project
I had the best two weeks of my life at the Sydney Olympics. It was wonderful to see all those people screaming and having a great time in our stadium, which became the most watched building on TV. Businesswise, 2000 has been terrific. Wembley has overcome every obstacle that has arisen, the planning application for our 60 000-seater stadium for Arsenal is moving ahead and we've just won the £100m redevelopment of Ascot racecourse with John McAslan and Partners
Rod Sheard, principal, HOK-Lobb
2000 has been the biggest non-event of the century. There has been a lot of disruption, and not nearly as much business has been done as should have been. The petrol strike took people's eye off the ball. Then we had the worst rain for 300 years. The railways are finished. There has been too much stop-start, and no sense of urgency. And there's no leadership anywhere. We don't have a prime minister or a president. Tony Blair only comes out to apologise for things. What is showing up in government is showing up in business
Malory Clifford, chairman, Blackfriars Investments
The millennium year has gone very well from Countryside's perspective. It started strongly in private housing. The market slowed during the summer, but seems to have stabilised. We're expecting longer-term growth to resume. Our involvement in social housing is increasing, supported by government policies on commercial property development and urban regeneration. The urban and rural white papers have clarified government thinking. But the continuing growth and stability of the economy overrides everything else as far as this industry is concerned
Alan Cherry, chairman, Countryside Properties
Bernard Hunt and I peaked early in our official involvement with the millennium celebrations, parting company with the Greenwich Millennium Village last year. Perhaps the lesson is that great anniversaries are not to be pressed into service as opportunities for utopian visions. We might have stood a better chance if we had waited until the empirically accurate date of 2001. Nobody seemed to object to the absence of round numbers in 1851 (the Great Exhibition) and 1951 (the Festival of Britain). Genuine revolutions don't bend to centennial nicety
Ben Derbyshire, design director, HTA Architects