As part of our annual survey this year we asked the largest 150 consultants in the UK about the impact of key issues, such as Ukraine, Brexit, recruitment and building safety on their businesses. In a sneak preview ahead of our main findings tomorrow, here are some of the responses

Top 150 3x2

Building’s Top 150 Consultants tables, including separate rankings for engineers, surveyors, project managers and architects, will be published tomorrow along with full analysis of the data and survey findings.

>> Top 150 Consultants 2022: the main table

>> Top 150 Consultants 2022: with the economic heat rising, will things halt again?


What has been the impact of the war on material supply and prices?

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Three in four respondents to our survey said the Ukraine war has had an impact on material supplies and pricing, with one in four reporting a severe impact.

Cumming: “Impacts include: raw material availability, energy cost increases, direct impact on producers/suppliers in Ukraine and eastern Europe, disruption to logistics and supply chains.”

Gleeds: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused significant escalation of materials pricing, just as prices had started to settle at the beginning of the year.”

Rider Levett Bucknall: “While it is problematic to point to specifics of effects relating directly to Ukraine, the surrounding downstream effects are ongoing and affect many imported goods.”

Ridge and Partners: “We have experienced significant increases in contractors’ tenders that reflect the shortage of materials that would be traditionally sourced from eastern Europe and increasing fuel costs due to sanctions against Russia.”

WSP: “There has been a direct impact on some fixed costs, specifically utilities. There may be an indirect impact on trade if clients involved in building experience an increase in raw materials costs and have to cut other costs such as consultancy.”


How has Brexit affected labour supplies?

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Seven in 10 respondents to the survey said that Brexit has had an impact on labour supplies, with 12% reporting a serious impact and 58% a moderate impact. Three in 10 said there has been no impact at all.

Arcadis: “Construction has lost around 200,000 self-employed workers since the beginning of 2019. It is not clear whether these workers are UK based or came from the EU. The new points-based system makes it harder to source overseas labour. This is a developing problem rather than the main problem in 2022.”

Gleeds: “Brexit has intensified long-term issues in the industry such as a global skills shortage. The UK relied on EU workers in construction. Post Brexit, EU workers now find it more difficult to travel to the UK for work. The Office for National Statistics shows that the number of construction workers in London from the EU fell 54% (severe) between April 2017 and April 2020.”

Rider Levett Bucknall: “Very significant impact on labour availability in, for example, London, with its former heavy reliance on EU labour. Large numbers of skilled operatives have returned to their place of origin. Whether all or most of that is Brexit-driven or in part a function of covid or even Ukraine is difficult to quantify.”

Building safety

What is the impact of building safety regulations on margins?

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Two in three firms (66%) reported no impact on margins so far from new building safety regulations. Nearly a third (29%) reported a moderate impact and just 5% a severe impact. Some said it is too early to see an impact, while others have already priced it in.

Arup: “Already priced in.”

Cumming: “The majority of schemes we work on are with forward-thinking, sophisticated developers who operate their buildings post-completion. Therefore they have been ahead of the curve on regulatory and best practice measures. Consequently we have not seen a sudden jump in costs, more a steadily increasing curve.”

Ramboll: “The impact will materialise once fully adopted.”

Rider Levett Bucknall: “The Building Safety Act has already seen a number of changes introduced across the business, which has some impact on our margins. We have invested in training programmes around the act, including being the first consultancy to upskill its health and safety consultants en masse in building safety management. Further costs will be associated with the registration of these consultants and others such as fire risk assessors, as well as the time updating some of our delivery.”


Recruitment of staff with the necessary skills has become…

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The survey shows that 82% of consultants are finding it hard to recruit staff, with nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents saying it has been very difficult. Seven in 10 firms (71%) have found it more difficult to recruit people with the necessary skills in the past 12 months.

AKT II: “There is a smaller talent pool to source strong candidates.”

Baqus: “There is a moving market coming out of the pandemic with more people looking to change jobs now, as people were hesitant to move and wanting security during the pandemic.”

BDP: “We are finding recruitment of engineers challenging, and Brexit can’t have helped.”

Doig & Smith: “We have found it difficult to recruit appropriately qualified members of staff to undertake the projects we have won and expect to undertake in the future.”

Faithful+Gould: “We are using an employee referral scheme as well as agencies to assist with recruiting.”

Hoare Lee: “Introduction of future ways of working has helped us attract employees in the era of the ‘flexidus’ which is following the great resignation, but it remains difficult to fill all vacancies within reasonable timescales.”

McAndrew Martin: “Finding staff with the right skills at acceptable pay rates has become difficult.”

Noviun: “We have had difficulty recruiting technologists in particular.”

Ramboll: “There is a lack of resources in the industry – the skills shortage is really biting.”

Rider Levett Bucknall: “The pipeline of candidates entering the industry is stagnant, plus access to the European candidate market is now somewhat protracted”

Ridge and Partners: “With lots of companies growing and recruiting, it is becoming more important to stand out in our offering to prospective candidates addressing the wellbeing issues which are becoming more important in these changing times.”

Top 150 3x2

Top 150 Consultants rankings

Find out which firms are risers, fallers and new joiners in this year’s Top 150 Consultants tables, which include separate rankings for engineers, surveyors, project managers and architects. 

You’ll find interactive rankings that are sortable by staff numbers, fee income and more on our website.

>> Top 150 Consultants 2022: the main table

>> Top 150 Consultants 2022: with the economic heat rising, will things halt again?