E-commerce, partnering and global thinking will shape the year ahead. But what faces and landmarks will drive the industry in 2000?
Prime contracting: everybody wants to be a prime contractor. The industry is holding its breath this year for news of long-term regional deals from the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Estates. The NHS has also jumped on the prime bandwagon. Even those most opposed to the new procurement method have gone quiet.

Egan: so far, the Egan agenda has been seen as the remit of a select few in large, monied companies. But goals such as fixing up workable supply chains, partnering, keeping an eye on performance and reducing costs are set to filter down to smaller firms. Soon, Handy Andy will be benchmarking his changed rooms.

Sustainability: no longer can the construction industry plough its way through the planet using up resources. Sustainability will become a louder buzzword in 2000 – if anyone can decide what it means. The DETR’s definition of this elusive term is due out this year and is expected to list commandments not usually associated with construction, such as “preserve biodiversity” and “conserve water”.

E-commerce: on-line procurement did not really take off in 1999, but it will this year, heralding a transformation of the construction industry and the built environment.

Globalisation: the desire to become a contractor, quantity surveyor or facilities management firm with a global presence is the ambition of every forward-thinking boardroom. Whether UK construction companies have the nous to rule the world remains to be seen. The Bovis Lend Lease outfit could be the closest to it — but, then, it’s Australian now.

Respect for people: construction has come over all politically correct. The latest item to be added to the Egan agenda is respect for people. Those pushing the initiative hope it will boost recruitment by changing the image of contractors from hard-nosed bullies to something more fluffy.

Best value: the government’s much-lauded plans to change procurement rules, so that local authorities contract on best value rather than lowest price, become law in April. The scheme is one to watch after last year’s Harmon case, in which a US curtain waller successfully sued the House of Commons for picking a more expensive rival to clad Portcullis House. Local authorities will have to ensure that their choice of contractor, if it is not the cheapest, shows a watertight best value case – whatever that is.

Prefabrication: off-site assembly, prefabrication and modular housing are seen as ways of easing skills shortages. The need for brickies and chippies, dying breeds anyway, will decline as more and more construction is carried out in factories and only installed on site.

House prices: price rises on a scale unseen since the late 1980s have hit the country. Housebuilders, particularly in the South-east, are making hay. But, as prices in London become unaffordable for key workers such as nurses and teachers, can the boom be sustained?

The personalities you’re sure to see more of

Tony Pidgley junior: the scuba-diving son of Berkeley Group managing director Tony Pidgley has a huge number of businesses to oversee. He sits on the Berkeley Group board, as well as being managing director of Berkeley Homes, chairman of five of its operating regions and chairman of Thirlstone Homes. It’s a wonder he has time to go diving.

Stephen Pycroft: the managing director of Mace Management Services is tipped for the top. The long-distance cyclist took up his job 18 months ago after project-directing the Thames Court office scheme in London for developer Markborough. Of course, anything could happen if Mace is bought by WS Atkins this year.

Chris Brown: Brown is the Amec Developments director who could bring car pools to our cities. As a director of Amec/Crosby Homes joint venture Ician, he is spearheading urban regeneration projects that put some of the ideas from Lord Rogers’ report into commercial practice. The first foray is a £50m scheme to revive Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Simon Jones: there are not many project managers who can boast an award from the Queen. The newly appointed Gardiner & Theobald senior partner was made a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order in March 1998 for his work on the restoration of Windsor Castle.

Robin Snell: from entrance halls to football stadia, the former Michael Hopkins and Partners’ associate and project architect for Glyndebourne Opera House has gone from strength to strength. Snell Associates has just designed the £55m redevelopment of Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club, in west London.

Paul Reeder: as the man who managed to raise the curtain on time at the Royal Opera House, the Schal director must be on the up. During his time as project director, he had to deal with industrial disputes and phantom missile-throwers before Placido Domingo could take to the stage on the gala opening night in December.

Barry Burman: the construction director of Lend Lease Europe is in a position of considerable power. The Australian developer, which has just bought Bovis, looks set to become a leading global player.

Derek Gardner: Scottish housebuilder Miller has recruited this high-flyer from NatWest Equity Partners. In the newly created role of corporate development director, Gardner will be looking out for firms ripe for acquisition.

Bill Dunster: this uncompromisingly green architect’s Beddington Zero Energy Village in south-west London starts on site this month. It is a high-density sustainable development that puts into practice the ideas that come up in dinner party discussions about saving the planet.

London mayor: Steve Norris is back in the running for the Tories, and Ken and Frank are still engaged in a fratricidal struggle for the Labour slot. Whoever is elected in May will be responsible for two of the most controversial issues in the capital: planning and transport. Will the victor turn out to be a winner for construction?

Projects that will move off the starting blocks this year …

Three prime contracts: would-be prime contractors are hoping that they will win some of the first deals let by Defence Estates. They include the £30m Faslane jetty scheme in Scotland, a £30m scheme to convert an airfield at Andover in Hampshire to offices and an £8m deal to build accommodation at Carver Barracks at Wimbish in Essex.

Elephant & Castle: it will be a brave consortium that takes on the job of turning the notorious shopping centre in south London into a vibrant urban landmark. The shortlisted consortia have until April 2000 to submit draft designs to Southwark council.

Greater London Authority headquarters: Mace will begin construction work in earnest on the mayor’s £40m home. The Foster and Partners-designed structure at London Bridge City bears a striking resemblance to a fencer’s mask.

Imperial War Museum of the North: Daniel Libeskind designed the museum to represent shards of a broken globe. Sir Robert McAlpine will start to put these shards together on the Trafford site opposite the Lowry Centre on 10 January. The £28m museum opens in spring 2002.

Gateshead Music Centre: the Foster and Partners-designed music centre will be a high note on Gateshead Quay. Laing starts work on the £62m contract early this year.

… and the ones that will reach the finish line

Lowry Centre: LS Lowry may have painted matchstick men but the Salford Quay arts centre dedicated to him would look more at home in California than Coronation Street. The Michael Wilford & Partners-designed gallery, which is being built by Bovis, will house the largest collection of Lowry paintings in the world. You can have a look at them in April.

Tate Bankside: Swiss architect Herzog & de Meuron designed the £134m conversion of Bankside Power Station to an industrial scale museum of modern art. It will open in May 2000.

Millennium Bridge: the bridge linking St Paul’s Cathedral on the north bank of the Thames with the Tate Modern in Southwark will be London’s first dedicated pedestrian bridge. The public will be able take their first steps across the water in May.

British Museum Great Court: the museum’s central courtyard is being reclaimed to create the largest covered public square in Europe. The £97m Great Court project is designed by Foster & Partners, is being built by Mace and is due to open at the end of the year.

Technologies for the 21st century

3D object modelling: the mind-bending concept of using 3D intelligent representations of doors, windows and the like is beginning to find fans outside the world of visionary anoraks.

Mobile phones with access to the Internet: annoying as they are, mobile phones are not going to go away. Now that they are becoming “wireless intelligent terminals” capable of tapping into e-mail and the Internet, you can spend even longer fiddling with them on train journeys.

Voice recognition: if you fancy writing your own reports but can’t be bothered to learn to type, voice recognition software could be the answer.

Energy-saving devices: grey-water systems, combined heat and power stations and — gasp! — natural light and ventilation will increasingly appear in designs as the green agenda edges its way into the mainstream – maybe even with a push from the government’s best value criteria?

Dates for the diary in the year ahead

March: the Treasury has yet to fix a date for this year’s budget.

27 March: the local government taskforce conference in Nottingham will try to nail down the criteria councils can use when awarding contracts on best value.

3-9 April: National Construction Week gives industry big cheeses a chance to appear on Radio 4’s Today programme and fend off questions about cowboy builders and skills shortages. But any publicity is good publicity.

18 April: firms shortlisted for the Building Awards find out if they have won.

9-18 June: Architecture Week is the sector’s chance to shine. Last year’s event was launched by architect manqué Janet Street-Porter.

July: Movement for Innovation conference in Birmingham. If it is anything like last year, hordes of industry representatives will turn out to hear the latest on how the industry can improve.

Log On, Link Up