12 Aug The Slow Road to Recovery Post-Lockdown
The Long Road Ahead for the Construction Industry
With April seeing a record drop of a whopping 40.2%, that a record for month-on-month growth was to occur just after did not come as much of a surprise. Despite an 8.2% growth from April to May, the construction industry is still down 38.8% from February 2020 so whilst this month-on-month growth offers a sense of hope, there is still much to be done before we return to a level of normality.
The initial massive drop was due to a huge drop in new jobs being undertaken
“The decrease in new work (30.3%) in the three months to May 2020 was because of record falls in most of the new work sectors; private new housing and private commercial were the largest contributors, falling by 42.5% and 29.5% respectively.”
Even at Inno we’ve been called and hired for many different jobs which are already underway that contractors have not been able to finish for all sorts of reasons. In the last four weeks alone we’ve had two jobs that were in a desperate need of repair and so some of this recovery is a result of work that is absolutely necessary, where potentially they’re more at risk in their own home than they are from the coronavirus. On the other side, in terms of starting new projects, nothing was planned to begin until this first week of August which just goes to show how cautious people are being and understandably so. Nobody wants to be stuck in a position where they have a half-finished property if the country has to go back into Lockdown, that change of lifestyle is stressful enough without the added struggle of living in a construction site.
With that said, new projects saw a greater recovery than repair and maintenance
“The decrease in repair and maintenance (28.9%) in the three months to May 2020 was because of record falls in all repair and maintenance sectors; the largest contributor was private housing repair and maintenance, which fell by 39.8%.”
And perhaps there is some correlation between the rise in Home DIY during lockdown and the fall in private housing repair and maintenance (You can read more about the rise in Home DIY Here). There is also reason to believe that people have decided to just completely renovate instead of attempting to repair and maintain what they already have. This would also correlate with how many people are spending their holiday funds to undertake home improvements.
On a brighter note, despite this downwards trend in new work and the maintenance sector, the last few weeks leading into August have seen a boom for home improvement beyond manageable levels and so as one door closes another opens and we might just be seeing a new ‘normal’ for how the construction industry operates for the coming years.
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining
With work no longer being possible in the way it has been, many industry-wide, standard practices have to be reimagined, forgotten, or innovated. Even personally we’ve been adapting and changing how we operate “offering virtual appointments, creating 3D plans from drawings, completing the tendering process in two stages (one long-distance through video calls) and only visiting homes when it’s absolutely necessary, to protect our staff and the consumer as much as practically possible” (Tobias, INNO Managing Director). Many of these practices might have seen mass adoption over the coming years but the coronavirus has greatly sped up the rate of change. Ultimately, this increased development can have serious benefits such as reducing time on the road which is not only a great cost saver but is much more environmentally friendly as well.
Another major difference we have seen is by being forced to slow our rate of work, we have had to spend a lot more time thinking and talking rather than just getting on with it and having a mind-set of straight efficiency which can establish itself so easily under the constant pressure and pace this industry moves at. With everyone being forced to pause, it has opened the air for forums of discussion and this is beginning to bring fresh, new ideas to light.
Just recently, the government unveiled its Sustainable Innovation Fund (£200m) which will help sustainable businesses recover from the coronavirus outbreak and this is just another step towards moving away from the old methods and adopting new strategies. Companies that fail to adapt will struggle to survive and this is more important than ever, we have been given an opportunity to force change at a rate never before possible and so we must act on it whilst we can, falling back on our old systems is no longer an option.
A recent ONS report shows a 13% drop in ‘innovation active’ companies in the last two years despite the fact that massive technological advancements have been happening across the globe so there was certainly some reason for concern but now that companies are being forced to adapt we would hope this number will begin to rise. As uncertain as things are at the current point in time, there certainly seems to be a brighter, greener, and more hopeful construction industry on the horizon.