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A flying start

5 Jan 16 The UK construction industry has started 2016 in much the same buoyant mood as it finished 2015. Neil Edwards reports

It’s as traditional as Christmas itself that the New Year should start with much groaning and talk of post-Christmas torpor and the January blues. But it seems that this year the UK construction industry didn’t get the memo. Rather than make a slow and reluctant start to 2016, the industry hit the ground running, maintaining the momentum with which it finished 2015 to post a creditable £3.85bn of new contract awards in the first month.

Admittedly, that is more than a billion down on the same period last year, but the figures for 2015 were skewed by an exceptional £1.5bn national infrastructure contract win for Balfour Beatty. Without that notable blip, 2016 started with even more promise than the previous year, recording 755 new contract awards compared to 667 in January 2015.

 In the midst of all of this, it was Brookfield Multiplex that claimed the coveted number one slot on our contracts league table in January 2016 with a single £450m order for a new office build at Bishopsgate in central London.

 Coming in at second place was Wates with an impressive 15-project haul during what is traditionally a quiet month. The largest of these – valued at £80m - was for the construction of 275 additional care units at Hall Road, Leeds Road and Hawthorne Avenue for Hull City Council.

 Morgan Sindall stole third spot with a total of 19 contract awards with a combined value of £172m. The company regularly registers the highest number of individual contract awards, but on this occasion Morgan Sindall lost this distinction to Keepmoat which bagged a staggering 29 orders with a combined value of £53.4m.

 As ever, the level of construction activity remains stubbornly centred on London, with the value of new orders in the capital exceeding the cumulative total achieved by the four next busiest regions.

Nevertheless, January 2016 was a notable month for several key areas of the country. A £150m mixed-use contract win for Caddick Developments in Yorkshire helped drive the county’s monthly total to more than £360m and Wales also enjoyed an upsurge thanks to ISG winning a £80m contract to build a new headquarters for BBC Wales in Glamorgan.

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The figures for Wales were boosted still further by a £25m contribution from Kier Construction for the extension of the University of Wales in Swansea. Kier won this job against some stiff competition from Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Sindall and Willmott Dixon.

 Admittedly, it seems that new tender announcements are still sleeping off a New Year hangover, remaining languid throughout the month. But despite wider concerns that the continued cooling of the Chinese economy might just give the rest of the world a cold, there remains much cause for positivity and optimism within the UK construction sector.

• Neil Edwards is chief executive of The Builders’ Conference

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