For the past decade, the UK building services industry, and the construction industry which it serves, has enjoyed a period of almost unprecedented growth. Fuelled by the meteoric rise in UK property values and general economic prosperity, the industry has seen solid year-on-year expansion for most of a generation. It has been a time when good companies have done well, and great companies have delivered remarkable returns for their owners and shareholders.
We are now entering a period with different challenges and a different dynamic. New skills and approaches will be required to succeed in this challenging environment. I have no doubt that there remain huge opportunities for companies and individuals who are agile and energetic, and willing to adopt new approaches.
The starting point for successfully addressing this new situation is an honest analysis of where we are – and the new drivers.
Top of the list in this new era is ensuring that we deliver consistent quality and value for clients, on spec’, on time and to budget. Every time. With increased competition for projects, pressure on performance and delivery is going to be sharper than ever – and rightly so. We have to step up to the plate, and deliver what we have promised.
A second key driver is the sustainability agenda. It will require the use of new materials, new methods and new ways of managing. It will need fresh approaches to the use of energy and the design and construction of buildings and their services.
As a result, the industry is beginning arguably one of most important transformations in its history. The sustainability revolution is now moving from debate to implementation. There is a long way to go to achieve the visionary goal of making construction and building services truly sustainable – in the genuine sense of that much over-used term. But we have begun, and it is going to be a fascinating journey.
The third key issue is of course people and skills. Changes in methods and materials will inevitably have an impact on the people employed at the sharp end, and the skills they need to successfully deliver what the industry wants.
Over the coming months, I will be looking in more detail at these issues and proposing some tentative conclusions about what they mean for the future shape, direction and prosperity of our industry.
There’s an old saying that sums up where we have got to, and the fork in the road we have reached: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”
There has never been a better time for new thinking and a fresh approach.