At the beginning of April, we helped host a webinar in partnership with Built environments.
The session delved into the challenges, risks and opportunities set to face the construction industry over the next few years as we move out of the pandemic and the government’s ‘build back better’ agenda comes into motion.
We were joined by several industry leaders in the construction and risk space, and covered a breadth of issues facing the UK’s built environment in the years to come. Here are a few highlights we picked out from the session.
Is our broadband network holding back opportunity?
From north to south, urban to rural, location has played a big role in how we’ve been impacted by the pandemic. We only have to look at the Government’s job retention scheme statistics to see the picture more clearly – 4 in 10 people were put on the scheme in Cumbria, versus only 1 in 4 in Oxford.
But even if there’s an imbalance in employment opportunity across the country, Covid has taught us it shouldn’t really matter. Many industries have not only survived but thrived switching to a homeworking model, so employers in the future should be able to open up roles to people regardless of their whereabouts.
As it stands, however, the nation’s broadband infrastructure is failing us. Last year, broadband price comparison site Cable ranked the UK 47 out of 100 countries in terms of download speed – placing bottom across all western nations.
For businesses to feel confident about opening up positions, they need to know the broadband infrastructure can support applicants wherever they are in the country. If we’re truly going to address the widespread inequality of employment opportunity across the nation, our digital connectivity needs huge infrastructure investment.
Investment in green energy is up. How do we keep it that way?
Even at the beginning of the pandemic, investment in the green agenda never wavered. As investors understandably pulled back in other sectors, more renewable projects went online and our journey to net-zero pushed on.
However, if we’re ever going to meet our ambitious year-on-year targets, more investors need to come forward.
There’s still some caution about investing in renewable projects, and any other large-scale development for that matter, before planning’s been approved. Investors have to put up a substantial amount of capital for what’s generally been seen as a high-risk venture, and the only funders prepared to take that risk are those with deep reserves, and a positive approach to risk.
Pension funds are of the right financial profile, but their risk-averse appetite has traditionally meant keeping these types of projects at arm’s length. But that could be about to change.
Government backed pension scheme Nest, has just announced a partnership with Octopus Renewables, pledging £250m this year to clean energy infrastructure across the UK and Europe. With businesses constantly being challenged to step up their ESG requirements, are we on the verge of seeing more trust funds follow the same path?
How much will our cities really transform post-Covid?
Mckinsey recently carried out a home working study to see whether workers are more or less likely to return to the office. They got a mixed response, but the general consensus was that a hybrid model of some days working in the office and some working at home will be the preference of the many.
After a year of working from home, it would seem people are eager to return to an office environment. Just not for the five days a week we were so accustomed to.
Earlier in the pandemic, with the workforce adapting so seamlessly to homeworking, many people started to believe office buildings would be surplus to requirements. But as the crisis has dragged on, the benefits of working in an office have come into sharper focus.
And it would seem the shift in attitude has been enough for funders to start putting investment back in the sector. Head of Risk at Skanska and webinar attendee, Robert Raynor, told us Skanska has just been awarded two office construction sites in central London.
Maybe our cities aren’t going to be the deserted office wastelands we first feared.
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Thanks to our colleagues for their excellent contribution:
Rebecca Gabriel, HS2 LTD, Head of Risk
François Riquet, SOCOTEC, Development Director Europe
Bérénice Maculan, Mace, Associate Director – Risk
Robert Rayner, Skanska, Head of Risk