The latest report* by market analyst, Glenigan, indicates that the improvement seen towards the end of 2013 is set to continue all the way to 2020, although it admits predicting the likely growth in social housing as ‘uncertain’.
It states that: ‘The outlook for 2014 is positive, with activity set to pick up in housing, commercial, nuclear, rail and roads.’ The value of new construction project starts rose by 5% during 2013, with momentum building through the year following a poor weather afflicted first quarter during which starts fell 13% on a year before.
Positive signs emerged during the second quarter, which saw a 3% rise, followed by strong growth of 20% in the third quarter and 14% in the final quarter of 2013. The positive trend of growth continued into 2014, with starts in the three months to January 4% up on a year ago – driven by continued rises in new infrastructure starts. However, the rate of growth fell compared to the 14% rise recorded in the three months to December 2013, as the pace of industrial and retail activity decelerated.
In the years leading up to 2020, the private sector is expected to remain the principal engine for growth. In particular, commercial construction is forecast to be a growth sector over the next six years. Office construction is currently the key driver behind higher commercial sector output, having been strengthening over the last two years. Further growth is anticipated over the medium term, supported by UK economic recovery and rising employment.
London remains the central driver for the upturn in office project starts, but it is becoming more broadly based across the UK. While rising service sector employment should continue to underpin the demand for office accommodation, changing working practices such as hot desking and remote working is likely to curb the amount for floor space required per employee.
Pressure on government finances will remain a constraint on public sector non-residential construction output over the next three years. This will have an impact most strongly on the health and community and amenity sectors, though continued demographic pressure from the care requirements of the UK’s ageing population will support output. While the number of care homes has been declining over the last eight years, an ageing UK population is progressively increasing the potential demand for such facilities.
Accordingly, Glenigan expects the stock of care facilities to grow over the longer term. The tighter regulatory regime and rising expectations is likely drive the demand for new, purpose-built facilities, with the continued closure of some existing premises.
On the other hand, education is predicted to be a ‘bright spot’ as local authorities respond to demographic pressures and the government expands the Priority School Building Programme, which in large part is being funded through PF2. During the first half of the forecast period, rising primary school pupil numbers will remain the main source of pressure on the existing school building stock, especially in metropolitan areas.