The corona-virus pandemic has been difficult for many industries. Lock-downs and circuit breakers have forced many businesses to close. For example, the hospitality industry has been landed with restrictions and guidelines to ensure customer safety. Indoor venues have been deserted, and public transport has been abandoned for greener and less crowded options.
However, amidst the dejection of the crisis, some sectors are demonstrating growth or rapid recovery. The construction industry, for example, was spared from England’s second and third national lock-downs in November and January respectively.
Whether through government initiatives or increased demand for their services, these industries are giving us a reason to stay optimistic.
Build back better
The Prime Minister has already set out his expectations moving beyond the pandemic, suggesting that the past year has been an industrial reset for the construction sector. With a new target of zero-carbon emissions by 2050, the need to build infrastructure with sustainability in mind is a priority.
A £160 million investment will be made available for parts of Northern England, Scotland, and Wales. This will upgrade ports and infrastructure in order to increase the UK’s offshore wind capacity, with the primary objective to power all houses with renewable energy by 2030.
This has created optimism in the sector, immediately creating 2,000 jobs to manufacture the next generation of wind turbines. Meanwhile, the investment will indirectly support an additional 60,000 jobs.
The Office for National Statistics reported that in April 2020, around 46.6 per cent of people in employment worked from home. Of these people, 86 per cent did so because of the pandemic.
For workers who remain in essential industries, such as manufacturing, good ventilation has been key. This means that airflow should not be restricted within a building, so that socially distanced workers can minimise their risk of catching the virus.
The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers has recommended that indoor air should not be recirculated. This will lower the risk of transmission. As a consequence, many businesses have requested for building services engineers to amend their ventilation systems. More effective air cleaning systems are being installed, giving this section of the construction industry a well-deserved boost.
Space is essential for working safely. And while engineers are busy ensuring workplaces can follow social distancing guidelines, they too must also meet this standard. If social distancing continues, additional investment into working facilities to maintain working standards may have to be made. This could include additional container hire for office space or personal facilities. Doing this could boost productivity and ensure that construction returns to its high standards.
New build revolution
Our homes have never been more important. Many people have spent more time at home than at any point in their lives. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the investment into housing infrastructure has been made a priority. The intention to transform a generation of renters into one of home buyers has been promoted by the Help-To-Buy Scheme.
In 2019, the proportion of new family houses built rose to 78 per cent. This is the highest it has been since 2000. While it is understandable that figures have been impacted in 2020 due to the initial national lock down and subsequent working restrictions, 2021 will be pivotal to returning to surpassing this level again.
With the end of the pandemic in clear view and businesses adapting to difficult restrictions, will a sharp recovery commence in within 2021? Construction and engineering continue to lead the way in terms of growth, with help from government investment and public support. The lessons of the pandemic will continue to shape every sector long beyond this adverse period.