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Topping up the half full glass

June 15, 2017 by NSC in Comment
The list of risks threatening to undermine economies and the investor confidence that underpins demand for the sorts of projects that you read about in NSC seems to grow almost by the day.

No doubt the fears are based on potentially relevant factors like Brexit and rising interest rate threats, but so far at least the worries seem to be overdone and economists are coming round to accepting that gloomier forecasts made six months ago underestimated what now looks like another year of growth. Private housebuilding and infrastructure look like being the main drivers of growth.

Individual market sectors will have their own stories to tell; London’s residential construction boom seems to be over for the moment for example. So should we view the glass as half full or half empty?

At an NSC editorial meeting last month the Editorial Advisory Board went through the list of projects that is known to us that are either certain to or extremely likely to be steel projects, and it is as long a list as we have ever had. What is impressive about it is the diversity of type of projects and the fact that they are spread throughout the UK, both privately and publicly funded.

It includes schools, hospitals, further and higher education establishments, leisure facilities, sports stadia, commercial offices, mixed use regeneration projects, bridges, transport hubs, visitor centres at tourist attractions – you name it, and there seems to be a scheme to build it taking advantage of the obviously widely known benefits of steel construction.

These are just the projects that we know about and that are suitable for investing the time and effort in producing articles for NSC’s readers, which means that they show steel design and construction to its best advantage – there are many others, just as worthy, as we learn from round table polls at NSC Editorial Advisory Board meetings where members generously keep us abreast of projects their organisations are involved in or they have heard about.

The latest crane survey from Deloittes, which we write about in News this month, confirms the sense of optimism that such a strong project pipeline engenders. The survey highlights a near record level of office space delivered in London last year, and the momentum continuing into this year. A slight slackening of pace in the City saw total activity slowing down but only because of the large volume of completions in the two preceding years rather than investors getting cold feet.

A rise in workload is expected this year and Deloittes point out that very few schemes have been cancelled, which suggests that developer confidence remains high.  Away from the big City type office developments however the picture could be called a bit more mixed as not all sectors of the market will fare quite as well, as several commentators and surveys have shown.

But the overall picture does look like justifying more optimism than was evident last year in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum.  More challenging times might lie ahead in 2018 and 2019, on current forecasts, but just look at the long lists of planned projects and the absence so far of much investor fright and that half full glass looks like it has been topped up a bit since a year ago.

Nick Barrett

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