Construction index best in seven years

The UK construction sector remained on a strong recovery path, with output growth reaching its strongest since September 2014. New order volumes also increased at the fastest pace since records began 24 years ago. 

The latest Construction PMI data input shows that cost inflation was also at a survey-record high during May, reflecting a surge in demand for construction materials and severe supply shortages. 

Commenting on the data, Federation of Master Builders CEO Brian Berry said: “Rising material prices are continuing to limit the ability of local builders to build back better from the pandemic.

“It’s incredibly worrying to hear that the overall rate of input price inflation was the highest on record. This is consistent with FMB data that shows 93 per cent of builders reported material price increases in the first quarter.

“Against the backdrop of high levels of inquiries for building work, it’s imperative that smaller businesses have the same access to materials as the larger firms during these difficult times.” 

At 64.2 in May, up from 61.6 in April, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI Total Activity Index registered above the 50 no-change value for the fourth consecutive month and signalled the strongest rate of output growth for just under seven years.

Housebuilding (66.3)  was  the  best-performing  category of construction  activity in May, followed by  commercial work (64.4).  

Construction companies attributed the surge in order books to strong demand for residential building work and high levels of confidence about the near-term economic outlook.

They remain upbeat  about their prospects for the next 12 months, with 61 per cent predicting a rise in business activity.

4 June 2021

Councils committed to zero carbon

A total of 58 councils have joined UK100, a network of local authority leaders committed to tackling climate change. Collectively, they represent 23.5 million people – around 35 per cent of the UK’s population and 28 per cent of England’s land area.

UK100 said more than 100 local authorities have pledged to run on 100 per cent clean energy by 2050, while the most ambitious are aiming to go “further and faster than the government” on net-zero. The network is lobbying for more powers and resources from government to enable it to take ambitious climate action and for the country to meet its legally bound target.

“The task will need bold leadership, legislative clarity, shifts in culture and behaviours, willingness to make mistakes and an enthusiastic adoption of new technologies,” said UK100’s Christopher Hammond. 

3 June 2021

Passivhaus turns 30

The Passivhaus building system is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. Starting as an experiment at a time when climate protection was far from the spotlight, the pioneering project by Professor Wolfgang Feist paved the way for energy efficiency in buildings. Today, the Passivhaus Standard has been implemented throughout the world to build some of the most energy-efficient buildings on the planet. 

The first ever Passivhaus was built in Darmstadt, Germany in 1991. The project was fitted with photovoltaics in 2015, gaining Passivhaus Plus accreditation. 

“Of course, I’m happy about this development: seeing the progress from the first experimental residential building to the projects and districts worldwide designed to the Passivhaus standard,” explains Professor Feist. 

Nevertheless, he makes it clear that “without significantly greater commitment on the part of the (world) governments, there will be very little progress in energy-efficient construction of buildings.” 

Professor Feist argues that even in the 70s, it was already clear that fossil-based energy sources were limited and that their production and utilisation are the cause of extremely high CO₂ emissions. 

Together with the Swedish engineer Bo Adamson, he explored ways to create buildings without a traditional heating system, even in colder climates. 

To keep buildings warm without additional heating, typical heat losses had to be reduced. This meant increasing insulation in the walls, roof and floor, adding a third pane of glass to the windows and creating airtightness by avoiding thermal bridges. 

Heating is provided using passive measures like solar radiation, and the house stays pleasantly warm for a long period of time. 

Initially ridiculed, the system has grown steadily and is now a highly sought after building standard that enables very low-energy costs and low carbon emissions. There are Passivhaus homes, schools, sports halls, supermarkets, museums hotels and entire districts built to the German standard, and gradually cities and countries are stipulating energy efficiency to the demanding requirements in their building regulations.

2 June 2021

Tributes for Self-Build Zone founder

Paul Kempton, the man behind popular insurance and warranty brands such as Self-Build Zone, Build-Zone and BZSS, has died after a short illness. He was 69.

Kempton was a popular and well respected figure in the self-build sector, and had worked in the insurance industry since his early 20s. In 1990, along with his wife Sally, he decided to create his own company, Sennocke International Insurance Services Ltd, at their dining table. 

The small company of three quickly expanded and became a recognised name in the market. 

Ever the entrepreneur and family man, Kempton encouraged his staff to do the best for their customers, even leading to many other families joining the company, including his daughter Sarah as marketing manager. 

“It was my privilege to know Paul for many years,” said SelfBuild & Design magazine publisher Peter Johns. “He was entertaining company, with a very sharp mind. The insurance world and the self build world have lost a great friend. There will be many, many selfbuilders who have benefitted from the insurance and warranty services he launched but I am sure the brands will live on well beyond him and serve as a wonderful legacy.”

Kempton is survived by his wife Sally, three children and two grandchildren.

27 May 2021

National Self Build Week

National Custom and Self Build Week is approaching, and to mark the occasion the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) is running a series of online free presentations to explain new government initiatives designed to expand the sector. 

The programme, which runs from May 24, will run 11 live events exploring: 

* the Prime Minister’s independent review of the self and custom build sector

* the Help to Build equity loan scheme to help individuals finance a self build

* Reforms to the Right To Build to give it more teeth

* the opportunities these initiatives present to the industry.

There will be keynote sessions from Richard Bacon MP, who is leading the independent review, and NaCSBA’s CEO Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, as well as technical briefings and sessions tailored to architects, planners, builders, lenders, and manufacturers.

Go to the NaCSBA website for more information and free tickets. 

20 May 2021

Public calls for regeneration of brownfield sites

A national survey has found that more than half of Brits would like derelict land to be converted into modern, efficient housing and a place for cultural landmarks.

The survey by property developers Romal Capital also found that more than three-quarters of respondents thought that regenerated brownfield sites improved the lives of those living around them. 

Almost the same number believed that current derelict sites were an eyesore. 

The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents feel the government has failed to prioritise regenerating local brownfield sites. This was felt strongest in the North East (90 per cent) and the South East (85 per cent). 

“It’s great to see that people across the country want to see their areas improved and re-purposed. However, it is clear that speed is the issue more than ambition,” says Romal Capital’s CEO Greg Malouf, who called for more support and resources for local authorities to fast track regeneration of these sites. 

“Many people are desperate for somewhere permanent to live and keen to see former industrial and undeveloped areas turned into new, progressive housing neighbourhoods and community hubs,” Malouf said. 

“The authorities must become far more proactive and flexible to allow this to happen.”

12 May, 2021