What does 2024 hold for the construction industry?

Laura Capper, Head of Manufacturing and Construction at NatWest shares her thoughts on future trends and expectations for UK construction in 2024

Laura Capper was appointed as Head of Manufacturing & Construction for NatWest in August 2022. Having worked with SMEs and Corporates in the Asset Finance and Banking industry for 15 years, her key responsibilities include building strong relationships with industry stakeholders, industry bodies and supporting organisations. By understanding the challenges faced by manufacturing and construction companies, her focus is centred around developing a unique proposition of financial and non-financial solutions that address these, as well as creating opportunities for businesses to achieve their goals and growth ambitions. 

Laura also takes a key role in developing NatWest’s sustainability strategy which looks at supporting businesses to transition to net zero and to take advantage of the many opportunities that the decarbonisation of the economy will deliver.

NatWest Group is a relationship bank for a digital world. Having supported the UK’s finance for hundreds of years, Natwest Group champions potential; breaking down barriers and building financial confidence so the 19 million people, families and businesses it serves in communities throughout the UK and Ireland can rebuild and thrive.

Capper shares her thoughts on future trends and expectations for UK construction in 2024, covering sustainability, safety, technology, collaboration, skills and energy. 

Sustainability at the heart of construction

“Sustainable and eco-friendly building practices, increased use of technology like Building Information Modelling (BIM), and a focus on modular construction for efficiency are likely to be prominent. With the built environment accounting for 40% of carbon emissions in the UK and the construction sector accounting for up to 11% of global emissions, it’s more important than ever for the construction industry to adopt more environmentally friendly solutions. ‘Sustainable' building entails designing and constructing eco-friendly buildings with sustainable materials and methods, reducing emissions during construction, and ensuring long-term energy efficiency. The sector has already seen a great number of examples where these practices are working and so scaling this up will make it more accessible to all businesses across the construction supply chain which will ultimately support a lower cost base too.

“A continued emphasis on safety within the built environment. The Building Safety Act has set clear standards across the industry to allow all to have guardrails to work to ensure the safety of higher -risk buildings, both in construction and in occupation. Having a more effective regulatory framework provides consistency of practices within the sector and many operators within the built environment will continue to ensure this remains a key priority throughout the design and build of properties.”

Continued digitisation and technology development

“The integration of digitisation and technology into the sector will continue to be a key feature next year. Construction’s business leaders recognise greater use of technology can drive transformative change within the sector and those contractors that have embraced digital transformation, found it successful, invested in digital-training, and are motivated by the business case to do so. Digitisation isn’t simply about overcoming current challenges, but becoming more resilient and more productive in the years ahead. Embracing technology’s potential for better visibility, efficiency, and collaboration means business leaders can deliver better, faster, greener solutions for their clients.

“Improved collaboration is another key construction industry trend that is vital to ensure the sector remains resilient and able to navigate future challenges. Greater collaboration and transparency through the supply chain will be key to minimising risks, delays and creeping costs in an external environment which continues to be volatile."

“The skills shortages in the built environment have been widely acknowledged for many years and will continue to place pressure on the industry in 2024. The skills gap includes a lack of entrants joining the industry, as well as specific and new, green skills being needed to be developed by those who already have a role in construction. The drive towards decarbonisation will also provide huge opportunity for the sector in terms of job creation. Ashden estimates that over 400,000 builders and skilled heating engineers are needed for the industry to tackle the challenge of retrofitting 29 million homes in the UK, but just 200,000 people currently work on maintaining and upgrading existing homes. In addition to this Construction Industry Training Board identified that the existing industry workforce needs to be more than doubled, with the training of around 500,000 new professionals and tradespeople across the sector as a whole.

“Retrofit will continue to provide a scalable opportunity for those operating across the built environment. With energy security being a key need for individuals to have cosier homes, in addition to regulatory requirements starting to drive the required change, the need to scale the retrofit industry is vital, but the economic opportunity is vast also. Retrofitting residential properties will help to generate a £65bn revenue opportunity for SMEs before 2030 – and an additional £30bn of revenue for installing residential heat pumps, and £25bn for non-residential heat pumps.”

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