Maybe it’s the fine summer weather – or maybe it’s just wishful thinking – but there’s an unfamiliar whiff of optimism wafting through the construction industry. As we report on page 5, a whole raft of surveys conducted over the past few weeks has come back with the message that while there’s still some way to go before we reach pre-recessionary levels of activity, the trend is definitely positive and there is growth in all sectors.
All this upbeat talk must, of course, be heard in context. Yes, we can see some sustained improvement, but the damage done by the downturn goes deep. Our 8-page review of the Top 100 contractors, beginning on page 25, illustrates very clearly that while turnover is increasing, profit margins have actually fallen in the past year.
One of the industry’s priorities now must be to recruit and train people in preparation for any upturn and replace the skills that have been lost during the recession. This month’s feature on training shows that there is plenty of appetite for this and no shortage of initiative, either.
Something else the construction industry can’t get enough of is sustainable development. For most, this essentially means carbon reduction and nobody has a bad word to say about it. Instead, contractors publish corporate sustainability reports to show how seriously they take the matter. Cynics may doubt their sincerity, but when legislation obliges you to spend millions meeting carbon reduction targets you’ve got to take it seriously, haven’t you?