A quarter of UK and Irish building contractors report cancellations or suspensions of projects due to Covid-19 restrictions — new report

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Almost a third (29%) of subcontractors have downsized their workforce in the past six months

Report published as Autodesk opens access to BuildingConnected, a new ‘social network’ for Irish construction firms

§  Autodesk report points to skills shortage in the sector as the threat of an additional lockdown In Ireland will challenge the construction sector further

§  A quarter (26%) of sub-contractors say that they have faced increased pressure to complete projects on time

§  Employee retention (58%) and labour shortages (53%) among the concerns for main contractors regarding the future of the industry

Almost a quarter of main contractors or owners (23%) report that their organisation has cancelled or suspended projects due to Covid-19 restrictions, according to research by manufacturing and design technology company Autodesk.

The report, “Connected procurement: The foundation of construction success” includes research conducted among 375 owners, main contractors and subcontractors in the UK and Ireland, all with direct involvement in tendering or submitting proposals to tenders.

The findings indicate that 53% of main contractors and 43% of subcontractors have experienced delayed starts to projects in the past six months due to Covid-19.

Many of these delays come as a result of temporary site closures, shortages of staff and disruptions to the supply of goods and materials that have occurred as a result of the pandemic. Despite these lags, a quarter (26%) of subcontractors say that their business has faced increased pressure to complete projects on time.

Adding to these pressures, almost a third of subcontractors (29%) have downsized their workforce – putting these businesses under pressure to deliver more with less resources.

These figures confirm the impact to the construction sector of the temporary shutdown of building sites and the impact of social distancing on projects. which is set to continue and possibly intensify as Ireland’s response strategy is implemented. Recent figures* show that housing output alone is already set to reduce from 24,000 to 15,000 this year pointing to a significant impact of the pandemic on construction capacity in Ireland.

Autodesk, a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software established its EMEA HQ in Ireland in 2018. The company’s software was used to design some of Ireland’s most iconic buildings, including the Guinness Storehouse, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Samuel Beckett Bridge, and even Dublin’s Spire, while clients in Ireland include BAM Ireland, John Sisk & Son and Mace Technology Ireland.

Future prospects and concerns 

When asked about the future of the industry,almost a quarter (24%) of subcontractors and main contractors (25%) say that they anticipate an increase in business following Covid-19, perhaps as governments invest in infrastructure to revitalise economies globally.

However, according to the research the majority of those within the sector continue to have a number of concerns regarding the future of the industry.

Employee retention (58%) and labour shortages (53%) are among the key concerns for main  contractors. A shortage of labour in the business is also a concern for 48% of subcontractors, while on-site safety in relation to infection control methods is a worry for 44% of these respondents.

However, many businesses are adapting for the challenges ahead;

  • Over a quarter of main contractors (28%) are now focused on digitally upskilling their own staff in the months ahead
  • Two-fifths (43%) of subcontractors and a quarter (24%) of main contractors are adopting new technologies in response to Covid-19
  • Almost half (47%) are also introducing new remote working tools for their organisation.

BuildingConnected, the new social network

Autodesk’s research comes as the company launches its new social network and preconstruction management tool, BuildingConnected, on the Irish market.

Presently, just a quarter (24%) of owners and a fifth of main contractors (19%) say that it is easy to find subcontractors for projects. Mechanical, plumbing, and electrical trades are the hardest to find.

BuildingConnected allows contractors and clients to discover trades and connect, identify the right subcontractor for a job, track budgets, and solicit tenders on one central platform.

By centralising this process on BuildingConnected, construction stakeholders can maximise the time they spend moving their projects forward productively, rather than getting bogged down in time-consuming administrative work.

“There are more than one million construction professionals on the BuildingConnected network in North America alone, with over 2,000 general contractors and owners actively bidding out projects – totalling $56 billion in project values each month,” said Jim Lynch, vice president and general manager of Autodesk Construction Solutions.

“BuildingConnected effectively replaces an antiquated approach that has relied on Rolodexes and spreadsheets, and ensures the right teams are in place for every kind of construction project, whether a commercial building, data center, medical facility or infrastructure project. As BuildingConnected further expands internationally, we want to empower construction firms around the world with the resources they need to increase productivity and decrease project risk.”

Commenting on the research findings, Mike Pettinella, Director of EMEA Sales, Autodesk Construction Cloud said:

“For the most part, construction sites in Ireland have been able to continue operating throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit in line with Government restrictions and reduced capacities. As a result, the impact of the pandemic on the sector can be somewhat underestimated – with many assuming that it has been business as usual.

“While the long-term impact of the pandemic is unpredictable, tendering conditions will be one of the main challenges facing the industry in the short to medium term. The launch of BuildingConnected will have a big impact for construction companies in Ireland on both sides of the tendering process, addressing some of the more immediate challenges faced by the sector.”

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