One thing is certain: uncertainty lies ahead

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  • One thing is certain: uncertainty lies ahead
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Ann Bentley


Ann Bentley


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We have dealt with huge challenges over the past two years, but they have only created more hurdles for our industry to negotiate in 2022 says RLB Global Board Director, Ann Bentley in her recent Building column.

As we enter 2022, if there is one thing that we do know, it is that the unpredictability that we have found ourselves in since 2020 is certain to continue. Yet with this uncertainty will come a level of certainty.

It is certain that 2022 will be a year when the aftershocks of the past two years will come into play. While 2021 was the year when government showed its confidence and investment within the construction industry as an economic enabler, there is no doubt that financially we are going to see pressure within our sector as inflation continues to rise, possibly even to 5 or 10%.

Many of the disputes and claims that are a direct result of the pandemic, Brexit and the events of the past two years will also come to a head as they reach courts and settlements are made. With both these things hitting the industry in 2022 the impact on our sector will be felt: with rising inflation will come an increase in prices; with claims and settlements will come more financial pressure for some.

And of course, Covid has not gone away. This ongoing toxic mix of physical health risks and financial uncertainty will inevitably lead to more mental health pressures and a rise in business failures.

But, with these aftershocks, and with every shake-up in a market, will come transformation. I predict that our market is ripe for radical innovation.

I also believe that there will be a fresh perspective brought to some of the challenges that lie ahead for the built environment, with solutions from different sectors such as the standardisation and logistics planning we now take for granted in shipping and the automotive industry.

And what are the challenges that will remain in 2022 and beyond? The biggest by far will be the environmental crisis. The decarbonisation of our existing housing stock will of course take far more than the next 12 months to implement.

Likewise, the levelling up agenda – although it has had growing awareness with many column inches discussing how we flatten the regional divide – will still be challenging to our sector in 2022.

By continuing to invest in transportation, broadband and regional development the government is making a significant commitment to levelling up. As an industry we must institutionalise the creation of social value. This can no longer be an add-on, but an intrinsic part of what we do.

Then comes the digital transformation. Will 2022 be the year of the construction digital revolution? In my opinion possibly not. Although there is no doubt we will continue to head in the right direction, there still feels like so much of the digital jigsaw puzzle still to be put in place before we really digitalise our industry.

Maybe the real challenge ahead goes back to simple collaboration and how we as an industry work together to future-proof ourselves as much as we can, not just for 2022 but for the future of our industry as a whole.

This is an abridged version of an article in Building magazine.