Three and a half years after the Grenfell tragedy, two new developments are taking place to help the UK construction industry regain public trust.
Last month, housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced a new regulator for construction products has been set up. The new watchdog will not only be able to ban building products that are deemed unsafe, but also have powers to prosecute companies flouting regulations, with offences punished using fines and even imprisonment. The body will also have the ability to conduct its own product testing to investigate concerns.
The announcement followed some of the disturbing revelations of ‘dishonest practice by some manufacturers’ that have come to light through the Grenfell Inquiry. As Jenrick stated, this included ‘deliberate attempts to game the system and rig the results of safety tests’.
At the same time, the Construction Products Association (CPA) has looked at a different side of the industry – marketing communications – in the wake of the issues raised in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report. The CPA has developed a new, proposed Product Information Code as a benchmark for how products are marketed and product information disseminated by manufacturers.
Now in consultation phase, the code represents two years of open debate and engagement from different levels of the supply chain. It consists of eleven clauses, and has been published for the industry to review and respond to the proposal.
The TP Group welcomes both launches as important steps in the right direction for an industry whose reputation has been damaged. These will help anchor best practice and ensure serious issues are addressed appropriately and as an industry, construction regains credibility in the public eye.
Among the variety of new hobbies discovered by Britons during the pandemic has been a new enthusiasm to revamp our homes. Trapped indoors with not much to do, it makes sense to make your environment the best it can be. This renovation boom has been driving record sales for builders’ merchants, with growth rates of 10% – higher than ever before, according to John Newcomb, chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF).
A knock-on effect from this, however, is the growing shortage of essential construction materials. And as builders are fighting to get their hands on products, the housebuilding industry is in danger of experiencing delays this year. In the face of unprecedented demand that far outstrips supply, UK factories are struggling to keep up.
These challenges are coupled with the ongoing congestion at large UK container ports such as Felixstowe. A consequence of Brexit, it may result in the industry running short of necessary equipment. Although three quarters of materials are produced in the UK, essentials such as power tools, screws and fixings tend to be shipped in from overseas.
While Newcomb doesn’t believe this is having a major impact on contractors and housebuilders just yet, he sees delays a strong likelihood unless the pressure eases up over the next couple of months. The imbalance of supply and demand will even out, Newcomb maintains, but what we are seeing is still a ‘spillover effect from April, May when factories were closed’.
Mindful of these pressures, The TP Group are keeping a close eye on our stock levels and are in close contact with our suppliers, managing to source all materials during this time. Get in touch to find out more about our services.