Construction market activity continues to rise in Wales despite rising material costs and ongoing skill shortages, latest data from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggests. However, the sector doesn’t expect to make a profit this year.
The Q1 2022 RICS UK Construction and Infrastructure Monitor shows greater than +40% of respondents in Wales reporting a rise in workloads in the quarter, up marginally from +37% in Q4 2021.
The report says that infrastructure projects, alongside activity related to the development of public and private sector housing shows the strongest workload growth – with private housing up +48% and public housing up +54%.
Despite the growth in current workloads, the impact of global supply shortages, rising costs and a lack of skilled workers are impacting on activity.
When it comes to labour, 66% of survey respondents said that they were experiencing a shortage of quantity surveyors, whilst 67% reported shortages in other construction professionals and 65% pointed to a lack of labourers.
Despite the current challenges, respondents still remain relatively optimistic for the coming year ahead regarding workloads. However, they expect profit margins to be severely impacted by rising costs. Over a third (+36%) of respondents expect workloads to rise in the next 12 months. However, expectations for profit margins are now firmly negative with a net balance of –25%.
Aled Davies of VINCI Construction UK Limited in Cardiff said that material prices are increasing exponentially.
Peter Jenkins of Willis Construction Limited in Cardiff said that the impact of the war in Ukraine is being felt in fuel and material costs as well as their availability.
RICS Chief Economist, Simon Rubinsohn, commented: “The good news in the latest report is that the industry remains positive about the outlook for activity and that the generally upbeat mood can be seen not just in regard of infrastructure and housing development but also in the commercial sector.
“However, it is clear that the sector faces significant challenges which have been reflected in recent official data showing a sharp rise in vacancies across the construction industry. RICS numbers demonstrate these shortages are pretty much across the board including quantity surveyors and project managers as well as both skilled trades and more general labour.
“This, combined with problems around accessing building materials in the current environment, is exerting significant upward pressure on construction costs at the present time.”
(Lead image: Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels.com)
University expertise to help new ‘Living Building’ residents to grow own food on roof
Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) is a key partner in a pioneering ‘Biophilic Living‘ initiative which is said to provide a radical new approach to living and working within the city.
A first for the UK, the University says this unique project will trial a new, scalable model that is set to change the way we conceive of inner-city housing in Wales.
The construction will transform the former Woolworths store on Oxford Street in central Swansea – opposite Waterstones bookshop – and feature a new adjoining 13-storey structure.
It will be a mixed-use building with affordable and shared ownership housing, retail and low carbon commercial office space.
Residents will have the capacity to grow their own produce using the integral urban farm facility. Featuring two south-facing greenhouses at roof level, the building will use an aquaponics system, developed by Swansea University academics, designed to produce up to 4.5 tonnes of fruits, vegetables, salads and herbs per year.
Aquaponics is a food production system that creates a continuous cycle where waste produced by fish, living in on-site tanks, adds nutrients to the water which feeds the greenhouse plants. The water is then filtered and recirculated back into the system. The process will be explained in an educational public display on the ground floor of the tower
The project has been awarded funding through the Welsh Government Innovative Housing Programme.
Professor Geoff Proffitt, head of biosciences at Swansea University, explains: “The Biophilic Living development will clearly be an inspirational building for the people who will live and work there, but it is more than an exciting home and workplace. The building will be driven through with cutting-edge biological, design, and engineering innovations. It will be a living, working example of great design, innovation and existing technology combining to support and nurture human health and wellbeing.
“The Biophilic Living plan and the ethos that underpins its design and development is a focus for change, the start of a new sustainable, Biophilic urban regeneration of Swansea. If we are to fully respond to increasing global challenges, urban development and redevelopment will have to take a lead.
“The project will contribute to local and global goals to address the climate change emergency, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Architects, designers, engineers and scientists will need to combine their skills to respond to these complex and immediate challenges. Biophilic Living is our first example of this collaborative approach”.
Swansea-based Hacer Developments is behind the scheme which has been designed by Swansea architects Powell Dobson. It is a result of extensive collaborative working among a range of local organisations, including Swansea University, the Active Building Centre, Public Health Wales, Swansea Community Farm and Sero Homes Ltd.
The ‘living building’ is being funded by a mixture of private sector funding and funding from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme, Pobl and the Development Bank of Wales.
The building is earmarked for completion by the end of 2023.
(Lead image: Powell Dobson / Hacer Developments)
New development plan for Bridgend county moves to next stage
A masterplan which will be used to determine what development takes place throughout Bridgend County Borough between now and 2033 has moved a step closer.
Cabinet members have agreed to refer the plan to a future meeting of full Council along with a recommendation that it be approved and submitted to Welsh Government for independent examination.
The plan, which has taken three years to produce and is several hundred pages long, has been subject to a huge amount of research, evidence gathering and an extensive public consultation process which has taken into account more than 1,200 representations from local people.
The replacement Local Development Plan (LDP) features all of the policies that the authority will use when determining future planning applications. It sets out how land throughout the county borough can be used and which areas will be maintained as open space or designated for residential, employment, retail, waste, mineral development, community and tourism purposes.
The plan incorporates several potential development sites and includes locations at Porthcawl, Pyle, Pencoed, Island Farm and land to the west of Bridgend as well as sites identified within the town centre masterplan.
The replacement LDP proposes making enough land available to support projected increases in population, the development of 7,500 new jobs and the construction of 7,575 homes including 1,600 affordable dwellings, some of which have already been built, along with a 10 per cent flexibility allowance.
It also includes providing five new primary schools, transportation developments such as park and ride facilities for Porthcawl and the proposed Brackla railway station, extended / new park and ride facilities at Pyle, Maesteg Ewenny Road and Pencoed, and a new replacement road bridge over the railway at Pencoed.
Under the LDP, all SINC wildlife sites and SSI scientific interest sites will be protected, and there are provisions for increasing public open space as well as the number of local allotments.
Other key developments include establishing a new passing loop and half-hour rail services to Maesteg, and bus corridor improvements in the Llynfi, Ogmore and Garw valleys, between Porthcawl and Cornelly and between Pyle, Aberkenfig and Pencoed.
Since its previous draft, several significant changes have been made to the LDP. Parc Afon Ewenny has been removed as a potential strategic housing site due to planning requirements on development within areas that are at risk of flooding, while a proposed site for gypsy and traveller accommodation on land located to the north-east of the council depot in Bryncethin has also been removed due to changes in identified need.
Elsewhere, flood prevention work carried out in Porthcawl has supported proposed regeneration development in the Salt Lake, Coney Beach and Sandy Bay areas.
Councillor John Spanswick, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “The replacement Local Development Plan has been three years in the making and is the result of a huge amount of research and analysis, and I think our planning team have done a fantastic and meticulous job in preparing it for the county borough.
“It lays out a carefully-planned balance of residential, commercial and leisure development that will ensure Bridgend County Borough can meet future demand between now and 2033 while also encouraging fresh investment and employment.
“From the feedback received through public consultation, it is clear that some residents are concerned about the potential impact additional development could have upon existing healthcare facilities, traffic levels, schools, utilities and green space.
“I want to reassure them that under the terms of the LDP, no new development can take place unless it can also deliver whatever additional infrastructure improvements may be necessary, and that this includes things like roads, schools, GP surgeries, leisure, open space, community facilities and more.”
Council Leader Huw David added: “We are in the middle of a national housing crisis and are already supporting around 200 homeless families and individuals.
“Latest census data has also confirmed that Bridgend County Borough is now one of the fastest growing areas in Wales, and that we are keeping pace with much larger areas such as Cardiff.
“People are living for longer, and the situation is only going to get worse unless we plan ahead now and ensure that more homes can be provided to meet this rising demand.
“At the same time, we have to carefully balance residential needs against developments that support new employment and investment, and the LDP enables us to do this while taking a huge range of additional guidance and legislation into account.
“The next step now is to discuss the LDP at Council, and to then submit it to Welsh Government where it will be independently assessed as part of an inquiry presided over by a planning inspector.
“Once that process has been concluded, the draft LDP will go before a meeting of full Council for a final decision, and if approved at that point, it will serve as the new LDP for the next 15 years.”
(Lead Image: Adobe Stock)
Swansea contractor chosen for West Wales housing association kitchen and bathroom upgrades
Swansea contractor ADS has won a three-year contract to transform the kitchens and bathrooms for ateb housing association’s customers.
ateb is based in West Wales and currently has over 3000 homes, predominantly in Pembrokeshire, that are rented out on either a social or intermediate rental basis. It periodically replaces the kitchens and bathrooms in the homes as part of its planned improvement programme, and ADS has been tasked with the job.
Allyn Pritchard, Maintenance Manager at ateb said: “It’s important to us that homes are well maintained and a great place to live for our customers. We also know that having a new kitchen or bathroom installed can be a very stressful time so it’s important for us to work with a contractor who is customer focussed. We aim to replace our kitchens every 15 years and bathrooms within 25 years so it’s really important to get a good quality product that will last.
“We chose ADS based on quality and value for money. What also stood out about ADS was their values, and how similar they were to our own, putting a great deal of effort into community benefits and recognising the importance of giving our customers choices.
“Over the next three years we are looking forward to ADS providing a quality service and great end product. ADS are taking things further than ever before, such as extra customisation, offering to paint customers kitchens and bathrooms, and more ventilation when needed. Overall, we are really looking forward to an improved customer experience.
“We are really looking forward to working with ADS. ateb aim to create better living solutions for the people and communities of West Wales and we believe this partnership will deliver this aim. We love their values and their bespoke, holistic approach to customer service.”
David Howells, ADS Building Manager added: “This is an excellent contract for ADS which really plays to our strengths: customer service, quality, community benefits and creating better places to live.
“We very much wanted to win this tender because we felt so well aligned with ateb’s values – and we know we have the skills and capacity to deliver on our promises.
“We’re going to get the kitchens and bathrooms in ateb’s homes looking and working better than ever before, with lots of attention paid to their attractiveness and longevity.
“We pride ourselves on doing a high-quality job from start to finish and causing minimal disruption for the occupants. We very much look forward to partnering with ateb on this work.”
Lead image: ADS: Andrew D’Auria – Owner; His Brother Anthony D’Auria – Director of Operations; Peter Roberts – Electrical Manager; Jordan Steel – Electrical Supervisor; David Howell – Building Manager ATEB: Lloyd Wilson – Planning maintenance surveyor; Alan Pritchard – Energy Solution & Maintenance Manager; Rachel Howard – Planned maintenance co-ordinator
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