So that was 2018 …

December 20, 2018 4:13 pm Published by

2018 in review

So, it’s almost time to wrap up for Christmas, and 2018 seems to have come and gone in a blink of an eye. That’s the price of getting older – every year is a smaller proportion of the whole, so time seems to accelerate.

And accelerate is a good word, as it describes perfectly how things are changing in our industry. The high rate of change is making things exciting, but it is keeping us on our toes and requiring us to work harder than ever.

So, what’s been happening since January and what do we hope the next 12 months will hold? Well, let’s focus on where the key action is: house building and technology with a little sprinkling of Brexit …

House building

This year started slowly partly due to the difficult weather conditions as a result of the Beast from the East. Things picked up though, and it was great to see the number of new homes registered each quarter with the NHBC growing steadily*.

Indeed, the 43,000 registrations in quarter 3 mean we could even see the government report a net increase in the housing supply in 2018/19 greater than that in 2017/18 which at 222,000 was itself the largest increase since the financial crisis (although still short of the government’s stated 300,000 target).

So, 2018 has been a positive year, but what happens next?

Well, we need to be mindful of the cheap money in the form of low mortgage rates and Help to Buy scheme which is helping new homes to be built. And how the effect of this is being compounded by the (welcome) support on the supply side from the government through initiatives such as the Housing Delivery Fund which makes it easier for developers to raise vital finance.

It does not take a genius to see that the current positive equilibrium is one in which we are a bit stretched. A slight knock – a notable increase in interest rates or policy change – could have a rapid and significant effect.

However, I just can’t see how the government can allow this to happen, so, barring a disastrous Brexit, I’m predicting more of the same for 2019.

* The NHBC is the UK’s leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes. NHBC registration data is a widely used indicator of new build activity in the UK and is available ahead of similar government statistics.

Technology

Did you see this year one of those VTOL drones – like a harrier jump jet – which uses quantum sensors to gather data when flying over a site? How about the government’s new detailed 3D subsurface model of the entire UK?

No? Well, they don’t exist, but watch out as they might be here soon.

Honestly, I am fascinated and enthused by how rapidly technology is changing and how these changes are advancing our industry.

BIM has been here for a while, and the industry continues to progress towards Level 3 BIM and beyond 3D BIM to 4D (time), 5D (cost) and even 6D (Project lifecycle) BIM. But, it’s not just about BIM and associated software developments.

For example, those quantum sensors I referred to are under development by an £80 million consortium headed by the University of Birmingham and could be a potentially superior alternative to Ground Penetrative Radar and a real game changer.

Likewise, for that 3D visualisation of the UK check out the National Geospatial Commission and all the talk about consolidating data held by the BGS, Ordnance Survey and others with the desire to create a virtual representation of the UK. In fact, it is already beginning, and this year we found ourselves successfully collaborating with the BGS to integrate data from the national archive with that from our site investigations to show the broader geological picture.

What does 2019 hold? Well, if things continue at the current pace, we are going to be in for more exciting developments next year. Indeed, at T&P we’re counting on it and are investing in the skills and kit  are going to be vital to our success.

So, this Christmas I will be pondering the opportunities that the New Year brings …

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This post was written by Mike Nicholas

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