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Chief Executive of NBS, Richard Waterhouse

6 months after Brexit, how is the design community feeling?

Construction information provider, NBS takes a look at the design community half a year after the referendum result

Posted by Hannah Oakman | December 06, 2016 | People, policy, politics, money

Newcastle-based NBS has gathered findings from its latest survey into the effects of Brexit on the construction industry, six months since the decision was announced.  

NBS, global provider of construction information and construction knowledge management services, wanted to gain perspective on the effects of Brexit from those in the design community.

Those who design buildings are often good predictors of what will happen to the broader construction industry; if design work tails off, so too in time will construction output. 

Having already carried out the survey in June and July, the findings show the design community follow a pattern seen elsewhere; a sudden and pronounced dip immediately following the referendum result, followed by a bounce back.

The survey asked questions on the effects on practices’ workload, staffing levels, the construction industry as a whole and effects on projects and found that predictions for practices’ workloads have markedly improved.

In July, only 7% felt their workloads would increase in the coming 12 months. That figure has risen to nearly a quarter, the same number who expects a decrease. 42% anticipate no change.

“It has crossed my mind that the increase in work is because people have decided to get it done before Brexit really bite[s]”, commented one designer.  

The latest figures around projected staffing levels are more stable than were seen in July. 

A quarter sees staffing levels falling in the next 12 months. 19% foresee growth, compared with only 5% in July. Almost a half foresees no change in their staffing levels. 

“The 'Great' in Britain is about to be unleashed. Everyone under the age of 40 should prepare to cause the greatest entrepreneurial era since the industrial revolution,” commented another interviewee. 

Designers are less negative than they were immediately after the decision.

The number expecting the construction industry to shrink is still high, at 44%, but has fallen back from 61%.

“[Construction activity] will return to pre-Brexit levels as people generally buckle down and realise that they still need things doing,” said another interviewee.

Whilst people are less pessimistic about the year to come, the immediate effects of the Brexit decision are being increasingly felt. Where one in five had had a project cancelled by July, that figure has now risen to a quarter. Of those who have had projects cancelled or put on hold, those projects account for, on average, 21% of current projects. 

There remains a significant, and at times heartfelt, divide between those who favour our leaving the EU and those who do not - Richard Waterhouse, Chief Executive of NBS

Chief Executive of NBS, Richard Waterhouse, said: “There remains a significant, and at times heartfelt, divide between those who favour our leaving the EU and those who do not. 

“Construction industry forecasts suggest that whilst we are not heading for a recession, construction output has been significantly dampened because of the Brexit decision and it is uncertainty, rather than speculation about the ultimate form Brexit takes, that is the root cause.

“It is clear that we will be leaving the EU, but what form that exit takes is unclear and very important.”

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