Back on track – the construction industry comes together again at first major live event
Earlier this month, UK Construction Week (UKCW), the country’s largest built environment event ended on a high after three days packed full of the latest innovations and products, networking opportunities and specialist seminars.
The first major live event of its kind since lockdown began, it marked a turning point in the industry’s recovery post-COVID and provided insights into the future of the built environment, including how it will tackle the big challenges around skills shortages, diversity, health and wellbeing, quality, safety and sustainability.
Attended by over 20,000 industry professionals and 300 exhibitors showcasing more than 6,000 products, the show was a great success. There has already been huge support for the London event in May and a record number of exhibitor rebooks for UKCW October 2022.
Andrew Wilkes, business development director at Jhai Commercial commented: “We didn’t know what to expect after the past 18 months but it’s been a great show with excellent footfall. We’ve attended the last six and we’ll definitely be back next year.”
David Anderson, at Kingswood Associates also commented: “Like so many other people, our business is relationship-based, and we’ve seen huge numbers of people that we will potentially work with in the future. Events like UKCW bring people from across the sector together from major developers through to individuals. We’ve seen a steady stream of prospective partners and clients and, while we have been successful online, this is next level. It’s fantastic to see after the past few years.”#
Tom, CEO and Founder at Oculo shared this sentiment adding: “It has been fantastic to see a lot of people again after the pandemic and, like so many other businesses, we prefer doing things face-to-face, rather than online as we’ve been limited to. We’ve met a lot of really interesting people and have networked with industry peers. It’s great to see so much enthusiasm and so many- forward thinking people in the industry all in the same place.”
The key themes for this year’s show included innovation, sustainability, building safety and quality issues, digitalisation, diversity, wellbeing, and mental health, making UKCW the biggest event in the sector to address and debate these crucial issues. These themes were driven by the 15 keynotes and 250 expert speakers who presented at seven theatre stages and in hubs dedicated to regeneration, offsite construction, sustainability, digital construction, and infrastructure.
Nicole Stock, marketing and event coordinator at Constructing Modern Methods, commented: “This is the first construction event I’ve been to where there has been real diversity, particularly in terms of gender. It’s really encouraging to see so many women working in the industry. And the talks, particularly at the Offsite Alliance stage, were really innovative and interesting. The event has been successful for us and we’re already looking forward to next year.”
This year’s sponsors included Aico supporting as the registration sponsor; Cemex for the infrastructure hub, Easy-Trim for the build headliner and regeneration hub, Northgate Vehicle Hire for the business lounge, and Procore for the digital construction hub. COINS sponsored the main stage and ran a series of well-attended seminars on the future of construction, which saw keynote presentations and updates by senior leaders from, among others, McKinsey, the Construction Products Association, CIOB, Willmott Dixon, Barratt Homes, Bioregional, Grimshaw, the Sustainable Energy Association and the Construction Leadership Council.
Among the 15 keynotes and 250 speakers, just a few of the highlights of last week included a talk on how offsite can help to tackle climate change by Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientific advisor and now founder of the Centre for Climate Repair, and a diversity, equality and inclusion presentation from Anjali Pindoria, project surveyor at Avi Contracts and former winner of the UKCW Role Models of the Year Awards, and Bola Abisogun OBE, founder and chairman of DiverseCity Surveyors. The BMF Young Merchant Conference also returned for its second conference, with this year’s theme ‘Building the Next Generation for the New Decade.’
Another point of celebration was the UK Construction Week Role Model of the year award, which went to Christina Riley, senior planner at building contractor Quinn London. Christina has worked in the construction industry for 30 years and is a well-known advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQ+ rights, mental health, and awareness of visible and non-visible disability, and neurodiversity.
Summarising this year’s show, Nathan Garnett, event director said: “This year’s UK Construction Week was an extra special one for me, and for many others that I had the pleasure of speaking to at the show. We’ve had some really positive feedback and I’m incredibly grateful to all our guests that attended and helped to make it the success that it was. The construction sector has a big part to play in economic recovery, as well as meeting sustainability responsibilities, and after two years of us all being kept apart, events like this being unable to run, and the issues thrown at us by the pandemic, I think it was an important step towards a new normal that signalled the start of recovery for the industry. In a time of much uncertainty, our speakers, guests, and exhibitors demonstrated how the industry has, and can continue to adapt, overcome, and improve, embracing innovation faster than ever.
“The sector demonstrated that it has made great strides over these last couple of years, particularly in diversity and inclusion, mental health, digitalisation, sustainability, and innovation, which were all key themes at this year’s UKCW. This was also reflected in the Role Models Awards nominees this year, who have been doing some amazing work in these areas and inspiring the next generation. The future of construction is bright, and whilst we still have a way to go with challenges ahead, we have much to be proud of as an industry.”
UK Construction Week now looks forward to May in London at the ExCeL, where UK Construction Week will run for three days alongside Offsite Show, Concrete Expo, and Grand Designs Live. The combined floor space will occupy 50,000m2 with over 600 exhibitors.