Credit where it’s due: why construction products matter

The £60bn construction product industry employs more than 337,000 people across 24,000 companies, making it the third largest manufacturing sector in the UK

Jeff May, director of Government Relations and Business Development at the Construction Products Association explains why the UK construction products industry matters.

There is a prevalent image of the construction industry in the popular imagination; we tend to think of and portray the industry as one of hard-hats, high visibility jackets, cranes and large construction sites. This stereotyped image is based around the work of contractors and builders, who undoubtedly contribute significantly to our industry’s overall output.

But, there’s another part of construction which is often overlooked: the UK’s manufacturers and suppliers of products. Around 75% of all the products used in the UK are made in the UK, reflecting an industry that accounts for one third of all construction turnover and plays a key part in nearly every project across the country, large and small. 

It should go without saying that construction products are central to all building projects. They help define our built environment, providing the necessary materials to build homes, offices, shops, roads, school and hospitals. They create the roof over your head, the floor under your feet, the foundations and fabric of every building, every street and every structure around you, and the paints to colour it all.

The specification of certain products has huge implications for the overall quality and performance of a build. They not only determine a project’s aesthetic or design, but are equally influential in terms of its sustainability, safety and durability.

As such, the knowledge and appreciation of construction products are integral to most professional disciplines within construction, including specification, architecture, project management, building contracting, surveying, property development and facilities and estate management.

Beyond providing the building blocks of our built environment, the construction products sector serves a wider social and economic role. At last count, this £60bn industry employs more than 337,000 people across 24,000 companies, making it the third largest manufacturing sector in the UK. It’s a success story for construction and ‘UK plc’, bucking the trend of decline we so often hear from the media.

It’s also an industry for the whole of the UK. With its heartlands in the Midlands and North of the country, these businesses help create opportunities and growth for communities and regions that are often overlooked.  They invest in local workforces, schools and upskilling, and use supply chains near to their communities too.

It’s an industry at the forefront of innovation, both on the factory floor and with the products themselves. For example, there’s much hope for the future of offsite construction, which by its very definition relies upon the expertise inherent within manufacturing and finding productivity gains around labour, waste and energy.

Embracing the digital revolution, construction product manufacturers are also meeting the requirements of BIM and beyond, using technology to identify and record construction products, giving the buyer and end-user of the building confidence in what has been supplied.

Furthermore, improvements to product performance and reliability are being coupled with a drive towards producing more sustainable products with less environmental impact. Most manufacturers are well aware of the advantages of reducing waste to a minimum and making sure materials are recycled or reused. Not only does this present benefits for the environment but it also makes for a more profitable business model.

For all these reasons, along with the potential impact of Brexit and the Hackitt Review, the Construction Products Association (CPA) has made it its mission to raise awareness of our industry and give it the recognition and support it deserves. With this in mind, we recently created a series of videos outlining why the construction products industry matters.

We need your help in spreading this important message. Watch the video and subscribe to the CPA’s YouTube channel and please like, share, re-post the video.

Together, we can highlight the importance of our industry and ensure its growth for years to come.