Steve Durdant-Hollamby, Managing Director Alumasc Water Management Solutions (AWMS) is BMBI’s Expert for Civils, Metal Rainwater & Drainage.
It’s been a slow start to the first quarter for both rainwater and drainage markets, particularly in January and February. March was much stronger with a surge in smaller projects and a later Easter. However with a general election around the corner, market confidence is quite volatile.
In specification markets we’re still seeing a pronounced lag between enquiries to confirmed orders. Rising costs, principally from the knock-on effect of exchange rate movements after last year’s referendum, are triggering calls for the renegotiation of contracts.
Large contractors in particular continue to be affected by the skills shortage, which is prompting an increase in demand for manufacturers to provide bespoke solutions and a factory fit to ease the pressure to find skilled tradespeople to complete the job onsite.
The new build and RMI housing markets are continuing to grow strongly, benefitting builders’ merchants’ sales. In these markets, we’re seeing a new trend for steel rainwater chosen for its contemporary appearance, robust construction and long low maintenance life in preference to plastic alternatives. Increasingly, steel is being seen as a cost effective metal solution, ideal for the domestic housing sector. The growth in these sectors is compensating for the flatness many are experiencing in specification and commercial.
Although steel prices are at their highest point ever, sterling has been stabilising so exchange rates are better. Exports remain very strong.
Looking ahead, Quarter 2 is traditionally a strong time for civils, metal rainwater and drainage markets. Civil projects are coming out of the ground, and order books are good. We’re planning now for better months in May and June.