Building boom will provide ‘eight to ten years of work’
JERSEY’S construction industry is going to have to adopt ‘alternative’ building methods to cope with a boom in work, according to the chairman of the Jersey Construction Council.
Martin Holmes’s comments follow confirmation that the government has earmarked more than £35 million for capital expenditure projects in the 2019 Budget.
They include work on the new sewage treatment plant at Bellozanne, the potential start of work on the Future Hospital Project, and a plan to link Liberation Square and the Weighbridge to create a new area of ‘public realm’ in time for the 75th anniversary of the Liberation in 2020.
Mr Holmes said: ‘I think, evidently, you look round the Island and the sign of a strong economy is the number of tower cranes you can see. In the past couple of years we’ve had some good work across all sector, from commercial to residential, and that shows no signs of abating.’
He added that in order to deliver such a large number of public sector projects, as well as commercial and residential ones, the industry needed to work smarter.
‘The last employment numbers for our sector were at their highest ever – some 5,750 people, of whom 91 per cent are locally qualified.
‘Clearly the forthcoming capital projects programme and how we deliver it is going to be a challenge. We need to consider alternative methods of building, including more off-site manufacturing. That can include prefabricated buildings, and those that are shipped in ready for a “plug-and-play” installation.’
Mr Holmes believes the building boom is also a chance to convince people, especially students considering their options, that construction is a viable career.
‘We talk in the industry a lot about sustainability. If we have a programme of works ahead we can plan and train and make best use of local resources, including local jobs. Training a good workforce and making sure we’re attracting youngsters into an industry that’s attractive to work and form a career in is key. We’re always first to suffer and last to recover in economic downturns, but right now we have the benefit of eight to ten years of work ahead of us.’
The States is due to meet in December to vote on the complete Budget package, which includes a raft of capital expenditure projects. Others in the pipeline include demolition work at Fort Regent, further improvements at Grainville School, and moving swathes of the civil service to a temporary headquarters in Broad Street, freeing up Cyril Le Marquand House for redevelopment.
Mr Holmes believes the volume of work is a chance to remind all Islanders about the role that construction plays in Jersey’s success. ‘The power of what we do as an industry and as infrastructure providers means we have a significant part to play in the social fabric of the Island,’ he said.