Build­ing con­trac­tors hit by Covid can­cel­la­tions

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Fearghal O’con­nor

ONE in four build­ing con­trac­tors have suf­fered can­cel­la­tions or sus­pen­sions of projects due to Covid-19 re­stric­tions, ac­cord­ing to a new sur­vey.

It also found that 29pc of sub­con­trac­tors in the Ir­ish and Bri­tish con­struc­tion sec­tors have cut their work­force in the past six months.

Many sub-con­trac­tors fear a grow­ing skills short­age in the sec­tor as the threat of fur­ther re­stric­tions that could cur­tail the con­struc­tion sec­tor grows.

The sur­vey was car­ried out by US soft­ware de­signer Au­todesk, which de­vel­ops con­struc­tion-de­sign tools used by many large Ir­ish build­ing firms and which now em­ploys 250 peo­ple here since open­ing its EMEA head­quar­ters in Dublin last year.

Jim Lynch, vice-pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of Au­todesk Con­struc­tion So­lu­tions, who is based in Bos­ton, said that de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by con­struc­tion com­pa­nies in Ire­land, it was a much bet­ter sit­u­a­tion here than in the US.

“It’s a chal­leng­ing time for cer­tain for the in­dus­try, but I’d ap­plaud the over­all plan that Ire­land has put in place,” he said.

“I think it is crit­i­cally im­por­tant that if there is a move to Level 4 re­stric­tions that con­struc­tion projects are al­lowed

con­tinue. If I’m an in­vestor look­ing to build a data cen­tre or a fac­tory and I un­der­stand that even in a Level 4 or 5 con­di­tion that a coun­try like Ire­land is al­low­ing con­struc­tion to hap­pen then I think that’s ac­tu­ally good for the econ­omy.”

While the com­pany does ex­pect to see a de­cline in com­mer­cial con­struc­tion over the next cou­ple of years, both in Ire­land and glob­ally, Lynch said other parts of the sec­tor were likely to take up the slack.

“By 2050 there’s sup­posed to be two bil­lion more peo­ple on the planet. There’s just not enough hous­ing, there’s not enough schools, not enough hos­pi­tals for those peo­ple,” said Lynch. “There is ex­pected pop­u­la­tion growth of a mil­lion peo­ple by 2040 in Ire­land and that means half a mil­lion homes will be needed,” said Lynch. “So we know the need is there and what we need to do is fig­ure out how we keep con­struc­tion teams on the job site dur­ing Covid, while keep­ing them safe and keep them dis­tanced. That is where tech­nol­ogy plays a role,”

Au­todesk re­mained up­beat about its own wider busi­ness and its pres­ence here.

“We’ve 250 peo­ple today but we’re ab­so­lutely grow­ing that of­fice across all func­tions, in­clud­ing our con­struc­tion busi­ness. So our in­side sales, our busi­ness de­vel­op­ment reps, we’re build­ing that all out in Ire­land and ex­pect to con­tinue to do that. As a com­pany we con­tinue to hire, we con­tinue to grow and we’re optimistic about the fu­ture,” said Lynch.

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