Global productivity

13 September 2017

Current industry challenges notwithstanding, a little good news never hurts. Around the world, as companies continue to endeavour towards figuring out worker shortages and other challenges to the industry, for example, technology and automation, there is still work to be done. And as they say: someone’s got to do it.

In a report from Global Construction Review (GCR) last month, the Spanish government announced a massive public-private investment programme – totalling nearly five billion euros – to build some 2,000 km of roads over the next three years. The work will include “completing highways that were left unfinished after the financial collapse of 2008, and the modernising of motorways that have not received significant investment in the past 20 years.”


Spain plans to follow the roads programme with high-speed rail and water infrastructure projects – according to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in July. Rajoy pointed out that franchisees would be responsible for the maintenance of about 20 roads for the next 30 years – all part of the investment programme which, he noted, has been successful across Europe. The work is estimated to generate nearly 200,000 jobs.

In other parts of Europe – France, Sweden and Austria, have won places on nearly seven-billion-euros-worth of civil engineering contracts for the first phase of the UK’s High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line, to run between the cities of London and Birmingham, according to GCR.

Only five UK-owned firms are among the nine making up consortia appointed to build bridges, tunnels, embankments and viaducts – split into two stages: design and preliminary work, and full construction. Noticeably absent are Chinese companies – despite government officials in the UK conducting numerous missions to China to persuade Chinese companies to bid for works and consider investing in the line.

Stage 2 of the HS2 work will start in 2019, said GCR. Civil works are expected to support 16,000 jobs and generate 7,000 contract opportunities, of which around 60 per cent are expected to go to SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises).

A little further afield, New Zealand plans to spend nearly 700 million euros building 60,000 new homes. The New Zealand government has named five councils that will receive payment from a fund in a dramatic acceleration of housing provision. GCR indicated that Prime Minister Bill English said Auckland, Hamilton, Waikato, Tauranga and Queenstown can use the money for roads and water infrastructure as well.

In New Zealand

Sixty thousand homes are planned around 10-year interest-free loans, eight years earlier than projected. Work has begun and will be completed in late 2018. Ultimately, councils entered bids for a share of the funding, according to GCR. The Auckland council will receive nearly 200 million euros to build 10,500 houses; the Hamilton council will get around 170 million euros to build 8,100 houses on greenfield sites in its southern suburbs; and the Tauranga council will get close to 150 million euros to put towards water treatment plants that will serve 35,000 new houses.

And Google’s UK headquarters has received the green light by the local Camden Council – comprising the first wholly owned and designed Google building outside the USA. The 11-storey building will include more than a million square feet (Google will occupy almost 700,000 square feet of that). Construction will get underway in 2018.

Notable features include a 25 metre-long swimming pool and a landscaped roof, complete with 200 metre exercise track. Combined with the current building at the address, the new building, and an additional third building, will encompass a Google campus with the potential to house 7,000 employees.

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