Construction activity in major regional cities grew in 2021 thanks to a boom in residential work.
The Deloitte regional crane survey found that 72 construction projects were started in 2021 – up from 53 the year before – in Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. The survey counts residential schemes larger than 25 units.
Across the three cities in England, the construction of 19,763 new homes was underway in 2021, marking the second-highest total on record, with the survey going back two decades. In Belfast, there were no new residential projects of more than 25 units under way, although major schemes are expected to take off this year.
The number of student-accommodation projects rose by 23 per cent on 2020. Leeds led the way with a 136 per cent rise in student housing schemes, whereas Belfast saw an increase of just 4 per cent.
New office builds were down in 2021, with 3.48 million square feet of space under construction, which compares with 3.61 million square feet in 2020.
The survey also observed a growing trend for refurbishment projects. Birmingham and Belfast saw the biggest proportion of such projects, accounting for just over a third of jobs. John Cooper, a partner in real estate at Deloitte, said this was caused by a change in regulations and the impact of the pandemic.
He said: “ESG [environmental, social and governance] climate-related targets and occupier demand is set to drive a future pipeline of new building office development with exceptional ESG credentials. It also means an increased delivery of new floorspace being supported through refurbishment projects. The pandemic has brought many changes, from the way we work to our retail habits. Regionally, we’re seeing this reflected in schemes switching use, often to residential, to fill gaps in areas of surging demand.”
The latest crane survey for London in 2021 showed that demand for office builds in the city centre was recovering, even if it meant that these spaces would be used differently post-pandemic.
Earlier this year, analysis of construction schedules revealed that nine out of 10 construction projects were lagging behind schedule because of the pandemic.