Hand holding a tiling tool, applying adhesive to a wall that they are fixing tiles to. Two rows of tiles are already fixed.

The latest RMI Index—an in-depth annual survey carried out by Travis Perkins—has painted a largely positive picture of the construction industry’s current state, with tradespeople feeling generally optimistic about what the future holds, despite concerns over rising fuel and material costs.

More than 1,500 workers from various trades across the UK were asked for their views on future workloads, materials purchasing plans and the rising costs of fuel. Below, we’ve picked out the key talking points from the latest research.

A busy time ahead

Of those surveyed, there is an overwhelming feeling of positivity in regard to upcoming workloads. 48% of respondents said they expect their workloads to either greatly increase or increase, with 45% expecting things to remain as they are. Only 6% forecast a reduction in activity, with just 1% predicting a greatly reduced level of activity. 

Naturally, this led to 61% of respondents predicting an increase in their materials requirements over the next two months, with 33% expecting things to stay the same. Only 6% said they could see materials demand decreasing. 

When it comes to the increased workloads, domestic repair and maintenance are responsible for a significant portion of demand, with 71% of expected work in the next two months falling into this category. This is followed by new-build housing (18%), public sector (16%), commercial and industrial (16%) and infrastructure (4%). 

Energy efficiency becoming a major focus

More and more customers are beginning to look for ways to make their homes more energy-efficient, with over two-thirds of tradespeople saying they have seen interest in these sorts of projects. 

While that leaves around 30% of customers who are yet to show interest, the rising cost of living, along with a number of green initiatives being introduced by the government, will likely see this side of things shift further in the coming months and years. 

Rising costs altering behaviour in the trades

Concerns over fuel and diesel prices remain, with eight in ten tradespeople changing the way they operate as a result. 

39% of tradespeople said they had passed on these price increases to the customer, and 29% said they had started getting supplies delivered rather than picking them up. 

31% have been reducing travel to jobs that are far away, with a further 26% no longer taking these jobs at all. 

Tradespeople are also increasingly turning to technology to help cut costs, with 12% relying on virtual meetings over client visits, and 6% investing in more fuel-efficient cars, vans or lorries.  

Commenting on the results of the survey, Nick Roberts, CEO of Travis Perkins plc said: “Having met the challenges posed by the pandemic head on, the resilience of the UK’s tradespeople continues to be tested, and they are, once again, having to adapt their businesses to deal with other challenges facing the wider economy.

“Nevertheless, they remain confident in the outlook for their businesses and, while many are having to adjust how they operate to deal with rising fuel prices, the increased demand for projects that improve the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock is encouraging.”

You can read the full RMI Index here.