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Connectivity lessons from the UK’s construction hotspots

19th July 2019

When travelling across the UK and Ireland you can see the exponential growth of cities everywhere you go – often due to the number of cranes in the skyline, a useful proxy for the economic health of an area.

Indeed, Deloitte’s Regional Crane Surveys 2019 highlights Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester as the cities to watch due to their ambitious construction plans. Belfast has sustained momentum with construction schemes across the city centre. While Birmingham is experiencing strong growth due to high confidence from both developers and investors, thanks to HS2 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games on the horizon, meaning 2019 is predicted to be a record breaker for office completions in the city.

The same goes for Manchester with over 2 million sq ft of office space under construction as it establishes itself as one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. Leeds’ growth is fuelled by new construction in the health, education and purpose-built student accommodation sectors (PBSA).

This also tallies with the UK Government’s own planning application statistics that show the number of submissions granted were highest amongst Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham. Here at Vilicom we have our own list of the highest growth UK cities. The top 22 cities we’re watching include Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland and Cardiff in Wales. In England we are tracking across the country – from Brighton in the South, Coventry and Nottingham in the Midlands to Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the North.

However, the construction of new buildings is only one part of the story – without the right services they are just new additions to the skyline, not value-add real estate.

Connectivity is one of these overlooked services. It is often not factored in by developers and heads of construction, meaning we’re reaching a point where connectivity in urban environments isn’t optimised – particularly when it comes to indoor coverage. And yet, businesses and individuals expect seamless connectivity in their offices. In fact, connectivity is so important that it is now deemed a human right by the UN alongside clean water, free education and accessible healthcare.

Even where businesses are not pushing mobile-first strategies, staff and customers expect simple connectivity when they are indoors, especially with many of their business tools now being accessed through enterprise cloud solutions. All of which makes indoor mobile coverage increasingly important to businesses – particularly as Wi-Fi can be unreliable and insecure.

Developers don’t think twice about making sure there is gas, electricity, water and broadband, and already have the systems in place to make that happen. And all of these costs are pure overheads, with no value add for the business. Conversely, mobile coverage is a ‘value-add utility’ that brings multiple business benefits that can enhance productivity, efficiency and asset value throughout the systems operation.

Belfast shows that the dual investment in construction and connectivity maximises its place on the world stage. According to RootMetrics it is the UK’s best city for mobile connectivity and is ahead of Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Dubai in Mercer’s Quality of Living List. The council’s 2035 Vision seeks to provide top-notch connectivity, principally to make the city a hub for start-ups. More councils and property developers need to take note of how connectivity can boost the investment in new buildings!