The UK Ministry of Defence is one of the largest landowners in the country, managing 344,200 hectares of land in the UK.
This land encompasses everything that is needed to train and house the military and the training of the armed forces. The proper infrastructure is critical to the smooth running of the army.
The UK government has a special infrastructure organisation tasked with managing all of these assets, which is constantly seeing how to optimise and upgrade existing infrastructure. Some UK military infrastructure is also found overseas.
The UK construction industry is vital to the upkeep of these buildings and plays a critical role in keeping the armed forces safe, comfortable, and well-trained.
Keep reading to learn more about how the UK defence ministry depends on the construction industry.
Current UK Ministry of Defence Infrastructure
The UK armed forces currently consist of over 200,000 military personnel. The majority of these are stationed in the UK. However, a few thousand are stationed abroad in Germany, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States.
Training and housing these regular forces is a massive feat that requires space and suitable infrastructure. Running the military estate is like overseeing a city with varied needs and business concerns.
Let us take a look at some of the infrastructure that the UK defence ministry owns:
- 45,000 family homes
- 16 major training areas
- 104 smaller training areas
- 26 global training sites
- Naval bases and ports
- Medical centres
- Administrative offices
- Oil and fuel depots
- Logistics facilities
- Storage facilities
- 1600 heritage sites
The large, mostly rural training areas are critical to keeping the armed forces ready for military operations.
Military personnel cannot choose where they serve or how often they have to move. Having comfortable homes available for their families when they relocate is vital to their wellbeing.
It is the task of the UK Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to manage all of these sites.
How UK Defence and Construction Are Connected
With so much land and infrastructure to manage, the UK Ministry of Defence depends heavily on the construction industry.
The DIO spends 3 billion pounds a year on infrastructure services, and a lot of that money goes to the construction industry. Without construction contractors to carry out building projects and maintain UK military buildings, they would fall into a state of disrepair.
For example, last year, the DIO issued five contracts worth 640 million pounds to build a national call centre and to maintain and repair military housing. It also awarded significant contracts for a new vehicle storage facility.
Construction is one of the largest industries in the UK economy, employing 3.1 million people. However, companies need to adapt and learn specialist expertise to deliver to high-security specifications in some defence contracts.
This UK sector needs to adapt to new technology and work efficiently when working on the defence estate.
Construction work is one of the most common contracts offered by the UK Ministry of Defence, showing the importance of the upkeep of its properties.
Future UK Defence Infrastructure Plans
In its most recent strategy for defence infrastructure, the UK defence ministry outlines its plans for its property.
The document points out that the infrastructure is of “sub-optimal standard”. Many buildings are over 50 years old and very expensive to maintain. The armed forces have also gotten smaller over the years, meaning the ministry has more land and buildings than it can efficiently use.
The plan is to cut down on the land the defence ministry owns by about 30 per cent. However, this does not mean less work for UK construction contractors. The remaining assets will need to be upgraded and made more efficient and sustainable. They should also be cheaper to run.
The government wants new construction to fall in line with modern threats. For example, climate concerns and new security threats like terrorist attacks.
New projects must prioritise the UK’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The government is also interested in updating energy infrastructure with a greater focus on renewable energy.
The goal is an estate which has net zero emissions, offsets carbon, and is run in such a way that it improves the rural environment and the quality of water and soil. Environmentally friendly construction has become mainstream in recent years, with new innovative technologies for building with green practices.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to new ways of working and concerns about how building design can contribute to better health.
UK Construction Opportunities
While the UK ministry of defence is planning to slim down its real estate portfolio, the overhaul it intends to do in the coming years leaves plenty of opportunities for the construction industry.
There are many infrastructure projects in the UK, as well as in major overseas locations such as Kenya, Germany, Falklands Islands, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, and Belize.
Some of the contract opportunities for the construction industry are:
- Storage and office space
- Energy infrastructure
- Communications infrastructure
- Housing estates
- Air force bases
- Utility management
- Waste management infrastructure
- Project planning and design
- Maintenance and renovation
In some overseas locations, the military may also need specialised security infrastructure such as intrusion control or a panic room. For example, the DIO recently built a new headquarters for the training of British soldiers in Kenya, which has seen multiple terror attacks.
Win UK Construction Contracts
It is clear that the UK Ministry of Defence relies heavily on the construction industry. And it will continue to do so as it embarks on the overhaul of its real estate to maximise efficiency and cut costs.
This will create new opportunities for UK construction companies who are interested in defence contracts.
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