The global construction market is set for a sustained period of strong growth post-Covid-19, driven by government spending on infrastructure and the transition to a net zero society, says Allianz.
However, the switch to more sustainable buildings and infrastructure, the upscaling of clean energy facilities and the adoption of modern building methods will transform the risk landscape, with radical changes in design, materials and processes. These challenges add to currently-stressed supply chains, shortages in materials and labor, and increased costs, which all come against the backdrop of years-long tight margins in the industry. A new report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), Managing the new age of construction risk, explores both acute and long-term risk trends for the construction sector.
“Covid-19 has brought about a new age for the construction industry,” says Yann Dreyer, Global Practice Group Leader for Construction in the global Energy & Construction team at AGCS. “While construction projects continued during the pandemic, and further growth is to come, the overall environment has changed fundamentally. The industry faces new challenges around supply chain volatility and spiking material costs, skilled workforce shortages and the heightened focus on sustainability. In addition, the accelerated deployment of cost-cutting strategies and implementation of new technologies and designs may well result in accelerated risks for construction companies and insurers alike. Continued risk monitoring and management controls will be key moving forward. Together with our clients, we will help manage these challenges as AGCS is committed to the construction industry as a key target sector for our growth initiatives.”
The strong growth outlook for the sector is based on a number of factors, such as rising populations in emerging markets and significant investment in alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar and hydrogen, as well as power storage and transmission systems.
Upscaling clean energy – renewable risks
Expanding clean energy brings new risks, too. Offshore wind projects are growing in size, moving further out to sea and into deeper waters, meaning the costs associated with any delays or repairs is increasing. Offshore wind farms, as well as onshore wind and solar projects, can also be exposed to serial losses. A design or manufacturing fault in a turbine, for example, can impact many projects. There have also been large claims from faulty foundations in solar parks and farms.
Repairs to undersea cables, which weigh thousands of tons and require special ships to lay, can take more than a year. An offshore converter station alone can cost as much as $1.5bn, comparable to an oil rig. A fire or explosion involving a converter, as seen recently in China, can result in a total loss.
Natural hazards and water damage
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will not only drive a more sustainable approach to residential and commercial buildings as well as infrastructure but may also hasten the trend as the industry looks to achieve efficiencies and minimize waste. Construction sites also need to give more consideration to mitigate the impact of climate-driven events, such as wildfires, flash flooding and landslides. AGCS claims analysis shows that natural hazards is already the second most expensive cause of construction losses, behind fire and explosion, accounting for 20% of the value of claims over the past five years.
Meanwhile, water damage continues to be a major source of loss during construction. AGCS has seen a number of surprisingly large losses from leaks from pressurized water or fire systems that go undetected or occur out of business hours, on weekends or during periods when site personnel are not present. Water leak detection and monitoring systems can help reduce the frequency and severity of water damage, mitigating expensive repairs and project delays.