Looking forward

Gareth Lomax, Director of Ardent Lift Consultancy gives his predictions for 2019.

Ardent Lift Consultancy was formed in June 2012, which was effectively the tail end of the global financial crisis of 2008, with the markets and confidence in property (including residential markets) at a low ebb. When deciding to start the company, we recognised there would be difficult times ahead in an uncertain marketplace, but with any financial downturn, there is often an unforeseen benefit. For example, a large section of the commercial property sector was completely stagnant and property prices had fallen sharply and stayed low. Office space (a huge part of my own lift installation career during the 1990’s boom time) was no longer in high demand and therefore other streams of revenue were sought. Office conversion (generally to flats) became big business and we have been involved in a number of commercial property conversions where the needs of an office block (from a lift performance perspective) does not fit with the residential environment therefore changes to lift installations followed.

Whilst the landscape in 2019 appears uncertain (and with no sign of clarity any time soon), it would be easy to approach the year with a pessimistic and overly cautious approach. This mindset, particularly when influenced by sensationalist media stories, can in turn, lead to recession within the marketplace – essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, there are many reasons to be cheerful as we enter the last year of this decade, particularly when looking back to how it all began in 2010…

How it all began

Early May 2010, in the build up to the UK election, Wall Street in the US was gripped by mounting anxiety over the Greek debt crisis. In a matter of minutes, the Dow Jones index lost almost 9% of its value and hundreds of billions of dollars were wiped off the share prices of household name companies like Proctor & Gamble. During 2011 the UK FTSE 100 fell 5.6%, while the French and German markets saw falls of 17% and 15% respectively, as growing fears for the survival of the Euro took their toll (a far cry from the current status). The eurozone crisis had a massive impact on global markets, while investors watched Italy's government to see if they could continue to support its enormous debts. Fast forward a few years and the FTSE 100 was at all-time highs in 2016 and again in 2017, with the previous economic downturn almost completely forgotten.

The last three to four years have been boom times within the UK marketplace, which has been led in part by large infrastructure projects (HS2 and Crossrail with the railway station creation/improvements, Birmingham’s Big City Project, etc.) and the huge number of high-rise developments going up in every city in the land. These major projects are generally the domain of the multinational lift contractors (Kone, Otis, Schindler, etc.) who provide relatively low-cost solutions to high rise development or can provide a large number of lifts within short timeframes. Subsequently, if you are reading this as a flat owner or tenant within a property less than 20 years old, chances are your lift has come from one of these companies. With the multinational lift companies fully stretched providing these lifts to the various projects over the last few years, the independent lift industry has found work in the bespoke installations, refurbishment and repairs side of the marketplace, which has enabled many small and medium sized companies to grow considerably in this timeframe.

We as a business span both marketplaces; we offer design expertise to developers and architects when they are planning a property to enable the correct number and sizes of lifts to be installed, but also survey older lifts to ascertain lifespan and recommend refurbishment alternatives to full replacement to save clients’ money and time on a project. We recognise that existing lift systems will always require input as key components wear over time if a building is going to retain lift service and ensure residents do not have to walk up numerous floors to their apartment.

However, the redevelopment of former industrial parks and waste grounds of our major cities will continue also, with new homes and amenities being provided for the Britain of the future. In an economic downturn (as we appear to be on the edge of), the first-time buyers suddenly get an opportunity to get on the much-lauded property ladder, giving a new generation the security owning your ‘own’ home brings. It is also seen that with new rail links between major cities, the commuter belt becomes much wider, enabling travel to major cities from much further afield than before, uplifting property prices and demand in more remote locations.

As a small business, we plan continued expansion into 2019, with Stephanie Lomax joining our team to streamline some of our systems and processes to make us even more effective in our ability to assist our national customer base with their surveying needs and to continue to provide technical advice to clients.

We have dozens of projects across the UK currently underway or due to commence, where we are seeing the refurbishment or replacement of lift systems within residential developments, to safeguard the building from the inevitable loss of service that occurs with key component failure. These have all been led by our straightforward condition survey reports and meetings with residents to ensure our recommendations are fully understood and that the residents are in agreement with our conclusions.

Whilst everything may seem downbeat in these dark January months, there are reasons to look forward to what this new year has in store…

Gareth Lomax is the founder of Ardent Lift Consultancy, to find out more or get in touch with Gareth and his team take a look at their website.

Reviewed: July 2019