United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Design and Construction

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-09-11


The UK, the sixth largest global construction market outside the U.S., is of strong interest to U.S. exporters. U.S. building products enjoy a strong reputation for quality and reliability in the UK, while import tariffs and regulatory requirements pose challenges. U.S. architectural and engineering firms have a good reputation and track record in the UK.

The GVA of the UK construction industry was $151 billion in 2021, with 2.7 million people employed in construction in 2019.

The construction industry suffered due to the pandemic in the first half of 2020 and again at the start of 2021. All work construction output grew by 1.6% between January and February 2021. In 2021 construction output increased strongly following the pandemic downturn.

The strongest construction subsector in the UK remains infrastructure. All other sectors are below pre-pandemic levels, including private housebuilding and commercial buildings. Private industrial and infrastructure are the strongest sub-sectors. Private housebuilding grew by 6% over the past year. Private commercial and public non-housing sectors both contracted over the 12 months to February 2022.

The UK government promised to bring forward £5.6 billion of infrastructure spending. This will primarily be spent on maintenance and upgrades for hospitals (£1.5 billion) and schools (£1.8 billion), as well as £1 billion for other local projects and smaller sums for maintenance of courts and roads. To help accomplish this, the government has created a new infrastructure delivery taskforce (‘Project Speed’).

The UK government continues to support large infrastructure projects and is expected to continue to do so in order to stimulate economic recovery. 700 projects have been announced with over $650 billions of investment in the National Infrastructure Pipeline. Planned investment also includes government spending of $9.4 billion in housing.

The UK has proximity to European manufacturers of high-quality products, as well as access to global suppliers of competitively priced building products. U.S. suppliers must overcome transport costs and deliver on product performance and post-sales service requirements to compete in the UK. Success may also require regular, direct engagement with buyers to distinguish specific product performance vs. competitors and highlight a product’s “green” performance attributes in areas such as energy and water savings and improvement of indoor air quality.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The best prospects for products include technologies for digital construction and innovative, environmentally friendly products. The trend in housebuilding is moving toward modular construction.

U.S. architectural and engineering firms are well received in the UK. The UK is the third largest market for U.S. Architectural and Engineering Services, although it should be noted that the competition in this market is fierce.

Specific U.S. products that play an important role in the UK’s imports fall under the following categories:

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR) - U.S. HVACR products are highly competitive in the UK, holding the second largest share of the import market after products from Germany.

Insulation - U.S. insulation products are strongly competitive in the UK, claiming a 20.4 percent share of this subsector’s import market. As a source of imported insulation products, the U.S. ranks second only after Germany, which holds a slightly larger share of the import market at 20.9 percent.

Lighting - In the lighting subsector, opportunities exist in niche products and for those at the cutting edge of green attributes. This relates to the emergent recognition of the non-visual effects of light, and awareness of how different spectrums and intensities of light impact well-being, productivity, and overall comfort.


Green building has a well-established history in the UK and is embraced by both the public and private sectors. The voluntary Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) system for rating the sustainability of non-residential building designs emerged decades ago. Most local planning authorities require that new buildings in the UK are certified and achieve high BREEAM ratings. In 2015, the Government in England included green standards into Building Regulations and is improving the standards at regular intervals.

In support of intelligent buildings, smart meters are being rolled out as standard across the country. The UK government is also working to advance building performance and resilience.

The construction of High-Speed Rail 2 (HS2), the UK’s largest transport infrastructure project (valued $72 billion), commenced in September 2018 and continues to award large contracts, including a $17.5 billion contract for civil works in June 2020. It is set to award at least $7.8 billion of construction work by the end of 2022. HS2 is looking for innovation and products and services to help with the following challenges: systems integration, reduction of carbon footprint, circular economy, digital building, and offsite manufacturing.

Resources and Events

  • Construction Products Association
  • Construction Industry Council
  • Association for Consultancy and Engineering
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
  • Office for National Statistics
  • Building Magazine
  • UK construction Week
  • Homebuilding and Renovating Show