UK Construction Sectors Explained – QS Edition

A career in construction has many different paths. Here at Metroun, we want to help you decide which path is right for you. In today’s article, we’re looking at the 3 main construction sectors in the UK. You might find that one sector interests you more than the other, which is why it’s important to explore the different options to help align your career path. So let’s get started. 

According to RICS, The UK construction industry contributes to 7% of the UK’s GDP, employing over 3 million people, making up 9% of the UK’s workforce. But let’s break this down per sector.


First off we have infrastructure, making up 15% of UK construction 

Infrastructure can be descried as the basic facilities and systems serving a country, region or community. In terms of construction, this covers:

  • Transport, which can be broken down further into:
    • Highways 
    • Railways 
    • Bridges 
    • And tunnels
  • Or Utilities, which include 
    • Water 
    • Waste water 
    • Gas 
    • Oil 
    • Electricity 
    • And, telecommunications 

Infrastructure forms the bed rock of our society. Having robust infrastructure, allows for economic growth, and enables households and firms in large societies to function. Most of the investment in infrastructure is publicly funded. And according to UK Parliament, 85% of public sector investment in infrastructure is spent on transport. The most widely used contract form for public infrastructure work is the NEC.

Residential Construction

Next up we have residential construction, making up approximately 40% of UK construction. Residential construction doesn’t just account for new houses, it also includes repair, maintenance or extension work on existing dwellings. The UK government estimates that around 300,000 new dwellings are required each year to keep up with the UK housing shortage. In 2019 the government set a target of reaching this figure by mid-2020s. However, this is looking unlikely to be met, with only 231,100 new homes built in 2023 according to Savills. 

The UK housing shortage will continue to dominate UK politics over the next few years, with ideas from both parties being proposed on how best to solve the crisis. In theory, this should mean a strong pipeline of future work. However, talks of un-met housing targets have been dominated the news for over a decade now. New dwellings should lead the way for investment into the other construction sectors mentioned in this video. New homes require new infrastructure, and can bring additional investments into non-residential construction, as the size of communities expand. 

Non-Residential Construction

Finally, we have non-residential building construction. Making up 45% of UK construction – the biggest market share the industry. This sector includes things like:

  • Shops
  • Restaurants
  • Schools 
  • Hotels 
  • Places of worship
  • Entertainment venues
  • Public & private buildings 
  • Storage facilities 
  • Warehouses
  • And, offices to name a few

Residential and non-residential construction have started to cross-over to a greater extent in recent years, with buildings in large cities/ towns having allocated spaces for accommodation, shops & offices. A good example of this is the recent refurbishment of Battersea power station, which serves as a place to live, eat, drink, work, shop and be entertained. In addition to containing apartments, Battersea has over 140 shops, bars, restaurants, leisure and entertainment venues, parks and historical spaces. Perhaps we’ll see lot’s more residential & non-residential hybrid projects in future years. A way to address the housing shortage, while expanding infrastructure and amenities all at once. 

As a quantity surveyor in non-residential building, you’ll likely be working on a JCT contract form. 

Let us know in the comments what sector you work in, and what your experience has been.

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