Construction in the 1970s

Since Natta’s inception in 1972, the construction industry has come on leaps and bounds! Over the years, building has adapted to suit the needs of both the public and private sectors.

As we celebrate our 50th year of trading, Natta will be looking into how construction has changed each decade. Starting off in the 1970s, the construction industry started to see big changes.

Health and Safety began to make much more of an appearance on construction sites. In 1974, HSE recorded 166 fatal accidents in the construction sector, accounting for a quarter of all deaths at work. That year, the UK Government also passed the Health and Safety Work Act. This imposed a lot more duties on employers with local authority inspectors now able to issue improvement notices.

The number of subcontractors used also began to soar after the Department of Environment increased the percentage of contract work from 58% to 62%. This saw greater use of subcontractors by a lot of larger firms and an inevitable fall of full-time employees. Despite this, the industry saw a great increase in productivity. Between 1973 and 1979, there was an average rise of 1.7% per year.

Construction Machinery

Construction machinery was constantly improving at the time with many companies increasing productivity and introducing new plant. Caterpillar was at the forefront of the US market but saw a great expansion in the 70s with larger sales outside of the US for the first time ever. Their first Hydraulic Excavator, the 225, was officially launched in 1972 following their prototype model in 1970. This 200 series continued to develop and improve throughout the decade with the 235 in 1973 and the 245 a year later in 1974.

In 1977, JCB introduced 520 Telescopic Handler. This launch took the industry by storm and led to the development of the Loadall range which remains one of JCB’s most successful products. They later introduced the 525 Telescopic Handler in 1979 with both two and four-wheeled versions of the machine and a range of attachments. This boosted the versatility of the plant even further.

To keep up with the increased manufacturing of plant, JCB opened a number of new factories in the 70s including a U.S base in 1970 and a second UK factory in Wrexham in 1977. They also branched out to manufacture in India with factories opening in New Delhi, Pune and Jaipur.

Construction in 1970s

Leading the Way

Leading the pack in Housing Developments at the time was George Wimpey (now merged to become Taylor Wimpey) which became the UK’s largest private House Builder in the 70s, selling 106,440 homes throughout the decade. Barratt Developments were also on the rise with their rapid expansion through acquisitions and the creation of new companies. They were the first housebuilder to use TV advertising in 1978. A big step toward development companies becoming household names.

Just 2 years after the formation of Natta, Redrow PLC was established in 1974. Originally started as a small Civil Engineering company, it quickly grew and was expanding into main contract building. By 1979, the company started on their first major housing development in Denbigh, North Wales with many more to follow.

The decade also saw some great successes for the Infrastructure Group, Balfour Beatty. The group had broken into major road construction with the Glasgow Inner Ring Road and M73 projects. The company then won a major £350m contract for the Mina Jebel Ali port in Dubai. This job involved over 14km of quays, needed 5,500 men and was completed a year ahead of schedule. A great set up for their continued success into the 1980s.

Our close partner, Wates Group were in their 70th decade of trading and continuing to expand its ventures and partnerships. The 1970s were a time for Wates to form long term partnerships both in the UK and the US. This effort has continued to contribute to their high level of repeat customers and strong relationships with key clients. We are thrilled to have become a chosen supply chain partner of Wates Group as we both celebrate great company milestones this year.

Construction in 1970s

Although there were still many improvements to be made within construction, the 70s saw the start of some big changes which would only advance in the decades to come!