BBConstrumat will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in 2019 as the leading fair for the construction industry. How has the industry changed over the past four decades?
The construction industry is very heterogeneous and is made up of numerous segments with very specific characteristics. However, we traditionally tend to distinguish between residential, non-residential and civil engineering building work. It is clear that over the past 40 years the industry has been an essential player in the socio-economic development of our country. Construction has been one of the main driving forces of this country’s modernisation process. In this regard, the importance of the industry in terms of economic development is beyond doubt.
However, as a result of the 2008 crisis, the industry’s current image is not in keeping with reality. After overcoming the economic recession, construction is once again an industry with a highly important role in improving the Spanish economy, as it has been able to adapt to the new situation by committing to development by means of trends and innovations within the industry.
For example, in the field of public works, the approach and the construction of infrastructures set examples for the whole world. We’re therefore entering international markets where our professionals also enjoy great prestige.
In this regard, how have the changes the industry has undergone throughout these forty years influenced BBConstrumat?
Since the first fair in 1979, BBConstrumat has reflected the reality of the industry and, at the same time, constituted the launchpad for the latest trends and innovations. BBConstrumat has always worked side by side with the main companies and industry associations; their success has been our success and their problems have been our problems. Consequently, each fair has been and is an excellent thermometer for determining the industry’s state of health. We should remember that it’s an industry that has witnessed a true tsunami, which it has succeeded in overcoming without the support it required from the Authorities.
In fact, in recent years BBConstrumat has undergone a significant evolution in which innovation has played a prominent role. What’s your assessment of this transformation process?
It’s clear that the industry has undergone an adjustment process and that this has had an impact on the fair. We’ve therefore sought to revamp the show so that it meets the concerns and needs of the companies within the industry. To do so, we’ve committed to innovation, digitalisation, design, access to new international markets, sustainability and the promotion of business opportunities as a framework for encouraging the recovery of the industry. I sincerely believe that we’re on the right track with regard to the definition of the content of a new BBConstrumat, closer to the reality of an industry which has had to radically change its way of doing things in recent years. In any case, there’s still a long way to go and we must continue striving to win back the trust of those people who stopped believing in us and gain the trust of others along the way.
You began managing the fair in 2017 with a new President (Ana Vallés, President of Sorigué) and a team mostly made up of women. How has their presence been noticed in the management of the leading fair in the construction industry?
We can’t ignore the fact that the construction industry is a reflection of the reality of the labour system. There are still major differences in terms of equal opportunities; it hasn’t been and it isn’t easy for women. For this reason, I regard it as vitally important to create new conditions to ensure that gender doesn’t remain an obstacle when it comes to addressing new professional challenges. In this respect, I’m glad that new work dynamics are emerging, because they seem to indicate that we’re witnessing a social change in which the presence of women is beginning to increase at a relentless pace. This is a situation that is also occurring at BBConstrumat, where we have a mainly female team. In this line of work we’re attempting to include a vision sensitive to this change at our fair, establishing partnerships with collectives and associations to provide visibility and to popularise projects that strive for equality in the industry.
Can you tell us what the next BBConstrumat will be like?
The 21st Barcelona Building Construmat, Fira de Barcelona’s International Construction Fair, to be held from 14 to 17 May at the Gran Via venue, will once again display a commitment to innovation, knowledge and business promotion as elements essential for leading the transformation of the construction industry. Since 2015, the main thematic pillars of our fair, the most important in the industry in Spain, have been innovation and digitalisation.
The fair will occupy 34,000 gross square metres of Pavilion 2 of Fira de Barcelona’s Gran Via venue and will have an offer divided into four large areas. The 2,000 square metres of the Future Arena will display the most innovative and transformational projects in the industry, with it being the only exhibition in Europe which does so, the Industry Arena will exhibit the latest products on the market in an area covering over 13,500 square metres, the Talks Arena will bring together prominent speakers to discuss the future of cities and the Meetings Arena will be the area assigned to networking and business relations.
Will the fair reflect the reactivation the industry is undergoing?
That is our hope, but it’s not our main objective. Obviously, we’d like to grow and expand the fair’s surface area, but the most important thing for our team is to stand alongside the industry. We want to put on a fair with high-quality content, obtain the support of the leading companies and associations and provide real solutions. Growth should be progressive and reflect the results of a fair that is on the right track.
And, finally, are you worried about a new bubble being on the way, as some experts are warning?
In recent years we’ve learned to live with uncertainty. The predictions and forecasts can provide us with an approximation, but the truth is that reality can also let us down, as occurred in 2008. I don’t think that we’re facing a scenario like the one before 2008, the situation is completely different now. The indicators are more moderate and I think we should be cautious while looking optimistically towards the future.