Director, Innovation Plus
According to the government’s latest figures, there were 52,335 R&D Tax Credit claims filed in 2016-2017. The scheme paid out a total of £3.5 billion to companies that met the criteria of ‘R&D for tax purposes.
However, out of those 52,335 claims, only 1,940 were filed by construction firms, despite the fact that there are over 300,000 construction-based businesses operating in the UK.
It’s safe to say that the UK construction industry is losing out on many millions of pounds each year in unclaimed funds due to not taking advantage of the R&D Tax Credits scheme.
(What is the R&D Tax Credit Scheme?) *Sources: ons.gov.uk and gov.uk
The relevance of R&D tax credit scheme to the construction industry
Construction firms routinely face complex challenges imposed by unique site conditions, unusual build requirements, budget constraints, safety and regulatory considerations and even the conflicting priorities of all of these factors.
Many construction firms consider the resolution of these challenges to be a routine part of their operations, without realising that in many cases these types of activities enable them to claim significant funds annually through the scheme.
The eligibility criteria for claiming
A project or activity should meet the following criteria to be included in an R&D tax credits claim:
- The project should seek to achieve a technological or scientific advance
An eligible project or activity should add to the current pool of technical or scientific knowledge in your sector. The advance does not need to involve tangible assets but can also involve process improvements. Any intellectual property that is included in a claim would remain protected throughout the claims process and is not shared publicly.
- The project had to overcome a level of technological uncertainty
In other words, it’s not known at the outset if the solution was either possible or how to deliver it. Even if someone else in the industry has already achieved the same thing, you can still potentially make a claim if the solution is not in the public domain and not obvious.
Types of construction projects and activities that enable you to claim
The below list is only aimed at giving you a sense of the types of projects that qualify. Every construction project should be assessed for eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
1. Offsite and Modular Construction
Increasingly, developers and construction firms are embracing innovative offsite and modular construction techniques to help them to achieve time and labour efficiencies that were not possible before.
Offsite construction activities that are likely to attract R&D benefit include: Design or improvement of building systems, prototyping and manufacturing of new structure types and optimisation of building processes.
The experimental nature of these activities and the high levels of technical expertise that they require, make them a perfect fit for the R&D tax credit scheme.
2. Non-Standard Construction Materials
Manufacturers are continuously developing new construction materials to achieve better performance in specific areas and to enable buildings to meet certain requirements. Some examples of this are:
- Materials that are stronger and can bear heavier loads
- Materials that are lighter or that have a better strength-to-weight ratio
- Materials that have a smaller negative impact on the environment or that use recycled ingredients in their manufacturing
- Materials that have better thermal performance (I.e. they have better heat retention in cold weather or are better at expelling heat in warm weather).
For a construction firm that is the end-user of such materials, the eligible R&D may reside in the selection process of those material (e.g. feasibility studies, construction load analysis and experimentation) and how they have adapted the use of those materials during implementation.
3. Development of Building Information Modelling Systems (BIMs)
A construction firm that is beginning to adopt a BIM, may have to create new internal processes that will allow it to share its project data correctly. It may have to hire specialist consultants to facilitate BIM adoption or it may even have to invest in developing custom software that would allow its legacy systems to connect to the BIM. All of these activities have the potential to meet the criteria for claiming. The creation of BIMs and BIM-related software is a separate industry in itself. For more on this, visit Innovation Plus’ R&D tax relief for software development page.
4. Eco-friendly Construction and Lean Construction
Innovative construction methods that minimise the negative impact on the environment often enable construction firms to claim R&D tax credits. Eligibility can stem from developing either new or improved eco-friendly techniques, or appreciably improving existing techniques to meet unique project conditions. The R&D may also lie in solving challenging logistical and technical problems that can result from implementing these techniques. For example:
- Using sustainable materials such as recycled steel, glass or materials that have been claimed from dismantled buildings.
- Using eco-friendly materials such as concrete reinforced with timber, bamboo or other natural fibre construction materials like Hempcrete.
- Development of green walls, water harvesting systems or water purification systems.
- Reduction of waste and increasing the efficiency through new, lean construction processes
5. Other Indicators of Eligibility
- Creation or improvement of construction techniques to improve efficiency, durability, soil remediation or environmental sustainability
- Construction of dynamic structures such as retractable roofs
- Design, development and testing of temporary construction structures and construction equipment and tools
- Investigations that relate to the development of new material types such as metals alloys, concrete, insulation, plastics, glass and ceramics.
We have explored just a few scenarios of how construction firms are be eligible for the R&D tax credit scheme. If you are unsure of your eligibility or would like further information, you are welcome to contact Innovation Plus for an objective assessment at no obligation to you.
How Brexit will impact on construction product regulations: How you can prepare for Brexit
Director, Building Safety Programme
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
This month we will leave the European Union, and for those with an interest in the construction products sector, it is important that your members and those across the construction sector know what will be changing following Brexit.
The Government has taken steps to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also continue to engage with the sector.
We recently published updated guidance setting out actions that manufacturers and notified bodies need to take whether we leave the EU with, or without, a deal after 31 October. It provides information for UK-based firms that sell construction products in the UK and for those that export or may want to export their construction products to the EU after we leave the bloc.
Here’s a reminder of what the guidance means for these two groups:
UK manufacturers operating within the UK
Should we leave the EU without a deal we have published legislation that mirrors the current EU Construction Product Regulations 2011. All existing European harmonised standards will become UK ‘designated standards’ ensuring that there will be no change in the standards required for products imported from the EU.
However, from October 31, we will introduce a new ‘UKCA’ marking.
The UKCA mark will be provided by UK-based notified bodies – replacing the CE marking for UK conformity assessed products in the UK. Goods with CE marking will continue to be recognised in the UK for now, as long as manufacturers have complied with EU requirements.
UK manufacturers exporting to the EU
For those exporting construction products to the EU or have plans to trade with the bloc after the UK exits, there will also be changes.
If we leave without a deal, the European Commission has said that products assessed by UK notified bodies will no longer be able to display the CE mark. To continue to export their product, one of the following actions must be taken:
- The manufacturer re-tests their product through an EU-27 notified body.
- The UK notified body transfers the existing certificate to an EU notified body.
For further information on the processes, businesses can still apply to attend of the Government’s Brexit Business Readiness Events in their area, check the guidance on GOV.UK or contact their trade association.
#ConstructionisOpen Pledge to help EU27 nationals feel Welcome
‘Unprecedented Situations Call for Unprecedented and Proactive Actions’
Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen
Around 7% of workers in the construction industry are EU 27 nationals, compared to the national average of 6% (Office for National Statistics, 2018).
Securing post-Brexit rights
In 2016 following the outcome of the EU referendum, as an EU 27 national I found myself, alongside 4 million others in Britain and Europe, being uncertain about my rights post-Brexit, in a place I call home.
Starting almost immediately after the referendum, and in the grip of ‘the Brexit Blues’, I started the process of understanding how to re-secure my rights under British law. Dual citizenship is allowed for Danish citizens so I decided to apply for British citizenship as it would give me full voting rights. I understood that any future status, such as Settled Status, would be unlikely to offer that I maintain the voting rights in the local elections that EU 27 nationals have through EU treaty rights prior to Britain leaving the EU. During the application process there were real challenges, when I needed support from others, and there were times of relief. The overall process took 22 months, from the start of filling in forms until completing my British citizenship ceremony in January 2019.
Hurdles buried in the permanent residency application included having to provide evidence of the comprehensive sickness insurance that I was expected to have, when I had arrived in the UK as a student. With access to the local GP I did not know about this requirement and did not have comprehensive sickness insurance as a student. With support from immigration lawyers provided by the volunteer-powered project, UK Citizenship for EU Nationals (UKCEN), I discovered that as I had to chosen my 5 years that acts as my qualifying period for permanent residency during a time I was in full time employment, these excluded my student years. As a result, this requirement became irrelevant and fell away.
To obtain British Citizenship you need to pass the Life in the UK Test and I really enjoyed learning about Britain and its history for this. It was great fun learning with, and testing, British friends and colleagues as an alternative ‘pub quiz’.
Invitation to Take the #ConstructionisOpen Pledge
To become a dual Danish-British citizen I had and gratefully received support from my MP, UKCEN, the Danish Embassy, my family, colleagues and many other EU27 nationals. Their support made all the difference to my ability to successfully navigate the complex process involved and to deal with the situation I found myself in.
The #ConstructionisOpen pledge, developed with and hosted by the construction industry think tank the Edge, is an invitation to members of the construction industry to make their own difference, to help EU 27 nationals feel welcome and to provide them with support during and after Brexit.
Please add your signature here and pick your own action:
Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen is a Sustainability Leader with extensive experience in working within world-class and global engineering design and consultancy businesses in the built environment. Dorte is the CIBSE representative on the CIC diversity and inclusion panel.
Chartered Arbitrator and Engineer, Adjudicator, Mediator
Chair CIC ADR Management Board
On 7th August 2019 I was in Singapore where 46 countries signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the ‘Singapore Convention’). The Singapore Convention provides parties with a straight forward method of enforcing mediated settlement agreements across borders. It is significant because it will give businesses greater confidence that mediation is a reliable way to settle international commercial disputes.
One of the grounds for granting relief against enforcement is where there was “a serious breach by the mediator of standards applicable to the mediator or the mediation without which breach that party would not have entered into the settlement agreement”. 
To mitigate against any breach of standards erudite parties will use a mediation procedure designed to ensure a fair and consistent application of the mediation process, underpinned by a mediator from a reputable panel. One such highly regarded procedure is the CIC Model Mediation Agreement and Procedure (the ‘CIC MMAP’).
Although it was a privilege to participate in such a landmark event as the signing of the Singapore Convention, my principle reason for being there was to attend the 2nd to 5th August 2019 Singapore International Mediation Institute (‘SIMI’) Mediation Competition. I was coach to ‘Mediation Works’ comprising Ariunsanaa Batbaatar (Mongolian), Cécile Maitre-Ferri (French) and Ren Xiaolu (Chinese). Mediation Works achieved a Gold Medal for outstanding Mediation Advocacy, with the team’s performance receiving critical acclaim from highly respected professionals.
During the SIMI Mediation Competition there were 40 competing teams from 17 countries, with over 140 students participating. All teams performed for five rounds. SIMI used a ‘power matching’ system to allocate team pairings for each round of the competition, except for the first round which was determined by random selection. Power matching ensured that the best performing teams faced each other in subsequent rounds, which maintained bracket integrity.
Mediation Works came together through networking, and prepared almost exclusively on-line over a six week period, supported by three-day training in person in Beijing. One of the first documents I asked the students to study was the CIC MMAP, which emphasises the bifurcation and importance of the role of:-
- Lead Negotiator the business principal with full authority to settle the dispute and to sign the settlement agreement. The role of lead negotiator is challenging as it requires the evaluation and development of options, and being able to respond wisely and expeditiously to any new information provided by the other party.
- Parties’ lawyers or representatives who can make or break the mediation. Good mediation lawyers or representatives can shift seamlessly to advisor from advocate. In their role as advocate they will succinctly summarise legal arguments, but not in an adversarial or combative way. They allow the business principal to take the lead, preparing their clients offering advice, guidance and information on negotiation and mediation.
Cross-cultural ability, intellectual resilience, and mastery of roles were reasons Mediation Works prevailed and achieved a Gold Medal for outstanding Mediation Advocacy.
Professor Sarah Lupton MA DipArch LLM RIBA CArb
Course Director for the Master of Design Administration
Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University
It is generally recognised that the huge increase in the range and complexity of methods of procuring buildings, with the design process increasingly split across a wide range of different bodies, leads to fragmentation in design decision making. This in turn can result in lack of clarity in who is responsible for which aspects of design, confusion of liability issues, and failure to achieve initial project objectives.
A key challenge facing the industry is the successful integration and management of the design process, which can run from project inception through to handover and post occupancy feedback. This challenge applies both to the demand side, i.e. to clients seeking to establish accountable and efficient procurement arrangements, and to the supply side, i.e. firms working with clients to provide design services and/or combined design and construction packages that deliver optimal design solutions.
Essential to meet this challenge is the use of innovative processes for the identification, communication and realisation of design intent. These processes must be supported by clear contractual frameworks that accurately reflect the participants’ independent and shared responsibilities for achieving the design requirements in practice.
The MDA has been developed to meet the growing need for experts in design management, both within client bodies, consultancies, and within contractors and specialist sub-contractor firms.
The course focuses on developing the advanced knowledge and skills required to successfully manage the developing design process, including the identification and articulation of client requirements, completion of feasibility studies and establishment of measurable project objectives, the formation and management of the project team, including the use of interlocking contracts and design responsibility matrixes, the integration of contractor and specialist design input, collaborative working, dispute avoidance and resolution, and the successful delivery and handover of the project. It examines these issues in the context of both the UK and international procurement.
The course is intended for those in full time employment, with qualifications and experience in a relevant field. By bringing those with current relevant experience together, it allows for shared experience and a forum for debating and analysing the collective experience of students from a range of disciplines, both client side and supply side.
The MDA is delivered using ‘blended learning’ (a mixture of distance learning and short on-site courses). Regular on-line seminars and tutorials ensure that students are kept up to date with the latest developments in the field.
Although new, the MDA has been developed from an existing degree that has been running very successfully for over twelve years. It receives excellent feedback and has been commended by RIBA over successive visits, with students submitting the best adjudicator award receiving a prize form the Society of Construction Law. We have taken the best elements of the existing degree and combined them with several new features to create an exciting and unique programme.
This programme is led by Professor Sarah Lupton, a personal chair at the Welsh School of Architecture and a partner in Lupton Stellakis architects. She is dual qualified as an architect and as a lawyer. She lectures widely on subjects relating to construction law and is the author of many books, including ‘Design Liability in the Construction Industry’, a series on standard form building contracts, and is co-author (with Manos Stellakis, who also teaches on the course) of ‘Which Contract?', of a series of books on the use of performance specification, and of a series on legislative controls.
The Welsh School of Architecture welcomes applications for its MDA programme, starting this October. Anyone interested should contact Professor Sarah Lupton at email@example.com. She would be happy to receive queries direct, and to discuss the course over the phone. More information can be found at here.
Partnership Development Manager
Who gave you hope when you were growing up? Inspired you to become the person you are today? Believed in you and gave you the tools to achieve? Opened your eyes to a career in the built environment?
Barnardo’s is calling on the construction industry to give hope and transform the lives of vulnerable young people leaving care.
Our innovative Building Hope project addresses the challenges care leavers face and the high demand for new recruits in the construction industry.
Young people in care often experience trauma, neglect and disruption throughout their childhood. Those leaving care are some of the most disadvantaged young people across the UK. On average, 40% of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in education, employment or training, compared to just 13% of their peers.
Their situations are often made worse due to the shortage of good quality housing, a stable and safe place to call home, the lack of a support network and the confidence and skills all of which are vital to getting and staying in employment. Leaving care and the transition experience towards independence can vastly impact the course of a young person’s life.
Lee had a chaotic life growing up; “I never felt like I fitted in, I was very different to everyone else. I was involved with the ‘wrong crowd’ and became violent to family. I ended up being sent to live with my uncle for two months to work with him. When I came back, I didn’t want to go back to my family, so I decided to live on the streets. I really didn’t want to do anything with my life and eventually I went into care.”
At Barnardo’s we believe in children and young people – no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through.
Aged 19 Lee joined Barnardo’s Building Hope Academy. Signing up to our 16 week traineeship in dry lining, pursuing qualifications in both literacy and numeracy and developing essential life skills such as being organised and team work. The support of the academy is enabling Lee to turn his life around.
“The Building Hope Academy has given me structure and I feel a lot more stable. It has given me something to focus on, working hard, having a goal set in mind. It helps me forget everything else. I would say to other young people, who have been in a similar situation to me that please don’t give up. If you can push past that you will realise that there is more to life than sitting around doing nothing, playing video games and taking drugs. You can have fun working hard. After completing my traineeship, I hope to go into the construction industry.”
Following our successful and award winning academy pilot working in partnership with Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland, Barking and Dagenham College and Phoenix Housing, we are developing our wider Building Hope project.
The Building Hope project will support 300 young people a year, proving supported lodgings, emergency housing, vocational skills training and ongoing holistic wraparound support.
The programme is designed to support young people to develop the skills they need to help them prepare for transition out of care and into employment and independence. It will initially support care leavers aged 17-25 in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark but by design can expand UK wide.
We are seeking support from the construction sector to raise £1m to renovate a currently unloved building into ‘Building Hope House’ a community hub and nine-bed supported accommodation for care leavers in Crystal Palace.
By working with Barnardo’s on the Building Hope project, local and national construction companies will be able to:
- Directly and positively impact the lives of vulnerable young care leavers
- Deliver social value to local communities
- Develop and access a new talent pipeline as an employer offering work experience, traineeships or apprenticeships within the Building Hope network
- Address the skills gap within the construction industry.
Together we can give hope, inspire and believe in young people who are otherwise left on their own to navigate the transition from care to adulthood. We can provide life tools and employability skills to those interested in developing a career in the construction sector and transform lives and futures.
But don’t just take my word for it, take a look at this video and hear from the young people who we are already supporting.
If this sounds of interest to you or you would like to know more please contact me on at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07720 642 045.
Looking forward to changing lives together.
Building Hope Academy
Winner of Business Charity Awards Project of the Year 2019
What did the judges say?
"This project has practical and transformative outcomes for some of the most vulnerable young people," said Wanda Wyporska, executive director at the Equality Trust. "It is a wonderful programme, with a lot of potential."
At the recent CIMCIG Chairman’s Debate on the image of construction, one of our key speakers, Sadie Morgan architect and co-founding director of dRMM commented on the importance of practices presenting their capability in a form that their clients could relate to. She said that for dRMM she had asked her brother, an author of children’s’ books to review and re-present the practice’s capability in a more client-friendly form.
We all tend to present information in the form which we feel most comfortable with and can relate to. But we should consider our audience, who will probably have a different focus and understanding, relating to things differently from us.
A key part of marketing is to engage with your audience, speaking to them in terms which they can relate to, and demonstrating how you can solve their problems.
Earning their trust is also very important. Over the last few years there have been a number of high-profile examples, both in the UK and internationally, where people have trusted those they considered the experts and were disappointed. If we are to rebuild that trust, we need to think carefully about how we present our organisations.
For designers and other professionals trust is a key asset. When proposing a design solution you are asking your client to have trust in your ability to deliver on the promises you make in a way they will be delighted with.
Trust is comprised of two key elements, Competence and Character. As an example, Sadie is Chair of the HS2 independent design panel, sits on the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission, is a mayor’s design advocate for the Greater London Authority as well as frequently publishing articles in the press. I have no direct experience of her architectural skills, but all of these activities mean I view her as an extremely competent individual. Which is why I invited her onto the panel of the CIMCIG Chairman’s Debate. Not every practice can have a high-profile individual such as Sadie. But there are many ways to demonstrate that competence in the form of case studies and client quotes.
Character is harder to demonstrate. It is about meeting deadlines, offering solutions, keeping promises and being enthusiastic. So, it is partly about how you respond to enquiries and behave while working with others. But again, this can be demonstrated by Case Studies, especially if they include third party quotes.
A good example of this in action can be seen with chartered surveyors and property consultants Glenny. Established for over 120 years the partnership has multiple divisions and wanted to present themselves as experts with great insight. They ran a campaign which included thought pieces, events, newsletters and press releases which achieved this and got them recognition as a Winner at the 2018 Construction Marketing Awards.
So how does an Architects, Engineers or Quantity Surveyors practice evaluate how effective they are in this area? One solution is to enter the Construction Marketing Awards. We have a category for professionals ‘Best Professional Services Marketing Campaign’. All entries will be judged by a panel of judges with extensive experience of construction marketing. Should you be fortunate enough to become a finalist you can see which similar organisations you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, benchmarking your organisations marketing against the industry. And a win can demonstrate to the rest of your organisation the competence of your marketing as well as recognising the achievements of your marketing team.
For details of how to enter the Construction Marketing Awards visit the website, entries are now open for the 2019 Awards. The Construction Industry Council is a supporter of the 2019 Awards.
Contributor: Chris Ashworth is founder of construction marketing consultancy Competitive Advantage. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a Chartered Marketeer and Vice Chairman of CIMCIG. He is also co-organiser of the Construction Marketing Awards.
Immigration Advice Service
With Theresa May’s Brexit deal being defeated in Parliament, and no-deal still very much on the table despite the extension to article 50 announced last week, several industries are feeling increasingly concerned about what the future holds for them. Unfortunately, the construction industry is not exception to this; a no-deal would be severely detrimental to the sector’s current workforce, materials and funding.
The end to free movement is up there with the most troubling impacts that Brexit will have on UK industries. Currently, EU migrants are able to cross UK-EU borders with no requirement for visas or complex applications, allowing them to work in the UK if and when they choose. A CBI report released last year reiterated the magnitude of these effects and urged the government to consider the sizeable impact and importance of EU talent on UK industries.
Unsurprisingly, they didn’t listen.
Consolidating the future of a hostile Britain, May’s White Paper confirmed the end of free movement whilst laying out strict requirements for those looking to take the Tier 2 Visa application route into the UK. Despite lifting the 20,700 cap, the minimum income threshold of £30,000 still stands, meaning that many valuable ‘low-skilled’ workers, including construction workers, will simply be unable to apply.
For employers looking to employ migrant workers, they must first apply for a Sponsor Licence in order to officially ‘sponsor’ a migrant worker and bring them to the UK. This costs a significant fee and involves a series of complex processes, often causing delays for companies including construction. What’s more, the prioritisation of skilled workers to fulfil the gaps listed in the Shortage Occupation lists only pushes the ability to employ construction workers further away.
May’s solution for this, a temporary measure allowing workers to come to Britain for 12 months, fails to provide any clarity for workers trying to plan ahead and may not even be included in the event of a no-deal. This leaves EU workers in a state of limbo with the assurance of employment opportunities crumbling under the weight of the Prime Minister’s hostile environment.
But how many workers will this actually effect?
Currently, workers from outside the UK account for 15% of the construction workforce, equating to more than one in eight. Half of those come from an EU country. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), they could lose a huge 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit. The severity of this skills gap will affect almost all area of the construction industry and prohibit overseas workers from filling a range of skill-level jobs; from general (40%), skilled labours and tradespeople (11%), bricklayers (8%), plant and mechanical operations (7%) and supervisory/managerial roles (5%).
The implications of Brexit on the industries workforce are numerous and far-reaching. EU construction professionals and labourers are likely to turn their backs on employment opportunities in the UK once the government’s unwelcoming policies are implemented.
In addition to permanent construction roles, tighter border controls will problematise the current reliance of mobility and access required by temporary workers and contractors. For example, HGV drivers, who need continuous ease of transport and delivery facilitation, are likely to feel the full force of these restrictions on the pace and efficiency of their work.
Construction projects such as the Heathrow Expansion and HS2 are also set to suffer as EU workers held up by tighter border regulations may cause long-term delays. Additionally, Brexit could see the reversal of the EU as a fundamental source of investment for these types of projects. The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Fund (EIF) invested £5.98 billion into infrastructure projects in 2015.
Whilst the Brexit impact on the construction workforce is undeniably worrying, this is not the only consequence that a no-deal scenario could bring to the future of the industry. According to Build UK, £10 billion construction products are imported from the EU every year. Crashing out the EU will place the UK at the bottom of the trade pile, with its new ‘third country status’ resulting in its trading certificates no longer being recognised in the its current renowned way. With the UK government setting targets to build 300,000 homes every year, the delay or processing difficulties at borders could have a devastating effect on achieving this aim.
Although some products can be traded domestically, others such as timber will need to be imported. A weaker pound will lead to rising costs of imported materials, making it imperative that investors and employers work collaboratively to secure an effective trade deal.
It is difficult to see past the fog of Brexit looming over our heads whilst questions surrounding the UK’s future remain unanswered. Feelings of uncertainty define the beginning of 2019 for the construction industry and will continue to prevail so long as a no-deal remains a possibility. The government desperately needs to consider the importance of the EU in providing a valuable workforce, accessibility to materials and financial aid to infrastructure projects. Otherwise, the industry faces a disastrous aftermath.
Contributor: This blog has been written by Maddie Grounds, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service.
CIC Champion on Higher Education and Deputy Convenor for the Higher Education Group of the Construction and Built Environment Education Advisory Committee (CBEE)
The UK construction and built environment industry faces a huge challenge in securing enough skilled labour to deliver the predicted volume of projects over the next few years. The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that the industry needs 168,500 new people to come into the workforce by 2022 (Construction Skills Network report, February 2019).
Supply of labour from the EU may become constrained post-Brexit due to changing immigration regulations, exacerbating the problem and increasing the need to recruit and train workers from within the UK. Apprenticeships represent a huge opportunity for the industry to address the growing skills shortage identified by employers and professional bodies.
Since the 2012 Richard Review of Apprenticeships it has been a central part of the UK Government’s skills policy to increase the volume and quality of Apprenticeships. This has involved setting a target of 5 million starts between 2015 and 2020 and introducing employer-led standards to replace the existing frameworks. A further policy driver is the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in May 2017.
Employers are putting more resources than ever into apprenticeships following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy with approx. £2 billion/year being allocated to apprenticeship provision. Feedback from UK employers indicates that the Apprenticeship system is not yet delivering the benefits that employers are looking for, with an estimated 86% Levy funds unspent after 18 months.
Issues identified to date include:
- Slow and confusing processes to approve new standards, leading to long delays in some cases, especially at higher and degree level where standards that are urgently required to meet skills gaps (such as Construction Site Manager, Building Control Surveyor and Construction Surveying Technician are still not available for employers to use)
- Lack of consistency and transparency in allocating funding bands to standards, rendering some standards undeliverable without employers providing additional top-up funding
- Lack of flexibility in design of End Point Assessment, leading to well-established processes for assessing professional competence being rejected
- Bureaucracy associated with meeting compliance requirements, which may deter some employers from wishing to be involved in Apprenticeships
Professional Apprenticeships Task and Finish Group
“Good progress has been made across numerous aspects of the apprenticeships agenda over the last year. But there are still many areas to improve if the system is to fully meet the needs of employers in the built environment industry. In particular we need to ensure that in these challenging times employers can realise the huge potential of the apprenticeships system to address their future skills needs.”
Tony Burton, Partner, Board Member, Gardiner & Theobald
A CIC Task and Finish Group will investigate such issues in greater depth and seek to identify potential improvements to the Apprenticeships system from a sector specific perspective. It is important to find out how it’s working for the built environment industry, to understand what’s going well (and what isn’t).
The aim will be to identify improvements which would make the system work better for the built environment industry and generate a series of practical recommendations which could be presented to policy makers for action:
- To specify how the industry can derive greater value from the apprenticeships system following the introduction of the Levy
- To make recommendations to Government to implement the changes required to achieve better outcomes for employers, apprentices and the economy
- Apprenticeships at all levels (3-7) in all built environment subjects
- To identify the main challenges experienced by employers in dealing with the apprenticeships system (e.g. in terms of availability of standards, use of Levy funds, flexibility to address business needs etc, taking account of a range of data sources)
- To articulate actionable improvements to the apprenticeships system for the benefit of the built environment industry
- To make specific evidence-based recommendations to policy makers
- Interim report by May 2019, timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy - the point at which employers start to lose access to unspent Levy funds.
The Task and Finish Group will represent the views of constituencies including employers, trailblazer groups, professional institutions, education providers and communicate effectively with others, including Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education, CITB, Construction Leadership Council, CBEE Advisory Committee and Government and its relevant departments.
For further information please send your contact details to email@example.com
Contributor: Aled Williams is Director of Research, Innovation and Partnerships at University College of Estate Management. (https://www.ucem.ac.uk/)
Access and inclusive design consultant
Jane Simpson’s recent article about the disparity in provision of accessible housing in the UK and misunderstandings of Approved Document M Volume 1 brought to mind examples from my work advising developers about accessible and inclusive housing.
The focus of this article is M4(3) Wheelchair User Housing, but I’ll start by adding my voice to Jane’s case for making M4(2) the national default regulation to address the well-documented shortage of basic accessible and adaptable housing. (Habinteg, Joseph Rowntree etc.).
Three years after the revision of Part M of the Building Regulations and the accompanying changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, I still have conversations with architects and developers about the differences between M4(2) and M4(3). Once they’ve grasped that more conversation is needed about M4(3) 2(a) and M4(3) 2(b). More worrying is that I am still reading planning conditions that refer to Lifetime Homes standards and wheelchair users’ housing for new developments in London boroughs.
As Jane highlighted, the similarity of the name of Category 2 (‘Adaptable and Accessible Housing’) and the subdivisions of Category 3 (‘wheelchair adaptable’ and wheelchair accessible’) further complicate matters.
Approved Document M guidance about M4(3) dwellings covers both adaptable, M4(3)(2)(a), and accessible, M4(3)(2)(b), units, from here referred to as ‘adaptable’ and ‘accessible’.
Back in July 2017 I started working with a developer of ‘build to rent’ housing and my first task was to untangle their sketchy understanding of the accessible housing standards. The developer’s confusion was compounded by conflicting planning conditions for the scheme that required dwellings built to meet Lifetime Homes standards, 10% to be either adaptable to meet the needs of wheelchair users or built to meet their needs, and to meet M4(2) and M4(3) of the Building Regulations.
Once this was resolved the developer struggled to understand why they would build homes that were adaptable to meet the needs of wheelchair users instead of accessible wheelchair user homes.
The local authority would not be responsible for allocating any of the dwellings, and therefore could not impose a condition that required a proportion of the dwellings to be ‘accessible’. However, the developer could not accept this and worried that the company would be liable under the Equality Act if they did not build accessible dwellings that were as ready as possible for a wheelchair user from day one.
After much discussion about the Equality Act, the Building Regulations and the fact that even an ‘accessible’ M4(3)(2)(b) unit may still need adaption to suit an individual, the client decided to build a proportion of their M4(3) units as almost-accessible instead of adaptable. This resulted in:
- Bathrooms and shower rooms being slightly wider than in the Approved Document to enable the bath / shower, basin and toilet to be in line and have the necessary clear manoeuvering zones; and
- Kitchens having mechanical rise-and-fall units with demountable cupboards beneath that are additional to the required storage provision, and a mid-height oven.
This strategy will serve potential disabled tenants well because they will not have to wait for the following alterations to be made to convert an M4(3) adaptable dwelling into an M4(3) accessible dwelling that suits their needs:
- Removing / adding / relocating some kitchen units and appliances;
- Addition of adjustable-height section of counter and associated mechanism incorporating shallow sink, hob and counter with clear space beneath;
- Adjustment / replacement of plumbing and electrical wiring; and
- Remedial work to kitchen floor.
This is irrespective of whether the developer or the tenant is responsible for the adaptations.
In my experience this strategy is much more in line with what was built prior to the introduction of the Optional Categories into Part M to meet planning policies that required ‘dwellings that are easily adaptable to meet the needs of wheelchair users’, and would be more appropriate than current M4(3)(a) guidance.
Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Approved Document to set out its guidance about designing homes for wheelchair users in a similar way to the section about M4(2) homes? The current Category 3 guidance perpetuates the idea that an M4(3) accessible dwelling would suit all wheelchair users, which is not the case.
In summary, I would support:
- Making M4(2) the minimum requirement for all new homes built, including those that are created from commercial to residential change-of-use buildings;
- Omitting all guidance about ‘accessible’ M4(3) dwellings; and
- ‘Upgrading’ the M4(3) guidance about dwellings that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of wheelchair users without moving sanitary fittings and kitchen appliances.
Contributor: Rachael Marshall is an Access and inclusive design consultant who runs Withernay Projects (www.withernay.com)