Billy O'Brien CIOSH
Health & Safety Professional and Director of Customer Success
The HSE has issued a proposal to update the guidance on risk assessment (known as INDG 163) in order to place “more emphasis on controlling risk and less on written assessments.”
Nothing in health and safety legislation says “for every activity and piece of equipment you must draw up a table, list everything that can go wrong in the first column, come up with numbers for likelihood and severity of each hazard, multiply these together, and then add extra controls in the last column if any of the numbers are quite big.” The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations instead require you to “make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks” and to record “the significant findings of the assessment”.
The HSE have been concerned for some time that this simple, sensible requirement has become an industry in itself, with companies selling generic risk assessments which sit on shelves without making the workplace any safer. In the previous 2014 version of the guidance the HSE did emphasise that “a risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace.”
The new HSE proposal goes further by asking employers to look at the types of documents they already have, and see how these are used to communicate health and safety controls. Disappointingly, there is no mention of any technological solutions to reducing the paperwork burden. The Effective Method Statement software module, for example, makes use of information in risks assessments, as well as other modules on PPE, equipment or people to efficiently create appropriate instruction sets.
The HSE suggest method statements as an example of an existing document which would provide a record of your “significant findings”, so let’s see how that would work. Where a method statement focuses only on the mechanics of the task, the technician is expected to read a separate risk assessment for the hazards and controls. However, if a method statement is well written, the person doing the job doesn’t need to refer back to a risk assessment. Consider a boiler repair where working on hot equipment could result in a burn. If step 1 is “check the boiler has cooled down” there is no need to refer to a separate risk assessment.
Whilst the technician might follow the method statement for a boiler repair, warehouse staff carrying out routine manual handling are unlikely to refer to a method statement. So look around, and see what else you “may already have” to communicate and manage risks in your business. What about signs and posters?
Take a typical manufacturing plant that needed to improve risk assessment practices – trolleys were sometimes overloaded, people didn’t always ask for help when they needed it, and a cluttered workspace resulted in awkward working positions. A risk assessment could have been issued to each member of staff asking them to sign a piece of paper to agree they had received it. A detailed method statements could have been created for each process. Compliant, yes, but unlikely the assessments or method statements would ever be referred to. Instead, colourful posters positioned at the appropriate places in the workspace – a picture of a correctly loaded trolley where the trolleys are loaded, a reminder of the impact on posture of an untidy working area by the shelves where the clutter problem occurred most often, and pictures reinforcing the idea that asking for help was the right thing to do rather than a sign of weakness.
Although too many signs and posters can be distracting, putting a reminder on a piece of equipment of the essential safety checks needed, or photographs of how furniture should be stacked will have more impact than the same information hidden in the last column of the risk assessment in the shiny folder on the shelf.
The evidence that appropriately positioned signs can change behaviour is so convincing that NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommend employers put signs by lifts and escalators to encourage staff to use the stairs, to promote physical activity in the workplace.
Contributor: Billy O'Brien is a Health & Safety Professional and Director of Customer Success at Effective Software. Effective Software can help you with the management of your organisations Risk Assessments and Method Statements please do get in touch for more information.
Xenophon Project Services Limited/ Construction Team Technologies Ltd
CDM Differently* – Safety Culture Gap Management** A challenge for the Industry?
How has the UK Construction Sector responded to the more stringent requirements set out in the revised CDM Regulations which came into effect on 6th April 2015? After a pretty hectic first twelve months I get the sense that the Industry , in some respects, has lapsed back into its old ways.
I recently carried out some consultancy work for a large contractor, as part of their drive to understand the underlying and root causes of ‘near miss’ incidents which could have resulted in serious injury or potentially loss of life. This organisation has strong health and safety leadership and a positive culture that encourages everyone to influence how risks are managed on site. Although the incidents investigated were different in nature and potential outcome, my analysis suggested there was a common flaw in the way the project teams on the various sites addressed risk management. A lot of effort had gone into producing project documentation that covered generic risks, but the project teams had failed to recognise the particular combination of site factors and construction activities that represented ‘significant risk scenarios’. None of the incidents investigated had been adequately addressed in the pre-planning stage.
Rather than seeing this as a failure of individual teams or organisational weaknesses, I concluded that the approach to project risk management taken by this organisation was in accordance with the established, orthodox, document-led philosophy adopted throughout the industry.
Amongst the documents provided for each investigation were:-
- Company policies and procedures
- Construction phase health and safety plans
- Site induction presentations
- Task based risk assessments and method statements
When investigating the causes of different incidents it became clear that in each case the specific risk profile of the activity being undertaken had not been thought through in any detail. There appeared to be a presumption that everyone was working in accordance with established (written) procedures but there was no evidence that compliance (or lack of it) was being monitored.
The provision of excessive, generic documentation has been addressed in the revised CDM 2015 regulations. Regulation 8 makes specific reference to the need for health and safety information to be ‘comprehensible’. The guidance relating to this particular regulation (which applies to all duty holders) states ‘Any information or instruction provided should be in simple, clear English….Only information that is necessary to help prevent harm should be provided - unnecessary information can prevent the clear communication of key messages.’
The HSE is fully aware of the over- reliance on standardised documentation used ‘to demonstrate compliance’ with the regulations. Back in 2005 it was the HSE who devised the slogan ‘Teamwork not Paperwork’ in the consultation phase for the development of the 2007 regulations.
The problem of excessive paperwork does not simply reside with Principal Contractors. The failure to identify ‘significant risks ‘ often starts at the concept stage of a project when clients and their lead designers should be identifying and evaluating the ‘difficult to manage ‘ aspects of the project so that the whole project team can engage collaboratively in developing a risk reduction process that leads to safe construction.
If the Industry is to wean itself off excessive bureaucracy it will probably happen incrementally, project by project, as clients understand that they are accountable for the management arrangements put in place on their projects, ‘so that health, safety and welfare is secured.’
The role of the Principal Designer will be crucial in assisting clients to develop a strategic approach, at the outset, which addresses the need for practical, proportionate risk management, and a departure from the tick box mentality that has come to characterise health and safety in construction. Although the role of PD is new, the concept of developing a Project Strategy is not.
Sir Michael Latham’s report – Constructing the Team- published in July 1994, (around the time that the CDM Regulations were first coming into force) , had been commissioned by the UK Government following a series of poorly performing high profile public sector projects. The main focus of the report was on how projects were procured and the contractual arrangements being employed at the time. The report described the construction sector of that period as “ineffective”, “adversarial”, “fragmented”, “incapable of delivering for its customers”, and “lacking respect for its employees”.
The report does not address the Health and Safety agenda specifically, although it does outline the proposed CDM 1994 regulations (which eventually came into force in March 1995).Whilst some of the main recommendations around contractual arrangements have been adopted by clients , others have been largely ignored. Building the project team around a clearly defined strategy is a theme identified in both ‘Constructing the Team’ and CDM 2015, although different language is used.
‘ Formulation of a project strategy by the client is the first building block to a successful and cost effective scheme. Some believe that this project strategy stage should involve likely participants in the project itself, and in particular the leader of the consultant team.’ (Latham).
‘The client has a major influence over the way the project is procured and managed. CDM 2015 makes the client responsible for the impact their decisions and approach have on health, safety and welfare on the project. Clients could prepare a clear ‘clients brief’ as a way of setting out the arrangements.’ (CDM 2015)
Clients generally look to their professional advisers to guide them through the construction process. The creation of the Principal Designer role presents architects and engineers with an opportunity to facilitate the creation of well-directed, collaborative and motivated teams led by informed clients. The benefits to the project delivery will extend further than improving the health and safety aspects and clients need to understand this.
* CDM Differently – a CIC- led initiative that promotes a team based approach to risk management
** Safety Culture Gap Management – an ICE –led approach to understanding the root causes of failure in organisational health and safety performance.
Contributor: Tony Putsman a Director for Xenophon Project Services Limited/ Construction Team Technologies Ltd. and the Vice Chair of the Construction Industry Council's Health & Safety Panel
Director of Planning and Transport, Southend on Sea Borough Council
Chair of the RTPI International Committee
Habitat III has been much in the news recently – but what relevance does it have to UK built environment professionals? The UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) took place over the 17th-20th October 2016, in Quito, Ecuador, when an estimated 35,000 people from 193 nations descended on the city. It included architects, engineers, planners, activists, environmentalists, administrators and public officials including mayors and presidents. The outcome of Habitat III is the New Urban Agenda. This document is a blueprint for sustainable development and for that reason I believe that Habitat III is very relevant to UK built environment professionals and members of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) in particular.
The tendency is to think of the New Urban Agenda and the associated Sustainable Development Goals as something for the developing world; as if the shortage of decent housing, impact of natural disasters such as flooding or increased pollution levels are issues that substantially apply only to some far off lands. However, much of what is contained in the New Urban Agenda and embodied in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (particularly SDG11, discussed below) are what we, as built environment professionals, would recognise as the basic principles for a sustainable future applicable to any context.
Cities account for only 2% of the Earth's surface, and yet, are inhabited by more than 50% of the world’s population and consume 75% of the world’s natural resources. By 2050, the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. The UK population is expected to increase by 46% by 2060, to 79 million inhabitants. This means that the UK will face some of the demographic challenges experienced in developing countries. At the same time, the average population in the UK is becoming older. In 2011, 10.4 million people (16% of the population) were aged 65 or over and by 2061 this will be more than a quarter of the UK population. In England 61% of adults and 30% of children aged between 2 and 15 are overweight or obese. Health problems associated with being overweight or obese costs the NHS more than £5 billion every year. The UK is facing many of the issues around resilience that are being confronted throughout the world. The principles described in the New Agenda can provide the means to enable UK built environment professionals and decision-makers to meet these pressing urban challenges.
The New Urban Agenda has a vision for cities and settlements that:
- fulfil their social function, including the social and ecological function of land, with a view to progressively achieve the full realization of the right to adequate housing, as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, without discrimination, universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as equal access for all to public goods and quality services in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality, and livelihoods;
- are participatory, promote civic engagement, engender a sense of belonging and ownership among all their inhabitants, prioritize safe, inclusive, accessible, green, and quality public spaces, friendly for families, enhance social and intergenerational interactions, cultural expressions, and political participation, as appropriate, and foster social cohesion, inclusion, and safety in peaceful and pluralistic societies, where the needs of all inhabitants are met, recognizing the specific needs of those in vulnerable situations;
- achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal rights in all fields and in leadership at all levels of decision-making, and by ensuring decent work and equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value for all women, as well as preventing and eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence, and harassment against women and girls in private and public spaces;
- meet the challenges and opportunities of present and future sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, leveraging urbanization for structural transformation, high productivity, value added activities, and resource efficiency, harnessing local economies, taking note of the contribution of the informal economy while supporting a sustainable transition to the formal economy;
- fulfil their territorial functions across administrative boundaries, and act as hubs and drivers for balanced sustainable and integrated urban and territorial development at all levels;
- promote age- and gender-responsive planning and investment for sustainable, safe, and accessible urban mobility for all and resource efficient transport systems for passengers and freight, effectively linking people, places, goods, services, and economic opportunities;
- adopt and implement disaster risk reduction and management, reduce vulnerability, build resilience and responsiveness to natural and man-made hazards, and foster mitigation and adaptation to climate change;
- protect, conserve, restore, and promote their ecosystems, water, natural habitats, and biodiversity, minimize their environmental impact, and change to sustainable consumption and production patterns.
There is a role for built environment professionals to promote these principles in the UK in their dealing with government and when engaging with policy and decision-makers. The skills of CIC members can make a difference both in the UK and in practice internationally. For example, the UK Built Environment Advisory Group for Humanitarian Action (UKBEAG) was launched at Habitat III. This UKBEAG consisting of the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute (RTPI) of British Architects (RIBA) and the Institution of Structural Engineers has been created to provide the international humanitarian and development community with a more effective conduit to the collective expertise of its member institutes together with access to the combined resources of over 100,000 members working in more than 150 countries throughout the world.
UKBEAG has been established to provide an effective route for the transfer of built environment expertise to a range of humanitarian and development partners together with foreign governments. It will provide engagement, advocacy and dissemination together with access to the best of British skills in the field of built environment expertise. UKBEAG also intends to work with the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as well as with associated humanitarian agencies such as the Global Alliance for Urban Crises.
The strength of working together with colleagues across professions is that the skills base is widened and professionals can work together in a complementary fashion. Complex urban crises demand multi-scale, multi-faceted, cross-sector based approaches well beyond traditional humanitarian and development boundaries. One of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDG No. 11) that featured at Habitat III focuses on making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. CIC members and the UKBEAG can play its part in achieving this goal by providing access to the knowledge and experience of built environment professionals not only at times of crises but also in helping future-proofing the resilience of towns and cities and supporting sustainable development.
I believe the outcomes of Habitat III are much more prescient and relevant than many built environment professionals in the UK might at first think.
Contributor: Peter Geraghty is the Director of Planning and Transport at Southend on Sea Borough Council. Peter is also Chair of the RTPI International Committee. All the views expressed in this blog are his personal views and not those of his employer
 The global development goals can be found at: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
 The Group has established a web site hosted by the RIBA: https://www.architecture.com/RIBA/Campaigns%20and%20issues/UKBEAG.aspx
RIBA and CIC Health and Safety Committee
AHMM Principal Designer Lead
CDM 2015 has now been with us for some 18 months and the consequences of the changes are starting reveal themselves.
The most controversial and significant change has been the appointment of the new “Principal Designer (PD)” function intended to match during the pre-construction phases that of the Principal Contactor (PC) who is in control the project during execution phases. The PD unlike the now supplanted CDM-coordinator is not generally a person but a corporate role and should be executed by the “designer in control of the pre-construction phase”. Long term the HSE’s intention is to have active lead designers, ideally already on the project, carrying out their designer duties but also taking on the CDM integration of the other designers. It makes sense on a nuclear power station, pharmaceutical factory or infrastructure project to appoint a PD who has the skills, knowledge and experience (SKE) to deliver such highly engineering based projects. It is therefore of similar importance to appoint a PD on Architectural projects who have the SKE’s to deliver the complex aesthetic and technical mix of designer duties that constitute such projects.
However, largely due to historical and over-zealous misinterpretations and misrepresentation of the 1994 & 2007 CDM regulations by certain sectors, designers have been encouraged to shy away from “the responsibility” of taking on a “health & safety” role. The perception of a tick box, checklist and the “what if I miss something?” culture has subverted what was intended as an embedded day to day architectural process into a paperwork based, risk averse, bureaucratic, external role.
Whilst the CDM-C role was perceived by some as reasonably successful, it did not actually constitute a creative “design role” as it largely consisted of challenging designers proposals and asking for the ubiquitous but totally unnecessary “Designer Risk Assessment” documents (DRAs)” from all designers. These were simply “coordinated” into larger DRA excel spreadsheets and the design complexity of other significant factors were totally lost in the myriad of routine risks and a frenzy to find “the safest solution”. This approach has been fuelled by misinterpretations of the “General Principals of Prevention” and the “Working at Height hierarchy” whereby safety procedures intended for manufacturing and implementing work on construction sites have been misinterpreted for the “cerebral and conceptual” architectural design process. Thus the assumed need to “eliminate” risk has been interpreted as getting rid of unusual and new creative design concepts because they are “too unsafe”. Should these interpretations have been applied in history we would surely not have the great world heritage architecture such as the many European medieval cathedrals, Florence duomo and St. Paul’s Cathedral etc. Furthermore, the misinterpretation to “reduce” risk where it cannot be “eliminated” has led to a continual diminution of the design intent to achieve “the safest” solution.
This unintended process has been exacerbated by “moral high ground taking” attitudes that paint designers as arrogant, non-health and safety educated, “serial killers”, who have complete disregard and disdain for the “health and safety” of occupants and site operatives on their projects. The fact that architects have a rigorous academic and in industry training programme for a minimum of 7 years and which includes a proportionate amount of CDM related training in totally missed by these protagonists.Professional architects have to achieve a very high educational standard of design understanding which incorporates an incredibly diverse palette of skills ranging from structural and services integration, sustainability requirements, town planning criteria and building regulations compliance not to mention a huge number of other CAD & BIM skills. Most important however is that of aesthetics, which is generally a mystery to the other design team members, and entails the integration of all these factors and influences into a cohesive and visually appropriate composition. Architects cannot , of course, be experts on all aspects of these other design factors but need an overview and understanding of each and knowing where their limitations lay. These gaps are filled by additional CPD, training or advice from outside “experts” but generally this all needs to be assimilated into the overall design with all the other design factors. This can only be done effectively by an active designer “in control” of the design. Therefore in an architectural project context we start to understand the term “CDM Differently” whereby the lead and active designer incorporates the significant project specific health and safety/CDM issues into the creative design concept right from the start of the project.
Initially the site hazards need to be identified early and captured on site drawings where they should be clearly highlighted amongst the mass of other site details. These should include strategic briefing input from other parties including the client, statutory authorities and other consultants. With this growing understanding of the site infrastructure and the team a conceptual architectural design can start to evolve and the significant design issues can be identified and overlaid.
The combination of site knowledge, client brief and architectural design aspirations are synthesised into a design that integrates all these factors including CDM issues, to achieve a “tolerable level of risk” for the project by a collaborative team based process. This process should be proportionate to the scale and complexity of the perceived significant health and safety risks on the project. It is recognised that some large projects have relatively simple risk profiles whereas some smaller projects have more complex risk issues. The opposite is of course possible but it is for the project team to spend a proportionate amount of time and effort in avoiding, minimising or controlling risks on their project and recording the key issues in a proportionate manner. Due to the potential complexity of this process and to facilitate clear and collaborative information CDM Differently discourages too much narrative information and encourages the use of visual information in a combination of annotated drawings, sketches, images, photographs and diagrams which clearly explain the significant CDM issues and their context. The tolerability of each significant issue is established and noted for future reference during re-design, revisions and value engineering or for 3rd party use in the event of a CDM review, audit or HSE inquiry. This procedure and document encapsulates the legal processes of “reasonable foreseeability & practicability” and if genuinely employed and recorded is acceptable to the HSE and the courts in the event of potential prosecution. It is recognised by the HSE that whilst designers can help to avoid and minimise risks they cannot ever be reduced to zero, and also that accidents can still happen as a result of other extenuating factors. Demonstration that the project design team have gone “as far as reasonably practicable” is sufficient.
In conclusion CDM Differently has been developed as a collaboration between senior RIBA and ICE designers and practitioners, Paul Bussey and Tony Putsman, working within their professional design communities, on live projects who have long established health and safety expertise, experience, training and resulting from considerable HSE and industrywide collaboration. CDM Differently is a common sense, intuitive and collaborative process at the heart of CDM integration on architectural projects, and can be practically carried out by architectural designers with sufficient SKE or with the additional PD training offered by the RIBA.
Contributor: Paul is a Principal Designer Lead for AHMN and sits on both the RIBA and CIC Health and Safety Committees.
Digital Construction Specialist
It’s been a few months since the April start date for BIM Level 2, the UK mandate for using Building Information Modelling on centrally procured projects. What’s changed? Well for the majority not a huge amount, those government departments that we’re already trialling BIM Level 2 have been expanding to other projects, some other departments have made positive noises towards pilot projects and implementation across their portfolio, and other have kept completely quiet. So business as usual then?
Well maybe, but with the EU referendum in the summer there has been short term pain and uncertainty around some projects that will likely cause the government to again look at where they can drive efficiencies across the sector. BIM Level 2 is as relevant now, if not more than it was in April.
In October there’ll be another milestone date for the initiative with validation becoming a key part of the BIM Level 2 lifecycle for clients, which will lead to deeper integration for those doing it well, and more skin on the bones of those BIM Level 2 pilots elsewhere.
Where does this leave the construction industry? In the companies I see, it’s being slowly accepted that BIM is the way things are going to need to be done in the future. However, I still see a reluctance to move towards this way of working from contractors, a group that are amongst the biggest beneficiaries of it.
Across the decades many reports such as Latham and Egan have shown construction is massively inefficient, and often runs over time and over budget. Amongst the many reasons stated such as contractual relationships and the combative nature of construction, one of the many spaces seen as an area for improvement is the errors and omissions found in project documentation. BIM has been found in numerous studies to be a way to improve this situation.
McGraw Hill – The Business Value of BIM for Construction in Major Global Markets
Now we all know mistakes happen, some of which you can make money from, however the impact of a mistake can have cumulative effects of the cost and schedule of a project. Think for example in the majority of projects still working in the more traditional manner. We’ve all seen jobs where 2 documents that are released for construction that have obvious differences that contradict each other. Whilst you may be able to claim for lost time and work whilst that design error is checked, corrected and released back to site, if this is on the critical path there are impacts on the use of labour, plant and possible delays that have to be made up elsewhere that if the mistake never existed would never need to be mitigated for.
In the images below from a real project on ‘approved for construction’ drawings from over 15 years ago but have common mistakes we still see today.
- The first shows 2 overlaid images of a stairwell, one from an architectural drawing, another and mechanical drawing. The work was redrawn by the 2nd contractor which was not only a waste of time and effort, but as shown here. potentially wrong, one shows service risers another doesn’t. Which is right and wrong? Which should you build to.
- The second shows a list of dimensions for a drawing where the written dimensions differ from the scaled lengths in the drawing. Dimension instability happens where a dimension is manually changed but the drawing isn’t. In the CAD world you have to update each dimension and bit of geometry on each drawing, in the parametric BIM world one change will update all the drawings, model and dimension at once.
- The third image shows two drawings again approved for site with the door changed, again which is correct. Incidentally the cable tray in this drawing is at cable height, something that is more difficult to spot in 2D.
In all these cases BIM Level 2 provides a way to mitigate design errors by working to common processes, and do what we were always meant to do, have a single source of the truth to build from, a reduced chance of two parties working from different documentation, and most importantly reduces the risk for all stakeholders including the contractor.
It’s not just about some fancy 3D models for nice videos, it’s a comprehensive set of processes to manage project documentation, ensure a single source of truth, improve handover deliverables and manage the security on a project. Working in this manner not only provides you with better more reliable information to work with, but also allows you to streamline your own processes and provide new services that can improve those notoriously tight margins.
For a contractor once the hard work has been done of implementing processes and moving from 2D to intelligent 3D, you make the most of that time and cost investment, look at new opportunities. Once the intelligent 3D model has been created you can use it for quantification, allowing you to use the quantities direct from the modelling package meaning 2D can just be used for checks or non-modelled items. Health and safety can be improved by running additional checks on the program against the virtual building, a morning briefing with 3D models should reduce any miscommunication. You can also take this models to site, either for layout with robotic total stations, to collect progress or commissioning information against for your handover deliverable, or just as additional documentation.
Now, think further ahead about how companies have managed to expand their reach in emerging territories, you only need to see how many British firms worked on the Rio Olympics venues, directly and as consultants based on their proven experience in the London games. We’re seeing firms familiar in the language of BIM Level 2 being asked to manage and work on projects in the Middle East, Australia, China and elsewhere, the UK is being looked at as a world leader in BIM standards, take advantage of this as a new opportunity to expand your prowess.
Regarding what comes after BIM Level 2? BIM Level 3 will be an evolution of these processes, not a revolution, it’s been stated many times that BIM Level 3 can only be adopted once BIM Level 2 is adopted across industry, so concentrate on getting BIM Level 2 central to everything you do and start to see the rewards.
Contributor: Lee Mullin is a product expert on Autodesk construction workflows particularly Navisworks and BIM 360, developing workflows between BIM applications primarily for building, civil and plant construction industries and for factory design, automotive, aerospace and manufacturing.
Director of Sustainability
BRE Global Ltd
The Construction Leadership Council published Mark Farmer’s independent review of the sector’s labour model. The review examines the shortcomings of the construction labour model and shows how it has given rise to under investment in training and development, innovation, and in raising productivity. Whilst this isn’t that new or unexpected, the conclusion is: we are staring at a ticking bomb and something has to change and change urgently. If we don’t take steps now – and big steps – we simply will not be able to meet industry demand.
The report came following the Government approach to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) at the end of last year to identify actions to reduce the industry’s structural vulnerability to skills shortages, taking account of the Council’s wider work including that on business models and offsite housing.
This review was carried out by Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy, and the final document, as quoted by the CLC ‘does not make for comfortable reading’. It is not the first report to set out the shortcomings of the sector’s labour model but its message is much stronger - given workforce attrition exacerbated by an ageing workforce, we simply cannot go on as we are, something has to change.
At the heart of the problem lies the survivalist business model – an absence of alignment between industry and client interests and a lack of incentives and means to invest. The result is underinvestment in training and development, in innovation and in raising productivity.
This largely comes down to the way we do things. We talk about change in the construction industry but when you actually look at how we deliver projects, little has changed over the past decade. Yes our sites are safer, yes there is more focus on sustainability and building performance but we still have a big demand for on-site labour. The bottom line is that in the not too distant future we simply will not have the labour force to deliver what the country needs unless we change how we work.
Farmer highlights the ‘ticking time bomb’ posed by our shrinking workforce, which it has been estimated could decline by as much as 20-25% within a decade. The bottom line is that more people are leaving the industry rather than joining. This is likely to be exacerbated by Brexit with the restriction upon the inflow of foreign workers. Can we change this trend? If we change how we work we can slow it but can we reverse it, unlikely.
One way to slow it is through education and skills and the report calls for an overhaul of training by reforming the Construction Industry Training Board’s grant funding model. BRE, through its Academy, continues to push to ensure that we upskill our workers and provide pathways for lifelong learning to keep people in the industry but more needs to be done. Farmer goes on to recommend a joined-up construction strategy pursued by the Government, construction industry and clients, again something echoed by BRE and demonstrated through standards such as BREEAM where we continue to demonstrate and share best practise.
Responding to the review, both Industry Minister Jesse Norman and Housing Minster Gavin Barwell referred back to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s £3bn Home Building Fund, announcement earlier this month at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham. Mr Norman then goes on to say the review ‘makes a strong case for change in the industry, identifies areas where it needs to improve, and sets out areas for action. We will now carefully consider his recommendations’ whilst Mr Barwell added ‘It is vital that the industry has the skilled workers it needs to get the job done. That is why we are investing in apprenticeships with 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.’ Considering recommendations and investing in apprenticeships are steps in the right direction, as are addressing training, but if we are to heed the advice in the Farmer report it is not steps we need to take, it is leaps – and now.
So where is this ‘leap of change’ going to come from? One key area that needs to exploited is that of innovation and in particular innovation relating to offsite prefabrication. Developers such as Urban Splash and Zed Factory are pushing hard to create innovative solutions but we need the industry to really get behind offsite if we are to see a shift in the way we build. Offsite isn’t new but it’s not something the industry has grasped with both hands. The Farmer review highlighted the success of Legal & General’s new factory in Sherburn, Yorkshire. The largest modular housing factory in the world, it is producing homes through automated processes used to make cars and other consumer goods. This is a process being replicated by other parts of the industry, but not by enough and is something that BRE has been championing and demonstrating in its Innovation Park for a number of years.
The report also looks to draw comparison from other sectors by way of highlighting the need for change - ‘if you buy a new car, you expect it to have been built in a factory to exacting standards, to be delivered on time, to an agreed price and to a predetermined quality. Why does this not happen in construction? This is something that BRE through the housing standard review, and more recently with the formation of the Home Quality Mark (HQM) has been calling for and echoes the evidence that BRE submitted to the HSR commons committee earlier in the year.
In a time of uncertainty, it is all too easy to think of the short term and not the long. A ticking time bomb may sound dramatic but if we don’t act now it could be too late, or at least, we will make it more difficult for ourselves. What’s needed are big bold steps by the industry. The groundwork is there – innovation, quality, offsite, these are not new initiatives – but what we need is to be brave and accept that change is needed and take that leap of faith. If not, it could be too little too late.
Contributor: Martin Townsend is the Director of Sustainability for BRE Global Ltd
Director of Sustainability
BRE Global Ltd
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will present his first Autumn Statement to Parliament next month. This is a golden opportunity for the government to set the tone for its relationship with British business, by pulling out all the stops to support investment, infrastructure improvements, and business confidence. But what are we likely to hear?
Based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility for the economy and public finances, the Autumn statement will be an important glimpse to understand the direction that the Government is taking particularly for the construction industry. Announced on the 23rd November, it will be Mr Hammond’s first statement as the newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. So the question is what can we expect from him?
Well he has already stated that a shift in economic policy is needed to see the UK through ‘a period of turbulence and uncertainty’. He has also come out in support of the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid who at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham earlier this month, announcing a package of new measures to build more houses, more quickly, in places people want to live. These measures include the launch of a £3bn Home Building Fund to help to build more than 25,000 new homes this Parliament and up to 225,000 in the longer term; direct action to fix the housing market, using public land and £2bn of investment to encourage the building of up to 15,000 homes; and ringing forward urban regeneration and levelling the playing field between brownfield and greenfield development to regenerate inner cities.
Early indicators seem to point to a commitment to the construction industry but it is important that we see fresh thinking and new ideas and not a statement that is a rehash of previous statements from George Osbourne. What we need is something that gives the industry confidence and ensure that we see a debate driven by quality and quantity, which we may not get if you listen to the underlying currents of Mr Javid’s announcement which seem to infer the government is looking to build cheaper houses in greater density to reach its target of building a million new homes by 2020.
We also need to think long term, not short. Sustainability, with energy efficiency being a prime motivator, needs to be front and centre. When talking to a well- respected architect and developer in the housing sector, their response was a simple and clear one - all new homes need to generate at least 70% of their energy demand from onsite or near site solution. The question is how are we going to achieve this without any mandate?
Although there has been a heavy emphasis in the past on large scale infrastructure projects, there will need to be investment and faster sign- off of projects which give rapid delivery, to take us through the more immediate period of uncertainty and to build more confidence in internal markets. The Home Builders Fund will provide £1bn of short term loan funding that will be used for small builders and custom builders to deliver 25,500 homes by 2020 but it will also include £2bn of long-term funding for infrastructure. So fingers crossed, major infrastructure investment will continue.
However I believe that key to driving this success will be the new industrial strategy. Business Secretary Greg Clark stated that a successful industrial framework ‘has to be local’ and warned that ‘for too long government policy has treated everywhere like it is identical’. This is something that was reinforced at the recent Telegraph Britain’s Smart Cities conference where the strong message was that change, innovation and reform was being driven at local level, often under the radar.
BRE has argued that for a new industrial framework to be successful we need to ensure that any strategy drives UK innovation. A process of driving innovation and market transformation has been at the heart of BREEAM, BRE’s internationally recognised measure of sustainability for buildings and communities, for many years. Innovation is one of the UK’s strongest assets and in a time of mass uncertainty, we need to remind everyone of just what we are good at and what we can achieve.
Next month’s statement is a chance for the Government to restore some stability and set out a long term, robust plan. The question is what is the plan and we will see what I believe are the fundamental attributes of quantity, quality and innovation.
Time will tell.
Contributor: Martin Townsend is the Director of Sustainability for BRE Global Ltd
Lead Technologist - Built Environment
I would like to think that this image (left) has captured this young persons elation as he realises his idea has been recognised as the "best" and that this presents a springboard to a career as scientist or engineer.
Does the construction sector have the potential to engender such a response in the younger generation?
He was a winner at the TeenTech Awards this summer, and it was my pleasure to hear an inspiring presentation from TeenTech Events CEO, Ms Maggie Philbin (yes the owner of ludicrously big hair do's in the 80's and who brought us great insight in to tomorrows technology). Since 2008 Maggie has been running this NFPO TeenTech, which helps young teenagers see the wide range of career possibilities in Science, Engineering and Technology.
Maggie's presentation was given as the key note speech for the CIC's Construction Industry Summit 2016. Maggie captivated the audience with her insights on how to engage with and recruit tomorrows talent. Communication is clearly a big challenge - not only in terms of the content but also in the method.
Tomorrows talent pool will be quite adept at digital communication - my return from the summit sat me adjacent to three teenagers, who spent much of the train journey texting each other instead of speaking. But Maggie advised that simply having a glossy website and hoping they will find you was not likely to succeed. First you need to capture their interest in what is the possible, what does it offer them - and most of this direction comes form their parents. Then they will research and find out more - most likely on line. As an industry we need to do better in showcasing what we offer - digging holes and wearing hi-viz are a definite turn off. Being creative, making a difference, working in dynamic project teams, being respected and well rewarded - these are appealing and as an industry we need to convey this.
Maggie's advice was:
- Make tech roles visible and better understood
- When recruiting seek the key qualities needed for the future [see below]
- Align your CSR activities with your company business
- Set up on-going relationships with local schools, colleges and universities to provide work experience and work placements
- Offer quality apprenticeships – collaborating where necessary to offer a wide range
- Become a school governor
- Sponsor as well as mentor
- Volunteer with organisations like TeenTech, Code Club, WISE
Maggie advised that progressive companies are seeking more than just academic qualifications from their next generation of talent, they see the following as key qualities:
- Bold thinking
- Life- long learning
Finally, I am a volunteer mentor and judge with TeenTech. In my day job I undertake assessments of applications for investment for a wide range of organisations. I can honestly say that being a judge for TeenTech is every bit if not more rewarding - freed from naysayer constraints, the teams creativity, innovation and drive is inspiring. I was privileged to review a wide range of ideas to solve our grandest of challenges. Whilst some may well have been flights of fancy or defied the laws of physics, others were near market ready and one I would have happily returned a cheque with my assessment for an equity share! Who couldn't do with some of that sort of talent in their organisation?
Mark Wray, Innovate UK, National Platform for the Built Environment, Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board)
CIC Yorkshire & Humber Chair
Architect, Pearce Bottomley Architects
It was in horror that we watched last year’s events unfold in Paris. Places of apparent safety - a restaurant, a music venue - became unsafe; a city violated. We may think that the impact of a troublesome political climate is a relatively new thing, that it is really only now that we feel unsafe, insecure, paranoid even, whilst going about our daily business. Yet is this really the case? Medieval Britons would think twice before venturing far without being armed to the teeth. Georgian homeowners would literally nail themselves within their property. It is the threats - and perceived threats - that have changed.
And we are not just referring to the impact of contemporary terrorism on our built environment - it is also about safety. Creating places that feel safe at all times of the day is crucial to the success of a neighbourhood, resulting in reduced crime and increased business. It can attract investment, people and culture. Indeed a little anarchy can be a good thing for an area, cultivating alternative thinking, artistic endeavours and literary inspiration. A counter-culture can be good for business - just look at New York’s Meat Packing district or Brixton. Unfortunately safe places = terrorist targets. Boston, for example, is consistently voted as being one of the safest cities in the US, although this illusion was shattered during the Boston Marathon, giving rise to the question as to whether a balance can be struck between ‘safety’ and ‘security’. It would seem this shift in the balance is only temporary. Cities are amazingly resilient - largely due to its people who rebelliously will not hide, but also the buildings, infrastructure and public spaces that continue to endure.
Many of our cities developed because of their defensive position. Whether a small city like York or a metropolis like London, the very existence of these conurbations is due to their foundations as fortifications. The quaintness of Yorkshire market towns like Richmond or Knaresborough belive the once strategic importance of their associated castles, but these fortifications influenced how our cities developed and in turn shaped our society, becoming places of safety in turbulent times. How things have changed. From the blitz, the threat of nuclear war and alternative tactics from terrorist organisations have made these urban areas look less like refuges and more like targets. How has modern day urban planning responded to these new challenges and is there a way that we can learn from past defensive design to bring sanctuary back to the city?
There is a great deal of research on how the creation of spaces that give residents and users a feeling of sanctuary, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. However it would seem that this theory is taken to the extreme; that rather than creating urban design that engages people, some local authorities and developers are keen to ‘design out’ certain activities, and ipso facto, certain people. Whether it is the anti-loitering "Mosquito" device, anti-skateboarding studs or benches that prevent any other use other than the act of sitting, urban spaces are becoming less about inclusive design and more about defending our cities from the homeless, ‘anti-social’ youths and feral pigeons. What are the consequences of such design? How can we design urban spaces that are all embracing to the wider society in which we live, yet remain safe and welcoming?
Is the Internet of Things possibly the future of the industry, and the development of the concept of intelligent buildings is leading to significant shifts in the way buildings are designed, operated and used. From the designers, constructors and users, everyone stands to benefit from the optimisation of space, energy efficiency and connectivity, whether a workplace or home, changing demographics come with increasing user expectations of modern and flexible space design, improved comfort, productivity, and pervasive connectivity. Sounds great, but the downside is that the greater the reliance on digital technology, the greater the chance of the building - or elements of - being hacked. Can terrorists turn out the lights out of a city, can a burglar hack into your security alarm, can your kettle turn against you? Is this the future or will there be a revolution against the digital age?
Maybe the armed forces can help solve some of the challenges. The armed forces have incredible skills in design and engineering; skills used to overcome some extraordinary circumstances in places of extreme danger. These skills, developed in response to defending security, can be used to overcome peacetime problems. Whether in the aftermath of earthquakes or, as the Boxing Day floods demonstrated, the army’s skills in design were indispensable in keeping communities together and society functioning. However, can these skills be used for more than emergency situations, when all other options have failed? Are there innovative solutions that the industry can use as a matter of course?
I realise that I have introduced more questions than answers, but that, I think, is because there is no single answer in creating safe and welcoming spaces. Indeed it is questioning what has been done and how we can work together in the future that is the basis of the Construction Industry Council’s sixth annual Yorkshire & Humber conference.
The aim of this day is to explore the ways in which our built environment has developed and continues to develop strategies that respond to safety and security risks, and questions how we, as construction professionals, can work together to create safe yet welcoming spaces. What this conference is not about is bomb blast bollards, barriers and anti-parking paving, but rather an interrogation of new threats, what we can learn from past threats and what we can do to defend the future.
For further information on the conference please click here.
Contributor: Stefanie chairs CIC's Yorkshire and Humber regional committee and is an Architect at Pearce Bottomley Architects in Leeds.
I studied Engineering at Cambridge University for four years, and the top mark in our first year was won by a girl. I stopped paying attention to the league table after that (because I discovered comedy – which involved a lot more self-gratification, and a lot less trigonometry), but I think she may even have claimed the title two or three more times.
Throughout my school years, my academic rivals in Maths and Science were almost always girls. And with a doctor mother and a (now) lawyer sister, I was never by any means the top professional at home either. So the idea that girls/women/counter-men (whatever you want to call them) were in some way inherently less interested or capable in Maths and Science came to me as something of a surprise when I was made aware of it in my teens.
It was a surprise because it’s simply not true. Scientific aptitude knows no sex, although many of us are still brought up subscribing to traditional gender roles. It starts early, with boys’ toys including building blocks and construction vehicles, and girls’ toys consisting almost entirely of baby dolls, mini ovens and other forms of Mother-PracticeTM. Boys are taught to be effective and practical above all else, while girls, to be compassionate and humble.
Now, construction and comedy are rarely mentioned in the same breath, but in the case of gender equality there are distinct parallels. Both have historically suffered a startlingly similar image problem – i.e. “NO GIRLS, CHEERS”. Men build the bridges that the women may walk over them, and men tell the jokes that the ladies may giggle, their hysterical humours revitalized, ready for another busy day of blushing. This perception is thankfully changing in comedy. An industry that was once the preserve of men is now beginning to be dominated at the top tier by women; the current charge led by the likes of Katherine Ryan, Bridget Christie, and Sara Pascoe. Women are also coming to match – and in some cases surpass – men in the areas of comedy production, commissioning, and talent management.
As Maths and Science continue to be popularized in mainstream culture, and as interest in them is gradually stripped of its nerdy, male monopoly, a gender shift similar to comedy’s is bound to happen in engineering as well. Not just in construction, but in all the engineering disciplines: mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering, and whoever it is that makes singing birthday cards.
The battle is not yet won, though. As long as the country’s main touchstone for female mathematicians is Countdown, there will still be work to be done. But if more young women can be encouraged to let go of the baseless assumptions of what a woman’s career is, and take up the set square instead, they might just solve an industry-wide gender imbalance and a national skills shortage in one fell swoop. Classic multitasking.
Who knows? We may even see a day when female builders shout crass sexual innuendos at men in the street. It’s unlikely. But a Wang can dream, can’t he?
Contributor: Phil Wang is a British Chinese stand-up comedian who is also a member of the British sketch comedy group Daphne.
Phil will taking part in a panel debate at the Construction Industry Summit as part of the Construction Youth Trust breakout event #notjustforboys