CIC Blog

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Let’s talk toilets

Kevin Wellman


Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE)

Did you know it’s World Toilet Day on 19th November? Traditionally we’d use the day to highlight the plight of a lack of sanitation in third world countries – its impact on economic and social growth, public health and the threat of disease (which should have been long eradicated).

However, there is an increasing epidemic on our own shores when it comes to public toilet provision. The steady de-funding and closure of public lavatories should be a nationwide scandal, yet we seem to have buried our heads in the sand.

I understand it in some ways - toilets and toileting habits are amongst the top taboo subjects for us Brits - so we expect to be met with a wall of embarrassed silence if the topics of incontinence, the need to urinate or (heaven forbid) take a bowel movement crop up. But talk about it we must.

Did you know that in the UK:

  • The average person urinates between six and eight times a day. But if you're drinking plenty, it's not abnormal to go as many as 10 times a day. 
  • NHS numbers show that between three and six million people have some degree of urinary incontinence.
  • According to figures from Incontinence UK, women are five times more likely to suffer urinary incontinence than men – mostly due to stress factors such as childbirth and menopause.
  • Additionally, studies suggest that constipation and bowel incontinence affects between 3% and 15% of the population.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men over 65 experience incontinence issues (Age UK).
  • Over a 1/4 million people need a ‘Changing Places toilet’ to enable them to get out and about and enjoy the day-to-day activities most of us take for granted - there are around 1154 Changing Places toilets in the UK. (Changing Places)
  • There is no legal requirement for councils to provide public toilets or for businesses to provide toilets to non-paying customers.
  • The number of public toilet facilities fell by 40% from 2004-2014 and has continued to decline. (British Toilet Association)
  • At least 673 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by major councils (unitary, borough, district and city) since 2010. (BBC Reality Check)

Cuts to public toilets affect a significant proportion of the population, including women, the elderly, the disabled, those with medical conditions and those with babies and young children.

I don’t believe local councils want to close these facilities. However, they currently have no legal requirement to provide public toilets so, when budgets are cut and tough choices made, these facilities are naturally in danger.

Often, the cost of running public conveniences will be passed onto smaller parish/town councils or community groups, but if no alternative funding can be sourced, these facilities will ultimately close. It is then down to good-natured local businesses to open their doors.

It is a shortsighted cost saving. Toilets are vital to local communities and economies. They allow people who may otherwise be unable to visit, to access and spend money at our high streets and tourist attractions. The impact of the ‘grey pound’ (worth some £215 billion to the UK economy) should not be underestimated. Put simply, a lack of public toilets alienates not just the elderly, but vast swathes of society who will choose to stay indoors.

Public toilets also serve the important role of protecting public health. If local business cannot provide alternative toileting facilities the cleanliness of our streets and public places will be compromised. It’s not just toilets - hand washing stops the spread of germs and bacteria, as does the correct disposal of nappies and sanitary items - we need public access to a full range of sanitary facilities to keep our communities safe.

Being caught short has very real implications on both physical and mental health. For those who know they need frequent toilets stops, the anxiety of not being able to find adequate facilities can be crippling and deeply isolating. The feelings of shame and guilt (should the worse happen) often reach unbearable levels.

This strikes all generations, including the parents needing somewhere clean and well equipped to change their newborn baby, through to those with disabilities or health issues requiring accessible toilets to keep their dignity and independence intact.

It is often the most vulnerable in society who are affected by closures and with the population expanding, the demand for public toilets will only increase. Public toilets provide dignity, independence and safety. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity.

With World Toilet Day taking place on 19th November, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering has been calling on Government and councils to recognise the importance of public toilets and improve funding to keep these vital facilities open. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Budget that business rates will be cut for public toilets. This is a step in the right direction if it encourages more businesses to open up their facilities to the public. However, to push the onus onto businesses will not stop the closure of council run facilities.

It’s infinitely important that those of us in construction - town planners, architects, consultants etc - know the value and impact public toilets have on society and champion their worth. We have to start facing up to some uncomfortable issues and start talking toilets. If we don’t, it will have a devastating impact for many years to come.

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Contributor: Kevin Wellman is the Chief Executive Officer for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering

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Cladding, Purchasers, and Inclusion

Ron Koorm FRICS

Retired access consultant and building surveyor

What consideration is made for disabled persons when being considered for the flats in high-rise residential housing? Clearly, if you are a leasehold purchaser, you have more responsibility to ensure the flat is suited to your needs. If you are a social tenant, then it is up to the Local Authority, Housing Association or similar body, as to whether that flat might be suitable, in conjunction with discussion of the applicant. But what assessment is made to ensure say, a blind person, or a disabled person with a cognitive disability, or a wheelchair-user, can get out of the block in an emergency, in sufficient time. That assumes that there have been fire tests for evacuation with similar levels of disability, monitored by the management and feedback provided.

Ah, you say, but we have a raft of technical standards and codes of practice, from Part ‘B’ Building Regulations, and the approved documents, to BS 9999 and many others. But this is all really based on limited research. Most people vary in height, weight, size, mobility, disability, understanding of signage and of language etc., which might affect egress times in emergency situations. There are of course, GEEPS (General Emergency Evacuation Plans), and PEEPS, (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans), which managers need to know about, to assess the needs of disabled people, and have been around for years, based on specialist codes of practice and in Fire Risk Assessments. But these are not that widely applied, in my opinion.

An architect and expert in inclusive design, who I respect greatly, has stated that he would be saddened if mobility-impaired people and wheelchair-users were restricted from occupying flats and maisonettes in high rise residential blocks because he is looking for a truly inclusive society. The great views that sometimes come with high rise flats can be beneficial and improve well-being, if the block is well-managed.

If cladding installation on a high-rise block, or even a medium rise block, is so flawed, that non-disabled people perish in a fire to any degree then there is probably a high likelihood that disabled persons above a particular floor level, relevant to the source of the fire, will also probably perish, due to their physical condition and health.

So while we all wait for the outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry, can we in the meantime be sure that disabled people, at least, have been carefully considered as residential occupants and as visitors to high-rise and medium-rise blocks, as regards adequate time and process, to evacuate in an emergency? If there is a ‘stay-put’ policy, who made the assessment that is a robust policy and has it been reviewed periodically? How would you communicate with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person in a fire where the “Stay Put” policy is in place?

Some people become disabled over time, and their condition may well change, and deteriorate. This can have an effect, on the evacuation process in an emergency. A friend of mine has macular degeneration, which affects one eye, and is becoming worse. He is worrying about the condition affecting his other eye, which will then completely affect his lifestyle. If he visits someone in a high-rise residential block, who then assesses his needs as a visitor for evacuation in an emergency?

We need to change that approach. PEEPS and GEEPS are there for a purpose. Use them effectively, or be prepared to be in front of a coroner, answering serious questions about systemic failure. They are not the only answer, however.

This is a complex area. Even if the findings and recommendations of the Grenfell Fire Inquiry are comprehensive who will be able to guarantee those recommendations will be applied in good time across the UK, to high-rise residential buildings, and protecting the safety of more vulnerable occupants and visitors?

Contributor: Ron Koorm is a retired access consultant and building surveyor

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It’s all about networking

Jonny Frank

Quantity Surveyor



For many, networking is a daunting prospect, especially for younger professionals like me, finding their feet in the construction industry. However, networking is an unavoidable key skill if you want to build new relationships, strengthen industry knowledge, and raise yours and your employer’s profile amongst like-minded peers. So, what’s the least painful way to do it?

Prior to a networking opportunity

Be Selective
Sure, a social event in a relaxed atmosphere along with a drink in hand is a great way to spend your time networking, but is it worthwhile? I have a duty to make my networking accountable, not just for my employer, but for me.  Do I need to attend the event? How am I going to benefit?

Be Prepared

Registering for an event and attending is a minimum requirement, all too often seen as the only requirement.  I have found that preparation greatly enhances my networking. What could I do to maximise the potential networking opportunities at the event? The key concept is to develop a strategy.

Strategically, both participating and networking at events needs to be consistent with my personal business objectives. By researching those attending, identifying key figures to network with and getting up-to-date on key discussions that are likely to be raised at the event, I am improving the efficiency of my networking. Targeting key stakeholders attending events means I can prepare to talk to them or use my personal network to introduce a connection to them, so that all mutually benefit.

Using this strategy can help to plan further networking, determining who can open doors in my network or help introduce new connections.

Also, developing an elevator pitch that is relevant to the event and linked to my business profile, is a simple process but another fantastic way of introducing myself to someone new and promoting key points.  Having a rehearsed introduction along with an understanding of the likely subject matter being raised at the event, is a nice safety blanket to fall back on should your confidence be lacking for initial group interaction.

At the networking opportunity
Arriving early to an event is a great strategy, should you find it difficult to begin a conversation with someone new.  Since most people find walking into a room full of strangers uncomfortable, being there on their arrival will often lead to them turning to you for support throughout the event.

Introducing myself and developing my network is perhaps the most difficult part. Over the years I have made a conscientious effort to develop my face-to-face networking and find it reassuring that people are there for the same reason - to network – and have the same pains when doing it.

Given the reactive and uncontrolled environment at an event, I make the most of my preparation to enhance my networking opportunities and connect with key individuals. The following key pointers help me during the event:

  • Introducing myself to groups of three (so that if people pair off in conversation I will not be stood alone) or connecting with someone if I see that they are on their own,
  • Engaging with others using ‘open’ questions rather than ‘closed’ ones. Not only do open questions
  • help to build a rapport with someone, they are likely to lead to further discussion - someone else is doing the talking rather than you!
  • Being “present” when I am with someone (in mind not just body) i.e. not looking at my phone,
  • Talking with enthusiasm in my discussion (as it is infectious),
  • Identifying opportunities to collaborate,
  • Proactively approaching new connections rather than staying in my comfort zone in discussion with familiar contacts.

Recognising when to close conversation to make the most of my time at the event is just as important as the introductions and a great skill to have. Perhaps the conversation is no longer relatable, the connection you were wishing to network with has gone elsewhere, or you feel as though the connections have been established. Exchanging contact details and leaving on a positive note is vital, especially after the event.

After the networking opportunity

Afterwards, following up the initial contact is essential. Building a network requires patience.  In the short term I must meet and greet new people to build my network; next, I need to develop the relationship and build my reputation. How?

Initially, I must be willing to offer more than I receive in order to develop relationships, such as giving people my time, bringing people together, offering feedback (and taking it when it is offered) but not to expect anything in return. This in turn builds both trust and a good rapport through collaboration, which is likely to lead to the receiver returning the favour in the future.

Following-up creates more permanent connections and leaves a lasting impression beyond a brief chat at a networking event. It is the key to cementing the connection. Perhaps send an email, link on social media (e.g. LinkedIn) or give them a call; suggest another event to go to together or offer to help with something, such as engaging with one of your connections. This helps develop trust; once the connection trusts you, they will likely offer to build your network further too.

In Conclusion
Networking is an investment.  Preparation beforehand, in conversation during and following up afterwards. Building your network takes time, effort and patience. Following simple guidelines should help, but the key is a willingness to attend and engage, as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect!

Contributor: Jonny Frank BSc(Hons) is a Quantity Surveyor for Faithful+Gould and Co-chair of the G4C TeesValley region, based out of the Stockton office.   

| Filed in Blog, Collaboration
CIC in the North East - Regional answers to problematic industry questions

John Nielsen

Director CK21 Ltd

Regional Chair CIC NE and CIC Nations and Regions Champion

The CIC NE committee is in the process of agreeing a construction strategy for the NE with the regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). As chair I have led this for quite a while and whilst it is coming to fruition it has been quite a slog.

The subject has been the main agenda item of meetings throughout the last year and it has taken a while for us to reach a point of consensus – there are real and deep problems for the construction industry! No surprise there then with all that has occurred!! What has been interesting is what we want to achieve with a regional strategy to deal with these issues and where the best input has come from.

I think we all accept that we have some fundamental issues that have just not been dealt with;

  • Procurement
  • Skills
  • Perception of the construction industry
  • Diversity
  • Modernisation.

If Mark Farmer’s excellent report ‘Modernise or die’ is not a wakeup call along with Grenfell and Carillion then I don’t know what is. However developing a coherent response is proving challenging. Luckily on the NE committee I have representatives from all aspects of the industry including the CITB, the universities, contractors and suppliers.

What was apparent from the start of this process was the confirmation of the disparate nature of the industry. The LEPs and other client organisations simply reiterate the comment ‘who do we speak to when liaising with the construction industry?’ Hence the first action we have set ourselves in the strategy is to create that single point of contact. This will be the regional chair of the CIC NE committee initially with a proviso that we agree a full governance and scope structure in the first couple of years. This person will not be an all-powerful leader but a single point conduit for flow of information/discussion/liaison between the regional industry and the LEPs.

As chair of CIC NE I recently signed the Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN) Charter - . This is simply local contractors asking for a reasonable opportunity to bid for work with unrealistic prerequisites allowing only major national contractors/organisations removed. This also highlighted what has been a major issue in our discussions – procurement. The consensus here was not the classic ‘cheapest is not always the best’ but a requirement of clients (or anyone procuring) to understand what value is and also include for intelligent procurement. We were really heartened to see the recent ‘Procuring for Value’ report from the CLC in that at last we will look at value properly. Regionally we want to liaise with the LEPs in leading the way forward on what we see as value and looking at alternative procurement routes. Dare I say that the upcoming Brexit and its potential removal of OJEU rules may allow this more easily?

Skills including attracting and retaining people to the industry has always been a problem for us. A lot of this stems from the perception of construction to the wider world;

  • Messy and dangerous site work
  • Not diverse – men only
  • Limited future progression for the individual
  • Confrontational

Whilst there is some truth in the above it is up to ourselves to deal with this. We undertake regional schools careers advisor events where a member of various organisations (RIBA/LI, ICE/IStructE, CIBSE, RICS, RTPI and BIFM are given 12 to 15 minutes to explain what their members do in the industry and how they all interlink. We also have the National Association of Women in Construction present at these events and finish with a regional contractor who has 20 minutes to run through their work and how it all fits together. There is one major point that comes out of this, which is how diverse and interesting our industry can be. We need to get this across urgently to school students but also those that influence – parents. We need to show how developing a trade is as important as sitting in an office designing, all aspects of the industry are open to ALL. The raising of the Industry’s public perception is up to us, and us alone. We need to do this as a single body showing the benefits of the whole industry.

Modern Methods of Construction are an opportunity to develop a trade in an exciting field of construction, as this is a developing market with lots of opportunity for innovation. To a certain extent this can also be used to attract trades and skilled labour to the industry, by helping to dispel the view that construction is messy work out in the elements, MMC typically happens in controlled factory environments.

So by hook and by crook we are actually starting to provide some regional answers to the industries problematic questions!

The CIC regional committees are a great place to start and develop this holistic approach and I would ask that anyone reading this find out what their institution, organisation, or membership group are doing with them. Get involved and don’t simply expect that things will happen be one of those that makes it so.

Contributor: John Nielsen BSc(Hons) CEng MICE FAPS CEnv is the Director of CK21 Ltd, the Regional Chair of CIC North East and CIC's Nations and Regions Champion.

To find out more about the CIC Nations and Regions Committees or to get involved please contact Liz Drummond

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Flood prevention, solutions and innovation

Pearl Pearce-Smith

Marketing Manager

Prysm Group

With the threat of flooding becoming a real issue in the UK and Europe over the past few years, the need for flood prevention, solutions and innovation is increasing everyday. Part of this solution is the need for real structural change and that’s why the Construction Industry Council has partnered with The Flood Expo to try and help tackle this ever-increasing problem.

On the 12th & 13th September 2018, over 4,000 flood professionals will pack out Birmingham’s NEC in September to attend the world’s largest flood resilience, mitigation and rescue exhibition and conference!

The Flood Expo will showcase the innovative products and infrastructure helping to deal with an ever-increasing global threat - transforming Birmingham into the hub of the industry over two unmissable days.

The two day event will host, an unparalleled lineup of  Key-Note speakers from across the industry, 100 CPD-accredited seminars hosted by industry experts, and 150 innovative exhibitors and suppliers.

Alongside this, the show will host unparalleled opportunities to network, one-to-one advice from industry leading experts, and access to four other leading exhibitions taking place on the same day, including the Marine and Coastal Civil Engineer Expo - which is the exhibition for flood professionals and property owners from across the UK and beyond.

Register for your free ticket for this year’s event now to avoid disappointment by clicking here.

Contributor: Pearl Pearce-Smith is the Marketing Manager at Prysm Group who organise the annual Flood Expo. For exhibiting enquiries, please contact James Berryman on 01872 218 007 or email

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Criminally Overlooked: Ex-Offenders in Construction

Andy Gullick

Chief Executive

RIFT Social Enterprise

The spotlight is now firmly on the challenges facing UK construction. Despite the uneven political and economic landscape, the industry will keep growing through 2022. According to the latest Construction Skills Network report, construction output is expected to grow by 1.3% over the next five years, creating 158,000 new jobs to handle infrastructure and housing demands. Recruiting and training these workers means seizing on new sources of labour.

In some specialist occupations, like wood trades and interior fit out, the need for new workers remains acute. Additionally, the ongoing challenge of an ageing workforce will become more pressing if Brexit stems the flow of overseas workers. As an industry surviving on innovation, construction needs to set out a compelling vision to the more diverse and skilled intake it urgently needs.

Many construction companies are actively looking to recruit ex-offenders to plug the labour shortage, while skills and employment support programmes aim to link prison leavers with the sector. In 2017, the CITB commissioned three projects (Scottish Building Federation, Lendlease & BAM Nuttall) to help construction employers recruit and retain ex-offenders. Figures for 2013/14 from the Skills Funding Agency showed over 30,000 Offender Learning Enrolments (aims) on construction courses in the English prison education system and almost 22,000 Offender Learning Achievements (aims) in the same year. The sector has recognised that prisoners and ex-offenders can solve the skills shortage, but there are still barriers to overcome.

Recent research by Working Links shows:

  • 55% of employers would reject an ex-offender applicant outright, or pick an equally qualified candidate with no conviction instead.
  • Only 20% of employers have knowingly recruited ex-offenders.
  • Employers wrongly distrust ex-offenders. In reality, over 60% of employers found that they worked as hard as, or harder than, those with no convictions.

Recent government figures show 46% of prisoners are interested in working for themselves after release. Given that 12% were self-employed or working under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) before prison, and that most prisons offer vocational training in construction, there's a significant untapped labour market here.

RIFT Social Enterprise wants to help bridge this gap and can identify prisoners due for release within nine months who are qualified for and interested in CIS work. We'll discuss the implications of self-employment with them, giving them the knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that they will need.

RIFT can arrange for construction organisations to meet candidates suitable for CIS work, to discuss roles and expectations. Candidates offered potential roles on release will be assigned a personal RIFT tax specialist to fund the establishment of their self-employed status, take care of the legalities and provide up to six months' post-release support. We'll make sure they don’t fall foul of HMRC regulations and therefore represent sustainable, long-term labour for construction firms.

At RIFT we have a close working relationship with HMRC, a dedicated helpline and access to specialist HMRC advisers to handle issues promptly and efficiently. RIFT Social Enterprise is, to our knowledge, the only organisation offering prisoners a dedicated one-to-one tax advice service and bespoke advice and training on self-employment.

As a former Prison Governor in three prisons and a Director of a company awarded a £30m government contract to enhance offender employment prospects I understand the prison system and its limitations. I am committed to giving prisoners the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation and sustainable employment.

Contributor: Andy Gullick is the Chief Executive of RIFT Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation, established in 2018 by RIFT Group Chairperson Jan Post to bring world-class tax expertise within vulnerable people's reach. For further information please contact Andy on 07538 234272 or at or visit




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Compromising a construction and engineering dispute through mediation


Niall Lawless 

Chartered Arbitrator and Engineer, Adjudicator, Mediator






CIC Construction Industry Mediation Panel
The CIC is considering the creation of a CIC Construction Industry Mediation Panel, and which would accept Mediation Panel applications from accredited experienced Mediators who are Fellows of CIC member organisations. Expressions of interest to Chi Wong ( are welcome.

Mediation works best when there is balance and harmony between people and the participants’ trust in the process.

Mediation process is confidential, private and structured. It has five stages: Introduction, Information Exchange, Option Generation, Negotiation, and Conclusion. Information Exchange and Option Generation are by far the most important. Mediation is not adversarial and works best where the parties are willing to cooperate together to solve a shared problem, and because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed in writing, it allows the parties to take risks when they come to deal with individual items.

Mediation people includes the parties, their lawyers or representatives, and the mediator(s). 

Commercial mediation begins with the parties agreeing to mediate, and usually ends with the parties compromising their dispute. The parties are the stars; most often they are common sense business people motivated by revenue and contribution, and the desire to continue their future cooperation.

The parties’ lawyers can make or break the mediation. Good mediation lawyers can move seamlessly to advisor from advocate. In their role as advocate they will succinctly summarise legal arguments, but not in an adversarial or combative way, gifting litigation risk to the mediator. They allow the business principal to take the lead, preparing their clients offering advice, guidance and information on negotiation and mediation. Good mediation lawyers cope well with being challenged privately by the mediator, they are experienced and wise, and they are committed to find the best possible solutions for their client.

During the mediation a neutral third party, the mediator, assists disputing parties’ compromise their dispute using communication and negotiation skills. Essential parts of the role of mediator are to be the guardian of the mediation process, to facilitate the exchange of information, to help the parties reality check their position, and to leave no value on the table. The mediator should be adept using the phone, as it will be essential in early engagement relationship building, and promptly discussing and agreeing the manner in which the mediation shall be conducted. The mediator should be comfortable dealing with feelings, where there is a fractured relationship, the mediation may have considerable emotional content. As mediator I always commit to follow the European Code of Conduct for Mediators which sets out a number of principles to which individual mediators may voluntarily decide to commit themselves. In particular to commit to conduct the proceedings in an appropriate manner, taking into account the circumstances of the case. This might mean adopting an evaluative or facilitative mediation model, and other apt intervention.

I believe that where construction and engineering disputes revolve around matters of fact, the evaluative mediation model often works best, and it is construction and engineering professionals with practical hands-on experience and knowledge who are best placed to fulfil the mediator role.

Recently I was appointed by the International Centre for ADR (“Centre”) of the International Chamber of Commerce (“ICC”)  as a mediator in a multi-million US $ engineering dispute, which resulted in a settlement. Culturally different, the parties asked the ICC Centre to appoint an engineer mediator, with cross border mediation experience, and with particular construction, commissioning, and operation expertise. The mediation agreement required that where the parties failed to conclude an agreement within the time allowed, the mediator would issue a non-binding proposed solution to the dispute. One of the important factors that helped the parties move from entrenched positions was a robust application of the evaluative mediation model. For more information click here.

Contributor: Niall is Chair of the CIC Adjudicator Nominating Body Management Board. He is a Chartered Arbitrator, Building Services Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Information Systems Engineer and Chartered Builder. He provides arbitration, adjudication and mediation services in commercial technology, engineering and construction disputes.


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Hidden Fear - raising awareness of how architects, planners and designers can help sufferers

Michael Kindred

Retired to France, 80, and still a games inventor and writer

Have you ever met anyone who has a phobia of getting trapped in a rabbit warren of corridors in a building, or cannot use a toilet that has a door that closes automatically, or that has to be locked?  I'm talking about claustrophobia and I have a rather high degree of it. When I'm away from the house for a longish period, I make plans for coping with the need for a toilet, and if I'm in an area with which I'm familiar, I know where my user-friendly loos are.

I wonder if you know of anyone who has an intense fear of coping with crossing bridges, or going up above ground floor in high rise buildings?  How about yourself?  I'm referring to acrophobia, and I'm really scared of heights and edges. I started my working life as an articled pupil in an architectural practice, and I had several heart-pounding moments during site visits!  Eventually I gave up trying to qualify as an architect and became an inventor of board and card games, and an author.  Much safer!

Acrophobia and claustrophobia are the  two main phobias which cause people difficulties in encountering the built environment.  The other condition which can cause difficulties is General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Most people are reticent about talking about their phobias, out of shame, embarrassment and/or guilt. The estimated number or people with some degree of acrophobia in the UK is15,000,000 and the estimated number or people with some degree of claustrophobia in the UK is 6,000,000.

This is why I produced the free publication ‘Hidden Fear’.  It's origins began many years ago when I wanted to write about many scary encounters with buildings and other structures, which I and a lot of other phobic people had experienced.  Eventually I was very pleased to have an article on the subject published in the Architects' Journal in 1997 but it’s only in the last two years that I have tackled this final stage.

A lot has been done for people with physical disability, and I hope much more will be done.  However, since I wrote the article which appeared in the Architects' Journal, not a great deal has happened to help make buildings and other structures more user-friendly for people with hidden fears.

Through Hidden Fears I have made a list of suggestions to try to raise awareness of the issues surrounding phobias and GAD.  They are deliberately offered as suggestions, because I realise that the Building Regulations and many other legal requirements have to be adhered to by planners.

My hope is that eventually this topic, albeit very small, will become a part of the training of students of architecture, planning and design to help make our places truly inclusive.

Contributor: Michael Kindred is retired and still a games inventor. He is helping to raise awareness of hidden fears in relation to the built environment.  You can download a copy of Hidden Fears by clicking here and for further information please contact Michael on



| Filed in Blog
Disability in the workplace

Catherine Cobb BEng (Hons) TMICE MIHE

Traffic Signals Graduate Engineer


My name is Cath and I’m an Engineer…a disabled engineer at that. I lost my left leg to cancer at the age of 7, and from the day they gave me my very first artificial leg I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But I encountered barriers when pursuing my goals.  my first barrier was school, I went to see my school careers advisor for him to turn around to say ‘ahhhh Cath, you have 2 options, the first option it secretarial work so you can sit down all day or you can go on benefits and let the state keep you’.  This just made me more determined to be an engineer. 

I applied for many jobs only to be told ‘oh I couldn’t possibly employ you, you haven’t got very nice legs’ or ‘can you carry the tea?!’.

Working in a machine shop in a male dominated industry was also challenging, I would be expected to do more than my male counter parts plus they would ask me to fetch and carry things that were far too heavy for me, but I did it none the less. Why they wanted to break me was a complete mystery to me! I only wanted to work with them as an equal.

Working at Amey turned my life around, I told them at my interview that I was disabled and they never blinked. They are the only company that I have worked for that have helped me in every aspect of my career with them. 

Companies could do more for the disabled employees if they literally just sit down with them and just talk, ask them what needs they might have. We don’t bite honest!

Companies benefit from employing disabled people as we see things in a way that others don’t, we can see where the hazards are and how to deal with them quickly and safely.  Disabled people show true commitment to their employers and continue to do so every day as they are grateful for the opportunities they have been given but to be fair you should overlook their disability and employ them on their merits, as Amey did with me.

I asked a colleague of mine what it was that I brought to the company, she replied…’you, just you, I don’t see you as disabled’.

Have discussion groups say once a month to highlight if there are any problems that need addressing. Perhaps the disabled person to keep a log of things they struggle with, I know I have a problem carrying my laptop to which I did talk to my manager about, it was sorted immediately. Companies could also consider support groups of a variety of disabilities, Limbless Association for example.

Having a confidant helps me in my work place, someone I know I can talk to honestly and openly if I have a problem. Companies would benefit in training staff in how to recognise when someone is struggling as most disabled people are stubborn and will bottle their feeling up inside so they don’t want to cause a fuss.

As an Amey Scope Ambassador as part of the ‘End the Awkwardness’ campaign my role is to educate people on how to approach a disabled person and how to talk to them…quick tip…talk to them just the same as anyone else! 

If I can inspire just one person to achieve their goals by my life experiences then it’s all been worth it. Some people think they lose a limb that their life is over… it’s not, it’s the start of a brand new one… I don’t consider myself as disabled, I’m just Cath with a piece missing! (not necessarily my leg!).

Contributor: Catherine Cobb is a Traffic Signals Graduate Engineer at Amey.  Catherine is also an Amey Scope and Inclusion and Diversity Ambassador.

| Filed in Blog
Adjudication - evaluating your risk

Niall Lawless 

Chartered Arbitrator and Engineer, Adjudicator, Mediator

Before commencing adjudication, you should audit your adjudication risk. Risk audit is a process, which helps you make sensible commercial decisions. It highlights risks, their nature and scope, and allows you to determine how to prevent or reduce the risks.

One way to evaluate adjudication risk is to use a decision tree. Widely used in engineering, a decision tree can help you decide the dispute resolution strategy most likely to secure the best financial outcome for you. Graphical representation of risk helps you to make a reasoned assessment of the adjudication outcome, and allows you to compare that outcome to the costs you will incur in adjudication, and to any settlement offer. If you have suffered a loss of cash flow because of non-payment and invested in preparing a detailed claim, there will always be a maximum recovery amount. The maximum is the total of the quantum of all the items claimed without deductions. It is natural for senior management to focus on the maximum amount possible; this is the wrong approach. Experience shows that “independent experts” often provide different credible quantum calculations, seemingly underpinned by objective standards. The maximum amount is only ever an aspirational figure, and to imbue realism I recommend the use of a decision tree to calculate an “expected cash equivalent” (ECE). Competent mediators will use the decision tree method, or a variation of it, to help destabilise the parties and move them from entrenched positions.

In an adjudication concerning the modernisation and installation of lifts, the Referring Party said that it was entitled to additional money because of 17 variations. The Responding Party said that it was entitled to deduct money because of defective and incomplete work. Figure 1 shows how a decision tree can be used to chart the lifts dispute. The Referring Party said one variation was for Lift Builders Work, another variation was for dealing with Inherited Faults, etc. The Responding Party said that it wanted credit for Unfinished Items.

To grow the decision tree, each variation becomes a branch of the diagram, and determines the likely ECE based on statistical probability. Each branch of the decision tree represents a monetary decision event. The tree structure links the outcome of occurrences, and shows how one decision leads to the next. The use of branches indicates that each variation or deduction is mutually exclusive to another.

The efficient and normal way for an adjudicator to consider variations or deductions is first to decide liability and then to decide quantum. If the adjudicator decides that there is no liability, there is no need for him to look at quantum. However, for you, once the branches are in place it is easier to populate decision tree information starting with quantum and then moving to liability. In the lifts dispute the Lift Builders Work variation has a possible high valuation of £40,000 and a possible low valuation of £10,000. You assess that there is a 75% (0.75) probability that the adjudicator will decide the high valuation is correct, and there is a 25% (0.25) probability that the adjudicator will decide the low valuation is correct. Factoring the high and low valuation with their associated probability leads to a Net Quantum Outcome of £32,500. Often the decision tree has three sub- branches representing a high, medium and low valuation. Whatever number, it is essential that the probability of the branch events occurring always add to 100% (1.0).












Figure 1 Decision Tree in relation to the Lifts Dispute

To make the decision tree robust it is important to support each probability with reasons. Intuition is not a reason. Not preparing a full list of reasons makes the decision tree branches brittle, and is a common decision tree malady. If you identify the reasons why the adjudicator will decide that the low valuation is correct, you are identifying the scope and nature of the risks that you face. Risk is a measure of the probability and severity of adverse effects. As you may be able to do things to reduce the risks, change the risk consequences, or share the risk with another party such as a sub- contractor, there might be a sequence of linked dispute decision trees. Decision trees can be drafted using paper and pencil, by using a PC based spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel, or proprietary low cost decision tree software. Using a spreadsheet or software makes it easy to update the decision tree quickly when there is new information that changes your assessment of branch risks or outcomes.

Linked to the Net Quantum Outcome is the likelihood of the adjudicator deciding that one party or the other has liability for the variation. You assess that there is an 80% (0.80) probability that the adjudicator will decide that the other party is liable for the Lift Builders Work variation, and a 20% (0.20) probability that you are liable. If the adjudicator decides that you are liable, you get nothing. Multiplying the probability 80% (0.8) that the other side is liable, by the Net Quantum Outcome, £32,500 gives the Lift Builders Work variation ECE of £26,000. Populating the Figure 1 decision tree with the Lift Builders Work and Inherited Faults variations, and the Unfinished Items deduction gives an ECE adjudication outcome of £37,000. This contrasts starkly with the maximum, amount possible £64,000.

Each party might spend £15,000 in claims consultants and lawyers’ fees to assist it. Except in very limited circumstances, in the UK a party’s costs in preparing for and participating in adjudication are not recoverable. However, the adjudicator could decide that you should pay all of his fees and expenses, or a percentage thereof. Based on the above, if the ECE adjudication outcome is £37,000, and your adjudication professional fees budget is £15,000, irrespective of whether you are risk- adverse or not, accepting an offer to settle for £22,500 makes sense. This would give you £500 more than the ECE, and you can invest your companies’ time pursuing other more profitable opportunities.

If you are adjudicating in a jurisdiction such as Malaysia, where the party’s costs in preparing for and participating in adjudication are recoverable, then not accepting an offer of £37,500 leads you to liability to pay the other parties’ costs, which if not taxed, could reduce your net recovery to £37,000- £15,000 = £22,000.

Contributor: Niall is Chair of the CIC Adjudicator Nominating Body Management Board. He is a Chartered Arbitrator, Building Services Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Information Systems Engineer and Chartered Builder. He provides arbitration, adjudication and mediation services in commercial technology, engineering and construction disputes.