CIC Blog: ra-d41d-cd98

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Can we find this sort of joy in construction?

Mark Wray

Lead Technologist - Built Environment

Innovate UK

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:

  • Creativity 
  • Bold thinking 
  • Collaboration 
  • Life- long learning 
  • Adaptability 
  • Tenacity

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)

Tags: Maggie Philbin, Teentech, Mark Wray, Innovate,
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We’re still fragmented  - it’s time to implement a more radical collaboration approach

Kathryn Lennon-Johnson

Founder

Built Environment Skills in Schools (BESS)

Construction is a robust sector, literally and metaphorically, and we have overcome many challenges before.  I can only imagine that this is why we've never reached a pain threshold that compels us, as a united sector, to tackle the skills gap. I'm no economist, but rumours of a post-Brexit mini recession (source: Construction News, 27/7/2016) do suggest it is so important that we take responsibility for the skills gap - each and every one of us - right now.

Complaining about the skills shortage is easy (and a definitive sign that we still haven't yet reached an adequate pain point), and the barriers to action are real and significant – shortage of time, resources, staff turnover, and capacity to name a few. On the face of it, that doesn't even make it sound like a very appealing sector to join. In fact from 2013 to 2014, favourability of the industry fell for both parents and young people (source: CITB).

Nevertheless, results from CITB's review of the Young Apprentice Programme indicate that only 10% of construction employers had engaged with schools for career-related activities. 10%! No wonder children don't consider construction to be worth their time (34.6% in 2014, down from 38.2% in 2013).

75% of construction employers found young people lacked understanding of the construction sector, and 82% of teachers didn't feel that they had the appropriate knowledge to advise pupils on their careers (source: IFF 2015). I don't think it would be too much of a leap to suggest that those statistics are related. We are perpetuating the cycle of poor awareness and low desirability, and possibly even increasing the damage by presenting a disjointed, patchy, sporadic, siloed sector.

Could this all be because construction has traditionally been a male-dominated sector? We all know that male traits lean towards competition rather than collaboration. Yet collaboration is still the buzzword at every event, roundtable, networking breakfast and press briefing. Perhaps we're just making the concept of 'collaborating' really hard on ourselves. Or we're waiting for someone else to collaborate for us?

Naturally, all this is important as the skills gap has an impact on our existing requirement to build (particularly housing), but it also has a massive impact on each and every one of us as individuals - the homes we live in, the buildings we work in, the infrastructure we rely on – and at a socio-economic level, with the prevalence of anti-social behaviour, disconnected communities, and low-level mental health conditions.

So, I suggest we collaborate on finding ways to collaborate.

Think about the resources and skills you have in your own organisation. It could be a good-sized meeting room. Or PPE in lots of different sizes. Or transport, or access to site equipment, or software licenses, or demonstration facilities, or strong social media channels, or enthused staff. Or something completely different.

Now pick up the phone or draft an email to someone else in your supply chain and ask them what kind of problems they face in trying to engage with education. Then talk to people involved in addressing the skills gap alongside education, as they'll be able to help you navigate around those problems. (It’s what we do, and we're a great source of advice!) And together you can come up with powerful ways to support each other, create more consistent engagement, and fill some of those outreach gaps.

Once you're taking collaborative action, you might want to introduce some metrics to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. It could even be that someone else in your supply chain is a wizard with metrics – what a great way to get them involved and increase the collaboration!

If you're not involved in addressing the skills gap as an individual, I urge you to take action. Talk to your colleagues, discuss ways forward and be part of the solution. If its something your company already does, that's great too, but what are you doing personally? At the risk of sounding like a cliché, if you're not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Nobody is going to do this for us and now more than ever the impact of the skills gap will be felt across construction.

And when you arrive at the Grange St Paul's Hotel for the Construction Industry Summit in September, and you're ready to work the room, perhaps consider using this practical collaboration approach as an ice-breaker.

Contributor: Kathryn Lennon Johnson is a behavioural change specialist and founder of 'Built Environment Skills in Schools', a nationwide platform established to connect all the dots of skills and careers engagement in construction using experiential tools like gamification, simulations, virtual and augmented reality, apps and social media. 

Kathryn will be speaking at the Construction Industry Summit as part of the Delivering the Future’ Session.

Tags: Collaboration, Skills, BESS,
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Don't Sign Standard Forms - Contracts are about trust not terms

Sarah Fox

Speaker, contract strategist, lawyer

500 Words Ltd

Ever since corporations decided to reduce the costs of procuring construction projects, there has been a trend towards standardisation of processes, contracts, laws and regulations. The first industry standard form (heads of conditions for a builder’s contract) appeared in 1870 and the first engineering contract (the model form for electrical works) followed in 1903.

Fast forward nearly 150 years and the construction industry is unrecognisable from its 19th century predecessor. We are ‘blessed’ with a cornucopia brimming with standard form contracts, designed (allegedly) to meet the needs of the UK construction industry.

But do the cross-industry boards, drafting committees of professional bodies, or sponsoring law firms publish contracts that actually meet the needs of 21st century businesses? Do we have contracts that are fit for today’s purposes? Do they reflect human-to-human selling, fast global procurement methods, electronic information sharing and storage, and collaborative project strategies based on trust? Or are we just stuck in the dark ages?

Familiarity Breeds Laziness

Although our standard forms are regularly updated, and new forms heralded with fanfares (before struggling to gain market share), we rarely see fundamental shifts in drafting philosophy, style and tone of voice, or usability. The only thing we can be sure of is that each new edition will be longer than the last!

With over 140 standard forms of construction contract, the market is dominated by contracts of staggering complexity, sprinkled with legal phrases and jargon, and a veritable plethora of options, annexes and supplementary sections. Together these create an almost impenetrable barrier to new users. Many organisations stick with their favourite contract - lazily clinging to the familiar, rather than adopting a coherent contract strategy that meets their business’ needs and values.

Contracts or Trust?

Refusing to budge from the contract with which you are most familiar is not the same as actively choosing a contract based on trust. Users tend to justify this ‘strategy’ by saying “well, the contract hasn’t gone wrong so far”, which is hardly a ringing endorsement. One reason for avoiding change is mistrust of other standard forms. If you’ve never used a contract, then with up to 100 pages and 50,000 words, the learning curve for knowing how to use it properly is too steep. Frankly, unless it’s a deal-breaker, why would you even contemplate it when the other contract provides no guarantees of being more effective?

20 years ago, a whopping 58% of the construction industry said standard forms encouraged conflict and 38% said they created mistrust (Latham Report 1995). My 2015 Survey showed that a pitiful 14% of contract users said current UK standard form contracts create trust.1

This does not bode well for the Government’s Construction Strategy 2025 with its aim of a strong, integrated supply chain thriving on productive long-term relationships while simultaneously lacking trust in each other!

It is self-evident that you should not enter into a contract with a company you don’t trust. So should you demonstrate your trust in your project team through adopting complex or simplified contracts?

There are essentially two opposing approaches to how to create contracts: one is characterised by low trust where the contract acts as a safety-net. This sort of relationship requires the standard form to comprehensively cover every possible angle, tie up every loophole and create a knot of clauses to ‘save the parties’ in the event of a dispute. The project team trusts the contracts to provide the answer.

The other approach is characterised by high trust where there is a simplified framework of terms, on which the parties hang project specifics2. The contract does not have all the answers, enabling and encouraging the project team to trust each other and to solve issues which arise, within a clear framework.

Supporting Long-Term Relationships

The best ways to create long-term relationships is to adopt a collaborative ethos (reflected in processes and contracts) and to avoid disputes which damage those relationships.

Despite years of toying with terms to refine and improve them, each Annual ARCADIS Global Disputes Survey demonstrates that the most common cause of construction disputes is a failure to administer the contract. The other causes listed – incomplete contract, failure to operate specific procedures, incomplete claims – also arise from the users being unable to use the contract effectively.

To use a contract (and its procedures) accurately and effectively, it is critical that you can read and understand the standard form. However, our current standard forms positively discourage you from reading them, dissuade you from understanding them, and make it impractical (if not impossible) to use them.

Surely developing processes and contracts that help avoid disputes should be on everyone’s urgent and important to-do list?

Perhaps the solution is to tear up the rule books and the lengthy standard form contracts, and start with a large dose of trust. We can then decide the strategies, processes and contracts we need for a 21st century industry.

Constributor: Sarah is a professional speaker, trainer and contract strategist. She helps construction professionals to write simpler contracts, so they can build trusting relationships and avoid disputes. www.500Words.co.uk

Sarah will also be speaking at the Construction Industry Summit as part of the 'Working with the Enemy – Sharing, Collaboration & Trust' Session.


1 - 10% of respondents said the same contracts create mistrust!

2 This is how the engineering model forms in engineering were intended to be used as the publishers recognised the huge array of project differentiators could not be accommodated in one standard contract.

Tags: Contracts, collaboration, trust,
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Challenging constructors to tackle illegal working

Robert Biggs

Scheme Ambassador and Former Chairman

Considerate Constructors Scheme

Ensuring the legitimacy of the workforce is one of the key challenges facing the construction industry. Employing illegal workers isn’t just against the law; there is an undeniable relationship between illegal workers and those subjected to modern slavery.  

The statistics speak for themselves: the National Crime Agency has pinpointed the construction sector as the sixth most prevalent for labour exploitation; and in 2013 the government identified 53 “potential victims of modern slavery” within the industry. 

What everyone is clear about is that it is very damaging for those individuals concerned, and the industry’s image as a whole. This can lead to widespread reputational damage at a time where portraying the industry in a very positive light is critical to attracting and retaining skilled workers to meet the pipeline of future work.

As the Government’s recent actions have demonstrated - with Operation Magnify starting last autumn and the Modern Slavery Act being applied from 1 April 2016 - there is growing pressure on the Industry to make sure that all of the checks and balances are in place to assess and monitor their workforce.

But valuing the workforce by ensuring their legitimacy to work shouldn’t just be a ‘kneejerk’ reaction to the Government’s latest actions - it should be part of the day-in, day-out routine of every element of construction activity throughout the UK. To help this become a reality and continually raise standards in this area, the Considerate Constructors Scheme introduced a new question in its Monitors’ Checklist earlier this year; specifically challenging constructors registered with the Scheme on ensuring the legitimacy of their workforce:

How does the site assess and monitor the legitimacy and competency of the workforce?

This question challenges contractors and their supply chains to take greater responsibility for the way they recruit their workforce. It requires a structure to be put in place which ensures that suppliers and subcontractors provide evidence to show they have effectively assessed the legitimacy of the workforce.

By challenging sites to explore how they currently assess and monitor the legitimacy of their workforce, the Scheme believes that in the not-so-distant future, all registered sites, companies and suppliers will have a routine in place. This will ensure that when they are questioned by the Monitor, they will provide a ‘standard’ response, intrinsic to their organisation.

The Scheme is in a prime position to effect real change amongst the industry and it is great to see that the CIOB’s CPD module ‘Stamping out illegal working on every site’ includes a question about the new Checklist.

Sites, sub-contractors and suppliers should establish a transparent culture whereby workers feel able to highlight to management when they have concerns over colleagues.

The recent recognition from the Government in how the Scheme is helping to tackle this issue also underlines the impact the Scheme will have. Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said: “Our work to stamp out illegal working involves close collaborative working with lead industry bodies. We are fully supportive of genuine efforts, such as this scheme, to drive compliance with the rules.

“Employers within the construction sector have a crucial and ongoing part to play in helping combat illegal working by ensuring they carry out the straightforward ‘Right to Work’ checks on potential employees.”

As ever, the need to continually drive improvement and progress within the industry means that much more still needs to be done.

While this is the case, it is really important to highlight that there are numerous examples throughout the Industry of tremendous improvements which have been made over the last decade in how construction values its workforce. Those registered with the Scheme [see Best Practice Hub for examples] have made significant progress in terms of establishing a supporting and caring working environment, by:

 

  1. Providing a workplace where everyone is respected, treated fairly, encouraged and supported.
  2. Identifying personal development needs and promoting training.
  3. Caring for the health and wellbeing of the workforce.
  4. Providing and maintaining high standards of welfare

Now is the time to tackle illegal working on sites. There has never been a better moment for the industry to rise to the challenge and ensure that checks for workers’ legitimacy become firmly entrenched within all construction activity across the UK; once again underlining that UK construction is at the very forefront of best practice.

Contributor: Robert Biggs is a Scheme Ambassador and Former Chairman for the Considerate Constructors Scheme.

Tags: illegal working, CCS, modern slavery,
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Housing a quality of life

Liz Drummond

Events, Communications & Marketing Manager

Construction Industry Council

For some time now we have known about the need for new dwellings and the lack of available homes. I certainly found this true when taking my first step on the property ladder a couple of years ago. With a deficit of starter homes we were among 40 other couples at a two hour open house. I am still surprised now that we actually managed to secure the property.  Since moving to our new home I have noticed at least four new housing developments and several new blocks of high rise housing in the area.  At the same time I have also noticed my once guaranteed seat on an already busy commuter train is a thing of the past.

I do not deny the fact that we need new homes for our expanding population, or in my case being priced out of London, but I just question if we are thinking about the bigger picture? Surely the infrastructure needs to be in place first for all these new homes?  Is there enough capacity on the existing public transport network, enough appointments at a doctor’s surgery, flood defences, places at a school? It feels that we are so wrapped up in the hows, whys and whens of building these shiny new homes (which apparently generation rent cannot afford to purchase anyway) we aren’t ensuring they are serviceable?

Some developments are fully encompassing mixed use developments with certain necessary amenities included but where we are putting a pocket of homes here or a new estate there, there isn’t always room to add anything else.

Government targets are to build 200,000 new homes a year until 2020 although it has been suggested this should be more like 250,000 to accommodate us all. Recent figures suggest that although we are at an 8 year house building high, the Government has fallen short of its target with only 143,560 dwellings being built. 

Yes we do need to focus on providing housing for a growing population and ensuring the quality of these new homes but when you have to travel miles for a school run or doctor’s appointment and then cram yourself onto a (delayed) train like a sardine for a 45 minute journey because it is your only option – what is the true cost to your quality of life once you are moved in?

Contributors: Liz Drummond is Events, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Construction Industry Council. 

Tags: Housing, Infrastructure,
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Le Grand Tour de Yorkshire

 

Stefanie Stead

CIC Yorkshire & Humber Chair 

Architect, Pearce Bottomley Architects

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work because they meet diverse needs, are sensitive to the environment, safe and inclusive. The construction industry plays a huge part in building these communities, providing homes, infrastructure, jobs and social institutions. Whether the Bronze Age stone circles or modern stadia, construction is intrinsic to the creation of community and there is no better place to explore this than Yorkshire, where evidence dates back to the prehistoric.   

As the location of the Grand Depart, Yorkshire is building a new type of community for the region, one that combines sport, tourism and media. By following the cycling route map – a new sort of neighbourhood plan – we can explore the type of communities Yorkshire had – and has – to offer from Roman roads to modern arenas and ask what we can learn from the past to build the communities of the future.

The new Leeds Arena is the face of the modern construction industry and a reflection of the need of communities to gather for a shared interest, be it gladiatorial combat or a Bruce Springsteen concert.  As the first purpose-built arena with a fan-shaped design and “the best acoustic experience of any large arena venue in the country”, it created technical challenges for the construction team.  But this is not the only ‘new’ arena in the area.  2011 saw the discovery of a significant Roman Amphitheatre in Aldbrough, which also demonstrates cutting edge construction skills.

Central to the development of communities in the region was the building of monasteries in Yorkshire.  Architecturally, the buildings pushed boundaries; economically and politically, these institutions were the power houses of the country.  Fountains Abbey in Ripon was the largest and richest of the Northern abbeys, with an influence that extended to the rest of the country and as far as Norway.  It was occasionally at the forefront of international affairs, whilst closer to home, thousands of people relied on the abbey for work, food, trade and shelter, as well as spirituality.  Today it is a World Heritage site and the impact on tourism is clear but are there lessons here in constructing sustainable communities?

The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII to form the estates of the gentry had a profound and permanent effect on the Yorkshire landscape. Their stewardship of the land continues to define the character of much of rural Yorkshire and rural business. Bolton Abbey, is a prime example of how once redundant traditional buildings that are no longer suitable for mainstream farming can be given a new lease of life within the community.

Religion was also key to the development of the Rowntree Company established by Joseph Rowntree in 1862. By the time it was acquired by Nestlé in 1988 it was the fourth largest confectionery manufacturer in the world. The company was founded on Quaker principles and Rowntree was deeply interested in improving the quality of life of his employees.  In creating the model village of New Earswick, in York, Rowntree stated that he did “not want to establish communities bearing the stamp of charity but rather of rightly ordered and self governing communities".  The Rowntree Trust continues to build today along the same principles, demonstrating that the need for well-designed communities is as relevant today as it was then.

But what about Yorkshire’s urban communities that have experienced the highs of the Industrial Revolution and the lows of the modern economy?   Hebden Bridge flourished during the Industrial revolution, being a central part of the wool industry that came to define much of the West Riding.  By the late 20th century however, the small mill town was looking like a northern backwater.  The fact that the railway survived the 1960s axe, reinforced the relationship the town has with the larger metropolises of Manchester and Leeds, allowing it to become a vibrant suburb with a distinct sense of independence.  The reinvention of Hebden Bridge fits nicely into the aims of the ‘Northern Way’ initiative before the demise of the LDAs. How can other parts of the UK replicate Hebden Bridge's success?  And should the ‘Northern Way’ be rebuilt?

Likewise, Sheffield is a lesson on how a city can be reborn.   Having established itself as the ‘City of Steel’ in the 18th and 19th centuries, the 1980s saw its dramatic fall as an industrial powerhouse, with the loss of over 50,000 jobs.  Yet Sheffield is now leading the way in its regeneration by engaging with the city in innovative and creative ways, facilitating diverse employment and taking advantage of two top class universities.  This thinking, which combined exemplary architecture and landscape design that was thoroughly endorsed by the Council, has resulted in Sheffield’s GVA increasing by 60% since 1997, standing at £9.2 billion in 2007, with steady growth averaging around 5% annually. So are there ways we can learn from Sheffield?

‘Le Grand Tour de Yorkshire’ is the subject of the CIC Yorkshire and Humber Conference which takes place at the National Railway Museum in York on 25 June 2014.

Contributor: Stefanie chairs CIC's Yorkshire and Humber regional committee and is an Architect at Pearce Bottomley Architects in Leeds.

Tags: infrastructure, Yorkshire, sustainable communities, construction, architecture, diverse,
| Filed in Blog, Regulations
Last chance or Lame duck - Which Part of L suits?

Mark Wilson MCIAT
Building Design Expert

 

Benjamin Franklin said "... in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes". Had he lived at the beginning of this century he may have thrown in "… and a 20-25% increase in the carbon emissions standards under Part L of the Building Regulations"; because for a long time that was almost carved in the stone pillars that hold up Whitehall; well, from around the start of the decade when we realised we needed to start taking energy conservation just a little more seriously at any rate.

But at least we knew where we stood. Manufacturers for a long time raced to stand still, as they revved up their R and D departments to develop the technology needed to meet the challenge thrown down by the government in those Building Regulations. And now, just when we're cruising, the latest announcement for amendment of the industry thermometer that is Part L, see's an almost lacklustre 6% increase on domestic, and circa 9% increase on non domestic projects. So not only was the announcement, in industry terms, months late; it seems that, as part of Whitehall's own in-house energy saving regime, someone had turned the oven way down low, such that the whole pie came out no more than half baked.

It begs the question as to why the DCLG spent more of our money commissioning the 2012 consultation on Changes to the Building Regulations, when the options on that table were either 8% or 26% uplift in 'New Home' CO2 reductions from the 2010 levels. The government made it plain they favoured the 8% option from the start. The new Part L will provide 6%. But that wasn't an option was it? No, but don't feel you have to fuel this fire, when it is actually self-igniting.

Children up and down the land are listening to a similar fairy tale for non domestic buildings. The consultation put forward choices of 11% or 20% uplift on CO2 targets. "And the winner is…..9%" The book makers must have made a fortune!!

As far as those in charge are concerned, it seems that it's a game of consequences. The Secretary of State for DCLG got in a bit of a pickle over 'consequential improvements', and this half empty glass is being passed around the table at a rate of knots. The consequences of this latest decision reduces the step towards 'zero carbon' homes by 2016, from a full manly stride to a little playground bunny hop; leaving the industry perplexed and asking How? We have the time, perhaps? But the next leap to a potentially slippery stepping stone is going to be a little larger than previous, and of course the waters are rising.

At the end of every energy fuelled day it remains all about cost, and not about the altruistic facade of the environmental stage set. Can we afford the let the construction moguls continue to wipe the sweat from their furrowed sweaty brows; continuing to reap the benefits of a just in time system that dare not put a toe nail out of place, lest the industry again lose its tenuous grip as it climbs out of one of the deepest holes it has been in for a very long time. Ultimately the choice is; we, the all consuming tax payer becoming punch drunk with the constant jabs associated with the seemingly exponential rise in energy prices; or, should we ceremoniously present our chins for what could be a knock out blow in an effort to meet the increased costs of saving energy. It is a double edged sword with only one cutting edge.

The new Part L was recently published on 21 October, and the devil remains in the detail. We need to start taking heed of its content on 6 April 2014, and that detail will no doubt provide a number of twists and turns, if only to avoid the rocks that have already been thrown. As ever, the government, playing politics will ensure that there are a suitable number of transitional hoops to take us past the next election in 2015 before the full effect of the new regs are felt. Then of course the clock is re-set, and we start the next five year cycle of trying to fit square pegs into round holes, and when they get stuck half way it will all be someone else's fault.

 

Contributor: Mark Wilson MCIAT started his career in January 1985 as a member of the Society of Architectural and Associated Technicians, and now represents himself under the heading – Chartered Architectural Technologist.

He has run his own practice for the past 13 years, having spent the previous time working for various Architects and Developers on a wide variety of projects. You can find about more about him via www.buildingdesignexpert.com or Twitter

Tags: building regulations,