29th January Journal Column

By James Ritchie Architect and RIBA Specialist Practice Consultant

If you are about to alter, extend or demolish a building or structure, or are thinking of putting up a new one, then you probably want it all to go smoothly.

As we all know, a project only goes well if it has been carefully planned, is well managed and monitored to see how it is progressing.

This applies to all aspects of a project not just the finance and programming. Success can be measured by how well project risks are identified, managed or eliminated. Time, cost and quality are becoming ever more important drivers for the success of construction projects, so the identification of risks from finance and planning permission to programming and health and safety are becoming more critical. A client that ignores consideration of such risks does so at their own peril.

The new Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 go quite some way to helping clients deal with health and safety risk management as the commercial client duties are set out much clearer. The aim of the Regulations is to ensure clients give clear project leadership and consider health and safety risks as essential and integral parts of the planning and management of projects -not just ‘something the contractor has to deal with’.

There are great advantages for clients if they and everyone involved in the project, comply with the new CDM Regulations, such as improved planning and management ensuring the project is completed on time, within budget and to the required standards.

Clients should still be able to rely on those they appoint, but it must be recognised that clients hold the power to influence and control those they engage with or appoint on a project and therefore bear the ultimate responsibility for achieving a safe and healthy project. The success of the project is in their hands as much as those they appoint to design and construct the building.

For the management of health and safety risks, the age old adage that ‘perfect planning prevents poor performance’ has never been better suited. Failure to adequately manage these risks will at best, result in delays, extra costs on the project and possibly a Fee For Intervention bill from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and, at worst, leave the client in court facing the new Sentencing Guidelines for health and safety prosecutions.

If you aren’t sure what the financial implications are of the new Sentencing Guidelines, which come into force on 1 February this year, then I strongly advise you to speak to your legal advisers, and pronto at that!

CENE are running a seminar looking at the responsibilities of clients under CDM2015 regulations on 3 February 2016. To register for this event, please contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or leanne@cene.org.uk

 

28th January 2016 Newsletter

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28th January Newsletter

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22nd January Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

The topic of skills shortage has always been something that has concerned me. I’m all for the industry growing in all sectors, so to hear that we’re still threatened by skills shortage is disappointing.

Ministers announced plans last year to build up to 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, and now we’re another year closer, but we’re no closer in terms of the improvement in skills and newly trained workers that are desperately needed.

It’s not just the housing sector that is suffering; according to a new government backed report claiming that we have a gap of 100,000 workers and 250,000 existing workers needing retaining over the next five years, it seems we have our work cut out.

Major infrastructure projects planned for this year are threatened by the skills shortage, meaning vital works on roads, rail and energy is likely to be affected – which is not what we want to hear!

There’s demand for over 250,000 construction workers as well as 150,000 engineering construction workers, which may sound like a lot, but considering that’s nationwide and there are 103,000 people out of work in the North East alone, I’m pretty sure our region could easily fill some of those jobs on our own.

But of course it’s not just about finding people to fill the jobs; it’s about finding the right people with the right skills. We should focus our attention away from fear of skills shortage and towards training and apprenticeships if we want the industry to grow in the long term.

Thankfully for us, a new study has revealed that due to the skills shortage, the sector’s wage inflation has increased, which is sure to help with the recruitment and training drive.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) UK construction market survey revealed that wages rose by an average of six per cent in 2015, which is three times higher than the national average.

While 61 per cent of construction professionals in the North East have reported wage rises, 46 per cent have also reported labour shortages. So while wage rises might be good news for employees, it’s not so good for the industry as the skills shortage is still jeopardising planned projects for the housing and infrastructure sectors.

Two-thirds of respondents of the RICS survey cited labour shortages as the biggest barrier to growth, and, as far as I can see, they’re the only barrier we’re facing at the minute. It’s as simple as we have the work, which we have desperately been crying out for, and not enough skilled workers to do it.

So I urge you all to do what you can to help; encourage new recruits, participate in apprenticeship schemes, whatever it takes. I am 100 per cent behind supporting new recruits, particularly students and young people. I believe that the youth of today hold the future of our industry in their hands, so why wouldn’t we encourage them into the industry and give them the training they need? They want jobs, and we need newly skilled recruits, it’s a win-win situation for all.

21st January 2016 Newsletter

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15th January Journal Column

By Tim Bailey, founding partner of xsite architecture and board member of Constructing Excellence in the North East

History shows us that shifts in the economy and society can impact on what we build and how we build it. However, as nobody can predict the exact shape of things to come, those working in the built environment sector must use their skill to interpret these complex changes and to understand what people really need and want.

Naturally everyone should do their best to ensure a project meets both the client’s needs and stacks up commercially, which is why I believe collaboration is the only way to achieve construction quality viably in a cost-constrained world – especially in public projects where value for money is critical.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Plan of Work (PoW) was first introduced over 50 years ago, with a recent shake up in 2013 introducing new work stages, terminology and a new stage referencing system.

The framework helps explain to clients briefing, design, construction and post-occupancy processes and is a springboard for tools and supplementary core documents, including services appointments, scope of services and project protocol documents and building contract forms.

The newly launched PoW, which I recently produced for RIBA, aims to help architects find the keys to unlocking opportunities and developing the essential relationship between themselves and clients. I’m all for anything that can make processes easier and I fully believe the PoW has the potential to do so; here are eight reasons why I think it makes good business sense:

  1. If you explain the process to clients and demonstrate the eight work stages and eight task bars, you can illustrate what is to come and the scope of service you are offering
  2. You should organise your own output into the PoW stages because, for the vast majority of construction professionals, their work falls into a predictable pattern
  3. If you use the PoW to illustrate your role in each project stage, it will provide clarity on fee structure
  4. PoW illustrates programme – and the effect of delays can be clearly seen, which will support claims for additional resource or accelerated working
  5. PoW exerts control of the design processes, so designers can use it to demonstrate the value of sequential and iterative design stages
  6. It reinforces the utilisation of project strategies – work stage task lists encourage robust discipline which results in successful project delivery
  7. Use the information exchanges to force a complete and timely record of progress through the project – this is an excellent way to demonstrate the value of the design team
  8. Encourage whole process mentality using the PoW to document the journey already taken – this will help to put each day’s jobs into the context of the entire programme for the whole design team

There’s huge potential out there and the future is full of opportunity – to unlock it, the profession must adapt to clients’ needs and demonstrate added value. The PoW is just one of many ways to unlock opportunities and develop relationships with clients, and we would be silly not to take full advantage of it.

 

14th January 2016 Newsletter

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8th January Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Happy New Year to you all – I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas break and are raring to get started. I cannot believe 2016 is here already, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store for us.

2015 was an amazing year for our industry which has progressed in terms of education, employability, and new technology.  We saw massive improvements in encouraging people into the industry and late payments, both of which have been a bug bear of mine for quite some time.

Wherever you looked last year there were campaigns to encourage people to consider a career in construction. We supported The Armed Forces Employability Pathway programme which links Army Reserves, Local Authority, Job Centre Plus and local employers to help people into work, and we need the encouragement and support to continue with this throughout 2016.

The Journal’s Pay Fair campaign managed to reduce the sum of money owed to small businesses in the North East from £41bn in 2014, to £26.8bn last year.

The campaign was launched in response to the growing problem of late payments, which caused the industry many problems last year. Although it was originally set up as a 12 month initiative, aimed mainly at 2015, I believe it is something that needs to continue throughout 2016, the stats are proof in itself that the scheme is actually making a difference.

Another thing we were crying out for is more homes. David Cameron recently announced that more than 10,000 new homes will be built on public land through government direct commissioning. The policy will be backed by an extra £1.2billion to prepare brownfield sites for the building of 30,000 starter homes, which will be available to first time buyers under 40 for at least a 20 per cent discount.

Although most of the good news regarding housing is focused mainly on London, it’s still a positive thing to see that that government are putting the money, time and effort into solving the housing crisis and helping first time buyers, and any improvement is a success to me, regardless of the region. (However, the North East would appreciate similar schemes in the near future, please Mr Cameron).

The year is starting on a high for businesses, with them being urged to dip into the Manufacturing Cash Pot. The pot consists of £24m worth of funding to help regional manufacturers grow, with £14m being kept just for the North East.

Although it is classed as a loan and it does need to be repaid, it’s still the stepping stone a lot of businesses will need to get them off the ground. There’s no shame in asking for help, and when the help is already there to be taken you’d be silly not to take it.

We can achieve a lot in a year, so let’s get our heads down and give the industry exactly what it needs.

I have a feeling this could be our year, bring it on 2016, we’re ready for you!

7th January 2016 Newsletter

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