25th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East 

 

When you think of social media, I doubt construction is at the forefront of your mind, but then again when you think about tech-driven industries, construction was never one of them and just look at us now!

Whether we like it or not, technology is the world we live in now and it is time for the industry to move into the world of social media, it’s what keeps our world connected. I’m sorry to say it, but if you’re company isn’t on social media yet, you’re falling behind.

Social media allows you to network with your audience and other companies in the industry. You can also see what your competition is up to and how their audience interaction is doing. SME’s will also benefit massively from recommendations, whether that be a professional review or just a mention of your name.
Early analysis of the survey by Competitive Advantage Consultancy has found 90% of industry professionals are active on social media and that 43% use social networks for sourcing construction product information and ideas.

This year, early analysis of initial findings shows that 78% of respondents use LinkedIn, and the majority (91%) use it for work, a marked increase of 42% when compared to 2015. Over 370,000 LinkedIn members are engineers, with construction coming in second as the most represented industry on the platform. Facebook has also seen an increase with 27% of Facebook users now using it in a work capacity.

Most companies now have Facebook and Twitter as a means of promoting themselves (we like the odd tweet now and again), with LinkedIn being used mainly for recruitment. It’s also worth setting up Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube accounts, to push photo, video and ‘behind the scenes’ style content, especially if you’re wanting to target the younger generation.

The only thing with social media, is that it’s hard to control. You can’t entirely manage what employees are posting on personal platforms and you can’t stop external sources making negative comments. It’s especially difficult on a platform like Snapchat where videos only appear for a short time before disappearing forever. We saw this earlier this month, where footage of Apple Park, one of the world’s more secretive construction projects, Apple’s new headquarters, was leaked on Snapchat.

I understand companies, especially those as big as Apple, like to do the ‘big reveal’ at the end of the project, but considering the skills gap and need for a younger generation, I don’t think it would hurt to do ‘sneak peeks’ of sites. You often see sites hidden behind giant hoardings and you see nothing until you see the finished results, but why not show off what’s behind them and the work that’s gone on to get us there. It’s likely to increase interest and get people talking, and it’s the perfect way to target the younger generation and get them interested in the work we do – because some of it is very impressive, if I do say so myself!

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

18th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

 

I have voiced my opinion numerous times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards for those beginning their career in construction. The whole industry must attract more people and bring in more apprentices to help address the skills shortage.

 Earlier this year, another North East company, MGL Group joined some of the top UK construction companies by becoming a member of the 5% Club – a scheme promoting the employment of apprentices in the industry.  Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke have already committed to apprentices making up to and beyond 5% of their total workforce.  

The 5% Club is focused on creating the drive behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce. It was founded as a means of investing in the next generation of skills – something the industry needs to do consistently to reduce the chance of future skills shortages. The aim of the campaign is to tackle both the chronic skills shortage and youth unemployment in Britain and help the country remain at the forefront of innovation.  Members are asked to make a public declaration to support the achievement of 5% of their overall UK headcount being on a formalised apprentice, sponsored student and/or graduate programme and achieve this within five years. It also asks members to publicly report their progress in their Annual Report.

 Earlier this year, the MGL Group also launched MGL Group Training Services, a company committed to providing construction related training. It’s this type of commitment we need to help boost youth employment and end the skills shortage and I’m proud that it’s come from the North East.

 It’s so positive to see so many companies pledging their commitment to apprentices. For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route.  In fact, an apprenticeship is a structured programme of training and development, approved by government. At level two, an apprenticeship is worth five GCSEs and at level three it’s worth two A Levels. There are also Degree Apprenticeships Programmes, with Northumbria University set to start three this September. The industry now has the skills and resources to train and educate those who have taken the apprenticeship route and this can be seen at all levels across the industry.

 Apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. With GCSE results day happening next week (24 August) now is the perfect time to show young people that we are investing in them. They are the future labour market. They will dictate how successful we are. Therefore, the better opportunities we create for them now, the better the future will be for them and us.

 For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

11th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

For a long time, the construction industry was one of the least automated around, but thanks to the likes of Building Information Modelling (BIM), virtual and augmented reality and new technology, the industry is making its mark on the digital world.

Newcastle based Space Group have been working with The University of Stirling to launch a new app to help improve workplaces, public buildings and homes for people living with dementia.
The Intelligence, Research, Iterative, Design Interface System (IRIDIS) app will be free to download and will address physical aspects of design which impact upon older people’s quality of life and their ability to live independently, such as lighting, colour contrast and textures to aid day-to-day living, reinforcing memory and personal identity. It will have the ability to make recommendations on property design and refurbishment. It has links to the BIM provider bimstore, allowing designers to search and download BIM objects from manufacturers that are specifically designed and approved to meet dementia care design standards.
Those living with dementia, family members, healthcare or industry professionals, or anyone using the app, will be asked to take photographs and answer questions about their surroundings. Within approx. 20 minutes the app can assess the suitability of a two-bedroom home for an older person. Suggested improvements could be anything from changing a light bulb to reconfiguring a whole bathroom.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with the number expected to increase to one million by 2025. With the industry responsible for building homes, workplaces and public buildings, that’s one million people we need to take into consideration in the next 8 years. Care provision will need to keep pace with this increase so those living with dementia can continue to live with as much independence as possible, whether that be in new accommodation designed entirely for their needs or existing buildings that have been altered to cater for them.

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, and in the UK we shockingly spend less on dementia care than on other major medical conditions. The app means that, no matter how little your knowledge or awareness of dementia, you can still be confident that you are providing safe environments for people to live in.

As with anything, you only get out of the process what you put in and those that have made the effort to bring the industry into the digital age, are those that will benefit in the long-term. The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has dedicated the last 25 years to collating research and working on the app – that’s a lot of time, effort and hard work, so I have my fingers crossed that it all pays off, for their sake and the millions of people that could benefit from it.

The app will be available to download from Thursday 21 September, on International Alzheimer’s Day.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

4th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

 

We work in one of the biggest industries in the world, and because of what we do, we have the most potential to make a difference on protecting the environment. Saving the planet is something we’re all keen to do, everybody wants to be seen as ‘green’, anything from recycling to washing at low temperatures will make a difference. But one of the biggest differences that can be made lies within our industry, in house-building.

Companies are always thinking of new innovative ways of being efficient and we’ve really stepped up our game in the last few years. Offsite construction is now pretty much the norm, we’ve got PopUp Houses, plastic roads, even a ‘bubble’ building here in Newcastle, all of which may be unconventional methods but they’re the methods that are making a difference.

We’re definitely making headway, but with the Governments ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national basis by at least 80% by 2050 and 34% by 2020 looming over our heads, the pressure is still on. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive also requires all new buildings to be “nearly zero energy” by December 2020 (which is quickly catching up to us).

One way to ensure all new buildings are ‘nearly zero energy’ is to look at ‘Green Buildings’. These buildings are designed to be environmentally-friendly, as well as resource efficient, reducing unnecessary waste of energy, gas and water.  For a while, Green Building was once the new trend in the industry, but it is now an essential part of protecting our environment, and something that all future builds need to take into consideration.

There are five key areas the industry should consider, that, with the smallest changes, could make the biggest difference:

– Materials – It’s important to plan which type of materials will be utilised, but there is now an increased focus on implementing materials which are sustainable and energy efficient, rather than cost effective in order to provide long-term benefits and lower carbon levels.

– Recycling – Recycling materials such as aluminium within builds, will effectively reduce the level of waste products which are currently sent to landfill.

– Insulation and Solar – Ensure builds incorporate cavity wall insulation and double glazing to ensure heat does not escape. Installing solar panelling systems in both traditional and modern properties will capture as much natural energy as possible and reduce CO2 emissions.

– Water – Think of ways to best use and harvest rainwater, which can be used again for gardening or toilet flushing.

– Transport – To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, source materials locally. If transporting resources is necessary, using energy efficient vehicles will help lower emissions.

All buildings need light, heat and water, it’s about looking at different ways to achieve this that are as efficient as possible. Transport is pretty much a necessity in our industry, but there are still more economical ways of doing it. That 2020 target is fast approaching, and in three years I would love to be able to say our industry played a huge part in helping us get there!

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.