19/01/18 – Preserving Heritage

 

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

Here in the North East we are blessed with a fantastically rich history. Our rural and built environments show evidence of human habitation from centuries ago and the value held in within them goes beyond the obvious. Whilst our historic environments and buildings are undoubtedly fantastic to look at and explore, they contain within them knowledge and evidence of skills from centuries ago. Rebuilding, restoring, maintaining and upgrading sites and buildings of historical importance is an essential element of our industry’s work. We have a responsibility to enable people to enjoy and learn from these environments now and preserve them for future generations.

However, if you stop and think about it, this history is evident in so many ways, from the world-renowned structures like Hadrian’s Wall and Durham Cathedral, to the countless pre-1920’s domestic properties. Our industry must ensure we learn from the past and use appropriate methods and materials to secure their future in the most sustainable way. Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling. It helps reduce waste and ensures that the buildings work in the way in which they were designed.

The industry has really upped its game in terms of technology over the last few years, but for almost every piece of new tech, there are energy-efficiency lessons to be learned from historical buildings. For example, before air conditioning, structures made do with passive environmental control from cross-ventilation windows to shutters and bricks that helped keep out the sun. The high thermal mass of stone, as seen in most Victorian buildings, retains warmth in winter and cools in summer. When properly renovated or restored, old buildings can use less energy than modern buildings, even those that are ‘sustainable’.

Last year, the project team for the Co-op Development, Newgate Street, Newcastle were won the Preservation and Rejuvenation award at the Constructing Excellence North East Awards. The team rose to the challenge of restoring the iconic building after years of neglect. This category is one that holds a special place in my heart as it focuses on restoring and preserving the history and culture of the North East, and who wouldn’t want that?

This year’s Preservation and Rejuvenation award, sponsored by Watson Burton, is looking for projects that can demonstrate:
• Evidence of research and investigation into replacing, repairing and matching traditional methods and materials encountered with evaluation of alternative options.
• Choice of appropriate procurement that reflects the risks in such work.
• Application of well-considered and sympathetic technical solutions, both traditional and innovative.
• Delivery of customer satisfying quality and enduring outcomes.
• A clear commitment to the development of heritage skills and training opportunities to sustain heritage related works.
We know there are multiple projects which are eligible to enter this year and win or lose, the Constructing Excellence North East Awards are a great way to promote your expertise and knowledge. I anticipate it’s going to be a difficult decision for the judges this year.

The entries for both the CENE and G4C Awards close on Wednesday 28 February at 5pm. If would like to discuss your project or nomination with CENE please contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email leanne@cene.org.uk

12/01/18 – CENE & G4C Awards 2018

 

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

Here at Constructing Excellence in the North East, we’re committed to working with the industry, its customers and the government to make change happen and deliver prosperity. Each year we also dedicated a lot of time towards celebrating what the industry has already achieved and 2018 will be no different.

Each year, we hold the Constructing Excellence North East Awards, our awards ceremony dedicated to showcasing excellence and rewarding achievement from organisations and projects around the region. We are delighted to say that the awards are now firmly established as one of the highlights of the business year, playing an important role in raising the performance of those involved in delivering the built environment. Over the last 13 years, the awards have grown significantly, with over 500 people celebrating the best of the region’s industry.

This year, our fourteenth CENE Awards will be held on Friday 15 June. As usual, we have various categories, including Integration and Collaborative Working, Sustainability, Health, Safety and Wellbeing, SME of the Year and our new category for 2018, Offsite Project of the Year. We are also delighted to announce our new headline sponsor for the awards, CDM Recruitment and are working with them to ensure this year’s awards are the best yet. Application forms for this years CENE awards can be found here.

For the third year running the Generation4Change (G4C) North East Awards will also be celebrating the outstanding examples of excellence and best practice from those up and coming in the industry.  The awards, which this year are sponsored by Northern Counties Builders Federation, will take place on Friday 27 April. They will celebrate individuals or organisations from seven categories, including Apprentice of the Year, Student of the Year, Trainee of the Year, along with G4C Future Leader (formerly Young Achiever of the Year) and our new one for 2018, Mentor of the Year. Application forms for this years G4C awards can be found here.

G4C is passionate about focusing on young people and showcasing the young talent in the industry. We are looking to celebrate achievements of this young talent and the organisations supporting and shaping the future leaders of our industry. We know that the construction industry in this area is of the highest standard, so let’s prove it!

We’re constantly asking for more from the government or in desperate need of workers, skills and new methods, but it’s just as important to celebrate what the industry has achieved. It’s a gruelling industry, that wouldn’t succeed without the hard work and commitment of its workers. If I could reward each and every one of you, I certainly would.

The entries for both the CENE and G4C Awards close on Wednesday 28 February at 5pm. If would like to discuss your project or nomination with CENE please contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email leanne@cene.org.uk

05/01/2018 – Moving Into the Digital Age

 

By 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 it’s 2018 and another new year is ahead of us, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store– I think it’s certainly going to be a busy one! While you can never predict exactly what the year ahead holds, from the trends and announcements made in 2017, there are a few things I expect to see.

In the past, we’ve had a reputation for being slow to adapt to the digital age, but over recent years, the smart building tech industry has grown significantly with more companies accepting technology advances and now we don’t really have a choice, as Mark Farmer said, we must ‘modernise or die’. Digital technology will be rife in the next few months, with 3D printing, apps, robots, drones, to name a few, helping us carry out day to day tasks, there will be no escape!

I also expect we’ll see an increased scrutiny on health and safety in the industry. It’s no secret that the industry is known for the number of accidents and the level of danger jobs pose, but with technology advancements and safety mobile apps, there’s no reason companies can’t ensure a safer work environment for staff.

Throughout last year, modular and prefabrication became one of the most popular methods of construction.  By now we should all be aware of offsite construction, but for those of you that aren’t (where have you been?!), offsite construction is a modern way of building that sees the unit being constructed offsite in a factory-controlled environment. The building is then delivered to the site where the ground works and foundations will have been prepared. Mark Farmer’s ‘modernise or die’ report stated that pre-fab housing is the way forward when it comes to producing more affordable homes to regenerate the property market, and I couldn’t agree more.

Off-site construction has many benefits compared to traditional build; it is safer, more efficient and has the potential to greatly minimise on-site waste. With price of materials expected to stay high in 2018, companies need to be thinking of ways to save money or cut costs, and this could be an effective way of doing so. This year, we’ve introduced a new award at our annual Constructing Excellence awards, ‘offsite project of the year’ and I have a feeling we won’t be short of entries. Application forms for this years CENE awards can be found here

We’ve overcome some tough challenges in the past and that only proves to me that this industry can achieve anything! So, let’s get our heads down and have a good year – I have a feeling this could be our year, change is going to come so bring it on 2018, we’re ready for you!

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.

22nd December Journal Column

 

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

It’s that time of year again when everywhere you look there are reviews of the last 12 months and predictions of what we can expect from the year ahead. If I had to summarise what 2017 was like for our industry, I would say three things- progressive, amazing and bloomin’ hard work!

A new year is a natural point in time to stop, assess how things have gone over the past 12 months, look at everything that we’ve achieved and look at what we can do better in the coming year. 2017 marked the beginning of the future of the industry, it was the first year after the fallout of Brexit and the first full year of the BIM level 2 mandate.

Chancellor Philip Hammond made his first Autumn budget since abolishing the Spring statement and within it was plenty of positive news for the industry, which hopefully sets precedent for things to come. House-building and the industry was front and centre of the statement, with many announcements setting out new funding for housebuilding, training and transport. He announced £15.3bn new financial support for house building over the next five years, taking the total to at least £44 billion. By the mid-2020s, it is the government’s aim is to have 300,000 homes being built every year, the highest level of house-building since the 1970s. In the financial year 2016-17 a total of 217,000 homes were built in England, the highest number since the financial crisis, so I’m pretty confident we’ll get there, things are certainly going in the right direction.

As well as the industry, we at Constructing Excellence in the North East (CENE) have had a very eventful year. We’ve had the Constructing Excellence Awards, both Regional and National, which continue to succeed every year. We’ve supported young people by hosting our second Generation 4 Change Awards, celebrating young professionals in the industry and worked closely with schools and colleges to encourage more young people to consider a career in the industry. We were honoured to have Mark Farmer, author of the Modernise or Die report, visit the North East to speak at this year’s Construction Summit. This year alone, Constructing Excellence held over 250 events, with more than 17,000 participants and raised over £26,000 for charity through our annual awards programme.

There are so many other things that I could mention as it’s certainly been another busy year, but I don’t want to keep you away from your festivities for too long! So, there’s just one thing left for me to say, from all of us at Constructing Excellence in the North East, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Let’s see what 2018 has in store for 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.

15th December Journal Column

 

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

We started the week with a yellow weather warning, flight cancellations and school closures, and with the snow and ice expected to stick around, I can’t help but think of those working on sites or outdoors.

Aside from the fact it’s freezing cold, sites can be very dangerous in the bad weather. In the winter, strong winds, cold temperatures, snow and rain have the potential to cause serious hazards for workers in the industry. The unpredictability of the British weather makes it hard to plan, but we’re pretty much guaranteed to have bad weather (it is the UK after all) so there are a few precautions that can be followed to ensure working on site is as safe as possible. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises:

  • Shielding any areas that could be worst hit by the weather.
  • Creating heated break areas where workers can warm up.
  • Scheduling outside work to be carried out in shorter durations, so workers don’t have to face the elements for long periods of time.
  • Wearing the correct gear that is fully insulated to retain body heat.
  • Checking the site for any new hazards that could have been caused by the bad weather.

As with anything, the most important factor to consider, especially in health and safety, is education. Educating employees on the importance of staying safe and how they can go about it, is the most successful way of keeping workers safe on site. Keeping up to date with weather reports when planning projects can also ensure workers don’t spend too long in extreme conditions.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common construction site accidents and although they can happen all year round, icy, wet or slippery surfaces increase the risk. Scaffolding and ladders get very slippery with frost and ice and a fall from a height could be life threatening especially when coupled with freezing temperatures. Also, prolonged exposure to the cold can cause workers to suffer from colds, bronchitis, asthma, painful joints and fatigue. In extreme cases, workers outside for long periods, without the right protection, could even suffer hypothermia, frostbite and chilblains.

In the UK, there is no legal minimum outdoor working temperature, so it is important that everyone understands the hazards associated with the cold weather. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and look out for others around you. You know your body best and although the job might take a little longer to get finished, the most important thing is the health and safety of the workforce. After all, nobody wants to be ill for Christmas, do they?

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.

8th December Journal Column

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

The industry’s skills shortage has always been something that has concerned me, so I’m always happy to hear of initiatives or training aimed at upskilling employees or training new recruits with the skills the industry needs.

Plans to invest £76m into retraining adults who want to work in the digital and construction sectors were announced ahead of the budget last month. I have voiced my opinion numerous times on the need for more opportunities for workers and for better training standards, so it’s really encouraging to see schemes and initiatives dedicated to just that.

As a first step, £36m will be invested in digital skills courses using Artificial Intelligence, with a further £40m being invested in construction training programmes for groundworkers, bricklayers, roofers and plasterers. In order to build the homes that we desperately need, it’s important there are enough workers with the right skills to meet this challenge. With the government planning to build 300,000 homes every year by the mid-2020s, we’ve certainly got our work cut out, and skilled workers are crucial to ensure we hit the targets that have been set.

Digital skills are definitely the future and the government announcements show there are solid plans to future-proof the industry and its workforce. The funding is provided in advance of launching a National Retraining Scheme that will help people get new skills. It will be overseen by the government, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who will all decide on other areas where new skills and training courses are needed. It’s encouraging to see the formal partnership between the government, CBI and the TUC to oversee the roll-out of the scheme. This is what we’ve wanted for such a long time, the industry and the government to work together and deliver the training, the housing and the skilled workforce we’ve desperately been crying out for. But it is the training decisions that take place every day across the country that will make a difference – so a genuine partnership is needed so that the whole workforce benefits.

The White Paper also showed commitment to T-levels and ensuring children are well informed on the alternative routes to the traditional academic route that are available after school, showing technical routes as an equally valued option. At the end of the day, we need a workforce that has the skills we need. Whether that is made up of retrained workers or those just coming into the industry, they just need to be prepared for the challenges ahead and be equipped to deal with the digital world we’re soon going to find ourselves in.

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.

1st December Journal Column

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

Earlier this week, the government announced the long awaited Industrial Strategy white paper. Thankfully, the construction sector was one of the industries chosen to receive a government boost, in the deal planned to boost productivity.

As of recently, I’d say the industry has been in a good position, but there’s always room for improvement and it helps to have the government in your corner. It was announced that the industry will receive £170m worth of government investment, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support innovation and improve productivity across the whole sector. The deal has been put in place to ensure more investment in innovation and skills, leading to new, well-paid jobs and maximising its export potential. It will also reduce the environmental impact, improve the efficiency and reduce whole life cost of new projects and buildings to help build the houses, schools, hospitals and transport projects we desperately need.

The deal, the first of a series that the government intends to negotiate with the industry, contains commitments to work collaboratively in three key areas;

Procuring for Value – The government will work with industry professionals across both public and private sectors to ensure projects are built based on their whole life value, rather than capital cost. This will mean considering all costs associated with the life of a building, from inception to construction, occupation and operation and disposal, which is a much better way of assessing value for money. They will also develop a procurement standard and develop cost and performance benchmarks for assets and contractors.

Industry-led Innovation – There will be commitment to invest in a programme which brings together the construction, digital technology, manufacturing, materials and energy sectors to develop and commercialise digital and offsite manufacturing technologies. This is one that I’m eager to see play out, I’ve been pushing for more attention on digital and technology, it’s definitely the way the world is moving, so it’s important the industry moves with it.

Skills for the Future – Increased investment in skills development and adopting a more strategic approach to recruitment and equipping workers with the skills they will need, will be achieved through a commitment to implement reforms to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The deal will ensure the CITB is more strategic and industry led, enabling the industry to make best use of funding from the Apprenticeship Levy made live in April. 

It’s promising to know that the government have recognised the importance of productivity in the industry. It proves that the government do listen. For so long we’ve been calling for more commitment to infrastructure, skills and more digital solutions, and that’s exactly what we got.

It’s now up to us to ensure the plans laid down are achieved. With the hard-working workforce that I know we have and the government behind us, I don’t see any reason why we can’t achieve them.

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.

 

24th November Journal Column

 

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

Earlier this week, chancellor Philip Hammond made his first Autumn budget since abolishing the Spring statement and within it was plenty of positive news for the industry.

House-building and the industry was front and centre of the statement, with many announcements setting out new funding for housebuilding, training and transport, amongst other things. One of the biggest announcements was the £15.3bn new financial support for house building over the next five years, this would take the total to at least £44 billion. By the mid-2020s, the aim is to have 300,000 homes being built every year, the highest level of house-building since the 1970s.

What I do like to see, is exactly where the money is going, and the budget did not disappoint. The money will be split between; new money for the Home Builders Fund to get SMEs building again, £2.7bn will double the Housing Infrastructure Fund, £630m small sites fund to unstick the delivery of 40,000 homes, among other things. That sounds like a lot of hard work over the next few years, but luckily Hammond has appointed money to training the workforce to build these new homes. An additional £34m will go towards developing skills in bricklaying and plastering across the country.

With the industry going ‘digital’, we’ve got new technology, apps and robots that can do the job for us, with this in mind, Hammond has assigned a further £30m towards digital courses using artificial intelligence. The funding is provided in advance of launching a National Retraining Scheme that will help people get new skills. It will be overseen by the government, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who will all decide on other areas where new skills and training courses are needed.

The builders might be at the forefront of the announcement, but the buyers haven’t been forgotten, first-time buyers no longer have to pay stamp duty land tax (SDLT) on homes under £300,000. This will save £1,660‎ on the average first-time buyer property, with 80% of first-time buyers paying no stamp duty. This will hopefully get more young people on the property ladder, which is what we’re going to need to fill the new houses we’re building.

And the good news doesn’t stop there, the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage will increase from April 2018, with over 2 million people expected to benefit. This news can only help get more people into work and here’s hoping they choose our industry, by the looks of things, we’re in for an eventful but productive couple of years.

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

17th November Journal Column

 

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

We live in a world where gadgets and technology make our lives easier daily and wearable technology is one that has the potential to improve safety and increase productivity in the industry.

Wearable technology is defined as any accessory or piece of clothing incorporating electronic and computer technology. It is already used within other industries, think Virtual Reality headsets, Fitbit or an Apple Watch, so why not in construction?

As the industry gets more familiar with technology, digital solutions are being used in all areas of the industry, we’re moving away from paper trails and manual building and towards online solutions, new technology, apps and robots that can do the job for us. As the potential of technology improves, one area that we must focus on is improving safety, which can be done by embedding technology into our apparel and personal protective equipment.

Highways engineers at Amey Plc have been trialling wearable technology that could reduce risks to drivers and lone workers. Technology included; a collar drowsiness detector and ear clip that measured changes in blood flow, signs of attention loss and fatigue. A wrist-worn band monitored vital signs and environmental factors. This alerted employees to signs of heat stress and can provide other information, such as a sudden change in posture indicating a trip or fall, and the wearer’s exertion level, to ensure they are operating safely – all factors that could be extremely dangerous if not picked up on. They also trialled a location badge, when activated by the wearer, sends an instant alert allowing help to be dispatched far more quickly and accurately in the event of a threat or injury, particularly good for workers working on large sites or long, busy roads

Across the industry, wearables are being equipped with biometrics and environmental sensors, GPS and location trackers, Wi-Fi, voltage detectors and other sensors to monitor workers’ movements, repetitive motions, posture and slips and falls. The ability to know your body is struggling before it’s too late and to raise an alarm at the touch of a button has the potential to change the industry going forward, decreasing the number of injuries and deaths, making preventable accidents a thing of the past.

Technology such as trackers or movement monitors can be used to track workers movements and increase productivity as well as safety, you might realise workers are spending a lot of time walking back and forth to get tools or materials and you can use that data to better lay out the site to reduce inefficiencies. This poses the issue of privacy, will workers be happy with their boss monitoring their every move, even if it keeps them safe? Personally, I think it’s worth it, I’d be willing to trial anything if it means we’ll see a decrease in accidents, injuries and fatalities.

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.

10th November Journal Column

 

 

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

Last month, more than 50 house-building companies committed to upping their game in training and recruitment.

The Skills Pledge is the latest scheme to come out of the Home Building Skills Partnership (HBSP). The HBSP is a body that was set up to tackle the industry’s skills shortage. It will focus on attracting new recruits into the industry, and on providing focussed training to develop the qualified workforce needed to build high quality new homes.

In total, more than 50 members of the Home Builders Federation (HBF) have signed up, including all its larger members and many medium and small businesses. The number of companies already committed are responsible for over half of the homes build in England.

The Skills Pledge covers five key areas: collaborate and share, working with the industry to improve recruitment and skills development; train to a standard, ensuring that the workforce is trained and qualified to industry standard; engage and support, both recruits and sub-contractors; champion diversity and inclusion and promote careers.

For the industry to build the high-quality homes that we desperately need, we need to commit to recruiting and training the right people. We need to 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.

I have voiced my opinion numerous times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards, so it’s really encouraging to see schemes and initiatives dedicated to just that.

The recently announced 5% Club is focussed 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, especially with the Farmer Review pointing out that 700,000 new workers will be needed in five years to replace those retiring.

Some of the industry’s biggest companies have already signed the Skills Pledge and I’d love to see many more across the North East getting on board and working to make the skills gap a thing of the past.

The Skills Pledge and the 5% Club both focus on driving recruitment and training in the industry, it shows that we’re serious about improving how we train new recruits. It’s too often said that something needs to be done, and I’m glad that we’re not just talking the talk, we’re finally walking the walk.

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.