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As I write this, the UK election campaigns are drawing to a close. Following weeks of campaigning all around the country, tomorrow we will find out whether the coalition are here to stay or if a new Government is about to disturb the number 10 party.
It’s a nervous time for all those involved, particularly for individuals like current Construction Minister Nick Boles who, having only been in his role less than a year, is unlikely to stay around much longer, whatever the outcome of the election may be.
The Construction Minister role has never been a popular job, and this time around, it’s likely to only be critiqued even more as the focus on our industry being the catalyst for further economic growth increases.
This got me to thinking, we all comment on how well, or not, the person in the hot seat is doing, but when asked what it is that we want to see from the next Construction Minister, how many of us could give a succinct answer? The biggest things on my list would be how we make BIM a standard working practice in all construction jobs, how we make our industry a leader in technology practices and how we continue working towards achieving Construction 2025 and beyond. But there are many other things the person in question will need to consider too…
Take the BIM Task Group for instance. The group was put together following the release of the Government Construction Strategy document back in 2011 that stated all Government construction projects needed to be using collaborative 3D BIM by 2016, with all other projects, hopefully, quickly following suit. Yet, four years in and despite receiving funding for Level 2 and a budget to kick off Level 3, the group is effectively in limbo. The next Minister, in my opinion, will need to focus on bringing this organisation to the forefront of the work we’re doing as an industry, giving it a clear plan of where it needs to go so that it can, in turn, encourage and facilitate change in our industry.
I also think it’s about time that BIM started to grow up; it’s been around in our industry at a low level for a few years now and has been focused predominately on savings but we now need someone who will help us take it to the next level where it is all about efficiencies and collaboration. It’s a big ask, I know, and isn’t something that will change overnight, it will be a long process to stop people from being cagey about information and wary of breaking boundaries and collaborating outside of their organisation, but it’s something we must work towards if we want BIM to be universal practice.
Ultimately, we need somebody to take on the role that understands our industry and the impact technology, BIM in particular, will have on the future of our construction. Basically, somebody who walks the walk, rather than just talks the talk.
By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) released its quarterly Construction Market Survey report last week. If you’re a regular reader of this column you’ll know I’m a big fan of surveys like this, but I have to say that I found the results of this one slightly confusing.
RICS has reported that the North East is suffering from both a decline in workloads and a labour shortage. I don’t think the results are actually as bad in reality as they first seem.
During the first three months of this year, 34 per cent of respondents to the survey reported a rise in workloads (down 8 per cent on the previous quarter), but 46 per cent of professionals said labour shortages were still an ongoing issue. This means that even though workload has slightly slowed down, it is still on the increase, we just don’t have enough people to do the work.
Whilst overall I think the survey makes it seem like the North East are struggling in all areas, figures show that public house building in the North of England is actually stronger than anywhere else in the UK. And in the private and infrastructure sectors, 46 per cent of workers reported a rise in household work activity so it’s not all bad news…
New research conducted by a leading business insurance website in the UK has revealed that the majority of young Britons today are not sure what different roles within the construction industry entail. Could this be one the reasons why we’re not getting enough people into construction?
Respondents, aged 18-35, were given a list of ten trades within the industry and asked to summarise each job role. Almost half claimed that they had never heard of a welder or glazier and 7 per cent couldn’t give a correct definition of an electrician.
The majority (67 per cent) admitted that they had never realised there was so many trades within the industry. This proves the importance of educating young people and making them aware of what the construction industry has to offer.
It has been suggested that the election is the reason organisations aren’t spending sending workload levels down; perhaps they’re suffering from a little fear of the unknown. The only way we’ll know is if the figures dramatically change come June.
Do you know what? Sometimes I think we need to look at the bigger picture when these surveys come out. The North East isn’t doing that badly so people shouldn’t be ruling us out just yet…
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The Construction 2025 strategy released in July 2013 by the Government, with full support from our industry, looked at how we could continue working together to increase the success of the UK construction sector up to 2025 (ultimately, how we can continue to be successful in the UK for the next 10 plus years and how we look to win more contracts overseas).
As well as setting ambitious targets for our industry, such as reducing the time it takes to move a project from inception to completion and halving greenhouse gas emissions, the report set out five key themes that the Government believe are key to the long-term success of our industry:
- People- we should be known as an industry that has a talented and diverse workforce
- Smart- we should be known as an industry that is efficient and technologically leading the way
- Sustainable- we should be known as an industry that leads the way in low-carbon and green construction exports
- Growth- we should be seen an industry that drives growth across the entire economy
- Leadership- we should be seen as an industry with clear leadership from an organisation such as the Construction Leadership Council
Should we achieve all of the aims in the report, our industry will see costs reduce by around 33 per cent, delivery times reduce by almost half, 50 per cent lower emission levels and a 50 per cent improvement in the level of exports- great news all around.
It’s been nearly two years now since the report has been released and I think that’s a good point to take stock of where we’re at.
The initial noise around the 2025 strategy and whether it’s aims are achievable or not seems to have quietened down as people get over the initial scaremongering and start working out exactly how they can work towards (if not achieve) the aims set out in the report. But as General Election fever kicks in, I’m sure discussions around our industry and the strategy will only heat up again. In my experience, the general consensus seems to be that the aims can be achieved well in advance on the 2025 deadline, as long as we continue to work as we have been.
We are holding an event on May 7 about Construction 2025 in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) North East at the Newcastle Marriott Gosforth Park Hotel. The event will focus on what we have achieved since the report’s release and how we work towards achieving its aims. For more information, or to book your place, contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 374 0233 or email email@example.com.
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By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
So with less than a month to go now until the General Election, the political parties have started gearing up their campaigns this week with the release of their party manifestos.
As expected, delivering greater investment in housing and infrastructure are two of the main priorities for all parties. But which party is offering us the best deal? I guess that depends on which side of the fence you’re sitting on…
The Conservatives are leading the way on the housing front, pledging to build 200,000 new starter homes by 2020 (Labour have pledged this too), but with the added bonus of a 20 per cent discount for first-time buyers under 40. The party are also offering first-time buyers a new Help to Buy ISA to help those saving a deposit boost the amount they’ve put away, which is something I can imagine will go down well with a lot of young voters. But when it comes to what will benefit our industry most, the Liberal Democrats seem to most favourable, with the party vowing they will look to build 300,000 new homes a year by 2020- that’s 100,000 homes a year more than the other two parties which, at face value, would be quite a difference in work-levels for our industry.
When it comes to people buying the homes we build, Labour have made a pledge to prioritise local buyers in the buying queue. No details have been released as yet as to how this would work, but I feel it’s quite a bold move for the party and one I’d be interested in hearing more from (on both a personal and professional level).
On the transport front, the Conservatives are sticking with their plans to finish HS2 and have pledged to start looking at HS3, whilst Labour have said that although they would continue to support HS2, they would look to reduce costs as much as possible (one of the Construction 2025 targets for our industry). However, the good news for our region is that both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are proposing to continue their support for ‘One North’ meaning our region would benefit from co-ordinated road and rail improvements, including £65billion of rail improvements from 2020 onwards, if either party was chosen as an outright or coalition Government of course!
There’s also good news for those looking to come into our industry, with all parties pledging to put more time and funding into apprenticeships and training for young people- something the leaders know will go down well with all voters.
Only time will tell exactly what pledges will be turned into practice, but it will be an interesting few weeks all around that’s for sure…
By Jennifer Nye, Senior Planner at Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners
On 25 March, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, gave his last planning update in a ministerial statement setting out details of the most recent changes made by the Government to achieve a more streamlined planning system and encourage sustainable development to support economic growth.
Alongside a new national planning policy on housing standards, which aims to rationalise and streamline existing standards to help bring forward new housing, one of the changes announced was the withdrawal of the Code for Sustainable Homes following a Government consultation in 2014.
The Code for Sustainable Homes was the national, voluntary, standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes. It aimed to reduce carbon emissions and promote higher standards of sustainable design above the existing minimum standards set out by Building Regulations.
An overarching ambition of this change is to, alongside other recent changes, reduce the regulatory and financial burden on developers and ultimately help to achieve the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF) ambition of realising sustainable development whilst significantly boosting the supply of housing.
These changes mean that Local Planning Authorities and qualifying bodies preparing neighbourhood plans should not set any additional local technical standards or requirements, including, inter alia, requiring any level of the Code.
Whilst the detail of future changes to the Building Regulations is not known, it is anticipated that these could be updated in line with the Government’s ambition of Zero Carbon Homes from October 2016. Indeed, it is anticipated that that the energy performance requirements in Building Regulations will be set at a level equivalent to the outgoing Code for Sustainable Homes level 4.
Whilst the ministerial statement sets out that the Government is committed to implementing the Zero Carbon Homes Standard next year, they have however, laid out some support for small housebuilders; there will be an exemption for small housing sites of 10 units or fewer from the allowable solutions element of the Zero Carbon Homes target. This means that they will be required to meet the on-site energy performance standard but will not be required to support any further off-site carbon abatement measures.
Developers will still be required to review extant permissions to understand whether they are bound to deliver the Code as a legacy case. The industry must also be mindful of the Government’s current commitment to move towards the Zero Carbon Homes Standard next year.
So, whilst the removal of one regulatory burden to encourage house building simultaneously maintaining a focus on sustainable development is supported; it must be acknowledged that the uncertainty of future changes to the Zero Carbon Homes Standard, alongside the upcoming General Election next month, means that the industry must keep a close eye on any future announcements.
If you are not directly involved in the construction industry, you could be forgiven for not knowing that construction health and safety legislation is just about to be amended by Government (again!), but for those of you working in our industry, you need to be on top of the new Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 before they come into force on April 6.
With the new regulations, the CDM Co-ordinator role has been removed and in its place comes a new ‘Principal Designer’ role, domestic clients, construction phase plans on all projects and the requirement for health and safety co-ordinators to be appointed on all projects with more than one contractor working on the site. This change means that any construction project that is likely to involve more than one contractor needs to have the health and safety aspects planned, managed and monitored from the beginning of the design process through to completion of the construction work. No exceptions, no excuses. And the people or organisations tasked with doing the planning, managing and monitoring of the health and safety aspects need to have sufficient health and safety skills, knowledge and experience to do so in a capable manner.
The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) intention is for the pre-construction health and safety coordinator (the Principal Designer) to be an integral member of the design team and be given sufficient authority to be in control of the pre-construction health and safety on the project. The obvious choice would be the lead designer – provided that they have sufficient skills knowledge and experience in design and construction health and safety risk management. However, choosing a person that fits that bill may or may not be that easy, dependant on the size and complexity of the project in question.
Non-domestic clients also have new duties under the CDM Regulations 2015, including making suitable arrangements to ensure that the construction work is carried out without risks to health or safety, that those arrangements are in place throughout the project, ensuring that both the Principal Designer and Principal Contractor comply with their duties and that the project is notified to the HSE if necessary.
With these new regulations, a lot is riding on clients having sufficient knowledge to be able to discharge their duties, meaning many clients are already looking to appoint a Client CDM Adviser to assist them on larger or more complex projects. Equally many designers, who find themselves being asked to take on the Principal Designer role when they perhaps do not have adequate health and safety skills, knowledge and experience, are also considering appointing a CDM Adviser to help them discharge their legal duties.
On April 22, Constructing Excellence in the North East is holding an event about the CDM changes and what they mean for our industry and you. To find out more, or to register for a place for the event, contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 374 0233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org