4th November Journal Column

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

Since April, when the Level 2 mandate came into play, the industry has seen far more engagement towards Building Information Modelling (BIM). People are finally accepting BIM and seeing the potential benefits that the digital world can bring to construction. For a long time, construction was one of the least automated industries around, but thanks to the likes of BIM and virtual and augmented reality, we’re slowly but surely catching up.
The building site of the future is going to look very different to what we are all used to seeing today. Virtual reality (VR) is all about the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with. Building a construction project in a virtual environment means you can experience how the final building will function and appear, using technology to make changes to locations of partitions or walls, meaning factors can be tested without the time and cost of building the structure, reducing the number of problems that may occur in the process.

We’ve been using computerised 3D models of buildings for a while now, but now London based engineers, Elliott Wood are trialling a 360-degree visualisation cylinder igloo in its office. Contractors can feel what it’s like to be right in the middle of a site by wearing VR headsets, allowing them to see a full 360-degree view. Anyone wearing the same headset will also be able to see the same thing, allowing changes to be made straight away to designs anywhere around the world – something we would have never predicted only a couple of years ago.

Augmented reality (AR) on the other hand is the blending of virtual reality and real-life, as developers can create images within applications and users can interact with virtual contents in the real world. By overlaying virtual data and images on to a current physical space, potential flaws that may arise can be spotted early and workers can take measures to avoid them.
Using AR to showcase a building to potential investors in its proposed real-world location will help them understand how it will connect with its surroundings. It makes it easier for planners to work with contractors and can also reassure clients, making it easier for everyone to work together and ensure the project runs smoothly.

VR and AR are expected to have a major impact on the building sector over the next few years, with investments already being made for developing new technology. I know some people are apprehensive of change, we’re creatures of habit and for those that have worked in the industry for a long-time using new technology is a scary, but the likes of VR and AR are only going to help the industry in many ways – shorter project delivery times, safer construction sites and overall improved quality of projects? Yes, please!

21st October Journal Column

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

It’s been 12 months since the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into effect. The Act states an offence is committed if someone holds another person in slavery or servitude or requires them to perform forced or compulsory labour. It applies to every organisation, regardless of size.
The legislation increased the maximum jail term for people traffickers from 14 years to life, and gave courts in England and Wales powers to impose orders to restrict the activities of suspected traffickers.

Businesses, especially those in our industry, need to be aware of what the Modern Slavery Act entails and ensure they comply with it. For those that don’t, they have more to worry about than just criminal prosecution and fines, (which alone are bad enough) – their own, and their clients’, reputation and brand is also massively at risk.

Over the years the government has refocused its attention on tackling modern slavery. Theresa May has shown her commitment to tackling the issue and pledged over £33 million to create a five-year International Modern Slavery Fund to help high-risk countries. The government may also be tempted to ‘name and shame’ key businesses which drag their heels. The Prime Minister has made it very clear she isn’t afraid of name-checking companies that aren’t doing as they should, she proved this by calling out major infrastructure projects and companies in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference last week, so it’s vital that businesses know what is expected of them.

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) released a toolkit back in July for construction companies that looks at the causes of modern slavery and areas of good practice. It also released a series of reports on the state of labour exploitation in supply chains and collaborated with the multi-stakeholder initiative Stronger Together to develop advice and guidance for its membership. It’s good to see companies and organisations actually taking action against slavery, and helping organisations move further away from it. With regards to awareness, we’re in a much better position than we were last year.

The first year of the Act has been more of an awareness campaign, and that’s definitely what was needed. In a recent survey by the Supply Chain School that surveyed 14,000 construction industry members, it was found that 75 per cent of respondents said they knew what the Act covered and how it affected their organisation. But more than half (51 per cent) of those surveyed stated they either did not know, or were unsure what actual steps to take.

House builder Barratt Developments has taken a step in the right direction, announcing on Anti-Slavery Day earlier this week that it has completely reviewed its supply chain and has set up a dedicated whistle-blower hotline to combat modern slavery. Now that everyone is aware of what is required of them, there’s no more time for excuses and there is now an urgent need for more companies to step up and turn their awareness into actions.

14th October Journal Column

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

The Conservative Party Conference drew to a close last week and while Theresa May said very little about policy in her final speech of the event, she did make her vision for the country very clear. In her own words ‘change is going to come’.

She made some significant comments about state intervention, which was interesting to hear, given that the common view across our industry over the past few months has been that the only way we will hit our 2025 homes target is if we have support from the state – (and rumours on the industry grapevine since the speech have suggested we’ll get exactly that).

Housing minister, Gavin Barwell has said he sees his job as ‘intervening’. Having such support from the state would mean we get more money and more public land to help SMEs enter the market, which is exactly what I was crying out for just last week.

The Prime Minister made it very clear she isn’t afraid of making the tough decisions needed to get Britain building, name-checking many major infrastructure projects along the way. I feel like this has been a long time coming, we’ve long needed someone with this attitude who isn’t afraid to make difficult decisions to get the industry to where it needs to be.

The PM disowned George Osborne’s 2020 budget surplus target, promising to “invest in the things that matter, the things with a long-term return” – most of all housing. It’s time to tackle the problems that have been holding the country and the industry back, time to tackle the shortage of affordable homes and invest in our infrastructure. She is more than happy to go forward with plans for High Speed 2, with further plans to expand Britain’s airport capacity.

High housing costs and the growing gap between those on the property ladder and those who are not are the main reasons for falling social mobility, falling savings and low productivity. May has vowed to do everything she can to financially help people buy their own home and has admitted that Help to Buy and Right to Buy are the right things to help us achieve that. But before we can help people buy a home we must first address the issue of their simply not being enough homes being built. It means encouraging and not being afraid of new technologies that will help us to build houses quicker.

In the PM’s own words ‘you need to put the hours in and the effort too, if you do, great things can happen. Great changes can occur.’ – I couldn’t agree more, time and effort have the power to give Britain and the industry all of the things we need to thrive.
Now these plans all sound very promising, but we’ll have to until the Autumn Statement in November to see if there are plans to follow through with this ideas … here’s hoping!

7th October Journal Column

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

New research has found that SME housebuilders have limited areas on which they can build. The research from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) shows that two-thirds of SMEs have claimed a lack of available land is the biggest barrier to building new homes. And it’s not the first time- this is the second year in a row the FMB’s annual House Builders’ Survey has shown a lack of available and viable land as being the biggest barrier for SMEs.

The problem no longer lies with a skills shortage, we have the workers, they want to work, but the biggest challenge lies solely in the planning process. If the building of new homes is on the decline, there will eventually be no sites for SME builders to work on.
At the minute the focus seems to be all on large sites, which is pushing out the smaller developers. The lack of opportunities for smaller developments is one of the reasons the number of homes by SMEs has fell from two thirds to less than a quarter in the last few decades.
95 per cent of SME housebuilders have reported that the information demands they are faced with during the planning process are even worse, or just as bad, as ever before.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB said that SME housebuilders should be seen as a key component of the government’s housing strategy, which means sites should be granted to them – and I couldn’t agree more!

Another simple solution to this problem is ensuring that planning departments have the capacity to engage more closely with SME house builders, ensuring planning applications are processed through the system as quickly and efficiently as they can be. Currently, the planning system treat a 300-home application in almost the same way it treats a three-home application- yet, there’s no reason for it to take the same amount of time for the two applications to be processed.

The government also need to stop bigger house builders from holding on to land without developing it in a bid to get small builders to enter the market to solve the housing crisis. It’s a waste of perfectly good land that small builders could be taking full advantage of.
You’d think the government would be doing all it can to encourage the build of new homes considering it failed to hit its target for new homes last year. Figures show that the number of new homes built between 2014 – 2015 did increase but the total is still less than half the 275,000 annual government target. In order to meet the target, they need all the help they can get, and SME house builders could be the answer to all of their problems.

23rd September Journal Column

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

Next week, 26 September – 2 October, is World Green Building Week (WGBW), a week dedicated to raising awareness of green buildings, showing how they are the most effective means of achieving environmental, social and economic goals- from addressing climate change to creating sustainable homes, businesses and communities.

WGBW brings together Green Building Councils from around the world to create a public conversation about the role buildings play in our sustainable future. With dozens of countries, 75 Green Building Councils and their 27,000 member companies taking part, it’s the biggest and best opportunity each year for us to shine the spotlight on our global movement.

By working together at the same time all over the world, the message is louder and emphasises our collective mission to create sustainable built environments- it shows the industry is dedicated to making a change.

The theme for WGBW this year is; Change Your Perspective, which couldn’t come at a better time. There are so many facts and figures that are more than capable of changing how people think about green buildings. What we’ve been wanting for so long is to get people thinking about the benefits that green buildings bring to global emissions, energies and the economy, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Saving the planet is something we’re all keen to do, everybody wants to be seen as ‘green’, anything from recycling to keeping emissions down by 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, from soap bubble building to offsite construction and now a French architecture firm, Multipod Studio, have unveiled a prototype for the PopUp House, a customisable home made from stackable blocks. Each house is made from stacked recyclable wooden panels and insulation blocks, all held together with wood screws – think LEGO, but less plastic and colourful.

The house can be designed, ordered, and built in about a month. It can be ordered online with costs varying depending on the quality of the materials and amenities. The house can be whatever you wish, whether it’s a small and cosy home or a spacious open office. Once ordered, the firm sends along building instructions and a construction team, and voila!

A construction team can build it in four days using only an electric screwdriver and it can be disassembled just as quickly. PopUp House is part of a growing sustainable architecture movement called passive construction – homes that are well-designed, low-cost, and energy-efficient. The PopUp House is airtight and watertight, which means it keeps its heat locked in.

Currently, PopUp House is only available in France, but the company plans to expand to the UK and I cannot wait to see this for myself. Think of all those years you spent building LEGO houses, and now you could actually live in one for real!

 

16th September Journal Column

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

The Construction 2025 strategy released in July 2013 by the Government looked at how we could continue working together to increase the success of the UK construction sector up to 2025. It’s been three years since the report was released, so by now we should be well on our way to achieving the targets set.

As well as setting ambitious targets for our industry, such as 33 per cent lower costs, 50 per cent lower emissions and 50 per cent faster delivery, the report originally 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

Following the latest review for 2016-2020, there are more key themes to add. The updated strategy is more concise and focused than the previous one, focusing on just four strategic priorities; Client Capability, Digital and Data Capability, Skills and the Supply Chain and Whole-Life Approaches.

The new strategy aims to increase productivity in government construction and deliver a further £1.7 billion in efficiency savings from public sector construction – it’s good to have an actual figure rather than just a percentage like we were originally given.

This time the strategy is more realistic, recognising that this is work in progress and there is still much to be done, but a lot can be achieved in nine years. It focuses on the fundamental issues that are holding back the industry from being more productive, such as; leadership, procurement practices, client capability, BIM, collaborative working, skills and whole life costs.

The strategy states that, by implementing the action plan to achieve the strategic priorities, “increased productivity will facilitate forecast efficiency savings of £1.7 billion over the course of this Parliament”. As the strategy states these forecasts “cannot be achieved without a highly-skilled, high-performing industry”.

The Construction 2025 strategy is at the heart of our vision at Constructing Excellence, and we seek to speed up the rate at which engaged players achieve the targets for improvement.

Constructing Excellence in the North East are holding the North East’s Construction Summit on Tuesday 20 September, focussing on the Government’s Construction 2025 Strategy along with the recent review for 2016-2020. During the Summit a Question Time panel with the G4C North East professionals of the industry will be held, discussing skills, collaborative working and their views for the future of the industry.

To book your place at the Construction Summit please contact Lauren Proctor on 0191 5007880 or lauren@cene.org.uk. 

2nd September Journal Column

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

The cyclical nature of our industry makes it difficult for firms to improve their efficiency and productivity. As with anything, trying to make one single, big thing happen proves a challenge.

In everyday life, the world survives this difficulty through millions of people making lots of little gains in different places all the time, so why can’t our industry work the same way?

To increase productivity, it’s been proposed that the whole supply chain should be involved in swarm activity – where a massive number of micro improvements are made at a faster rate than natural progression. The important thing is that everyone joins in, so that everyone benefits from the results, and in less time.

There are many bigger ideas in the industry that still have an important part to play and, often, they act as a catalyst for the team to identify all of the small opportunities not previously thought about. Workshops organised for the whole supply chain where discussions are had about the bigger ideas, including mapping out the processes involved often helps to identify small improvement opportunities that can be made along the way.

John Hall, Regional Director for Constructing Excellence in the East of England suggests five well-established concepts that can help to achieve increased productivity:

  • Supply chain management
  • Collaborative workshops
  • All the industry big ideas
  • Process mapping
  • Marginal gains

The whole supply chain should take part in regular workshops with a number of organisations participating in each. These workshops should explain the concept behind the workshops and obtain commitment to the need to improve. They should discuss a big idea and identify small improvements along the way. The idea is that each small improvement leads to a substantial benefit to everyone, meaning that everyone involved will be willing to do the work. The final part of the workshop should require everyone to sign off on their individual plans, so everybody knows exactly what they’re doing and are happy with their jobs.

Some of the bigger ideas that could benefit from this process, could be anything from BIM implementation and cost efficient low carbon solutions, to offsite manufacturing and new methods and technology – things that are currently very substantial within the industry.

I have every faith that businesses can pull together and boost the industry’s productivity, it might sound like a tough challenge, but to me it sounds like something that could actually work, and let’s face it, over the years we’ve certainly overcome much more.

 

26th August Journal Column

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

Last week was A-level results day, and I’m pleased to say that the number of students being accepted on architecture, planning and building courses now stands at the highest it’s been in the past five years.

According to UCAS figures, UK universities handed places to 6,670 students who were looking to study architecture and building associated courses from September, an increase on last year’s 6,430 applicants.

Those that had applied for architecture related courses rose two per cent from last year to 43,600 – that’s over 43,000 young people showing a keen interest in building related subjects, we can’t ask for much more than that, can we?

Students from England make up almost two-thirds of this year’s student cohort – an increase of seven per cent on last year.  And whilst that percentage might not seem like a lot to some, any increase is positive news for the industry in my eyes. For a long time, we’ve wanted to encourage more young people into the industry, and to see that more people are interested in industry related subjects each year is amazing news.

It’s not just England that are seeing an increase in applicants and interest, a further 310 placed students are from Northern Ireland, a 12 per cent rise on last year and Scottish applicants increased by 13 per cent too. The number of applicants from Wales didn’t change, but as long as the number isn’t decreasing, there’s no cause for concern.

A total of 530 successful applicants were from European Union countries outside of the UK, no change from 2015, but the number of students accepted from outside the EU has fallen 14 per cent to 830- not surprising given the uncertainty of the UK’s relationship with the EU in the near future.

Applications from women were up two per cent to 17,640- more than male applications, which grew by one per cent to 25,970. And although applications are still dominated by males, women are quickly catching up.

There’s been a lot of work over the years to encourage women and young people into the industry, and these statistics show that all of our hard work has been worthwhile- it’s finally starting to pay off.

The final numbers for this year are likely to change as more students get places through the clearing process, so we should hopefully see an even further increase in figures. But I for one am more than happy with how they stand now, it gives me hope and promise for the future of the industry knowing there are so many young people showing an interest in our industry. Young people hold the future of our industry in their hands and the more hands, the better!

Constructing Excellence merges with BRE

CE BREFollowing extensive discussions with its members and stakeholders, the board of Constructing Excellence (CE) has confirmed the merger with BRE.  The move is designed to strengthen and grow the CE membership and its positive impact on the industry at a time of significant global challenge.

Under the merger BRE will maintain the distinctive CE brands, develop the network and add critical capacity in developing digital tools, delivering training and events and growing the international reach.  It will also enable CE to achieve its long-term ambition of establishing a Constructing Excellence Foundation under the BRE Trust which would see trading profit channelled into research and education for the benefit of members.

Murray Rowden, Global Head of Infrastructure, Turner and Townsend, and Chairman of Constructing Excellence said ‘CE has a strong vision for our industry and the merger with BRE provides us with the opportunity to strengthen our influence and realise our ambition of being the leading organisation driving improvement in construction and the build environment. It is a good move for our membership who gain additional benefits from BRE’s cutting edge research and global reach. We are all delighted by this development and look forward to sharing knowledge and best practice to benefit the industry.’

What does this mean for the North East?
The arrangement makes huge sense for both organisations, financially, operationally but more importantly, in terms of driving the ongoing change agenda in UK construction and pursuit of collaborative working and whole life vale in all of our projects.

However, it is important for you to be clear that CENE will not be affected in any way by this merger. CENE is a separate legal entity so we remain outside of this merger and we retain our brand.  This is also the case for all Constructing Excellence Regional Centres around the country as they too are separate legal entities.

The deal will allow Constructing Excellence to achieve a step-change in the level of investment in, and impact of, its activities on behalf of the membership. The merger secures the future of the brand, our mission and our movement of Constructing Excellence. It also achieves the long-term ambition of establishing a Constructing Excellence Foundation to raise and leverage funds and support research and education for the benefit of our members and the sector as a whole.

To read the full press release about the merger please go to http://tinyurl.com/hamp52q

19th August Journal Column

HK Logo - smallBy Graham Sutton, Associate Solicitor at Hay & Kilner

The Insurance Act 2015 (IA 2015) came into effect on 12 August 2016 and applies to all commercial contracts of insurance, and in part to consumer insurances. The Act changes the way in which insurance is conducted and represents a significant change to the legal framework of insurance contracts.

There are a number of fundamental changes that have been introduced, all of which will have an impact on those insurers and insured across the industry, given the heavy reliance on insurance products. These changes include:

  • A new concept of “a duty of fair presentation”. The insured will have to disclose every material circumstance that they know or ought to know to put a prudent insurer on notice that it needs to make further enquiries to reveal the material circumstances. This applies to disclosure before the contract is concluded, new contracts, renewals and mid-term variations.
  • Disclosure of facts must now be made in a reasonably clear and accessible manner, and material representations of facts must be “substantially correct”. Further, material representations of expectation or belief must be made in “good faith”.
  • Where there has been a breach of “warranty”, being a particular type of contractual term, the Act now prevents the insurer being able to discharge all liability for the risks covered by the policy from the time of the breach. Where a deliberate or reckless breach of duty takes place, insurers will still be able to avoid the policy in full and retain any premiums paid. The responsibility will be with the insurer to show that a breach was deliberate or reckless.

For other breaches, the remedies are based on what the insurer would have done if the breach had not taken place and the insured had made a fair presentation of the risk.

  • What are known as “basis of contract” clauses are now abolished. Insurers will now generally remain liable for all legitimate losses suffered by an insured if a fraudulent claim is made.
  • The duty of good faith remains but the right to avoid the insurance policy if the other party fails to act in accordance with utmost good faith has now been removed.
  • Parties to non-consumer insurance contracts can agree less favourable terms than those in the Act. However, it is not possible to contract out of the new prohibition on the “basis of contract” clauses.

Construction companies will need to review how they have conducted their disclosure to insurers and make sure that they comply with the new requirements. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s important that you/your project fully complies with the Act’s provisions and that you have appropriate and effective internal procedures in place to ensure the relevant employees are fully conversant with the new requirements. Yes it might make the process a little longer, but do you want the job doing right, or do you want the job doing fast?