The Importance of Managing Workplace Pressures

 

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

Like many industries, construction has its pressures. Our industry has and always will be a stressful industry, with workload, client demands and budget concerns being a daily worry, but as an industry, we need to take the issues of workplace stress and mental health very seriously. That’s not to say we aren’t, health and safety has always been one of the main focuses in the industry, but there’s often debates over which is more important. Employees working in the industry need to know that their mental health is just as important to us as their physical well-being.

Demands from employers and clients, low margins and a culture of confrontation can create a perfect storm for mental health issues to develop. The pressures and demands faced at work can create huge stress and anxiety – which can be pushed to the edge if not managed in the correct way.  According to statistics from safety barrier manufacturer, A-SAFE, 48% of workers are kept awake as a result of workplace stress with some losing more than 10 hours of sleep a week.  Almost 70% in the sector suffer from Sunday night blues, with the data also showing that 16% of workers regularly lose sleep, with a further 32% experiencing occasional loss of sleep. Given how dangerous our industry can be, it worries me to think of those workers operating heavy machinery or making important decisions on minimal hours of sleep.

There are some companies and projects in the industry encouraging long hour days. I know it’s common for activity on sites to ramp up when the deadline is approaching but some sites operate 24 hours a day, with workers offered bonuses for working obscenely long hours. Over the last few months, two Construction News investigations have uncovered job adverts for two high-profile projects seeking workers for 15 and 16-hour-a-day roles. The odd shift here and there might not be a big deal, but if you’re doing it weekly without recovery time, it could be very detrimental to your health and wellbeing.

All the work we’ve been doing (and there’s been a lot) to look more into health and safety and mental health initiatives, will be pointless if we can’t understand the impact of working long shifts day after day. I understand pressure to finish a project has the potential to drive subcontractors to work these kind of hours and when the client is desperately seeking completion the pressure on the contractor is huge. What worries me, is that the industry has done nothing to assess the effects of long hours on productivity and safety. Obviously, productivity is very important, but for me there’s nothing more important than the health and safety of our workers.

The construction industry isn’t going anywhere, we’re always going to need houses building, but unless we take more care of ourselves both individually and as an industry, the industry will be a very different place in no time.

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.

02/08/2018 – Could Shipping Containers be the Answer to All Our Problems

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

Shipping container architecture, using steel shipping containers as structural elements, has grown in popularity due to their strength, availability and low cost. They have been used creatively and innovatively by architects to produce some very eye-catching results including fully modified homes, offices, toilets or simply used for storage.

Shipping container villages are popping up all over the country, with two of the newest based here in the North East. The Newcastle container hub, Stack, is due to open in the city centre in a few weeks. Stack aims to combine the best elements of food festivals and continental markets. It will provide a launchpad for up to 50 SMEs all of which will be run from shipping containers, creating and sustaining around 500 jobs over the four years it will be on site. On the Gateshead Quayside, another container village ‘HWKRMRKT’ opened earlier this summer hosting a collection of 15 independent street traders selling pizza, tacos, burgers, ice creams, cakes and more. The village has a very ‘cosmopolitan’ feel and has already proven to be extremely popular, bringing life to a once empty area. This is one of the reasons I love this industry, it has the ability to create something amazing, just a few shipping containers (and a lot of hard work from those involved) have generated such a feel-good atmosphere.

It’s not just businesses that are using shipping containers, they are also being used to tackle housing shortages, by turning them into homes. Last year, Cadwyn Housing Association in Cardiff was granted permission to create 14 homes from shipping containers. The development will include seven one-bedroom containers and seven two-bedroom containers. The homes will be used as temporary affordable housing, but they could be the answer to some of our housing problems.It is not just helping new businesses they are also being used to help those who have fallen on hard times to take the vital first step off living on the street.

Containers are ideal to be used as a building material, they are strong, can be stacked and are very easy to move. When discussing a project early on, it’s important to think about the sustainability and how eco-friendly it can be and using shipping containers that can be recycled plays a huge part in that. Once a container is modified, the steel is recycled and there’s less impact on the environment due to fewer first use materials being used during construction e.g. concrete, timber or bricks.

The Welsh Assembly has an Innovation housing programme specifically looking to tackle housing. Shipping containers being turned into homes is one of the solutions.

Towards the end of 2017 Cardiff Council received funding from the programme to build eight energy-efficient family homes in the grounds of Greenfarm Hostel in Ely .

And earlier this year Cadwyn Housing Association was given permission to create 14 homes in shipping containers on Bute Street in Cardiff.

The development will include seven one-bedroom containers and seven two-bedroom containers as well as a warden’s office.

The homes are planned as temporary affordable housing on a short-term basis.

It is not just helping new businesses they are also being used to help those who have fallen on hard times to take the vital first step off living on the street.

The Welsh Assembly has an Innovation housing programme specifically looking to tackle housing. Shipping containers being turned into homes is one of the solutions.

Towards the end of 2017 Cardiff Council received funding from the programme to build eight energy-efficient family homes in the grounds of Greenfarm Hostel in Ely .

And earlier this year Cadwyn Housing Association was given permission to create 14 homes in shipping containers on Bute Street in Cardiff.

The development will include seven one-bedroom containers and seven two-bedroom containers as well as a warden’s office.

The homes are planned as temporary affordable housing on a short-term basis.

Last year, the housing white paper, highlighted that not enough local authorities are planning for the homes needed and house building is simply too slow. Yes, the government is doing a lot to increase the number of new houses, but we need houses now and with the skills shortage, using shipping containers could be part of the solution. Who knows, these unconventional methods could take off and in a few years, traditional builds might all be a thing of the past.

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.

26/07/2018 – #BuildingEquality – Celebrating Inclusivity & Diversity

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

At the weekend around 20,000 people marched through Newcastle to celebrate inclusivity and diversity. Constructing Excellence in the North East joined the parade to demonstrate support for the construction industry’s LGBT+ workforce, under the banner of #BuildingEquality, the national LGBT+ Construction Working Group formed in 2015.

We extended the invite to anyone working in the industry, whether they identify as LGBT+ or as an ally, wanting to demonstrate support for LGBT colleagues. We were thrilled to have organisations such as Arup, Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Mott MacDonald and Space Group marching alongside us. LGBT workers exist across all industries and construction is no different. According to research released by Public Health England in 2017, around 2.5% of the UK population openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other, meaning there could be at least 50,000 LGBT+ people working in the industry.

2018 marks a symbolic year for the LGBT+ community, it has been 30 years since Section 28 was introduced, banning local authorities from promoting homosexuality and 15 years since it was (thankfully) repealed across the UK. It’s also the 40th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag and I think marching in support of the LGBT+ community alongside people of all ages, genders, ethnicity and values was the perfect way to celebrate that.

Earlier in the month, industry representatives from over 23 construction companies also marched in London Pride alongside a rainbow JCB, which I think is brilliant and shows exactly how the industry has progressed over the years. The industry is no longer the ‘stereotypical’ dirty, dangerous construction site full of white, heterosexual, ‘tough’ men. We’ve come on leaps and bounds with understanding the positive benefits of a diverse workforce and support multiple initiatives and schemes to support further improvement.

Construction News conducted a survey of 1,045 people in the construction industry and found that over half (56%) of LGBT+ respondents still aren’t comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender, and a third (28%) have had an offensive or inappropriate comment made about their gender or sexuality in the workplace over the past year. So, although we have come a long way, there is still much work to be done to ensure the industry is a truly diverse and inclusive workplace for its LGBT+ employees, which is why the work of #BuildingEquality and its members is so important.

In 2010 the Equality Act became law in the UK, making it illegal to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. To be anywhere near reaching the targets set by Construction 2025, we need to be encouraging the entire talent pool and not excluding potential candidates, for any reason. We need diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, values, experience and behaviours. Given the support the industry has shown towards LGTB+ workers, both during Pride and every other day, there is an incredibly positive attitude across the industry towards getting exactly what we need – inclusive workplaces supporting a diverse workforce.

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.

Teesside University Campus Masterplan Talk & Tour Review

G4C along with Constructing Excellence NE were delighted to organise an event with Teesside University last week to showcase their £300m masterplan to invest in and improve their campus services.
The sold-out event started within the panoramic boardroom inside the brilliant Curve Building with Meryl Levington, Associate Dean for Enterprise and Business Engagement, giving guests an introduction to the University before Darren Vipond, Director of Campus Services, went on to describe in detail the University’s vision. This included an update on works that had already been undertaken, such as the former Gazette Building (now Printworks) whilst providing an insight on current and future schemes, including the £7.5m refurbishment of the Business School in the heart of the campus.

After this presentation, Darren and his project team guided attendees around the campus showcasing what had already been constructed, with guests being taken around the recently refurbished Library, which has now created an enhanced learning experience for students and visitors alike.G4C and CENE would like to express our gratitude to Darren, Meryl and the rest of the Teesside University team for their hospitality and insightful presentation. We are looking forward to working closely again with the University on a number of events and initiatives, so make sure you’re signed up to the G4C mailing list to be the first to hear of upcoming opportunities!

We are looking at holding a similar event in the autumn so keep your eyes peeled!

Young Professionals engage with Industry Leaders at Speed Mentoring event

On June 14th 2018, the Constructing Excellence North East team alongside the Generation 4 Change co-chairs organised and hosted their first speed mentoring event in Newcastle. For two hours, young professionals engaged with senior professionals from the construction sector as mentors through consecutive meetings. This event was hosted in the lively Bealim House based within the heart of Newcastle’s city centre.

The evening was based upon mentees asking questions to the mentors trying to get a useful insight into their career progression, obstacles or challenges they have faced within the workplace and trying to get useful tips on how to get the most from your own development and from your employer.

Personally, I began with an introduction whereby I explained my path from leaving school and then asked the mentors to share their own journey’s and personal experiences. This short but easy task allowed me to understand that all pathways can lead to success and you aren’t hindered by choosing a route and then changing your mind later. The sector grows and develops daily so there is no reason why you can’t too.

The mixture of mentors ranging from legal representatives to construction directors and senior consultants allowed the mentees to experience and meet a diverse range of outstanding professionals who themselves were once on the other side of the table. Having this engagement at the beginning of your career can make all the difference to your aspirations and development.

A common statement from the mentors was to always have a target goal and keep a record of the work and projects you are involved with so that you can demonstrate where you have completed tasks requiring a diverse skill set. This displays that you are a driven individual that considers their own career development.

I would greatly recommend this format for anyone looking to organise a mentoring event. Meeting as many individuals on a personal level within a short space of time not only improves communication skills and relationships: but also allows maximum knowledge intake from leading professionals who are wanting to make a difference to the next generation of construction and the built environment leaders.

Finally I would also recommend this type of event for mentees as a great networking opportunity to meet some extremely well respected and influential individuals within the construction and development sector.

Mitchell Galloway – Project Manager at Newcastle City Council & G4C Committee Member

19/07/2018 – How the Construction Skills Fund will help the industry

 

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

Last month, the government announced a £22m fund to bring training to construction sites, allowing learners to apply their knowledge in a real workplace, and helping their transition into their new career. The fund is designed to meet the needs of employers and people seeking to join the construction industry, particularly adult learners. Finally, a step in the right direction towards fixing the skills shortage we’ve struggled with for such a long time.

The fund and 158,000 new construction jobs expected to be created in the UK over the next five years was announced by Skills minister, Anne Milton after being first revealed by Philip Hammond in his Spring Statement. The money will support the development of 20 on-site hubs to train more people and help deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. On-site training will be hugely valuable for employers and trainees. It will attract new talent and help bridge the gap between training and working in the industry, meaning trainees are site-ready sooner. The 18-month scheme is funded by the Department for Education (DfE) and will be administered by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The fund also aims to support:

  • Work experience and placements for people working to join the industry
  • Entry pathways for those currently unemployed
  • Pathways for career switchers.

The good thing about the fund is that it’s not just about school-leavers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for training young people and making a career in the industry an option for school leavers but I like that this is also for adults, particularly those who want to retrain if they have been unemployed or want to switch careers. This is for everyone – a well-supported working environment.

The government’s industrial strategy has one main aim: making sure that people have the skills they need to get a job, make a living and get on in life. These skills are ones that employers and the economy needs to thrive, and if we get that right we can build a better Britain.

The CITB is now calling on employers, housing associations and other interested bodies such as Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to submit expressions of interest. These can be from both existing and prospective on-site learning hubs. The funding will only support on-site training provision and access to live construction projects is essential to qualify. An Expression of Interest should consider partnership working with a priority focus on home-building and infrastructure projects. This process should identify how organisations such as employers, local authorities, FE providers and housing associations can collaborate to make the training hubs happen. CITB will work with interested parties to prepare them for the streamlined application process which will open in the coming weeks.

To enter a submission or to find out more information visit www.citb.co.uk/csf

12/07/2018 – Construction Sector Deal – What Does it Mean for the Industry?

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

Last week, at the Northern Powerhouse Summit in Newcastle, the business and energy secretary, Greg Clark finally announced details of the government’s Construction Sector Deal.

Part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, it sets out what it believes to be the foundations for an ambitious partnership between the government and industry to transform the sector into one that can; build new homes in weeks or days, deliver new buildings at a third of the cost and provide affordable, energy efficient homes.

The deal, worth £420m (£170m from the government and £250m of private sector backing) aims to transform the industry by investing in new technologies to increase productivity and tackle the housing crisis by allowing new homes to be constructed more quickly and with less disruption. The aim is to get the construction, manufacturing, energy and digital sectors together to explore innovative approaches to revolutionise the industry. Almost half of the UK economy is reliant on the built environment, so the government needs and intends to use less energy, whilst improving productivity and safety.

Developing affordable, easy to construct homes will support the government’s ambition of delivering 1.5million new homes by 2022, as well as schools and other buildings which can be quickly and sustainably manufactured offsite, then assembled where and when we need them. Quite an ambitious target given that’s only 4 years away, but if we all get behind it, there’s no reason that it can’t be achieved. The deal also supports the Industrial Strategy’s mission to halve the energy use of new builds by 2030 and is expected to result in cheaper energy bills for families and businesses by improving efficiency – a win-win all round.

With the deal, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also set targets for the number of new starters in the industry. There’s commitment to increase the number of apprenticeship starts to 25,000 and T Level placements to 1000 in the next two years. £34m is being invested in innovated training programmes across the country to up-skill the existing workforce and offer high quality, industry placements to give young people the skills that the industry is crying out for.

The Construction Sector Deal was first announced in the Autumn Budget back in November then formally launched in the Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain fit for the Future. This is the biggest investment in construction in a decade. It’s something we’ve wanted and needed for a really long time and whilst I can’t speak on behalf of the whole industry, I don’t think we’re disappointed. Fingers crossed this is the answer to a lot of our problems, it certainly has the potential to be.

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.

05/07/2018 – Turning Our Buildings Into Power Stations

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

Buildings currently account for around 40% of UK energy consumption but over recent years the industry has stepped up, buildings are getting smarter and solar panels, on-site generators and kinetic energy capture are becoming increasingly common as buildings take advantage of available energy.

The first UK office to generate more energy that it consumes has just been completed at Swansea University. The building, known as the Active Office, aims to reduce the energy consumption of buildings in the UK. It combines a range of innovative technologies that will enable it to generate, store and release solar energy in one integrated system. It has a curved roof with integrated solar cells in a laminated photovoltaic panel; a photovoltaic thermal system on the south-facing wall; lithium ion batteries to store the electricity generated and a 2,000-litre water tank to store solar heat. It also has three electric vehicle charging points and the building’s estimated spare annual generation of 8.5MWh would be enough to drive 1.4 times around the world in a Nissan Leaf.

Next to the Active Office is another first, the Active Classroom, the UK’s first energy-positive classroom. In its first year of operation, it generated more than one and half times the energy it consumed. They might be firsts, but with those kinds of results, they certainly shouldn’t be one offs. The Active Office is designed to be easy to replicate, taking only one week to assemble using off-site construction and all the technologies are commercially available now. The two buildings will be linked together and be able to share energy with each other as well as power electric vehicles, showing how the concept may be applied in an energy-resilient solar-powered community.

Wales is paving the way for reducing energy consumption, with plans also being submitted for a new housing development where houses generate their own power. The Homes as Power Stations concept is being led by Neath Port Talbot Council and is one of the biggest Swansea Bay City Deal projects. If approved, it will hopefully kick start a construction programme with a projected investment of over £500m when the concept is operational across the region. The innovative housing project will have buildings that can generate, store and release their own energy, helping to reduce fuel poverty and its impact on health and wellbeing. These houses will be comfortable and affordable to run and have the potential to reduce stress on the local electricity grid.

Turning our buildings into power stations is a concept that works, the Active Classroom shows just that. The Active Office will enable data gathering and evidence building on how it can be applied to an office, helping to refine the design further. Buildings like this help with the Government’s modern industrial strategy to create ‘clean growth’ and fulfil our mission to halve the emissions of new buildings by 2030, something the government, the industry and us at Constructing Excellence are certainly on board with.

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

22/06/2018 – Urban Sciences Building Paves The Way For Sustainability

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

Last Friday (15 June) the North East construction industry came together to celebrate the excellent projects and amazing people of the industry, at the Constructing Excellence North East Awards.

It was the fourteenth year of the awards where companies, projects and individuals are recognised by their peers for excelling over the last year. There were 15 award categories including, Integration & Collaborative Working, Innovation, Digital Construction, Health, Safety & Wellbeing and the prestigious Project of the Year.

The big winners of the night were Newcastle University’s £59m Urban Sciences Building (USB), who picked up 5 awards. Opened in September 2017, the USB is a flagship development located on the £350m Newcastle Helix regeneration site in Newcastle and is home to the School of Computing. It has been built not only to provide a world class academic space but to inform the next generation of urban sustainability. The building and its surroundings are themselves experiments that use micro-metering to provide detailed, real time performance data. This will be used to inform the future design of building services, materials selection, urban drainage, energy systems and urban infrastructure. The construction process was just as impressive as the end result. Not only was it delivered on time, on budget, but Bowmer & Kirkland’s use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the project has set new standards for the university in the management of residual risk in build projects.

The building won in the Integration and Collaborative Working category, for its use of an open communication tool which housed all information digitally for the project. All team members from the client to subcontractors were given access for effective communication, enabling a holistic and collaborative approach to document management.

Design monitoring groups helped the client and end users understand design and coordination issues and 3D models enhanced their understanding and sense of building ownership. The project also triumphed in both the Sustainable and Digital Construction categories. It is a sustainable building as demonstrated by achieving a BREEAM Excellent status and being built in conjunction with a bespoke sustainability framework. Demonstrating collaboration is key to the successful delivery of a complex project and the team did just that. They engaged with the stakeholders and clients from the outset and shared information across the team using multiple tools including 3D model software, fortnightly model audit reports, snagging and QR apps.

To top off an already successful night, the building also won Offsite Project of the Year and the prestigious Building Project of the Year, more thoroughly deserved awards. We’re already lucky enough in the North East to have a built environment littered with striking landmarks, great achievements and a rich history. The Urban Sciences Building now gives us a project that others will look to and study in the future as engineers, designers and researchers around the world seek to develop cities sustainably.

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.

15/06/2018 – National Women in Engineering Day – What More Can We Do?

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

National Women in Engineering Day (NWED), which takes place next Saturday, highlights the opportunities available for women in engineering. The event takes place every year on 23 June and aims to raise the profile of women in engineering across the world. It’s your chance to get involved with this year’s theme of #RaisingTheBar.

The day takes place at a time when it has never been more important to highlight the opportunities for women in the industry. According to a Women’s Engineering Society survey, only 11% of the engineering workforce is female. That figure is shockingly low, but when you compare it to 9% in 2015, it is rising, just very slowly.

The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe and I’m embarrassed that we’re so far behind, considering we’re so advanced in many other sectors, it’s quite clear where we need to make more effort. A recent report by Engineering UK suggests the country has a demand for about 124,000 engineers each year, but the actual number being appointed is 37,000, that’s 59,000 lower than required, so there’s certainly a long way to go.

However, it doesn’t all have to be seen as being ‘too difficult’. Thinking about how you word a job advert can significantly change the applications you receive. Recent research based on the analysis of hundreds of millions of job ads, has shown that the way job adverts are worded determines whether more men or women apply for the role. The study found that the word “manage” encourages more men than women to apply but changing the word to “develop” would make it more female-friendly. The researchers also found that gender preferences can be conveyed subtly through words such as “competitive,” or “leader”, usually associated with male stereotypes, while words such as “support” and “interpersonal” are associated with female stereotypes. After employing these techniques, one company saw an 80% increase in the hiring of women in technical roles globally over a two-year period, so it’s definitely something to try.

What is really encouraging is that a number of women in the industry were mentioned in the Queen’s birthday honours earlier this month. Kath Moore was recognised for services to the construction industry, Roma Agrawal for services to engineering, Professor Denise Bower for services to engineering and Dr Frances Saunders was awarded a damehood for services to science and engineering. So, while we may have a long way to go, there are women out there doing amazing work. They are perfect examples of what can be achieved and are an inspiration to all; the acknowledgement from the Queen is thoroughly well deserved.

 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.