23rd June Journal Column

By Richard Waterhouse, Chief Executive of NBS

On Wednesday (21 June) the NBS team launched their new tool, the NBS Online Viewer powered by Autodesk Forge at Autodesk University in London.

Since becoming the first UK Autodesk Solutions Associate last year, NBS and Autodesk have been working together to develop the next generation of information and knowledge management integration.  This latest development is all about taking Building Information Modelling (BIM) into the cloud. By doing this, NBS will be providing a solution which provides and maintains critical data within the construction workflow allowing customers to provide more value to their clients.

The NBS Online Viewer makes it quick and easy for everyone working on a project to view a 3D model and associated specification without the need for additional software or a licence. With just a web browser and a free NBS ID, projects can be brought to life with linked manufacturer and specification data. The NBS Online Viewer will provide huge efficiency gains for designers, manufacturers, contractors and building owners/operators alike, by allowing everyone to be informed on a project regardless of technology barriers.

The tool works by combining either the Revit or IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) model with NBS Create in the cloud. It’s as simple as clicking the ‘model’ button and uploading this with the associated specification. Once uploaded, the model can be navigated within the web browser.

The specification viewer provides approximate quantities calculated from the model and presents linked clauses together with hyperlinks to external resources such as manufacturer websites and published documents. By adding email addresses, others can be invited to view the model and specification.

NBS has developed plug-ins for BIM design software for a number of years, allowing customers to better coordinate their models and specifications. The NBS Online Viewer development is in direct response to customers needing to be able to share and view coordinated design and specification information. Being able to view and interrogate this information using a 3D model will allow for earlier informed decision making on projects, whilst providing the right content and information to the right people at the right time.

For all those working on BIM projects, I encourage you all to give it a trial run. It is currently in public beta phase, but will be open for the next few months and from there NBS will determine how best to build the first release to market.

To access the NBS Online Viewer and to give feedback visit, www.theNBS.com/viewer

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.

16th June Journal Column

By Sarah Wilson, partner in the construction department at commercial law firm Watson Burton

Since it was introduced, the New Engineering Contract (NEC) has been widely used across the industry, becoming the contract of choice for Government and public-sector work, as well as being used extensively on other projects.

The NEC is a formalised system created by the Institution of Civil Engineers that guides the drafting of documents on civil engineering and construction projects for the purpose of obtaining tenders, awarding and administering contracts.

The contract was revolutionary when it was first introduced, requiring the parties to act in a “spirit of mutual trust and co-operation”.  It is not the type of contract that can be signed and then put aside to gather dust.  Instead, it is very much a management contract, setting out in clear language the procedures that need to be followed throughout the works. The aim is that no nasty surprises lie in wait for the developer and that payment is prompt and fair for the contractor. The latest version, NEC3 is now endorsed by governments and the industry worldwide and has a track record for delivering projects on time and on budget.

On June 22, the NEC will introduce NEC4, which has been created as a response to feedback from the industry. The new version focuses heavily on collaboration and generates opportunities for the sharing of cost savings.

The NEC has introduced two new contracts into its suite of contracts, one of which is the Alliance Contract, where all parties will sign up to one single contract and work (hopefully) as one genuine team, with the potential for shared cost savings acting as an incentive.

Focussing on collaborative working will encourage all parties to work together in achieving objectives, sharing both risks and benefits, which along with cost saving and fair payment will benefit the customer as well as the developer and contractor.  I’m hoping this will act as a catalyst for the industry in the post Brexit period.


Another welcomed change is introduction of Dispute Avoidance Boards. The industry has a reputation for disputes which, to an extent, this is not wholly deserved.  My experience is most people want to do a good job at a fair price. The reality is that construction is very different to manufacturing – there are far more uncertainties and on occasions, disputes arise. The Board helps parties find a solution to disputes. It also provides recommendations, but it is up to the parties whether they accept them or not. In my opinion, the involvement of a third party is very helpful in resolving disputes at an early stage.

Parties are free to continue using old versions of the NEC contract, but generally, the changes to NEC4 are a good balance, benefitting both parties. It will be interesting to see the full extent of changes when the contract is released and see how the industry reacts to using it, after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

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.

9th June Journal Column

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

Ever since the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the procurement landscape has been changing with public sector bodies now requiring contractors to deliver ‘added value’ as part of contracts.

Social value is about having regard for the social, economic and environmental well-being of communities in the procurement process, it’s not just about the lowest cost any more. The public sector has always had the option to consider the additional benefits to a community through procurement, but the introduction of the Act finally made it a requirement, to ensure that authorities get best value from public spending by also benefiting the community.

The industry provides huge social value opportunities for local communities, the local economy and the environment. Opportunities could be anything from; providing training or work experience opportunities for unemployed people and employing apprentices to using local suppliers or recycled materials and engaging with local schools or community groups – it really could be anything that will be beneficial to the local area or community. Employment, skills and living environment make up three of the seven indices of multiple deprivation as defined by the UK Government back in 2015. As an industry, we have the partnerships and the skillset to make such a difference in these key areas.

I’m a huge advocate of getting young people into the industry, so projects that help get young people to the career ladder, whether it’s through employment opportunities or giving them the training and skills to seek jobs in the future, really appeal to me. But, that’s what it’s all about, thinking of what the industry or area needs and submitting project tenders that will do everything they can to help us get there.

Constructing Excellence in the North East are holding an event next Thursday (15 June) to discuss the requirements under the Social Value Act, how it’s affecting procurement and how the construction sector can help the public sector meet its aims and objectives of creating additional value. Guest speakers include; Darush Dodds, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Added Value at Esh Group, Michelle Brennan, Project Five Consulting, who specialises in Social Value and works across the sector developing positive approaches towards a more sustainable built environment and Karen McCarthy, Regional Manager, Career Ready – a charity that works to increase the employability of students through engagements with businesses and industry professionals. Karen works with a number of schools and colleges across the North East and is keen to link them all with employers to help prepare young people for the world of work.

For more information or to register your interest please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 500 7880 or amy@cene.org.uk.

2nd June Journal Column

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

Last week we were lucky enough to have some of the nicest weather we’ve had so far, this year, with temperatures reaching 25C last Friday. While most of us who were keen to get outside, and envied workers who were free from the confines of an office, it’s worth remembering that the hot weather, as nice as it is, poses certain risks to outdoor workers, and like any other aspect of health and safety, must be managed correctly.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to:

  • include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training, informing workers that a tan is not healthy
  • encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months — especially around midday
  • encourage workers to use sunscreen
  • encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, if possible
  • consider scheduling work to minimise exposure
  • keep workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure
  • encourage workers to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change and to seek prompt medical advice promptly if concerned.

For employees, the HSE highlights its sun protection six-point code as follows, advising workers to:

  • keep their tops on since clothing forms a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays
  • wear hats with brims or flaps to cover the back of necks and ears
  • stay in the shade, whenever possible, but especially at lunchtime
  • use a high factor sunscreen of at least factor SPF 15 on exposed skin
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles which may have changed

Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. It can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year. Construction workers are six times as likely to develop skin cancer, so something as simple as applying sunscreen, could make all the difference.

The suggestions from the HSE are definitely a good place to start, but it’s important to just pay attention to how you’re feeling in the heat, if you don’t feel right, hydrate and have a rest in the shade. You know your body best so don’t push yourself too far, the project might take a little longer to get finished, but the important thing is that the project is finished by a fit and healthy workforce.  With effective health and safety planning, outdoor workers will enjoy a pleasant, healthy and safe summer – unless we get a typical British summer, then we’ll have nothing to worry about.

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.

26th May Journal Column

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

Earlier this month, North-East born architect and TV presenter George Clarke launched a new scheme to attract more people into the building industry.

The Ministry of Building Innovation (MOBI) is an organisation designed to inspire new generations and encourage innovation in the design and construction of housing. It is aimed at kickstarting a fundamental change to the home building industry, attracting new generations into the profession.

Statistics show that we may need to recruit as many as 400,000 new employees every year if we are to meet governments ambitious target of building 140,000 new homes by the end of this year. The industry has an ever-growing skills shortage, making attracting new talent into the sector not just desirable, but absolutely critical if we are to close the current talent gap, hit the government’s target and avert a major skills crisis in the future.

I welcome the new initiative with open arms and am 100 per cent behind supporting new recruits, particularly students and young people into the industry. The future of our industry lies with the youth of today, so why wouldn’t we encourage them into the industry by showing them just how amazing construction can be?

George Clarke visited Teesside earlier this week to discuss this new building initiative that has launched in partnership with Teesside University. Employers got to hear about the suite of multi-disciplinary courses at all levels to attract new and innovative ideas and people into the building industry. The university has also developed a suite of courses in Advanced Home Construction and Advanced Home Futures. The courses offer a new look at the building industry and a broad-based practical approach which aims to attract learners from different disciplines, not just traditional architecture and enable students to explore a variety of specialisms, allowing them to challenge the status quo. There’s so much more to the industry than hard hats and muddy boots, and it’s down to us to make sure everybody knows that.

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has also been working towards encouraging more people, specifically young people, into the industry. They have put together a ‘Think Construction’ toolkit for companies to take into schools to show young people exactly what the industry has to offer. It includes a film, presentations, case studies and games to appeal to children of all ages. This time last year I was asking the government to do more with regards to promotion of the industry and to inform parents/school career advisors and pupils that there are many professions within the construction industry, so for me, this toolkit is exactly what is needed.

I think we’ve all finally realised the importance the young of today play in the future of our industry and we know that the best way to make a difference is to work collectively and towards the same goal.

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.

19th May Journal Column

By Richard Waterhouse, Chief Executive of NBS

This week, NBS released their seventh National Building Information Modelling (BIM) Report, the first since the introduction of the UK Government’s BIM mandate in April last year. It’s great to see a lot of encouraging results, showing that the mandate has indeed given the industry a boost to adopt BIM level 2.

BIM adoption has reached a high point this year and BIM level 2 looks to be well established as the normal way of working for most practices to carry out their design work. Over 60% of respondents are now using BIM, up 8% from last year – the biggest recorded jump in BIM usage since the survey began in 2014. To change a relatively static industry like construction in such a short period of time is nothing short of astonishing and is best in class at a global level.

The design community is broadly supportive of the BIM mandate. Most feel the government is on the right track with BIM but the report shows, as with most things, there is still more work to do. Confidence in BIM as a skill is improving among the design team, 55% are now confident in BIM compared to 35% in 2012. Although a lot of work has already been done, there is still a number of people who need information, CPD and training. Whilst some clients lead the way on BIM, many others need further support and careful explanation of the process and its benefits – 72% of clients still don’t understand the benefits of BIM and this needs to change.

So, what’s next for BIM in the UK? In the next few years we can expect adoption and use to increase steadily, not just with existing designers adopting new, better ways of working, but those who have grown up online will expect to design within a collaborative digital working environment. Thinking about future use of BIM, 90% believe they will be using BIM next year and almost 95% of practices believe they will be within three years. While actions do speak louder than words, the rise to 60% BIM adoption over six years, makes me believe this is more than achievable.

The move to BIM level 2 is just the beginning, as the UK BIM mandate becomes embedded, thoughts are naturally turning to what comes next. The report hints at future technologies that will no doubt be significant to the industry: robotics, 3D printing, future cities and machine learning are definitely our future, and I for one can’t wait to see how things progress. We’ve come a long way since our first BIM report and I look forward to future developments, with the UK at the forefront of design innovation.

To read the full report visit www.thenbs.com/bimreport2017

12th May Journal Column

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

Last year, construction company Esh Group began working on a Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) funded Carbon Coach course. The programme aims to help tackle the industry’s skills shortage and meet Government carbon reduction targets – two birds with one stone!

Esh Group identified the need to educate young people entering the construction industry in energy efficiency and awareness, and I couldn’t agree more. There’s always a need to educate people in something new, more so with young people coming into the industry, after all the future of our industry is in their hands.

The programme has been developed online which will upskill apprentices alongside their core discipline as additional learning addressing a skills gap. The innovative course includes four modules covering; Climate Change, Energy sources, Low Carbon Design, and Energy Management. It gives apprentices the on-site know-how to shape a sustainable future for the industry while reducing costs. It features interactive content with voice-over, which for some people is a more engaging way to learn and it’s flexible, so can be available as and when the learner wants.

The programme aims to influence behaviours in relation to energy efficiency both on and off site which will have a long-term impact for Esh Group and the wider industry. I have no doubt in my mind that Carbon Coach will have a positive impact in the region and provide the future workforce with high-quality, innovative training to give them the best start to their careers. By targeting apprentices early on in their training, we can help them to make carbon reduction an important part of their careers. Developing this programme for apprentices provides both the background knowledge and practical skills which will prepare the industry to respond to the Government’s 2025 objective ‘Driving Carbon out of the Built Environment 2025’ – which is coming around scarily fast as we’re already four years down the line since it was first announced.

Funding from CITB has seen at least 50 of Esh Group’s 108 apprentices, who are 11% of the workforce, trained in carbon reduction. It’s this funding which has helped launch the programme as quickly and efficiently as possible. There are so many potential apprentices looking for work and further training and as with most training courses, the quicker you get the ball rolling the better.

Constructing Excellence in the North East are delighted to be working in conjunction with Esh Group to deliver an event focussed on the Carbon Coach programme. The event will generate an awareness of the course and promote energy efficiency throughout the industry, featuring a number of workshops from Esh Group employees and industry professionals. For more information or to register for this event please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 5007880 or amy@cene.org.uk

5th May Journal Column

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

According to a new report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), offsite construction could revolutionise the industry – as a big advocate of this method of construction it’s encouraging to hear, especially during the housing crisis we’ve been facing over the last few years.

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.

Following Mark Farmer’s report entitled ‘Modernise or Die’ report, and government initiatives aimed at encouraging the use of offsite, it seems the industry is finally realising the benefits offsite construction can bring. The CITB have commissioned a report ‘Faster, Smarter, More Efficient: Building Skills for Offsite Construction’, which provides a timely assessment of how the adoption of offsite is changing the skills and training landscape for the industry.

The report shows that 42% of industry employers with over 100 staff expect to use offsite methods in five years’ time, of which, they all expect the use of precast concrete panels to increase and 91% anticipate the use of precast concrete frame to rise. Almost 50% of construction industry clients also expect the use of offsite construction to increase over the next five years – so offsite construction is certainly on the up!

Offsite construction currently accounts for just 10% of industry output and the CITB has identified a growing training gap. We now need to concentrate on employer training and ensuring everyone has the knowledge and skill to deal with this new method of house building. If offsite construction is the road we’re going to go down, and it’s the right road for me, it’s our responsibility to ensure the industry is well equipped to go there.

The report outlined six key skills areas related to offsite construction; digital design; estimating/commercial; offsite manufacturing; logistics; site management and integration and onsite placement and assembly. For offsite construction to be successful, there needs to be a clear understanding of both onsite and offsite construction and the two must work together effectively, so training in these six areas must develop to meet the changing demand.

The CITB have promised to work with other stakeholders, such as in design and manufacturing to apply existing training in a construction context and step up promotion of the career opportunities offsite can offer, emphasising digital skills, to attract a wider pool of people into these key roles – which all sounds good to me, but as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

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.

28th April Journal Column

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

 Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN), which represents the interests of over 500 SME companies in the regional construction and contracting sector, recently launched its Construction Charter. The aim of CAN’s charter is to create awareness about the need to re-think public procurement strategy so that regional SMEs get a better chance to compete for contracts in the open market.

The companies CAN represents have a combined turnover of some £3 billion and employ more than 10,000 people – a group well placed to make a significant contribution to regional GDP. 

While Constructing Excellence in the North East represents the interests of all regional construction-related companies, it is a platform for industry improvement and we are big on collaboration, so I am encouraged by the kind of improvements that the charter calls for.  It’s encouraging to see that some regional public sector bodies are already taking steps to implement fairer procurement policies which put local companies first whenever possible.

CAN’s Construction Charter sets out a six-point plan for public sector procurement reform, highlighting the need for a greater focus in tender documentation on increasing local contractor participation, the inclusion of social, economic and environmental considerations, particularly on carbon footprint reduction and the eco benefits of using regional rather than national contractors.

It calls for ‘intelligent procurement practice’, which sounds like common sense, but it has not always been possible for regional public sector bodies to operate in this way due to government directives. For example, during the recession the creation of national frameworks led to many smaller, regional construction firms being locked out and a number went out of business. 

 Next month the North East Procurement Organisation’s (NEPO) Building Construction Framework and its related supply chain will be re-tendered – one of the biggest opportunities for regional firms.  NEPO’s Michael Curtis has been consulting heavily with industry bodies to ensure intelligent procurement practice gives regional firms more chance to win a place on the framework this time.

 he North East LEP is also developing a multidisciplinary construction strategy for the North East to support its North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).  The SEP recognises the importance to the region of infrastructure, new homes and work space so a cohesive approach to construction is essential if the target of 100,000 new and better jobs is to be achieved by 2024. 

We all want to see a healthy and sustainable regional economy.  With the UK’s departure from the EU it is just the right time to turn up the volume about intelligent procurement practice.  Sunderland City Council is the first local authority to have signed up to CAN’s new charter, so the first steps are already being taken to reform procurement, I look forward to seeing more following in their footsteps.

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.

21st April Journal Article

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

By now we should all be aware of offsite construction, but for those of you that aren’t, 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.

Last year, the Construction Leadership Council commissioned Mark Farmer to undertake a review of the UK’s construction labour model. The 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.  

Earlier this month, H+H UK Ltd and SIG Offsite launched i-house, a new house building system which sees homes built in just five days. The system provides all the speed of offsite construction with the familiarity of a traditional build, going from foundations to roof in five short days.

The system can encompass the inner leaves of external cavity walls, floors, lintel, cavity closers, insulation and roof trusses. With the inclusion of soffit and fascia, it delivers the internal skin of a property, fully wrapped and ready for follow-on trades. It really can do it all, with only one contactor required to deliver the whole house shell. It can be used on the construction of domestic houses of up to two storey height, replacing the structure of the inner leaf of external cavity walls, separating walls and internal partitions with storey height Celcon Elements. They are Installed by the SIG Offsite team and Celcon Elements are craned into place and fixed using H+H element mortar.

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 many offsite projects all happening under the same roof, it also means it’s easier to take inventory of leftover materials and use them on other projects, as opposed to other methods where surplus would be dumped in the recycle bin. This is a much better way of preventing waste and reducing unnecessary costs.

This method of construction now widely used in the housing and education sector and it could be just what we’re looking for when it comes to how we ease the housing crisis in the UK.

‘Prefabs’ are now a strong, reliable way of building homes, a complete 360 degree from the 1940s when cheap, flimsy units were built to address the home shortage. Regardless of the quality, pre-fabricated homes helped solve the crisis back then, so there’s nothing stopping them working now.  Reuters has reported that housebuilders including Berkeley, Taylor Wimpey, and Persimmon have said they are either considering or planning new developments of prefabricated homes. Who knows, 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.