27/04/2018 – Is digital Construction Helping Foster Better Working Relationships Amongst the Industry?


By Richard Waterhouse, CEO of NBS

NBS released its fourth Contracts and Law report last week, shedding light on how well the industry is getting along. The report comes at a time when the industry is dealing with the Brexit fallout, the Grenfell tragedy and heightened concerns about the viability of some Tier 1 contractors.

As Building Information Modelling (BIM) increasingly becomes business as usual for most practices, the design community in particular looks well placed to lead and capitalise on the digital disruption the industry is experiencing, posing the question of whether current legal and contracting practice is exposing everyone involved in projects to unacceptable risks.

Collaboration has long been a goal for the industry, with BIM and the Government’s Construction Strategy giving it a renewed focus and it’s clear that the industry does see the advantage of collaboration to enable information sharing, reduce the number of disputes and improve the delivery of the client’s objectives.

Over two thirds of respondents adopt collaborative techniques on all or most projects and just under half of respondents (45%) feel that collaborative projects are helped by the adoption of BIM. The majority of respondents agree that their organisation sees BIM as contractually binding in the same way as specifications or drawings, but the report details a number of cases where the ownership of the building information model has been an issue of dispute.

There is a risk of collaboration falling apart at the first hurdle if that collaboration is not clearly described in contracts.  Who is responsible for what and when, and with whom do they collaborate needs to be defined as without this, a collaborative relationship can quickly become an adversarial one – tools like the NBS BIM Toolkit and the RIBA Plan of Works come into play here.

BIM is an example of collaborative, information rich, design practice. Future technologies are likely to be even more collaborative and even more information rich and as we move to the yet-to-be-defined BIM level 3 and the implementation of future technology, creating a legal framework that describes BIM is a necessary foundation.

Disputes are still very common and are regarded by some as a part of doing business in the UK construction sector. Of the disputes that respondents reported, fewer than half were settled. However, fewer people commented that the number of disputes is increasing, and fewer people said that they were involved in disputes suggesting that the direction of travel is good.

NBS is committed to gathering, structuring, standardising and making available the highest quality building and product information required for successful design and construction. Getting the information right not only improves client outcomes and increases the efficiency of projects, it also reduces professional risk, allowing a tight description of what is to be built, so reducing the scope for dispute.

To read the report findings in full, visit www.thenbs.com/contracts-law-report

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.

The Architect and the Budget


By Graham Sutton, Associate Solicitor at Hay & Kilner Law Firm

Will an architect be in breach of his duty of care if his design fails to take into account the client’s budget? This point was considered by the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) in the case of Riva Properties Limited v Foster + Partners (2017 EWHC 2574).

A duty of care is there to ensure that another party does not suffer unreasonable harm or loss that can arise as a result of contractual obligations or tort of negligence. The first thing to consider is whether a duty is owed. The architect has a duty of care to provide adequate professional, financial and technical resources, and a duty to inform the client about progress and any issues that may affect the brief, construction cost, programme or quality.

Riva Properties Limited (Riva) engaged Foster + Partners Limited (Foster) in 2007 to design a 5-star hotel near Heathrow Airport.  Fosters’ appointment did not include a budget figure, but Riva claimed to have mentioned a figure of £70m at the beginning of the scheme. Foster produced a design that was originally costed at £195m, but later reduced assuring Riva that the project could be “value engineered” down to £100m. Acting upon that assurance, Riva proceeded with the scheme, which turned out to be unachievable on the £100m figure. Riva lodged a claim against Foster for substantial lost profits of the hotel complex, which consequently was not built and wasted expenditure. Foster denied that it had ever been informed of a budget for the project. The Court found that Foster was, in fact, aware of the initial budget figure, but even if he had not been told the figure, he should have made the relevant enquiries to find out what the budget was at an early stage, and rightly so.

The Court further said that Foster had acted negligently when he advised that the project could be reduced in value to bring it within Riva’s budget. Given that Foster knew that Riva expected the cost reduction to be achieved by value engineering, Foster was under an obligation to advise Riva that it was impossible. As a result, Foster was ordered to repay professional fees charged of £3.6m.

The Court’s decision makes it clear that an architect must undertake its design work in accordance with the client’s brief.  Cost and budget is a key constraint and should always be identified and considered when designing a project, even if the architect is not expressly required to provide cost advice.

Although the facts relate solely to the provision of architectural services, the case serves as a sharp reminder to all industry professionals of the importance of performing professional services by reference to the client’s objectives and budget requirements. Where a budget has been set, a frequent review of the viability of the scheme against the budget should always be carried out.  As Foster found out, failure to do so can painfully hit the pocket.

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.

Promoting the Principles of Active Design




Sweden, like its neighbour Norway, is poised for a sea change in the way it provides community sport and leisure facilities. As a member of the International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities (IAKS) and a renowned innovator in the design of community sports facilities, our practice was invited to speak at the Träffpunkt Idrott Sports Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden to share our latest thinking in this area. Taking place over three days the summit covered a wide range of topics around the agenda of public health, sport and exercise.

I spoke in a seminar moderated by Dr. Karin Book from Malmö University, which interrogated the latest trends and innovations in the design of sport facilities, and in particular, the ability of sports architecture to promote public participation and active lifestyles.

The value of sport and physical activity to local governments and communities extends beyond sport for sport’s sake. In its widest sense, sport can deliver a positive impact on individuals, communities and wider society, generating a range of socio-economic benefits including a positive impact on public health and wellbeing. Moving the public away from inactivity towards movement of any kind, has been an ambition of policymakers for some time, in the UK and worldwide.

Featuring speakers from two different practices and backgrounds, the conversation covered a range of experiences in the design and delivery of sports facilities. Flemming Anders Overgaard, a co-founder of Copenhagen practice Keingart, shared his understanding of modern active lifestyle and the demands placed on facilities promoting sport and physical activity. Using examples of projects delivered by his practice, he demonstrated the value of small interventions in the promotion of not only programmed exercise, but also spontaneous movement, capable of engaging wider groups of users in physical activity.

My talk on the other hand, explored how innovative design solutions can contribute to an improved user experience, promote inclusivity, and foster public engagement in sport and leisure facilities, all with the outcome of increased participation. I used the rich experience of our practice in delivering multipurpose and multi-functional sports buildings to demonstrate how design for the ‘movement continuum’ is able to widen outreach. This concept looks at collocating a whole spectrum of sporting activities under one roof, thereby inviting a wide range of users of different ages, gender, physical capability and motivations to participate. This creates opportunities for a range of activities, starting from leisure and entertainment, requiring very little skill and commitment but able to gently introduce people into sports, to more formal sport and fitness activities, all the way to performance level sports.

In addition, I explored the synthesis between sport and educational facilities and the ability of collocation of these two potentially polarized functions to attract more people into the building, and ultimately, to motivate visitors to engage with a sporting offer. Building on our experience of four major projects at different stages of delivery, I illustrated how transparency and visibility of the sporting offer, as well as the positioning of social spaces in relation to the entrance and core activities can help to achieve this.

All the discussed architectural principles fall under an overarching concept of active design which looks at promoting spontaneous movement, active lifestyles and physical activity. This has become an important item on government agendas across Europe, in an attempt to tackle issues surrounding public health, wellbeing and inactivity.

Whilst highlighting obvious benefits of active design principles, this conference revealed a lack of supporting evidence at a practical level. This spiked a conversation around the cost implications of conducting research and the required involvement of specialist consultants to push this aspiration forward. The debate has also emphasized the necessity to promote active design principles to clients and developers, creating opportunities to trial emerging concepts further.

Ultimately, we believe strongly in the positive role active design can play in not only the design of sports facilities, but many other building typologies, and we will continue to encourage a joined up approach to its development across the industry.

Irina Korneychuk – FaulknerBrowns Architects, G4C Committee Member

Gender Pay Gap Report: Construction Must Try Harder

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


Last week, the 4 April deadline passed, and all eligible companies should have reported their gender pay gap. The results, perhaps unsurprisingly, show that the construction sector has the biggest gender pay gap of any UK industry, at 25%. We have known of the under-representation of women in the industry for many years, so this is nothing new but hopefully the publicity around the results will prioritise the issue in boardrooms and kickstart actions.

The new government regulations required businesses with more than 250 employees to publish:

  • Their gender pay gap (mean and median)
  • Their gender bonus pay gap (mean and median)
  • Proportion of men and women receiving a bonus
  • Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.

It must be stressed that the gender pay gap reported is not about the salaries people are paid or ‘equal pay for equal work’. The issue highlighted is the number of women in organisations and the levels at which they are employed.

Construction needs more women at all levels, from the boardroom to trades on site. Companies need to consider the cultures within their organisations and how they recruit, retain and promote people. Do their current policies and procedures allow unconscious bias to influence who are given opportunities? Are there senior female role models in the organisation for women to aspire to? Do they value difference and celebrate diversity of people, ideas and management styles?

The pay gap data is supported by numerous other surveys, including a recent Randstad report which highlighted 75% of industry employees passed over for a more senior role were women. Women were also three times more likely to miss out on promotion in the industry and 49% of those questioned had never worked with a female manager. None of which is a surprise.

Following the report, many of the leading employers have announced that they are actively seeking to recruit more women into senior roles. Kier aims to establish a 70:30 male-female gender split at graduate level and Balfour Beatty has a three-year plan involving mentoring and unconscious bias programmes to encourage more women to join and seek career progression.

On 25 April CENE are hosting an Introductory Workshop on Fairness, Inclusion and Respect in Construction. The event is free to attend and will enable attendees to discuss ideas and initiatives to support their workforce and realise the business benefits.

To register for this event please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 5007880 or amy@cene.org.uk

06/04/2018 – Fairness, Inclusion & Respect

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

Inclusion is about making everyone feel that they are a key part of the organisation. Ensuring people feel included within teams is especially important within the industry, where future successes depend on working well together.

The UK has a set legal framework with the following definition: “An equal society recognises the diverse needs, situations and goals of individuals. It removes discrimination and prejudice, and tackles the economic, political, legal, social and physical barriers that limit what people can do and be.” (Equalities Review 2007) Which in the workplace this means employers must, treat all employees and prospective employees fairly and considerately and protect all employees from discrimination.

Everyone has a role to play in promoting Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) in construction, in the same way that everyone is responsible for maintaining health and safety measures. We take health and safety extremely seriously, and it should be no different when it comes to FIR.

The FIR Programme is a cross-industry programme to develop a culture of Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) within workplaces. The FIR programme will help companies in the industry become more inclusive, so that every employer can:

  • Attract, recruit and retain the best of all available talent
  • Address the industry wide skills shortage
  • Capture the business benefits of diversity, including better productivity, innovation and collaboration, safer workplaces, improved reputation, enhanced financial performance
  • Position their business at the forefront of driving a genuinely collaborative sector wide initiative to improve our industry.

The FIR programme comes at the perfect time, as the results of the requirement to disclose gender pay gap information slowly start to emerge.  As of March, construction was the sector with the largest gender pay gap, with data showing employers pay women, on average, 21% less than men.  The information doesn’t go into detail yet about job roles and responsibility but from an outsider’s point of view, it doesn’t look good and this is what we need to address. 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 all available talent regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, values, experience etc. As a sector, we need to embrace FIR in order to attract, recruit, train and retain the skills and talent that we need to deliver our pipeline of works.

CENE are hosting a free event with DAC Beachcroft, looking at FIR why it’s important to your future business success. As well as this free Introduction to FIR Workshop, the FIR Programme includes the FIR Online Toolkit with e-learning modules and toolbox talks, resource library, case studies and trainer’s guides, and the FIR Ambassadors Network – everything you could possibly need to run a fair, inclusive and respectful business and reap the benefits.

 To register for this event please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 5007880 or amy@cene.org.uk

30/03/2018 – Technologies in Construction

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

In recent years, technology and modern tools have helped speed up and improve the construction process, but the need for manual labour has always remained constant, but is this all about to change?

Picture this; parts of a building self-assembling, robots performing the most complicated tasks, unmanned machines building houses and drones flying overhead inspecting work, with not a human on site. Right now, it’s not so hard to imagine but only a few years ago we’d have laughed off such claims. Could it soon be the end of working life as we know it? Is the robotic revolution coming and does it have the potential to significantly change the industry?

With technological advances like an automatic bricklaying machine, it’s certainly looking that way. The robot, named Hadrian can lay 1,000 bricks an hour, create an entire house in just two days and has the potential to build up to 150 homes a year.  It works 20 times faster than humans and can work 24 hours a day, without the need to recuperate with a cuppa half way through the day like the rest of us. Bricklaying may be one of the oldest trades, but it’s also one of the most dangerous and time consuming, but with the advance in technology and introduction of robot builders, 12-hour days and a high number of worker injuries may soon be a thing of the past.

But despite the increasing levels of automation being seen on site, so far, the technology is augmenting rather than replacing the human element. Sure, the number of individuals required on site will decrease but I struggle to see a stage where a site is completely human free. Forklift trucks carry many more bricks and mortar than a human worker and a robot might build a house faster, but it just shifts the need for the human element, not wipe it out completely. Rather than laying the bricks themselves they’ll operate, maintain and supervise technology on site. Increasing the use of prefabrication off site in a controlled factory environment will ensure a controlled, accurate component is delivered on site. It shifts the requirement for humans to a different stage of the process. It could create more factory-based jobs at the start of the process rather than replacing the need for workers on site.

The use of technology can improve the level of health and safety within the industry, which has been a priority for many years, which is why I think the use of technology has been accepted by once hesitant employers.

There’s no need to fear technology, the use of the latest digital technology must become the norm if we’re to hit our targets. The ultimate goal is to make construction more productive, cost effective and safer. There’s no intention to remove the need for humans – after all we’re still in the middle of a skills crisis, both human and robotic! Maybe don’t hang up your working boots just yet, the industry still needs you!

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

23/03/2018 – Housing Infrastructure Plan

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

Last week (13 March 2018) the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Spring Statement since it was agreed that major tax or spending changes would be made once a year in the Autumn Budget.

At the heart of the government’s plan for building an economy that works for everyone, is the commitment to tackling the challenges in the housing market. The Chancellor announced an investment programme of £44 billion to raise housing supply to 300,000 a year by the mid-2020s. He also announced that they are currently working with 44 authorities who have bid into the £4.1 billion infrastructure fund to unlock homes in areas of high demand as well as working with authorities who have agreed to deliver above their local housing need.

He also said that the government will more than double the size of the housing growth partnership with Lloyds Banking Group to £220 million to provide additional finance for small builders. In the next few days, housing minister Dominic Raab will make further announcements on the housing infrastructure plan. It’s promising to see that the government are addressing the problems with the housing market and working to create the homes we desperately need. We need to build more homes, make sure they’re the type of homes that people want to live in and in the places where people want to live.

Architect and Channel 4 presenter George Clarke believes his modular scheme at the Smith’s Dock development in North Shields will ‘genuinely change the way we work and build homes’.

Included in the development are 10 properties, known as FAB houses, which have been created using offsite, modular technology meaning they’re created at a factory facility before being finished on site. This method of construction is a strong, reliable way of building good quality homes and it sounds like it could be just what we’re looking for when it comes to how we ease the housing crisis in the UK. In his report which reviewed the industry, Mark Farmer 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.

In the Spring Statement, the Chancellor also announced that next month, a £29 million construction skills fund will open for business to fund up to 20 construction skills villages around the country. Further, he announced plans to launch a call for evidence on how to eliminate the scourge of late payments and will also release up to £80 million to support small businesses in funding apprentices. It is encouraging to see the government investing in construction skills, tackling the problems of late payments and helping small businesses to fund apprentices. In theory, it all sounds extremely promising, but now it’s time to put the plan into action and watch how it all unfolds – and that’s what I’m most excited 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.


On Thursday 8th March 2018, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Social Media was a hive of activity promoting positive messages for gender equality across the world.

Within our industry it is clear to see there is a higher ratio of male to female and it emphasises the need for days like International Women’s Day to raise our awareness. Only 14% of construction professionals are female and we make up 13% of the industry as a whole. But as a woman, relatively new to the industry, what does the lack of diversity really mean to people like me?

I took the time on Thursday evening to reflect on my career and how I’ve found being in the minority.

Firstly, I think it’s fantastic we are bringing the concerns of the industry to the forefront of people’s minds. It’s improving perceptions and increasing awareness of the changes we need to progress. We’re hopefully making the industry feel more accessible to people who would have previously not considered a career in the Built Environment.

From my experience in the industry, it has been nothing but positive. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones? Or maybe it’s because people have been aware of the discrimination for some time and my generation are the beginning of the change. I’d personally like to think the latter to be correct.

We recently had a Generation 4 Change (G4C) committee meeting where we discussed an issue brought to our attention on equality and discrimination. We pride ourselves on being a diverse committee with a 50:50 male female split. When this issue was raised with the committee we were shocked; we aren’t diverse out of a set selection procedure, but rather because we are conscious that diversity leads to greater innovation as ‘out of the box’ ideas are heard.

I feel very fortunate to have some inspiring and influential female and male role models in my career who are constantly pushing me to be the best I can be and I would like to think that the opportunities I have been given are based on my hard work and determination regardless of gender. I hope the changes I have been involved with in the industry are positive and will benefit anyone who can relate, not a specific group of individuals.

There is still a long way to go before we are a truly diverse industry which is wider than gender discrimination, but we can promote the positive changes already achieved to prove we are moving forward.

I hope that my perception doesn’t change, I hope that I will continue my career feeling equal to my peers and I hope I make others feel this way too. I hope my account isn’t an exception and that other young professionals in the Built Environment also feel valued as individuals rather than held back by a label.

G4C are debating how we can create a new image for construction to attract more diverse talent into the industry on 24 May at Bouncing back: a new narrative for construction https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bouncing-back-a-new-narrative-for-construction-tickets-43750783772

Eve Wilson, G4C Co-Chair North East

16/03/2018 – Open Doors Week

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

As you read this, final preparations are being put to Open Doors events across the country. The event, which takes place next week (Monday 19 March – Saturday 24 March), allows people to discover how buildings and structures are constructed and find out about the range of skills and professions needed both on site and in offices.

The event welcomes everyone from civil engineers, bricklayers, front of house sales managers and future architects, to visitors of all ages and skill sets. It’s the perfect opportunity to be inspired by the growing industry and see how a career in construction could benefit you. This year will see over 270 sites open to the public, 3 of which are happening right on our doorstep, in the North East.

Kier Group Plc are opening doors to Newcastle Laboratory Science Central, a 5-story concrete frame building with external concrete panels and glazing, internally consisting of office and laboratory space. The project forms part of Newcastle’s Science Central Scheme. It will be the perfect opportunity to see everything from dry lining to external glazing and drainage to metal work.

Galliford Try are giving you the chance to see behind the scenes of the £200m Stephenson Quarter. North East Futures University Technical College (UTC) is a new school for 14-19-year olds opening in September this year. The UTC will specialise in careers in Health Science and IT. The project currently has various trades working on the project at this point, so there will be the chance to see Brickwork, Steel, Roofing, Partitions and M&E.

Willmott Dixon are opening doors to the Northern Centre for Emerging Technologies. The project comprises of the refurbishment of an office block and new build two storey extension to accommodate offices and testing facilities for businesses of emerging technology specialising in virtual and augmented reality.

Opening these particular sites not only demystifies the sometimes frustrating construction process for the general public, it also excites them about what our industry can achieve and proves that the North East can proudly take its place in the national construction race.

Events like this are the perfect opportunity for those contemplating a career in the industry and it means we can show off exactly what we have to offer. Last year’s event showed that 83% of attendees would consider a career in the industry based on what they saw on their visit – proving events like have real value. I think by bringing construction to life in this way, people get a chance to see first-hand what it’s like to work in the industry and see something that we already know – what a fantastic career construction can 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.

09/03/2018 – National Apprenticeship Week


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

As I write this, businesses up and down the country are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) – a week for raising awareness and celebrating Apprenticeships and how rewarding they can be.

Apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. They are a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience, guided by tutors or mentors.

For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route.  In fact, an apprenticeship is a structured programme of training and development, approved by government. At level two, an apprenticeship is worth five GCSEs and at level three it’s worth two A Levels.

I have voiced my opinion a number of times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards for those beginning their career in construction. Which is why I love weeks like this, where the whole industry pulls together to celebrate apprentices and works towards getting more apprentices into the industry. I love nothing more than celebrating the young people in our industry and love seeing the entries fly in each year for the Apprentice of the Year category in our Generation for Change (G4C) awards.

For decades the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Levy has existed for our industry to help fund people training at work, including the costs of employing apprenticeships in the trades. However, in April last year, a new government Apprenticeships Levy was introduced for all sectors. This is designed to cover apprentice training fees and is open to all apprenticeship courses, including higher level courses. As a result, companies have a number of options to ensure they can recruit and train apprentices to suit their staffing needs.

A career in construction can be seriously rewarding to both the employee and the employer, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) apprentices in the industry will go on to earn thousands of pounds more than many of their university-educated equivalents. Because the industry is in the midst of a skills shortage and the governments ambitious house building target, of building 300,000 homes each year quickly catching up to us, we need to commit to recruiting and training the right people to be anywhere near reaching the targets set.

It’s great to see that over the last few years, more and more UK construction companies have joined the 5% Club – a scheme promoting the employment of apprentices in the industry.  Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke have already committed to apprentices making up to and beyond 5% of their total workforce. You can’t tell me that’s an industry not wanting to support apprentices?

 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.