11th August Journal Column

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

For a long time, the construction industry was one of the least automated around, but thanks to the likes of Building Information Modelling (BIM), virtual and augmented reality and new technology, the industry is making its mark on the digital world.

Newcastle based Space Group have been working with The University of Stirling to launch a new app to help improve workplaces, public buildings and homes for people living with dementia.
The Intelligence, Research, Iterative, Design Interface System (IRIDIS) app will be free to download and will address physical aspects of design which impact upon older people’s quality of life and their ability to live independently, such as lighting, colour contrast and textures to aid day-to-day living, reinforcing memory and personal identity. It will have the ability to make recommendations on property design and refurbishment. It has links to the BIM provider bimstore, allowing designers to search and download BIM objects from manufacturers that are specifically designed and approved to meet dementia care design standards.
Those living with dementia, family members, healthcare or industry professionals, or anyone using the app, will be asked to take photographs and answer questions about their surroundings. Within approx. 20 minutes the app can assess the suitability of a two-bedroom home for an older person. Suggested improvements could be anything from changing a light bulb to reconfiguring a whole bathroom.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, 850,000 people in the UK have dementia, with the number expected to increase to one million by 2025. With the industry responsible for building homes, workplaces and public buildings, that’s one million people we need to take into consideration in the next 8 years. Care provision will need to keep pace with this increase so those living with dementia can continue to live with as much independence as possible, whether that be in new accommodation designed entirely for their needs or existing buildings that have been altered to cater for them.

Dementia is one of the main causes of disability later in life, ahead of cancer, and in the UK we shockingly spend less on dementia care than on other major medical conditions. The app means that, no matter how little your knowledge or awareness of dementia, you can still be confident that you are providing safe environments for people to live in.

As with anything, you only get out of the process what you put in and those that have made the effort to bring the industry into the digital age, are those that will benefit in the long-term. The University of Stirling’s Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) has dedicated the last 25 years to collating research and working on the app – that’s a lot of time, effort and hard work, so I have my fingers crossed that it all pays off, for their sake and the millions of people that could benefit from it.

The app will be available to download from Thursday 21 September, on International Alzheimer’s Day.

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.

4th August Journal Column

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


We work in one of the biggest industries in the world, and because of what we do, we have the most potential to make a difference on protecting the environment. Saving the planet is something we’re all keen to do, everybody wants to be seen as ‘green’, anything from recycling to washing at low temperatures will make a difference. But one of the biggest differences that can be made lies within our industry, in house-building.

Companies are always thinking of new innovative ways of being efficient and we’ve really stepped up our game in the last few years. Offsite construction is now pretty much the norm, we’ve got PopUp Houses, plastic roads, even a ‘bubble’ building here in Newcastle, all of which may be unconventional methods but they’re the methods that are making a difference.

We’re definitely making headway, but with the Governments ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national basis by at least 80% by 2050 and 34% by 2020 looming over our heads, the pressure is still on. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive also requires all new buildings to be “nearly zero energy” by December 2020 (which is quickly catching up to us).

One way to ensure all new buildings are ‘nearly zero energy’ is to look at ‘Green Buildings’. These buildings are designed to be environmentally-friendly, as well as resource efficient, reducing unnecessary waste of energy, gas and water.  For a while, Green Building was once the new trend in the industry, but it is now an essential part of protecting our environment, and something that all future builds need to take into consideration.

There are five key areas the industry should consider, that, with the smallest changes, could make the biggest difference:

– Materials – It’s important to plan which type of materials will be utilised, but there is now an increased focus on implementing materials which are sustainable and energy efficient, rather than cost effective in order to provide long-term benefits and lower carbon levels.

– Recycling – Recycling materials such as aluminium within builds, will effectively reduce the level of waste products which are currently sent to landfill.

– Insulation and Solar – Ensure builds incorporate cavity wall insulation and double glazing to ensure heat does not escape. Installing solar panelling systems in both traditional and modern properties will capture as much natural energy as possible and reduce CO2 emissions.

– Water – Think of ways to best use and harvest rainwater, which can be used again for gardening or toilet flushing.

– Transport – To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, source materials locally. If transporting resources is necessary, using energy efficient vehicles will help lower emissions.

All buildings need light, heat and water, it’s about looking at different ways to achieve this that are as efficient as possible. Transport is pretty much a necessity in our industry, but there are still more economical ways of doing it. That 2020 target is fast approaching, and in three years I would love to be able to say our industry played a huge part in helping us get there!

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 July Journal Column

By Eve Wilson, Cost Manager, Turner & Townsend and G4C North East Co-Chair

As an industry, we’ve been dealing with a skills shortage for quite some time, focussing on upskilling and training apprentices to fill the void, but we might need to go beyond training and commit a little time and effort into just helping young people prepare for the world of work.  If we connect young people, graduates and employers, in the longer term the commitment will pay off and should help to fill the skills gap.

Career Ready is a UK wide charity that runs structured, employer led careers programmes for students between 16 – 19 years old. They aim to increase the employability of students through a series of engagements with businesses and industry professionals.

The ‘Be a mentor, make a difference’ campaign aims to show the impact that employees can have on young people. Mentors have a wide range of backgrounds from recent graduates to managing directors, in both the public and private sector. The programme runs for 12-months. Every student is matched to a mentor, who use their experience and knowledge to help a young person develop resilience and confidence for work. 75% of those surveyed experienced professional development as a result of becoming a Career Ready mentor. It helps in developing coaching skills and spotting future talent for your company, and it’s a pretty nice feeling to know you’ve made an impact on a young person’s life – a win-win situation!

I joined the mentoring programme earlier this year and only being half way through, I can’t believe how beneficial it’s already been. At our first meeting, we talked about my experience through education and into work and it was then I realised I did have more to offer than originally thought. I understood her concerns and the pressures put onto students which if anything I feel seems to have increased over the last five years.

I have watched my student succeed in exams, gain a work experience placement and we are now working together on looking at university choices. I have grown in confidence in what I feel I am able to offer the next generation and I’ve developed an insight into the reasons for the skills gap and how within G4C, the network for young professionals in the industry, we can do something about this.

Within the industry we are fully aware of the current skills gap, and yet we have highly intelligent students ready to choose their university degree with no idea about the role of Quantity Surveyors, Project Managers, or Facilities Management. Getting more industry professionals involved in a programme like this, will help spread the word of the opportunities the industry has to offer. It’s just one hour a month but it could be life changing for your student and you never know what you might learn from it yourself.

To register as a volunteer please visit  www.careerready.org.uk or contact Karen McCartney Regional Manager North East on karen.mccartney@careerready.org.uk

21st July Journal Column

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

The industry’s skills shortage has always been something that has concerned me, so I’m always happy to hear of initiatives or training aimed at upskilling employees or training new recruits with the skills the industry needs.

This year, through the Structured and Flexible Funds, Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has £20 million to invest in projects to; reduce skills gaps and shortages, increase access to the right training, increase the appeal of working in the industry and increase the added value per employee.

Within that, £3 million is available through the CITB Skills and Training Fund (part of the Flexible Fund), introduced to help small and micro employers and specialist federations with their skills and training needs. The funds, available to levy registered companies, vary in value depending on the number of PAYE employees;

  • £5,000 for up to 49 staff
  • £7,500 for up to 74 staff
  • £10,000 for up to 99 staff

Up to £10,000 a year to pay for training for your employees if you are in-scope to CITB – that sounds like an opportunity you shouldn’t miss!

Since January 2016, 60 North East employers have had successful Skills and Training Fund applications, totalling over £277,500 with approximately 700 beneficiaries; 17 micro businesses, 31 SMEs and 4 large employers have all benefitted. We are the second most successful region for claims within this fund and are known for our commitment to training – an accolade we should all be proud of.

To increase application numbers, CITB have tried to make the Skills and Training Fund as simple to access. The form filling process has been reduced, there are some eligibility boxes to tick, a couple of sentences about why the training is required and some quotes from training organisations to evidence the amount of funding being requested – it really couldn’t be easier.

Employers can claim once per 12-month period. The first £5,000 is paid up front and the remainder paid upon completion. The fund covers most skills and training interventions that will help your business, not just construction specific training and skills. However, you can only apply once a year so it’s worth undergoing a complete Skills and Training Review for your workforce to maximise the value of your application.

McCarrick Construction from Chester le Street has experienced a trio of benefits since applying for the Skills and Training Fund. Applying for approximately £900 to upskill their plumber has enabled the firm to carry out gas installations for their housing projects rather than outsourcing this work. This;

·         will save the company £500 a year;

  • ensures McCarrick Construction has a wider range of expertise to offer clients;
  • has led to the company training an apprentice under the guidance of an experienced plumber.

Applications for this funding are open now until 20 November 2017. For more information, contact Mark David, Assistant Fund Manager, CITB on funding@citb.co.uk. More information is also available at www.citb.co.uk/funding.

14th July Journal Column

By Kate Lloyd, Partnership Manager, Constructing Excellence in the North East

For women, proving their worth in a male dominated industry has been a long and gruelling task. Although we have come a long way in terms of equality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done.

Earlier this month, Loughborough University held a debate on whether women get a good deal in construction. Eight ex-students who now work in the industry took part, seven of which have only worked in the industry for under five years. Does this give a true representation of the thoughts of all women in the industry?

I spoke to one female Engineer who explained some of the casual sexism she has faced. As a Site Engineer she is frequently asked to take minute meetings, undertake document control or do admin jobs not within her job description. At first, she accepted these roles to fit in or be seen to be keen to help out, but overtime she realised whilst these are necessary tasks, by accepting them she was potentially changing the way her colleagues saw her and keeping her away from her on-site role, ultimately affecting her promotion potential.

Those involved in the debate felt that quotas for women is not the way forward and I agree. It’s about treating everyone as a ‘person’ regardless of gender. Yes, women have struggled in the industry, but favouring women causes more of an issue for the company and the woman herself. It’s in the industry’s best interest to recruit and promote based on talent.

As with most ‘women in construction’ debates, discussions included the lack of female toilets on site. It’s a basic human right that we have the facilities we need but do we need individual male/female toilets? Unisex toilets with all facilities should be enough. If the issue is that site toilets are unsanitary, we must address that. Unisex toilets are becoming more popular in all industries, whether they be a cost or space saving initiative, they also support other challenges e.g. the transgender agenda.

As an industry, we are moving forward from the equality agenda to talk about Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) across the industry, between people, professions and companies. In the Autumn, we plan to bring practical support through the FIR Toolkit, free to construction companies and suppliers via the Supply Chain School. More information is available at; https://www.supplychainschool.co.uk/default/fairness-inclusion-and-respect 

I must say, in our region, I’ve found that attitudes towards women in construction have changed significantly and are more positive than ever before. We may still have work to do but there is an appetite to improve but we still need your help.

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.

G4C Newsletter July 2017

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June 2017 G4C Newsletter

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7th July Journal Column

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

Health and Safety has always been one of the main focuses in the industry, but there’s often debates over which is more important. There are many physical risks that come with working in the industry, so there has always been more of a focus on safety, but we must remember that the health of our workforce and mental health is just as important and isn’t something that can be forgotten.

Some shocking statistics are available for the sector.

  • Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the risk of suicide among low-skilled labourers and those working in the industry, is 3.7 times higher than the male national average.
  • Every year 400 construction workers commit suicide, that’s more than one a day.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety accounts for a fifth of all work-related illness, and that’s just the reported figure. Many people don’t want this detailed on their employment records for fear it could impact their future careers.

The impression of our industry is that it is dirty and dangerous, but we can work towards changing that image by making workplaces safer, happier and healthier. It’s important that those at the top of the supply chain or in managerial roles understand the importance of talking about mental health and that attitude is filtered down to employees and smaller companies that are often harder to reach.

Working Well Together, an industry/Health and Safety Executive initiative, are holding an event in Durham, aimed at managers and supervisors. The event will highlight the most important health issues specific to the industry, with a presentation dedicated to mental health – this is exactly the type of event that we need and we need even more of them.  I’m under no impression that things will change overnight, but every small step forward is a step in the right direction.

Here, at Constructing Excellence, we do lots to help improve the health, safety and wellbeing of workers in the industry. This year we supported The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity at our Constructing Excellence North East Awards. The charity provides financial and emotional support to the construction community and their families who have suffered an injury or long-term illness or just need some extra support.

The charity fund and manage a 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline which is the first point of contact for those who need free and confidential support services. Companies that sign up to the Company Supporters Programme will receive a Helpline Pack containing wallet sized contact cards for the helpline and posters to help direct employees and contractors towards extra support. 

The charity receives no public funding and relies on the generosity of those within in the industry, which is why we’re more than happy to be supporting them again at our charity golf day on September 21. 

If anything you have read strikes a chord either for yourself or your workforce, there is help available; please use it. You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans, they’re there to help. Anyone can call for free any time from any phone on 116 123 and the number will not appear on your phone bill. Alternatively, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or get practical online advice and training for your workforce at www.matesinmind.org.

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.

30th June Journal Column

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

Across the country, our roads require a lot of maintenance and over time, they deteriorate and potholes appear. There are also more than 8 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year and it is estimated that 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. These might sound like two separate statements, but they could be the answer to each other’s problems. 

According to research only a third of plastic packaging used in consumer products is recycled each year, with almost two-thirds sent to landfill or incinerated, that’s a lot of plastic that could be useful if used elsewhere. Recycled plastic products can be turned into a number of things from plastic furniture, sleeping bags, bumpers for cars, building products and now roads. Cumbria is the first UK county to trial ‘plastic roads’. The new product works by creating roads made up of recycled plastic – plastic that would otherwise be thrown into landfill or the ocean.

Scotland-based company, MacRebur, have developed a product to create stronger, more durable roads. Generally, roads are built of 90 percent rock, sand, and limestone, and 10 percent bitumen. The plastic roads are made with a standard asphalt mix which is made from locally-sourced waste plastic, a material MacRebur call MR6. The MR6 gets mixed with other road-making materials to hold the street together, replacing the need for bitumen.

The plastic road mix is up to 60% stronger and lasts 10 times longer than standard asphalt, increasing a road’s lifespan and reducing the likelihood of potholes in the future, as well as repairing roads that are already damaged. They also lessen tyre resistance, which could help improve fuel economy for vehicles using the road. 

Plastic roads are now used at a truck service station in Cumbria as well as Carlisle Airport. The roads being used in an airport is true testament to how durable they really are. If a plane can safely land on a plastic road, then there’s no reason they can’t be used elsewhere.

MacRebur started out with a goal of getting one or two councils on board, now they’re looking at taking plastic roads around the UK, Europe and eventually worldwide. There are plenty of people who are going to say your ideas aren’t going to work, especially if they’re unconventional, but this is a perfect example of how start-up businesses with a simple idea could be revolutionary to the industry.

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.

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.