This week’s features include a full list of forthcoming events, please click on the link below
By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East
This week I attended The Charted Institute of Housing’s (CIH) annual conference in Manchester – a must-attend event for anyone working in housing or related industries.
One of the main presentations was a discussion all about offsite construction, a big talking point in our industry at the minute. Speakers featured housing heavy-weights discussing the realities of offsite construction, the benefits that can be reaped from it and what has stopped it working in the past.
For those of you that don’t know, 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.
It’s a method of construction now widely used in the housing and education sector and it’s something that could be just what we’re looking for when it comes to how we ease the housing crisis in the UK. It’s no secret that we are currently suffering from a shortage of new homes. With only 63 per cent of on-site built projects being delivered on time, the need for new methods and solutions has never been higher. Off-site construction allows for the building frame to be built simultaneously to the foundations, meaning projects can be delivered in up to half the time of traditional construction- a huge selling point.
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. This method also makes it possible to optimise construction material purchases and usage. 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. Research has shown that off-site construction generates up to 90 per cent less waste than site-based building methods.
Working in a controlled factory environment means there is also less exposure to risks and less time spent on the construction site, resulting in much improved safety. With time and safety being reduced, it puts less pressure on contractors meaning they aren’t reliant on temporary labour. So really, it’s a win, win situation all round!
In the affordable homes sector, charity and industry bodies are calling for the Government to increase house building to address the housing shortage. Pre-fabricated homes helped solve the crisis in the 40s and 50s, and technology in particular has advanced in huge ways since then, so why can’t it work now?
I’m a real advocate for welcoming more women into our industry, and have discussed many times how important I think it is to increase the number of women in construction and related industries.
There is always talk (especially from me) about ways to boost these numbers, but there’s little attention focussed on how we retain these women.
It’s estimated that 22,000 qualified women have not returned to work in the engineering sector after a career or maternity break. This is a massive loss to the industry, and a loss we cannot afford to have when we are facing such a big skills gap. Losing women in the industry is not only a loss in terms of skill, but it cuts ties that women have within the local community, schools and with parents/influencers that can be vital further down the line.
National Women in Engineering Day, which takes place next Wednesday, highlights the opportunities available for women in engineering. The day takes place at a time when it has never been more important to address the engineering skills shortage.
According to latest research from the National Specialist Contractors Council, the number of specialist contractors struggling to recruit skilled labour is at its highest level in 14 years.
I spoke to one employer who has been looking to recruit someone for six months. There are plenty of people out of work looking for jobs, but none seem to have the adequate skills required for the available roles.
Encouraging women into engineering careers will increase diversity and inclusion as well as filling the substantial future job opportunities that have been predicted for our sector. We are expecting more jobs, so it’s important to ensure we have skilled employees to fill them, and it would be a bonus if some of them were women.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) last year predicted around 180,000 new jobs will be needed nationally up to 2019, and at least 2,000 will be here in the North East.
Thankfully, the likes of Balfour Beatty and Carillion have already pledged their support saying that by 2016, 30 per cent of individuals on their apprenticeship and cadet programmes will be women and 40 per cent of undergraduate sponsorship opportunities will be offered to women.
It’s great to see some big industry organisations taking a well overdue stance on educating and recruiting. I’ve said many times that I felt we needed to up our game when it came to encouraging women into the industry, and it’s good to see some steps in the right direction.
Recruiting more women is only the first step, but it is important that talented women are nurtured and encouraged to stay – the retention of any skilled employee will result in more benefits for the company.
Today’s newsletter includes an article from Xsite Architecture, Surgo Construction along with a full list of forthcoming events
Health and safety is relevant to all businesses, but it is particularly important in the construction industry.
Businesses tend to focus on safety rather than health. There have been big improvements and preventions put in place recently to reduce the number of construction related injuries, although health issues still continue to affect workers.
Those working in the construction industry make up only five per cent of UK workers; however they make up 27 per cent of work related fatality cases and 10 per cent of major injuries in the workplace.
The main health risks relating to construction work range from; cancer to work related stress and asbestos. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that past exposures in the construction sector annually cause over 5,000 occupational cancer cases and 3,700 deaths. The most significant cause of these cancers is asbestos.
Asbestos is the biggest occupational disease risk to construction workers and can cause two types of cancer: mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer, both of which are almost always fatal.
Although it is no longer used, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It’s difficult to just avoid asbestos as fragments can be found in rubble and soil and aren’t always visible. This, along with other issues such as silca dust requires constant vigilance from the industry.
It’s important to make employers and employees aware of the risks in order to prevent them, which is why I’m a big advocate for UK Health and Safety Week. Taking place from 15-19 June it will celebrate the achievements of UK practitioners and this year will be focusing on protecting workers’ health. APS is also integrally involved in the Construction Health Leadership Group which is looking to wake the industry up to the huge issues of health.
The Health and Safety Executive suggest you assess, control and then review the plans put in place to control construction health risks. It suggests the following tips to keep you safe:
- Plan– your overall strategy
- Identify – the health hazards linked to your work
- Assess– the significance of these hazards
- Involve– workers in managing health risks
Once all controls are in place it is essential to monitor that they are all working, continuously supervising workers and monitoring and maintaining controls. These are all simple and easy ways to reduce the risk of health problems for workers.
Managing health and safety is literally a matter of life or death, it’s vital, especially in our industry and businesses would be careless not to take the necessary steps to prevent health risks.
To view this week’s newsletter please click on the link
Last week saw the Queen announce her first Conservative Speech in almost two decades. The speech set out David Cameron’s plans for the years ahead and gave us insight into which direction he wants to take the country. From the bills and laws mentioned, there were a few which will directly affect the construction industry.
The Housing Bill includes plans to extend the Right to Buy scheme, giving one million people the chance to buy their properties. A huge step as up to now only council tenants have had the right to buy the homes they had previously rented.
The scheme sounds good theoretically, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. The reality is that authorities will have to sell off existing stock before they can even begin to fund and deliver the promise of affordable properties.
Plans were also announced to create 200,000 new starter homes, which will be offered to first-time buyers under 40 at 20 per cent below the open market value. It’s all good and well promising to provide these starter homes, but we must ensure we can meet the huge demand for housing it will create.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has suggested that 200,000 houses will be needed every year to meet the rising demand. If we fail to meet such demand then these schemes will have very limited impact on the housing market
Also included in the speech was the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill which will see power handed over to cities with newly elected metro mayors to help build the Northern Powerhouse. The new bill is positive news for our industry as it will allow cities to take responsibility for issues like transport, housing, skills, health and social care.
These plans have huge potential although devolution could be disastrous if it leads to a number of disconnected approaches. The devolved authorities must never lose sight of the bigger picture, and ensure that their plans fit in seamlessly to Britain’s national infrastructure.
The bills all provide potential for the construction industry and with David Cameron insisting that the North East won’t be left behind during the Conservative government; I’m feeling optimistic for construction in the North East in the years ahead.
Cameron promised us big things, from dualling the A1 to improving the A19 and investing in High Speed Rail. These are all things needed in the North East to ensure it continues to grow and creates jobs. Let’s hope we get everything we’ve been promised…
Please click on the link to view this week’s newsletter which includes a full list of forthcoming events – June 4th