29th July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

LEGO has always been used by architecture and construction professionals as a means of getting children into our industry, and although it is still massively popular – the 300,000 brick LEGO model of Durham Cathedral was completed just this week, there are now other cool game and programmes available.

The Charted Institute of Building (CIOB) has developed a four-part construction curriculum played within Minecraft – a game where players build things out of blocks, from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles.

In basic terms, it is a game in which players become the architects of their own world, designing and then building whatever they want, down to the very last brick.

The game ensures gamers consider planning issues, health and safety risks, structural aspects, sustainability and cost when creating their own 3D world – everything we have to consider in real, everyday situations.

‘Craft your Future’ is a construction game aimed at children that takes place within the Minecraft game. It gives young people the chance to explore the methods and skills to become a construction manager, giving them an early introduction to a career in the industry, and with more than 400,000 UK construction workers set to retire between 2018 and 2023, it’s vital we attract children and form a new generation of construction professionals.

Research shows that school children, especially girls, can be turned off our industry very early in their lifetime. Yet, with research showing that the number of female gamers playing PlayStation and X-Box grew 70 per cent between 2011 and 2014 – this could be the perfect opportunity to counter that mind-set.

The success of the game relies on the creativity of the user, meaning it can be used for fun, by those who have an interest in the built environment and by educators as a learning tool.

Teachers that are already using Minecraft in the classroom have encouraged students to build representations of their school, working as a team to see who will build each aspect. It means they have to leave the classroom, measure and work out which materials they need to use – it requires collaboration and a bunch of different skills, including maths, art and design.

Over the last few years the industry has really stepped up its game in terms of digital and technology, and Minecraft is a perfect combination of the two. The game closely aligns to aspects of the Building Information Model (BIM) process, highlighting the emerging role of technology in the industry.

There are 70 million people around the world playing Minecraft, that’s 70 million people, whether they realise it or not, developing skills in team work, communication and mathematics – skills that the industry is crying out for. It really does have the potential to inspire, attract and be the making of new industry professionals.

28th July 2016 Newsletter

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CIC NE 2016 Wonder Challenge for Schools

hhBy John Nielsen, Chair of the Construction Industry Council North East.

The Construction Industry Council (CICNE) and Constructing Excellence (CENE) held the finals last week, for the 2016 Sustainable Housing Scheme Wonder Challenge for school children in years 9 and 10 in the North East of England at the University of Northumbria.

The project involved a number of schools throughout the region, each of which has put forward a group of 13 and 14-year-old students who acted as a construction team, from conception to completion, for their project. Each team set up a company which will undertook the design and construction roles to build a sustainable housing scheme in their neighbourhood. The three finalists came from Nunthorpe Academy, St Anthony’s Catholic Girls Academy and Joseph Swan Academy.

This highly successful challenge has been running with CICNE and CENE involvement for five years. The winner this year was Joseph Swan Academy who had located a local site researching all infrastructure required, and developed student accommodation, family homes, community centre and local amenities. They had also progressed the project utilising inclusive design, sustainable materials and modular buildings.

The event was sponsored by NCBF (Northern Counties Builders Federation) whose representative Neil Ramsey presented cheques to each school and vouchers for all student participants.

Speaking after the event John Nielsen said: “Today went extremely well with each team showing an in depth understanding of what was required and excellent presentational skills. A big ‘well done to all’! The winners had involved ‘inclusive design’ within their project as this was a part of their recently completed school and they considered this a good thing for all. Construction industry note – design can really influence for the better!

We will be undertaking this challenge again next year but with more defined links to the school curriculum.’

22nd July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Most of us live and work in our own little bubble, it’s where we feel at home and most comfortable, but, thanks to new innovations, the expression will soon become reality.

An eco-friendly “bubble” building has been built in Newcastle, to be used as a permanent heated office space. The building is Newcastle university’s first building at Science Central, Newcastle’s innovation hub.

The building, called The Key, was constructed using similar technology to that used for the 2012 Olympic Stadium, using a lightweight triple skin fabric structure that is incredibly strong, like a soap bubble.

The building follows a similar principle to the bubbles children make where they pull soap to create huge, long shapes. A soap film will spread naturally between two spaces to cover the smallest achievable surface area. The shape is so strong, that as well as being extremely efficient in terms of minimal materials and space, it is also very resilient – sounds good to me!

We’re always looking for new innovative buildings and break throughs, and this could be exactly what we’ve been waiting for. The facility will be iconic, and will definitely get people talking all around the country – how exciting that the North East is the first place to have a building of this kind?

Science Central is Newcastle’s £350 million flagship project bringing together academia, the public sector, communities, business and industry to create a global centre for urban innovation right here on our doorsteps. It is one of the country’s biggest urban regeneration projects and a ‘living laboratory’, as well as an urban observatory and decision theatre, allowing real time data from the city to be analysed.

Although the inside of the building will be used for teaching and learning, its benefits stretch further than the building itself. The actual structure of the building can be used for teaching, as it presented technical challenges around heating, lighting and insulation itself. The roof is supported by a 10m-high tri-star mast to maximise natural light levels and reduce energy use through passive ventilation.

The fabric used has been designed to have as little impact on the environment as possible. The fabric used is similar to the roof of the 2012 Olympic Stadium, it acts as both cladding and support and is extremely light, meaning heavy materials which have a high carbon footprint, such as steel, are kept to a minimum. The building can also be easily dismantled and relocated to a different site should it be needed somewhere else.

Easily relocated, strong, light and efficient in terms of materials and size? That’s everything ticked off my checklist of the perfect building. I’m looking forward to seeing more of these appear around the country, and also extremely proud the North East were the first to trial something so impressive.

21st July 2016 Newsletter

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15th July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

To children and people outside of the industry, construction sites might look like huge adventure playgrounds, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s the obvious dangers that most people are aware of, but there are many more unseen dangers that those not in the industry wouldn’t even consider.

According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) the number of workers killed whilst at work in the UK construction industry rose by almost 23 per cent last year. The new figures show that between 2015-2016, 43 workers died onsite, compared to 35 deaths the year before. The death rate dropped slightly the year before to 1.94 per 100,000 workers, compared to a five-year average of 2.04, but the increase in deaths from last year brings the fatalities back to the five-year average.

The HSE statistics show 144 people were killed at work across all industries, and over one third of those deaths happen in construction. Britain might have one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but when there are still so many deaths each year, there’s still room for improvement. When it comes to health and safety you can never stop improving. One death is a death too many in my eyes.

Construction companies as a whole have been hit with almost £8m in health and safety fines since new penalties came into force at the start of the year. Statistics found that out of 101 health and safety fines issued in UK courts, 38 per cent affected those in our industry.

Fines are now proportional to the size of the company, meaning that both small and large businesses will feel the same impact. Fines are expected to stay high for larger firms that are charged with serious offences so businesses have another incentive (if an incentive was ever needed) to work harder to avoid incidents.

The three highest fines issued last year in construction totalled £5.6m, all of which involved fatalities of either staff or customers. It’s just not worth risking people’s lives and the reputation of your company.

There are worldwide campaigns promoting safe, health and decent work, so there’s really no excuse to not have something in place promoting health and safety at work. But, if not that’s not enough, the shocking statistics above show that there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I know that accidents do happen, but there are a number of ways to prevent them and measures that can easily be put in place, we just all need to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can be.


14th July 2016 Newsletter

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8th July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Last week the industry celebrated Rail Week and it was the perfect opportunity to show young people, parents and teachers the facilities and range of jobs the rail industry offers.

Rail Week was created by Young Rail Professionals (YRP) to show first hand that the rail sector is a great place to work-what better way to inspire young people to consider a career in the industry than by talking to people who have been there and done just that.

Throughout the week the rail sector opened its doors to the community, showcasing projects and giving insight into what it’s like to work in the industry. There was tours of depots and factories, lectures and seminars as well as volunteer staff promoting rail around schools.

In the North East alone there was a range of 10 projects to choose from, with schools, the Tyne and Wear Metro control station and Hitachi Europe opening their doors to the public.

There has never been a better time to join the rail industry, there’s a lot still to come and luckily for us it should be coming in the next five years. More than £25 billion will be invested in the UK’s rail network, but whilst most of that will be spent on High Speed 2 (HS2) and Crossrail, there is still innovation taking place across the network.

This investment is so important for the industry, the UK rail network is the fastest growing in Europe and they’re now carrying twice as many passengers as 20 years ago. From Wales to the North East, investment is accelerating as the UK’s regions look at cheaper, more flexible solutions capable of carrying more passengers. The future is undecided, particularly for the industry, but Britain coming out of the EU could work in our favour. Politicians, granted they don’t always stick to their word, claim that freedom from the EU means the government will be able to spend more of our own money, which can be applied to regional development funds – more money for the North East to support regional economies? They certainly have my attention!

Events such as Rail Week show that, although the industry is divided by regions, we’re all working together to achieve the one giant goal. It’s great to see companies from across the country encouraging young people into rail – it’s that type of commitment and enthusiasm that we need, after all it’s all we’ve got to go off until we find out what’s instore for us following Brexit.

7th July 2016 Newsletter

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1st July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Britain’s decision to leave the EU is already the most talked about subject of the year, and it’s only been one week since the news broke, but who can blame us, it’s going to change our future, whether it be for good or bad.

I understand the fear of uncertainty has taken over, but for our industry it’s important we stay positive. We’ve faced many challenges over recent years, granted this is probably the biggest one to date, but it’s just another challenge for us to overcome together, and I have faith that we will do just that. For me, Brexit is more of an opportunity than a problem for construction.

There’s nothing to fear just yet. It’s going to take several years before the implications of leaving the EU are clear. What will affect us immediately is reluctance from the government to give the go-ahead on major infrastructure projects, so for now we’re going to have to be patient and accept that stalled projects aren’t going to be picked up any time soon. But it would be silly for us to jump straight into new projects during this period of uncertainty, we need to ensure we have stability now, to have a successful outcome in the long term when changes take place.

Another thing that could be affected is the construction of new homes, with Brexit having mixed effects for the home building industry. A huge benefit will be the removal of red tape from EU regulation which is often the reason for hold ups, which will please many new home builders. I feel like there should be a but or the opposite side of the coin here, maybe it’s just me?

For decades the industry has relied on migrant workers from Europe, and if we are to meet the new homes objectives, then the government need to ensure that the new immigration system can contribute to the needs of the industry.

However, this could be the push the industry has needed to train more construction apprentices. It’s time to invest in our home-grown talent, rather than heavily relying on migrant workers from Europe, especially given that nobody knows what position we’ll be in a few months/years down the line.

Although we’ve lost our place inside the EU, there’s nothing stopping us from working together. The industry is largely dependent on EU companies in Ireland, France, Germany and Spain, and although we have asked for freedom from the EU in many areas, there’s no reason for us to be isolated, as both individuals and as a nation, we work better together.

One thing that is certain is that we’re going to face a number of challenges as the impact of Brexit unfolds, and although we’re uncertain of the outcome, the best way to tackle them is by working together – let’s build bridges, not walls!