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.

02/03/2018 – GDPR Update


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

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will take effect on 25 May 2018 and reform our domestic law on how UK businesses collect and process personal data. The new regulation is set to change the industry, impacting everything from design models to supply chain databases. The date has been on our radar for months now, but are we prepared for the major changes that are coming?

The GDPR will make it simpler to withdraw (or refuse) consent for the use of personal data, allow people to ask for their personal data held by companies to be erased and update and strengthen data protection law. Personal data is defined as any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, including data about people in their work lives as well as their personal lives, so it would include their work contact details.

In the industry, we deal with a lot of personal data. Project data can include details of the individuals forming part of project teams. Individual worker personal data may be recorded on site access cards, CCTV footage or wearable technology. Organisations store data on employees, customers, suppliers and anyone they network with, this might include sensitive personal data relating to accidents or health issues. Currently, all this data can be stored, reviewed, used and even shared with other interested parties, but that’s all about to change!

According to the new GDPR, personal data must be:
• Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
• Collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes (and not used for anything else)
• Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary
• Accurate – every reasonable step must be taken to rectify inaccurate data without delay
• Kept in a form that permits identification for no longer than is necessary
• Kept secure.

The potential penalties for breaching GDPR are fines of 4% of global turnover or €20,000,000 (whichever is the greater) and those who are affected may also be able to bring a claim for compensation (and there is no fixed upper limit on what their level of compensation may be) – so they’re certainly breaches you can’t afford to be making!
It should have always been, but data protection now needs to be at the heart of decision-making within organisations, and compliance with GDPR will need to be supported by evidence: policies, procedures, technical measures, training. You need to be able to provide an answer to how data is protected by your business. Going forward, it will impact tenders for public sector work, so it’s important you have the evidence required.
If you’re still unsure on the steps you need to be taking, CENE are holding an event with Muckle LLP on 14 March. Jill Dovey, Associate Solicitor for Muckle LLP will be providing a brief overview of the GDPR and the key new requirements, as well as discussing practical ways to approach GDPR compliance.

If you are unsure of your data rights and would like further information, please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 500 7880 or amy@cene.org.uk to register your interest in this briefing.