Construction employers are being encouraged to rethink how they attract their workforce as competition for skilled workers gets more intense according to a new report from CITB. The Rethinking Recruitment research says construction faces a tough challenge to meet its recruitment needs in a labour market that is highly competitive.

New research from CITB has found that just two per cent of those outside construction see it as their preferred industry to work in. Yet the research also shows that construction could be more successful if it aligned its recruitment approach to values where it scores highly. These include stability and security, the variety of work, the opportunity to have a positive impact and the chance to specialise and become an expert

The industry also needs to widen its net to recruit the tens of thousands of new workers it needs. Currently, women only make up 14% of the workforce and workers from ethnic minorities just 6%. Fixing this isn’t just about changing the culture, it’s about making the opportunities much more visible and accessible.

The Rethinking Recruitment research shows that people outside or who have little contact with the industry often have limited knowledge of what construction can offer, while negative perceptions and misconceptions surrounding culture and behaviours persist. The report also found only three-in-ten (30%) outsiders feel construction is ‘for someone like them’.

However, the Rethinking Recruitment research shows construction has the chance to address these perceptions and appeal to a much wider group.

The industry is described by those inside as somewhere that offers generous pay, opportunities for progression and a varied working environment.

“‘There will always be opportunities in construction, and that is quite a reassuring thing to have” Female, 22, white, Professional

Insiders also report it to be diverse, flexible and aligned to their values, but many outside industry are unaware that construction can offer them this.

Steve Radley, CITB’s Strategy and Policy Director said: “This report is aimed at helping the industry take a fresh look at how it attracts its future workforce. Construction has massive strengths such as the ability to make a positive impact, including its contribution to Net Zero. And it scores highly on the variety of work and the opportunity to specialise, become an expert and progress your career.

“Construction’s challenge is to bring the knowledge and understanding of insiders to those outside of the industry and to celebrate what is good about it. We need to fire up their enthusiasm and make it the career of choice for thousands more potential new workers. “

Informal and word-of-mouth recruitment used by the bulk of construction employers is affecting the industry’s opportunity for creating a more diverse workplace

If workers without the right personal contacts don’t get a chance to apply, industry misses their talent.

The research pointed to the benefit from employers highlighting, in recruitment advertising, the values important to them to help candidates identify common ground.

Other points include using key strengths as identified by insiders in recruitment material, such as the stability of the job and job satisfaction from creating something – making a difference to other people’s lives by building homes – and career progression through training.

Steve added: “There are some useful conclusions in the report and we hope with the widening skills gap that employers will benefit from these suggestions.

“Construction has a lot to offer but the message isn’t as yet getting out to those who are looking for a career change or where to start with their career and that needs to change.”

Other suggestions to improve recruitment outcomes and fix incorrect stereotypes include companies making more of ambassadors – presenting role models from their own workforce and offering site taster days and easier to access work experience.

Firms are encouraged to link up with CITB’s onsite training hubs and to get in touch with their regional engagement office to take up training opportunities for staff.

You can read the Rethinking Recruitment report here. 

 

The latest Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report reveals that builders’ merchants’ value sales in November 2021 were 17.4% up on the same month in 2020, with record-breaking and year-best performances recorded across a number of categories.

Timber & Joinery Products (+30.2%) recorded its 15th consecutive month of year-on-year growth. Renewables & Water Saving (+18.0%) and Landscaping (+17.1%) also put in a strong performance, and Services (+17.1%) had its best-ever monthly sales since the BMBI started in July 2014. Kitchens & Bathrooms (14.5%) had its highest-ever monthly BMBI turnover. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (13.8%) had its best month of 2021, and Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, also performed strongly (+13.5%).

Like-for-like sales, which take trading day differences into account, were up 12.1% year-on-year.

Compared to November 2019, a pre-pandemic year, total merchant value sales were up 28.0% in November 2021, with one more trading day in 2021. Eleven of the 12 categories sold more with Landscaping (+51.4%) and Timber & Joinery Products (+51.3%) still leading the pack.

Cladding and insulation manufacturers are being asked to contribute towards the £4 billion costs of remediating high rise buildings affected by safety defects.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has written to the Construction Products Association to ask cladding and insulation manufacturers to make a contribution the costs of remedying the post-Grenfell Tower building safety crisis.

In the letter, the Secretary of State says that innocent leaseholders should not be landed with bills to remove cladding products from their buildings they had no reason to suspect were dangerous. He goes on to ask cladding and insulation manufacturers to agree to make financial contributions this year and in subsequent years to fund remediation of unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings.

The move is alongside the financial contributions the Secretary of State has requested separately from the residential property developer industry to cover cost to remediate unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings, currently estimated to be £4 billion.

Mr Gove also wants manufacturers to provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11m which have historic fire-safety defects to which these companies have supplied products or services.

The Secretary of State claims that three big cladding and insulation firms have made over £700m profit since the Grenfell tragedy. He goes on to say that the sector must pay their fair share to fix the crisis they contributed to. The government will take action if they don’t.

 

 

In its latest quarterly forecast, The Construction Products Association (CPA) forecasts that construction output will grow by a robust 4.3% in 2022, slowing to 2.5% in 2023 compared to the 13.3% seen in 2021. This demonstrates the remarkable resilience of the sector to the initial Covid-19 lockdown and the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020.

Housebuilding, the largest sector within the UK construction industry, is expected to remain buoyant while infrastructure will be the major driver for growth. Projects already underway in all sectors give great confidence for the forecast figures.

Product supply issues, a major challenge in 2021, have eased recently, but may still cause problems, particularly in the peak spring period and particularly for smaller building companies.

Continuing to benefit from the ‘race for space’, output in private housing is forecast to rise by 3.0% in both 2022 and 2023 following 17.0% growth in 2021. CPA suggests that the double-digit inflation in house prices will fall as the impact of the end of the stamp duty holiday and the further restriction of the Help to Buy scheme feeds through. The outlook for volume remains positive, with most major house builders reporting strong near-term demand and healthy profit margins fuelled by demand for housing in affordable areas of the UK.

Also benefiting from the ‘race for space’ in the near-term is the private housing rm&i sector. Here the CPA forecasts output to remain flat at the historically high level reached with 17.0% growth last year. Rising renovation project costs and higher inflation rates are expected to slow down consumer spending on larger projects. UK households have benefited from building up over £200 billion of savings from the past two years but rising costs are spelling caution for spending compared to 2021.

CPA Winter Forecast indicates the infrastructure sector to remain as the main driver for growth in 2022. This mirrors the CPA Autumn Forecast which pointed to the five-year spending plans within the regulated sectors of rail, water, roads, and energy, allowing the sector to maintain activity levels and weather supply issues.

Key projects include the Thames Tideway Tunnel, Hinkley Point C and HS2. At least two of these projects report delays due to supply constraints and this could result in further work being pushed into 2023. Taking this into account, the sector is still expected to rise by 9.7% in 2022 and 1.1% in 2023, taking the sector to a new all-time high.

While supply issues have eased off over the past six months, the CPA still considers these to be the biggest challenge to overall growth. Questions over sufficient materials, products, labour, HGV drivers and imports will be at the forefront of industry minds. These challenges are not spread equally across the sector, with smaller specialist sub-contractors feeling the pressure more.

Noble Francis, CPA Economics Director, offered this insight into the supply chain issues: “Major house builders and main contractors are less affected as they have better visibility of medium-term demand and can plan and purchase well in advance; plus, they are the larger customers of the manufacturers, builders’ merchants and importers.

“Smaller firms, however, have found that availability issues have delayed projects and, consequently, revenue streams whilst sharp cost increases have hit margin, harming their viability even though they have strong workloads. Overall, the latest indications are that supply issues have eased recently, which is a positive sign, although it is still early in the year and before industry activity tends to ramp up in the Spring.”

 

Cases of arson are still commonplace in the construction industry and widely believed to be the number one cause of on-site fires. An ongoing problem requires a proactive defence mechanism, as Adam Kovics, export sales manager – Europe, at wireless solutions firm, Ramtech, explains.

Irreplaceable heritage buildings lost, costs that go through the roof and progress that cannot be recovered – the effects of arson are vast and uniquely upsetting. But these are concerns considered second to the significant potential outcomes of life-changing injuries or even death.

It is no secret that arson continues to be a problem for the UK construction industry, with cases regularly appearing in the news and many more taking place without the same attention or outrage. Latest figures from the Home Office show that between April 2018 and March 2019, fire and rescue services attended 365 fires on building sites in England – increasing from 333 in 2014/15. More generally, the National Fire Chiefs Council reported that arson accounted for more than 50 per cent of all fires attended, a deeply concerning figure.

Early detection

One of the main reasons why arson is difficult to deal with is because it is impossible to predict and can be either a one-off event or a recurring problem. That being said, an early alert can be the difference between life and death, as well as a small, manageable fire and an out-of-control blaze.

Having an adequate solution in place to detect and respond to outbreaks is essential for all contractors to be responsible on their projects, whether the site is particularly vulnerable to arson due to high fire loading or a known history of vandalism and arson in the area or not. Speculation aside, without a sound, adequate and compliant system in place, there is the potential for disastrous consequences to a project’s timeline, budget, equipment, supplies, and, most importantly, life.

Connected sites

Fortunately, wireless technology is making detection simpler, more efficient and less of a headache for site managers. Proper fire training is as important as ever, but new solutions are being incorporated into this training to increase efficiency and modern fire safety competency.

Although a construction site full of primitive tools and raw materials may seem like an unlikely place to find the latest cloud-based innovations, advances in technology is helping to bring 24/7 safety to sites – protecting them against fire hazards such as arson.

Innovative technology set ups, integrating new technology with other, sometimes older, third-party units now offer detailed insights from smoke and heat detection, which can then be immediately fed through to emergency services, on-site workers and anyone with the connected applications available on mobile devices.

While the construction industry has been moving forward with the adoption of technology in recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend to levels that were never anticipated. Cloud-based systems were able to be quickly implemented, providing a sophisticated and adaptable safety solution for all building sites, regardless of their operational status.

Throughout the pandemic, when construction sites have had less people present than ever before, this connected approach has become even more valuable. If the only person on-site is the instigator of an attempted fire, a connected family of wireless units can instantly “speak” to one another and key personnel – alerting them to the outbreak.

This innovation has given property owners, project supervisors and safety personnel the ability to receive alerts for a variety of events in real-time – helping to prevent unauthorised access, arson and disasters.

Wireless fire systems

Wireless fire alarm systems have advanced greatly over the past few decades and contribute to stopping blazes – whether accidental or deliberate – in their tracks.

Take our WES3 EN54-compliant wireless fire, evacuation, and emergency alarm system as an example; it works simultaneously with our cloud-based REACT platform to deliver real-time alerts 24/7 to a mobile device app and the phonelines of local fire services, preventing a fire from becoming out of control – even out of hours and from a distance.

Furthermore, customisable systems that create bespoke solutions to suit a site’s needs offer accurate, specific, personalised notifications and alerts – making it possible to achieve the goal of comprehensive protection from both internal and external threats on construction sites of all sizes, no matter how unique the needs and no matter the operational status of the project.

Firms that are embracing and adopting connected technologies are already reaping the rewards – being provided with peace of mind that sites have an additional level of health and safety protection, putting construction workers’ minds at ease and their lives in safe hands.

Our customers have no problem managing fire risks with our systems in place and it is a small price to pay for vital alerts. The proactive approach is the way forward and technology is paving the way for a safer future for people and property.

Last week the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan pressed the government to create a new 12-month visa for construction workers so London can meet its goal of 66,000 new homes a year.

Mr Khan warned there is a risk affordable homes targets will be missed because building firms can’t find staff in the wake of Brexit and the pandemic.

“Tackling London’s housing crisis has always been one of my top priorities. We’ve worked tirelessly over the last five years to get London building again, and the construction sector forms a key part of London’s Covid recovery plan,” said Mr Khan.

He is calling for a regional shortage occupation list to allow London and other cities to attract and retain staff in sectors with acute labour shortages.

Last year the Federation of Master Builders’ trade survey found nearly two-thirds of local builders had paused jobs due to lack of labour. The trade body added nearly half were struggling to recruit in key skills such as bricklaying and carpentry.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Short-term solutions like emergency visas will be a real shot in the arm for an industry under pressure.”

Affordable housing provider MTVT, Metropolitan Thames Valley Trust, chief executive Geeta Nanda said: “The shortage of qualified construction workers is causing delays and is putting pressure on the costs of building much needed new homes.”

Finance brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders had noticed smaller builders often had to extend loan repayment deadlines due to setbacks caused by labour shortfalls.

The number of EU construction workers in London fell by 54 per cent between April 2017 to April 2020 according to Office of National Statistics figures. The UK-born workforce is expected to dwindle over the next five years as an estimated ten to 20 per cent reach retirement age.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Richard Burge said: “This is a long-term challenge – we need to bring more young people into opportunities in construction.”

In September the government launched a service where large companies could transfer 25 per cent of their annual apprenticeship levy pot to smaller businesses to offer apprenticeships.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is urging MPs to back amendments to the Building Safety Bill to protect the future residents of new buildings under 18 metres not covered by the scope of the Bill,

The Building Safety Bill will establish a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to implement a new, more stringent, regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings. These are defined as residential buildings, care homes and hospitals over 18m.

However, the Bill leaves residential buildings under 18 meters out of scope. This, the LGA claims, will create a two-tier system where buildings below 18 metres will face less rigorous safety regulations than buildings over 18 metres.

Daisy Cooper MP, who is also LGA Vice-President,  has tabled amendments to the Building Safety Bill that both protect councils from additional burdens and protects residents in properties not covered by the scope of the Bill.

Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson at the LGA, said: “The Building Safety Bill, along with the Fire Safety Act, are important pieces of legislation will strengthen the building safety system in the UK.

“The LGA has long-warned about the need for building safety reforms to avoid creating a two-tier building safety system which leaves buildings under 18 metres vulnerable and unprotected. The height of a building does not define the risk to its safety, as has been proven by a number of dangerous and potentially fatal fires in buildings below 18 metres.

“We urge MPs to back these amendments to ensure the extension of the Bill’s protection to those buildings under 18m that require it on the basis of risk is hardwired into the legislation.”

Supply challenges continue to affect bricks and aircrete blocks, roof tiles, steel lintels, manhole covers, plastic drainage products and certain sealants, coatings and paints according to the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). Compounding the shortages construction is being embroiled in the global shipping and semi-conductors supply crisis.

Some supply concerns have eased but continuing shortages in some key products and the spectre of rising energy costs and product price inflation also continue to cause concern, with the latest forecasts anticipating 2022 price inflation from 7-10+%, with multiple increases expected for some products.

The impact of Omicron has been limited, with an overall level of absence across UK industry at 5% or less during the past month, though some sectors, such as haulage, have been hit harder than others.  Absence due to Covid remains a risk over the winter period but appears unlikely to cause major disruption at current levels.

In addition, a shortage of semi-conductors is constraining the availability of boilers at a time when demand is exceptionally high. Semi-conductors are important components for many advanced construction products including lighting and fire protection systems, kitchen white goods and air-source heat pumps.

The high level of demand means that a shortfall in the domestic production of bricks, which is already at full capacity, will continue throughout 2022 until three new UK brickmaking plants come on stream in 2023 and 2024, boosting UK annual capacity by about 150m bricks per year. Imports largely from the EU and potentially beyond will be required to meet current demand.

Delays and volatile prices for global shipping look set to continue at least until Q3 2022. China is home to seven of the top 10 container ports, which have a sustained ‘zero’ policy with regard to Covid outbreaks, leading to shutdowns and delays that have worsened global bottlenecks. Furthermore, with the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place in February, factories will be closed in 64 northern Chinese cities to improve air quality. This will almost certainly affect some construction products, which will have a knock-on effect of levels of inventory later in 2022.

While the issues previously affecting timber and cement availability have eased, they have not been fully resolved, and longer lead times may return as the volume of demand increases later in the year.

The CLC continue to stress the importance of maintaining open lines of communication throughout the supply chain and encourage all sectors to continue to work closely and collaboratively to manage challenges and plan future work.

BW has completed the fit-out on Canopius’ new office space at 22 Bishopsgate, London’s newest and second tallest skyscraper

BW: Workplace Experts has completed the CAT B fit-out on privately owned insurance and reinsurance group Canopius’ new office space at 22 Bishopsgate, the most talked about new skyscraper located in the heart of the City of London’s financial district. The fit-out covers 39,000 sq. ft. of office space over levels 29 and 30. The BW team carefully inputted the views of a wide range of stakeholders into this design within one of the world’s most technologically advanced workspaces.

The building uses a system developed by Smart Spaces, a London-based company that makes operating systems for buildings. Bringing together a range of technologies like never before, the smart technology present includes facial-recognition entry for accessing the building, as well as a smartphone app, allowing for a seamless user-experience. Workers also can control elements from the comfort of their desks such as solar radiation-activated blinds on the windows and the temperature of their workspace. 22 Bishopsgate’s management team can make changes in real time thanks to a “digital twin” of the building with connected controls. Smart technology is in use throughout the building, with the façade having also been designed intelligently using the principles of Formula One aerodynamics.

Upon entering Canopius’ space on level 29, visitors will find the reception and lounge, where the bold use of colour immediately draws in guests. Within this space is the most striking feature of the design – the red resin-coated helical staircase. This was introduced to connect the 29th and 30th floors internally and was installed by BW along with the completion of associated structural works.

The reception and lounge lead through to the ‘Canopius Lounge,’ a broker visitor suite and café. Designed with a clear vision of how brokers can work better together with their clients, the Canopius Lounge has been equipped with stations offering underwriters and claims managers the ability to share a private screen with clients. Also found on level 29 is the boardroom, a ‘war room,’ plus a multi-faith room, the IT helpdesk and build space, mailroom and stores.

The main workspace/breakout space follows an open plan layout supported by a range of focus and meeting rooms hosting from 2 to 20 people. This reflects the group’s move towards activity-based working with branded neighbourhoods. The office is emblematic of everything the company stands for – embracing individuality, valuing collaboration, encouraging sharp and diverse thinking and getting good work done.

In terms of design qualities, a warm and calm feel in the open plan desking and vast suite of focus rooms and collaboration spaces has been created by using a wide variety of textures from sumptuous velvet, copper mesh screens, and fabric wall coverings. This space has been brought to life with a colourful design that delights and surprises visitors and staff alike.

The space comes equipped with coffee/tea points, print/copy rooms, storage and utility space, as well as a comms room on each floor. Level 30 also includes a library, staff café, first aid room and training room.

The shift to a remote working environment brought on by the pandemic required the client and staff to adapt quickly to a new way of working. BW put in extra effort to build strong team relationships with this in mind. This challenge led to enhanced communication processes and improved technology. BW optimised remote collaboration tools, including 360° virtual site inspections, making it much more efficient to work remotely.

Since the BW team understood and carefully considered the delivery priorities and challenges for the project, the experience met the client’s expectations and resulted in the scheme achieving Defect Free status at practical completion. BW further showed clear dedication to the project by leading multiple site tours to help the staff feel truly engaged with the move, ensuring Canopius’ request to engage employee spirit in the new design was fulfilled. The outcome is a new, dynamic office for Canopius that has its employees needs at its heart.

 

The project team included:

Project Manager – Savills

Architect – HLW

Quantity Surveyor – Heasmans

M&E – GDM Partnership

Following the announcement of a mandatory 30% cut in carbon for all new buildings, an industry expert is urging the construction industry to make appropriate considerations when enhancing building performance.

The news from government, which will see Revised Building Regulations coming into play from June 2022, means all new buildings must reduce their carbon emissions[1]. This includes a 30% reduction for new homes, while carbon emissions for new non-domestic properties must be reduced by 27%.

Insulation will ultimately have a major role to play in achieving these targets, however Jolyon Berg, Head of Technical at CCF (below), is urging those in the construction industry to evaluate product choices and maintain best practice. He explains, “Only with robust selection of the right products and correct installation, can all the benefits of insulation be realised.  This obviously includes improved energy efficiency which helps to cut carbon emissions, but also includes a range of other factors.”

Nearly half (46%) of the homes in England are now rated C or above for energy efficiency[2], up from 14% in 2010. The changes to government Building Regulations are set out with the intention of improving this figure further. It comes alongside £6.6 billion of direct investment into improving the energy efficiency of buildings.

“Failure to select and install insulation products correctly could result in greater heat loss and higher carbon emissions. It can also affect the performance of buildings from an acoustic and fire safety perspective too, with fire performance in the spotlight in high rise buildings,” Jolyon continues.

“In terms of ensuring the thermal performance of the building and the corresponding reductions in carbon emissions, fixings or accessories required to keep insulation correctly in place are essential, as is installing the insulation in a continuous layer with no gaps. Further, airtightness is integral to maximising energy efficiency, with products such as vapour control layers (VCLs) and accompanying tapes key for minimising air leakage.”

In addition to reaching government targets, Jolyon believes it’s not just thermal performance that requires consideration when adding insulation.

Jolyon added, “Selecting the right insulation for each building application is key. To do so, there are factors such as acoustic performance, moisture behaviour and compressive strength which need to be taken on board. Not only that, the type of insulation may have a significant impact on the thickness of the walls, therefore affecting the footprint and internal space of the building. With this in mind, its crucial to review product specification during the planning stages of a building.”

For more information about CCF please visit www.ccfltd.co.uk