CIC Blog: 2013

| Filed in Blog, Skills, Tony Burton
Skills shortage in the construction industry

Tony Burton

CIC Deputy Chairman & Senior Partner at Gardiner and Theobald LLP

The recent forecasts for the UK economy suggest that, at last, things may be improving.  The governor at the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said that the UK recovery has taken hold and expects un-employment to fall sooner than was forecast. 

In the construction sector we are also coming round to the idea that we can at last look forward rather than backwards. Whilst this is very positive, we need to consider the impact it will have on resources. With renewed growth comes the need for more people and skills.

As we emerged from the last recession we entered a skills shortage. It took the construction industry about 15 years to replace the more than half a million people it had lost.

As we emerge from this recession, which is widely acknowledged as the longest and deepest in memory, we are likely to face the same critical shortage of skills.  We are also entering a time when we will see more people retiring from the industry than new entrants joining it.

Additionally, evidence is already emerging of greater mobility in the workplace with people moving for ‘better offers’. So, unless we increase the supply of skills and people joining the industry, all we will see is an increase in the cost of employing those people already with us.  I am very much in favour of paying people what they are worth but I do not want to see enforced salary escalation caused by a skills supply shortage.  Particularly as this still leaves too many people working too hard through a continued lack of resource.

It is therefore vital that all of us involved in construction and property work together to inspire the next and future generations of school leavers and convince them that they can have full and rewarding careers in our sector.

This must involve not just employers, but professional bodies and academic institutions, and a strong positive leadership from Government and the Construction Leadership Council.

The Chief Construction Advisor, Peter Hansford, has called for us all to “get out there and shout about construction”. He puts the people aspect of Construction 2025 at the top of the agenda with a positive campaign to change the image of construction.

As part of this campaign, we need to start with education. How many young people in schools, if asked to name a profession, would readily quote a profession from our industry?  We need to become an industry of choice for both boys and girls making choices about their future career.

The National Careers Service website needs to be revamped for construction (as it is going to be for engineering). Search terms need rethinking so that those researching a career in construction can actually learn about it. At the moment, it seems that you already need to know what a quantity surveyor (QS) is if you have any hope of finding it on that site. And once you do find it, the information on there is inaccurate and certainly does not describe the career I’ve enjoyed!

Next we need to look at diversity. Only 14% of people involved in construction are women, and only 2% are from ethnic minorities.

Of qualified QSs in the UK and Ireland, only 8% are women and 4% are from ethnic minorities. For trainee QSs the figures rise to 15% women and 12% ethnic minorities. (The latter is the only figure that is representative of the UK working population).

Across the whole industry the figures are rising but we clearly have a lot to do. The recent ‘Open Door’ initiative from the UK Construction Group has allowed people to see how we go about creating the fabulous buildings which remain as our marketing collateral for 50, 60 or more years.

And there are many other initiatives from various parts of the industry. If we are to have enough resource with the right skill, we need a whole industry initiative to attract talent into our sector. Without this we will simply not have enough resource or the skill base to deliver the construction projects, building and infrastructure that we already know will be needed.

Finally, we need to look at funding. As a response to the skills shortage in engineering, Business Secretary, Vince Cable, recently announced a number of measures to attract people to that profession, which is backed by almost £50 million of funding from various sources.

This is EXACTLY the kind of positive leadership we need to see to attract talented young people to the construction professions.

We should all support Peter Hansford in his cry to change the image of our industry and shout about construction. We cannot create good people with vital skills overnight but we do need to start now if we are to achieve the vision for our industry set out in Construction 2025.

So can construction get the same support as engineering? With the links between industry and Government at a better level and stronger than at any time in my career I would like to think that we can.


Contributor: Tony Burton is Deputy Chairman of the Construction Industry Council and Senior Partner at Gardiner and Theobald LLP. For more information on Tony and Gardiner & Theobald visit

Tags: Skills, Construction 2025, Peter Hansford, Tony Burton, Construction Leadership Council, National Careers Service Education, CIC ConstructionSkills, Diversity
| Filed in Blog, BIM, BIM Research
The realities of using BIM

Ashley Beighton MCIOB
BIM Process Leader
The Clarkson Alliance Limited

The Clarkson Alliance (as lead partner), Kier Clearbox (as software partner) and Worthing Homes (as host project partner) are currently undertaking a Technology Strategy Board co-funded research project “to establish the changes in dynamics and behaviours across the construction supply chain to unlock new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working with Building Information Modelling (BIM)”. This is the second in our series of updates about the project. Transitioning into a Level 2 BIM environment

In our last post we reported that our Meadow Road sheltered housing project had moved away from the usual single stage design and build tender to a two stage tender process. The first stage tender has now concluded, a contractor has been appointed and a full design team assembled. The team are now in the process of developing a BIM Execution Plan. Once this is complete the project will move online and into, Clearbox’s BIMXtra Level 2 BIM environment.

BIMXtra is a central ‘middleware’ platform that will allow the project team to use a range of authoring tools – Autodesk Revit, Microsoft Excel, etc – to import data into, and export data from, a single, federated BIM model. With freely available software the BIM model can also be viewed by the wider project team, facilitating engagement across the entire supply chain.

Worthing Homes will therefore be able to view the BIM model as the design develops, as will all of the main contractor’s sub-contractors and suppliers. It is important to recognise however that there is still a need for drawings in traditional 2D format and for the relevant standards and procedures to be incorporated into the BIM Execution Plan.

Adapting PAS 1192-2 for use on smaller projects

PAS 1192-2, the BSI’s publicly available BIM standard, brings some much needed consistency to BIM implementations however it’s necessarily a ‘one size fits all’ standard for projects both large and small. As such its processes have already needed some substantial tailoring in order to fit the needs of our smaller project where there are fundamentally far less people and less data involved.

The PAS also assumes a single stage tender whereas we have moved to a two stage tender process. On Meadow Road the scheme design was developed in 2D CAD and so the first stage tender was issued and returned in the traditional manner. Now that a contractor has been appointed and a full design team assembled we are developing the BIM Execution Plan and undertaking the associated capability assessments prior to developing the design and moving on to the second stage tender.

Preferably the capability assessments would have been included in the first stage tender returns, if not also a pre-contract award BIM Execution Plan responding to the Employer’s Information Requirements. That way any hardware, software or training needs could have been identified and addressed at the earliest possible stage. In addition it would have been preferable if the scheme design had been developed as a BIM model as this would certainly have helped speed up the transition online and into BIMXtra.


In conclusion

By making the BIM model freely accessible to the wider project team and adapting PAS 1192-2 to fit our needs it chips away at the notion that BIM  isn’t accessible to SME’s and can’t be used on smaller projects. This is a point supported by Professor John Lorimer, Local Government BIM Liaison Officer, during a recent Collaboration Oxford seminar that we hosted (link to Collaboration Oxford post).  John delivered a number of projects using BIM when he was Capital Projects Director for Manchester City Council, including the £95 million refurbishment of Manchester Central Library.

John said, “We have cracked, I think, ‘it doesn’t work for small buildings,’ ‘it doesn’t work for roads,’ ‘it doesn’t work for listed buildings.’ No, that’s wrong.”

Do you have any lessons learned from using Level 2 BIM on smaller projects like Meadow Road? If so then we’d be interested to find out more about your own experiences.

Contributor: Ashley Beighton is BIM Process Leader for The Clarkson Alliance Limited, a firm of consultant project managers and information managers based in Oxford and London. To find out more about the information management services that TCA provide see our website dedicated to BIM - BIM fusion

| Filed in Blog, BIM, Education
Education Estates

James Lee

Event Director, Education Estates

Current projections indicate that the primary education estate will not satisfy the demands that primary schools will face in the years to come. Figures suggest that half of England's school areas will have more primary pupils than places within the next two years according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Some local areas will face a 20% shortfall in places by 2015, according to analysis of official data from 2012 (source

To be fair, the Government has responded pledging around £4 billion to create new school places and renovate and repair existing school buildings. So, with funding in place, its time to find the best solutions for the problems that have been spotted on the horizon – the clock is ticking!

In my view, its time to be creative with space and explore the best way to create flexible education facilities that can adapt to evolving teaching methods while catering for greater student intake. Now is the time to look at keeping running costs down with new technology to ensure that we don’t cripple the bursars’ budgets with excessive running costs further down the line. It is clear that there are plenty of avenues to explore and there is clearly no time like the present.

This is why I have launched Education Estates - a new event that focuses on the complex and challenging issues facing those designing, building, maintaining and managing Britain’s schools, colleges and universities. 

I hope to facilitate the discussions that will lead to significant enhancements in the built environment across the education sector. From my position as the “middle man” I can see that there are clear problems, targets and goals for those managing education facilities and a host of new ideas, new technologies and strong solutions provided by a number of organisations who will be present at the event.

With the support of vital organisations including the CIC, Education Funding Agency, Carbon and Energy Fund and the National Governors’ Association, the response has been fantastic with visitors registering in healthy numbers. School leaders and local authority representatives will sit along side university and college estate managers keen to discuss upcoming projects with design and construction professionals.

I believe this event will help to tackle a key issue and one that deserves a real focus. I hope you will be able to join us!


Contributor: James Lee is Event Director of Education Estates. Since joining Step Exhibitions in April 2011 James has launched three new built environment events as well as being the commercial lead for Healthcare Estates. 

You can find James on LINKEDIN or email via: 

Tags: David Philp, Rachel Stephenson, Professor John Howson, UK BIM Task Group
| Filed in Blog, Regulations
Last chance or Lame duck - Which Part of L suits?

Mark Wilson MCIAT
Building Design Expert


Benjamin Franklin said "... in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes". Had he lived at the beginning of this century he may have thrown in "… and a 20-25% increase in the carbon emissions standards under Part L of the Building Regulations"; because for a long time that was almost carved in the stone pillars that hold up Whitehall; well, from around the start of the decade when we realised we needed to start taking energy conservation just a little more seriously at any rate.

But at least we knew where we stood. Manufacturers for a long time raced to stand still, as they revved up their R and D departments to develop the technology needed to meet the challenge thrown down by the government in those Building Regulations. And now, just when we're cruising, the latest announcement for amendment of the industry thermometer that is Part L, see's an almost lacklustre 6% increase on domestic, and circa 9% increase on non domestic projects. So not only was the announcement, in industry terms, months late; it seems that, as part of Whitehall's own in-house energy saving regime, someone had turned the oven way down low, such that the whole pie came out no more than half baked.

It begs the question as to why the DCLG spent more of our money commissioning the 2012 consultation on Changes to the Building Regulations, when the options on that table were either 8% or 26% uplift in 'New Home' CO2 reductions from the 2010 levels. The government made it plain they favoured the 8% option from the start. The new Part L will provide 6%. But that wasn't an option was it? No, but don't feel you have to fuel this fire, when it is actually self-igniting.

Children up and down the land are listening to a similar fairy tale for non domestic buildings. The consultation put forward choices of 11% or 20% uplift on CO2 targets. "And the winner is…..9%" The book makers must have made a fortune!!

As far as those in charge are concerned, it seems that it's a game of consequences. The Secretary of State for DCLG got in a bit of a pickle over 'consequential improvements', and this half empty glass is being passed around the table at a rate of knots. The consequences of this latest decision reduces the step towards 'zero carbon' homes by 2016, from a full manly stride to a little playground bunny hop; leaving the industry perplexed and asking How? We have the time, perhaps? But the next leap to a potentially slippery stepping stone is going to be a little larger than previous, and of course the waters are rising.

At the end of every energy fuelled day it remains all about cost, and not about the altruistic facade of the environmental stage set. Can we afford the let the construction moguls continue to wipe the sweat from their furrowed sweaty brows; continuing to reap the benefits of a just in time system that dare not put a toe nail out of place, lest the industry again lose its tenuous grip as it climbs out of one of the deepest holes it has been in for a very long time. Ultimately the choice is; we, the all consuming tax payer becoming punch drunk with the constant jabs associated with the seemingly exponential rise in energy prices; or, should we ceremoniously present our chins for what could be a knock out blow in an effort to meet the increased costs of saving energy. It is a double edged sword with only one cutting edge.

The new Part L was recently published on 21 October, and the devil remains in the detail. We need to start taking heed of its content on 6 April 2014, and that detail will no doubt provide a number of twists and turns, if only to avoid the rocks that have already been thrown. As ever, the government, playing politics will ensure that there are a suitable number of transitional hoops to take us past the next election in 2015 before the full effect of the new regs are felt. Then of course the clock is re-set, and we start the next five year cycle of trying to fit square pegs into round holes, and when they get stuck half way it will all be someone else's fault.


Contributor: Mark Wilson MCIAT started his career in January 1985 as a member of the Society of Architectural and Associated Technicians, and now represents himself under the heading – Chartered Architectural Technologist.

He has run his own practice for the past 13 years, having spent the previous time working for various Architects and Developers on a wide variety of projects. You can find about more about him via or Twitter

Tags: building regulations,
| Filed in Blog, BIM, BIM Research
BIM and the Civil Engineering Undergraduate

Joe Wesley 

4th year undergraduate at the University of Warwick


2016. BIM. Construction. These three words are of great significance to Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry professionals, and have been the topic of much development, and conversely debate, since the release of the Government Construction Strategy in 2011. However, to many UK civil engineering undergraduates, BIM itself means very little, whilst to the few who have heard of it, its meaning and purpose is somewhat confused.  

Before I began my research into this topic for my project, I, along with many others, thought the significance of BIM is due to how advanced the 3D modelling technology is.  In fact, it is far more to do with the way it effectively manages information. This common misconception amongst students (and even their tutors!) is caused by one fundamental problem: lack of education.

My research involved investigating how or indeed if BIM is taught in the 24 Russell Group universities. The results were as follows:


The 9 UK universities who registered a level of BIM activity were primarily involved in research and postgraduate study. There was very little to suggest undergraduates anywhere were studying or even being made aware of BIM, especially in civil engineering courses, until a brief mention in the undergraduate prospectus at Leeds. This is a frightening thought given the fast approaching 2016 deadline. How are these graduates meant to be prepared?

Findings from the 2013 National BIM Survey may help to highlight the issue further:

  • 71% of respondents agreed that BIM represents the ‘future of project information’
  • 74% agreed that the industry is ‘not clear enough on what BIM is yet’.

So we agree that BIM is important, but its definition is uncertain. In addition to this, if industry is not clear enough on what BIM is, then how it is to be taught effectively?

To some extent the problem is alleviated as training for professionals is readily available. However, will somebody with 25 years of experience be willing to completely change their ways to incorporate BIM? Grass roots education is the key to solving the issue as BIM is believed to be a new way of thinking. Despite this, there is very little specification from industry to define the ‘BIM-Enabled’ graduate.

So, what can we do about it?

Well, the first step is to decide what to teach. I realised it is not feasible to teach BIM in its entirety due to the cost of software and the enormity of the subject. Fundamentally students must be able to a) work and engage in collaborative group design work, b) have simple design conceptual skills and c) have a general awareness of BIM, this awareness being based upon three main topics, People, Process and Technology.


  • Cover what BIM is and its role in the AEC industry.
  • Understand why BIM is needed.
  • Appreciate the business case for BIM and the government’s stance on it.
  • Understand the basics of how BIM will be implemented, covering the Push-Pull strategy and the concept of data drops.


  • Know the format of and problems with the traditional design, procurement and construction process, the tools and techniques it uses and the improvements BIM introduces.
  • Be aware of lifecycle management- design conception to demolition.
  • Work to the ‘right first time’ ethos in design work.
  • Appreciate the importance of collaboration.


  • Understand how parametric objects and clash detection define BIM and how data sets and reports can be extracted from the original 3D model.
  • Understand the role that cloud technology and standards such as COBie play.

The question now, is how do we introduce this core content and these skills into the already overcrowded civil engineering degree structure?

It may be that it’s introduced as a course elective, such as ‘Civil Engineering with BIM’, or as a single optional module available to students, therefore reducing the time constraint. However, in my opinion, rather than teaching it as a separate subject, BIM has the potential to be, or should be, fully integrated into the curricula. It is plausible that the Joint Board of Moderators could include it within its three main threads of Civil Engineering accreditation, which are Design, Sustainability and Healthy and Safety and Risk Management. BIM in fact combines with all of these.

There are still many barriers to introduction still to overcome, such as delivery and assessment. Given that it’s still new to industry, who will teach it? Furthermore, how will teaching content be moderated for consistency across the board?

Despite this, BIM urgently needs to be introduced into civil engineering curricula to ensure the next generation of graduates understand exactly what is going on and why. After all, they will soon be required to have a level of knowledge and understanding that allows them to fit into industry with minimal time and cost expenditure. As it stands, this is not going to happen. It’s clear that higher education needs to catch up with industry, quickly.

Contributor: Joe Wesley is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of Warwick, studying for an MEng Masters in Civil Engineering. Earlier this year he completed his third year individual project, ‘BIM and the Civil Engineering Undergraduate’, which involved developing a proposal for the introduction of BIM at the University of Warwick.

You can find Joe on LinkedIn or email via:


Tags: BIM, Construction, Civil Engineering, Architecture, Engineering and Construction, AEC
| Filed in Blog, Education
New beginnings?

Kath Galloway DPhil
Higher education consultant to CIC

When I first worked with higher education for CITB in early 2007, it might as well have been on another planet.  Industry was zipping along.  Loads happening supported by public money. ‘Employer co - funding’, Higher Level Skills Pathfinders, Lifelong Learning Networks, Subject Centres doing valuable work across the UK and more.  Then came the recession. 

Less employer engagement with higher education, but no criticism.  Other things to think about, like staying in business.  The publicly funded programmes and structures diminished.  Some reached the end of their planned lives, others were stopped or much reduced by policy change.  Talking of which, when the dust settled after announcements in October 2010, it became clear tuition fees would rise significantly in most of the UK as part of a radical funding shift.  Central grant to higher education institution reduced, student pays increased fee direct to higher education institution of their choice.  Funding much more literally ‘follows the student’. Many eyes were on autumn 2012, the first undergraduate intake in the new regime.

So, what happened? A few months ago, I took a fairly extensive look.  Not the prettiest picture.  The discipline group which features construction management and quantity surveying ‘lost’ almost 1,800 new undergraduates accepted compared with 2009, civil engineering 400 and architecture – which previously seemed to advance unstoppably – 50 worse than civil engineering. How’s it looking now?  In general, indications of slightly better undergraduate recruitment to the industry’s disciplines than in 2012, but well below levels seen 4 or so years ago.

Some say that if the industry hasn’t got the graduate opportunities, less should study its disciplines. I’d say lack of graduates hasn’t been felt yet. Those who started 3 year degrees in 2009 were looking for jobs in 2012. They were comparatively numerous, and opportunities relatively scarce because of industry conditions. Though as I scouted what was going on earlier this year, some employers said their prospects were improving. Let’s not get overexcited, not that many and certain types. But perhaps there’s light on the horizon.  

Industry picks up, more opportunities -> better image as provider of graduate jobs -> more undergraduates in industry disciplines. Problem solved?

Not necessarily. Selected from many possible considerations, try this.  In some occupations, there was a noticeable tendency towards employers ‘growing their own’.  Recruiting at 18 then using higher education to develop, same with level 3 apprenticeship completers who showed promise, taking an undergraduate on placement, sponsoring their degree’s final year then offering a job on graduation and so on.  What are some employers known to have used these routes saying now?  ‘We will probably recruit more graduates’. I thought ‘Great!’ for a spilt second, before realising this may be because a single employee’s part time undergraduate fee can be £4k+ p.a.  Far more than it was, and money’s still tight. Again employers can’t be blamed. Though if they ‘grow’ less graduates, aren’t more who pay for their own study needed?  Add that when industry improvement accelerates even more graduates are wanted, and there’s fewer of them because of what’s happened in recruitment since 2009. 

When most were still scratching their heads about the implications of announcements about higher education funding made about 8 weeks before, in January 2011 an employer told me;

‘Give it a few years, and we’ll be back to fighting each other over placement students’. 

A wise man, I think.

Government bodies now appear interested. This could be thanks to what’s happened to construction and built environment undergraduate numbers, disappearing part time provision and similar combining with factors like construction being an ‘Industrial Strategy Sector’. Still good, though.

The industry’s higher education seems even keener on assembling under the banner of CIC – in cooperation with CITB – than it was on previous arrangements which ended in spring 2012.  Higher education wasn’t averse to the former set up, but the somewhat different Education for Built Environment (E4BE) launched 13 September, all main disciplines on board.  On 5 November you’ll have an opportunity to find out more.  Click here to find out how 

Almost forgot. Why the question mark after the title of this blog? Because I’m not completely certain as yet, but ‘new beginnings’ might be what we have.


Contributor: Dr. Kath Galloway is in her seventh year as an independent consultant.  In addition to her involvement with construction and built environment higher education, she has had many other commissions including in Romania, in the UK with British Council and recently worked on a new apprenticeship which forms a key part of the Department of Health’s Modernising Scientific Careers initiative.  You can find out more about her via LinkedIn     


Tags: higher education, employer engagement
| Filed in Blog, Diversity
Working towards a fairer industry for all

Chrissi McCarthy
Managing Director of Constructing Equality Ltd

Working in the built environment sector can be a fascinating experience with the chance to: - test your skills on a large scale; work with a constantly changing array of new people; and leave a mark on the world.

Unfortunately though, as the economic climate continues to look bleak, the experience of working in the industry has become an increasingly stressful one with long working hours, salary freezes and dubious payment practices for sub-contractors - both consultants and trades.

Companies trying to address some of these concerns have found that they can be at odds with the requirements of PQQ and tender lists  and therefore find themselves having to put the short-term goals of the company (winning work and delivering) ahead of its long-term needs (creating a happy qualified workforce). An example of this being where project clauses ask sub-contractors to take on x number of apprentices for a specific project with the focus on getting local people into jobs; it’s not uncommon for the same company to work on another job 30 miles down the road to the same requirement leaving the company with the choice of: -not fulfilling the requirement (hopefully with a sympathetic client); having too many apprentices to adequately train; or, the more common scenario of letting the first group go less than a year into their contract.

These are challenges that affect the sector as a whole and as the industry struggles to attract the numbers of bright ambitious people that it needs, let alone provide them with the opportunities they need to develop early on in their careers, it’s only a challenge that will increase.

I strongly believe that in order for industry to overcome these challenges we have to find a way to work together to overcome these issues - by standing together as a sector and producing a solution to these challenges we should be able to help our clients to create a legacy that lasts longer than the duration of the project under construction and helps strengthen our industry at the same time. 

This is where the CITB Be Fair Framework (Built Environment Fairness Inclusion and Respect Framework) comes in. Designed in consultation with the sector, by people who have worked within in it,  the framework makes a number of major assumptions about the sector - of course these might not be true for everyone, but research shows us that they do reflect the majority of the industry: - 


  • Client procurement has a massive impact on fairness, inclusion and respect within the sector.
  • There is a lack of understanding from both clients and the industry around fairness, inclusion and respect and how to overcome the complex challenges it presents.
  • The challenges around people in the sector are incredibly complex due to factors like project-based and global working, nepotistic culture and stereotypical roles.
  • Overall as a sector we fail to attract and retain key talent in the numbers required.
  • The needs of a small consultant differ vastly from those of a large main contractor.
  • To become a diverse and equal workforce we need to create and maintain a fair working environment for those currently working in the sector.


“Felt the framework had real structure and focus. It felt very practical where other frameworks have felt more like a tick box – this didn’t” Vinci plc. 

(Gemma Concannon)

By understanding these and other challenges the framework design can create a tool that can start to bring change to the sector in a way that is affordable, sustainable, long-term and in line with public sector procurement.  Breaking the industry down into 18 different strands such as Consultant (large, medium and micro), Client (public and private sector), Main Contractor (large, medium, small and micro) and Sub-contractor (medium, small and micro) enables the framework to be written as  action plans including support documents for each organisation in a language that can be understood and with tools that are familiar.

Split over four levels the framework is a learning tool that pushes you towards excellence. At the first level (Bronze) you are not asked what you are doing, instead you are directed towards what you should be doing and given the tools to do it. At the second level (silver), you are still directed and given the tools, but this time you are encouraged to do more. At the third level (gold), you should have a good idea about what fairness, inclusion and respect entails and you are now expected to be able to apply these principles to your business, showing us the best way forward.  The fourth and final level (platinum) is your chance to show how your company is leading the field.

Already the framework has attracted attention from over 148 companies in the sector with over 110 now signed up on the on the pilot, feedback has been encouraging.

Because CITB and Constructing Equality have invested in the framework as a “greater good” product, it has meant that we are able to offer the industry options that other sectors don’t have; which if successful should mean our industry beginning to lead on this agenda.

In the CITB Be Fair Framework we have an opportunity to show how as an industry we can both deal with the challenges we face and also lead in this area, ensuring that we show our clients and stakeholders what is right for the talent we already have as well as how we can attract and nurture the professionals of tomorrow.


Contributor: Before starting Constructing Equality Ltd., Chrissi McCarthy spent more than 10 years at the forefront of the construction industry, first as a Setting Out Engineer and then a Site Manager. A Construction Management graduate and member of the Chartered Institute of Building, she played an integral role in the delivery of numerous projects, including Peckham Library, Manchester Interchange, a range of BSF Schemes, and a school in Uganda for charity. Today, Chrissi is part of the Fairness Inclusion and Respect Strategic Group that leads the industry on diversity. She holds lectures on diversity and equality at Universities and conferences, writes for leading construction publications, contributes to Government papers, influences key industry figures, and has even spoken at the House of Lords. Importantly, while her achievements are diverse, they share a common thread – to improve the reality of working within construction and its reputation among the public.

You can find out more about her via  on Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest

Tags: CITB Be Fair Framework, equality
| Filed in Blog, BIM, BIM Research
How BIM Will Change Processes and Behaviours in Reality: A Research Project

Ashley Beighton MCIOB
BIM Process Leader
The Clarkson Alliance Limited


The Clarkson Alliance (as lead partner), Kier (as software partner) and Worthing Homes (as host project partner) are currently undertaking a Technology Strategy Board funded research project “to establish the changes in dynamics and behaviours across the construction supply chain to unlock new, more efficient and collaborative ways of working with Building Information Modelling (BIM)”.

The core objective of the project is to understand the changes in process and behaviours needed to work in a Level 2 BIM environment i.e. where a range of authoring tools – Autodesk Revit, Microsoft Excel, etc – are being used by the project team to import data to, and export data from, a single, federated BIM model held on a central ‘middleware’ platform, in this case Kier’s BimXtra software.

The Technology Strategy Board first awarded us the grant in October last year and it was only confirmed last month, once a suitable host project had been found. The project has been provided by Worthing Homes and is a Sheltered Housing scheme called the Meadow Road project. Since then work has quickly progressed, the initial focus being on compiling a BIM Protocol based on the CIC template and a set of Employer’s Information Requirements (EIR) based on the requirements of PAS 1192-2:2013.

A significant early change in the usual dynamics and behaviours has been a move away from a single stage design and build tender to a two stage tender. In a design and build contract clients often seek to transfer the design risk to the winning bidder, however with powerful visualisation and clash detection tools such as Autodesk Navisworks design issues can be quickly and easily identified and resolved. This means there’s far less inherent design risk in a BIM project and hence little point in paying the contractor a risk premium to transfer it. 

A further important change has been an early focus on the Asset Information Model (the information needed to efficiently and effectively operate and maintain the finished building), with the client’s requirements then being written into the EIR. Here we’ve so far steered away from COBie and instead focused on building an Asset Information Model that will provide the client with the following outputs on handover:

•    A Health and Safety File containing ‘passive’ project data
•    A federated model in IFC file format containing ‘passive’ system data
•    A spreadsheet containing ‘active’ system data

The passive data will effectively form the record set for the project, with the active data feeding directly into the client’s planned preventative maintenance system.

The next step is to issue the EIR out with the usual Employer’s Requirements and to support the bidders (and their consultants and contractors) through the tendering process, in particular with their pre-contract award BIM Execution Plans and associated capability assessments. 

We are already gathering insight into how BIM can change the tender process and how client’s needs should be incorporated into the Asset Information Model.  We will be actively sharing our findings as we uncover more changes in process and behaviours in future updates as we develop further understanding of how BIM works in a live project environment.

Contributor: Ashley Beighton is BIM Process Leader for The Clarkson Alliance Limited, a firm of consultant project managers and information managers based in Oxford and London. To find out more about the information management services that TCA provide see our website dedicated to BIM - BIM fusion

| Filed in Blog, Construction
Why is the Construction Industry Reluctant to Embrace Web-based Innovations?

Darren Lester

Founder of SpecifiedBy

The web and, in particular social media, is playing an ever increasing role in all aspects of our lives. And the construction industry is not immune to this.

I often get the impression that there are people and companies within the industry that seem to believe that the construction industry is in this magic bubble that protects it from external influences, particularly when it come to the web and new technologies.

This may be due to it being a very old fashioned industry run by people who have always done things a certain way and don't want the boat to be rocked. Well, tough. The construction industry is subject to the same technological, environmental, social and economic impacts as everyone else, and needs to embrace these changes.

Every industry is made up of companies, which are made up of individuals. If the vast majority of these individuals decide they now prefer to work online and use social media (they already have!) then that's where the industry has to, and is headed.

Nobody is going to stop these changes, but there are those who are trying to slow it down rather than making the effort to join in. Big companies will be damaged because they fail to move with technology, and this in turn will damage the industry as a whole.

Huge tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook acknowledge that the biggest threat to them isn't the competition, it's some tiny start-up working in a bedroom or garage somewhere, designing a new technology or idea that is going to disrupt their industry, so they are actively out there trying to find these people and help them.

Can we say the same about the construction industry's big players and professional bodies?

I would say it’s more likely the complete opposite. Our leading companies and organisations are creating barriers for innovative companies and technologies, trying to play down their potential, constantly highlighting the inevitable challenges to overcome and focussing on how difficult it will be to change existing processes etc.

At SpecifiedBy we recently launched a simple Twitter project called #SocialSpec. The idea is that specifiers tweet us their building product requirements or questions, we retweet it to a growing network of other professionals, and crowd-source recommendations and advice.

I accept that this is a very small contribution to the industry, but it’s one that has been well received and one that a lot of people seem excited about. But there are much better positioned, better funded and more well-respected brands than us that should really be taking the lead on this kind of thing. And where they don't, they should be seeking to support us and other start-ups at every opportunity.

So far I've not seen enough of this.

Small companies, and in particular start-ups, will always be the main innovators. But they need the support of larger companies to take disruptive ideas to a mass-market. This is particularly true within an industry like construction, which is notoriously difficult for new companies to break into and become established.

New web technologies and Social Media open up possibilities for all sorts of new collaborations and efficiencies within many processes. Perhaps if there was a bit more industry-wide support for the use of these we would see the industry catch up with the rest of the world.


Contributor: Darren Lester is the founder of SpecifiedBy, and a Resident Entrepreneur in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter

| Filed in Blog, Green Deal
The Grey Hairs of the Green Deal

Mark Wilson MCIAT
Building Design Expert

This government flagship looked a winner on the drawing board, showed great promise during construction. But it stalled in the slipway because someone had forgotten to secure its finance arrangements, and subsequently launched into a sleepy backwater with barely a ripple.

Government ministers trumpeted that this was always the plan, and that the ‘energy marketers’ would man the tugs to guide this flagship out to sea. Six months on and one cannot help but wonder that for the price of a short length of rope, a bottle of champagne and some celebrity trumpeting; would we now be cruising at top speed in open water?

Maybe not, but the fact that it was never an appetiser on the menu draws questions of judgment. I did a lot of research in the run up to the first false dawn, and indeed spoke to many people, and came to the consistent conclusion that if the government struggled to ‘give away’ insulation under the banners of CERT and CESP, what made them think we were now going to happily pay for it?

We are several months down the Green estuary, but the outlook remains a very dark grey. Statistics released at the start of July gave us 14 million homes, 19,000 green deal assessments made, and 4, yes Four, GD implementations. Whilst ministers hedged for a while; common sense began to prevail, with an announcement that they would look at better ways to incentivise the offering, and guess what – we are still waiting.

At least they got what the problem was. Take a step backwards and ask “what’s in it for me?” – the home owner that is. The altruistic mindset was clearly not registering a plus sign, meaning that just a carbon saving gain for the UK, and little else until the GD loan was paid off, was not enough. Perhaps they were right; the ‘Golden Rule’ offered no financial advantage other than enough to pay off the loan, and by the time it was paid the technology that had been originally installed would be out of date, and probably well under-performing by the technology standards of that day to come.

So where do we head from here?

It’s a precarious irony that although the government have frequently reminded us that as birth parents to the Green Deal, they are more than happy to relinquish the nurturing, and caring through the accelerated ageing of it’s teenage years, to the foster parents that are the “Market Forces”. Yet, they have now exercised their right to bring it back to their comfortable home for a haircut, wash behind the ears and some freshly starched underwear. One can’t help but imagine the next step, after a good talking to of course, as a tousle of the hair and a comforting hand on the shoulder before being sent off down the garden path to cut a dash in the world once more.

It is not at all helpful, but the industry has been driven to cynical ledge. A flagship programme has tripped over the starting blocks; since the demise of CERT and CESP, cavity wall insulation installations are down at one quarter of one percent from a year ago; one in four insulation installers no longer have their jobs; six months after a delayed start due to another oversight on passing of legislative powers to enable Green Deal financing, there still remain significant issues in securing the money to carry out installation work, and at the beginning of July 2013 the first Green Deal provider has been put into receivership. Does anyone detect a trend?

After lifting the lid, that is just what’s floating on the surface. Lurking in the depths of this cauldron the government have created a wounded beast that cannot be abandoned and left to die, but are also struggling to secure the industrial strength sticking plaster needed to stop the wounds from bursting. There will be heavy scarring, and there may be more casualties as our flagship scrapes its hull along this mud bank. There is open water in sight, if only because the principles around which the Green Deal has been constructed are, in themselves, robust. However, a contribution towards a national reduction in carbon emissions was never likely to cut it with your average consumer. Incentivisation anyone?

Contributor: Mark Wilson MCIAT started his career in January 1985 as a member of the Society of Architectural and Associated Technicians, and now represents himself under the heading – Chartered Architectural Technologist.

He has run his own practice for the past 13 years, having spent the previous time working for various Architects and Developers on a wide variety of projects. You can find about more about him via or Twitter

Tags: Green Deal, Construction, Carbon Saving