Changing Construction

Is construction changing?
Does it need to?
I’ve attended two events recently where the emphasis of the discussions moved on from the topic in question to these more debatable questions.  I’ll accept that both events were focused more on the future of construction, but what struck me was the growing consensus both of attendees that are adapting and those urging for quicker and faster change.
The first event focused on Big Data and the opportunities for construction. The key conclusion for me was that opportunity does exist, but we need to focus on just getting the basic data right first as well.  The most striking presentation was provided by Gideon Farrell who, as a recent graduate with no pre-conceived views, is using technology to advance construction.  He is not focused on changing construction per se, but he sees the business opportunity to use technology which will in turn change construction.
The second event was CIRIA’s Future of Construction event.  I was struck by the positive overtone from the majority of speakers demonstrating how they are driving change within their own organisations and in turn changing construction.  Briefly:
  • Alan Clucas explained how Laing O’Rourke have put DfMA at the core of their strategy going forward;
  • Graeme Shaw passionately inspired others with his talk about how TfL are embracing lean and process improvement
  • The vision for Britain is digital as outlined by the BIM Task Group
  • John Boultwood talked procurement and highlighted that The IUK have produced excellent guidance in Project Initiation Routemap
The one salutatory warning was raised by Tim Chapman who eloquently raised concerns about the need to reduce carbon and how little we are actually doing about it; yet the built environment can and does have a significant influence over all aspects of carbon reduction.  I’d encourage you to review Highways England Carbon Routemap and the infographic (available at the bottom of the page).
Does construction need to change?  As one speaker said, if we don’t someone else will come in and take over.
Is Construction Changing?  It’s evident that there is much positive progress being made and I am personally optimistic that we are on the dawn of new era for construction, particularly:
  • if we realise the importance of Tim’s message that we must reduce carbon and realise the opportunity for the built environment in influencing this change
  • if we can get more Gideons involved; the younger generations need to be engaged in taking the industry forward
  • if more clients embrace Graeme’s passion for taking a common sense approach to improvement
  • if the supply chain adopt a similar value-added philosophy espoused by Alan based on DfMA and digital engineering
  • if we follow the guidance of the IUK routemap
Do you share my optimism? Add your comments below
Click here for click to the Storify of my tweets of CIRIA Future of Construction

Keeling Curve hits 400 …

Keeling_Curve_Over400The Keeling Curve is important as it measures the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. It keeps rising as the graph illustrates. The data has been collated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography since 1958 when the level was approximately 315.

Why is this important?

Well the SAFE LEVEL of CO2 in the atmosphere is deemed to be 350, which was passed in the late-1980’s. This heightened awareness about climate change resulting in the Earth Summit at Rio de Janerio in 1992 and subsequently the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. The inextricable rise of the graph indicates a growth of between one and two points per year (the long term trend is 1.5 ppm increase per year), and this trend is accelerating. It needs to be reversed, hence the initiatives to reduce carbon in the atmosphere (CO2 is not the only contributor to climate change)

So, what happens if it’s not reversed?

Well there is a TIPPING POINT of CO2 in the atmosphere which is deemed to be

450

beyond which level of atmospheric C02 will be irreversible. At the rate of increase in the late 1980’s this was anticipated to be 2050. Hence the Kyoto Protocol and commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. However, the rate is increasing; for the past decade it’s been 2ppm per year, so we are likely to reach tipping point sooner – 25 years or 2040!

Whilst we might be undertaking plenty of initiatives to reduce carbon, we as a planet are still producing more carbon. With, inter alia, population rise and the transition of less developed countries, the demand for carbon-producing activities continues to rise.

The rise of CO2 in the atmosphere is not abating and suddenly 2050 2040 is not so far away. It’s now 25 years since we broke through the safe limit, and unless we continue to act now, the prospects for future generations should the tipping point be reached are bleak.

Are we / are you doing enough?

Messi Construction

messi

Lionel Messi is now the leading goalscorer in La Liga, having surpassed a record that has stood since 1955.  Messi is an outstanding talent, however he is the first to acknowledge that his achievements could not be gained on his own; he is part of a team.  With the 2014 CIOB conference focusing on “Inspiring The Future of Construction“, there are many aspects of Messi’s career that the UK construction industry could learn from.

Messi’s achievements are certainly worthy of reporting, however is his success just down to his prodigious talent, being part of a great team or both? Whilst this can be debated, what can’t is that … success rarely happens overnight.

Success generally occurs because there has been a clear vision for the future supported by a plan that has been implemented.   In the case of Messi, his success can be traced back to when his talent was recognised and developed by Barcelona, the club he has played for since the age of 11.

Barcelona has enjoyed several sustained periods of success, the first in the early 1990’s under the leadership of Johan Cruyff.  Cruyff, a legend in his own right, had a vision and plan routed in developing young talent and creating a style of play very different from other teams. The approach was successful and was replicated again in the Messi era.  The nucleus of the team Messi has played in included many who have come through the Barcelona youth system; they understand each other and the style of play that is expected of them.  It is a style that others have now imitated and indeed improved.

But what does this have to with construction?

I would suggest that Barcelona has influenced world football, not the other way around.  Whilst it is laudable that the UK construction industry creates persuasive reports like Construction 2025, the real influencers of change are the leaders of the industry’s companies.  And I would ask these leaders:

  • What is your vision for the future?
  • Is your plan in place and being implemented?
  • How are you recognising the talent you need for the changing future?
  • How are you nurturing, developing and retaining this talent?
  • Do all your team know the way you will be operating in the future?

Success does not happen overnight, and whilst 2025 may seem like a long way off, it’s just ten short years away!  Just remember, it’s ten years since Messi made his debut.

WordPress Post

CIC Happold Medal Lecture 2013

CICRobin Nicholson became the ninth recipient of the CIC Happold Medal, awarded jointly by the Construction Industry Council and the Happold Trust after delivering the lecture entitled “Collective responsibility for a sustainable industry”. Tues 29th Oct’13 at the Institute of Civil Engineers.

I’ve created a storify of the event and tweets.

Robin, a past Chairman of the CIC, gave a potted history of the CIC on the start of its 25th Anniversary which has coincided with a significant amount of fervour about industry reform and continues today.  His conclusion on reform was essentially ‘we know what to do, let’s stop talking and start doing more’.  I couldn’t agree more having just read another (good) report on Supply Chain Analysis of Construction by BIS that isn’t really telling us anything we didn’t already know.

The main focus of the lecture was on sustainability and Robin provided a plethora of amazing stats to make the point we need to make better use of our resources; we can’t continue being so wasteful. And for the built environment this means rethinking about how we reuse our assets.

However whilst sustainability is an absolute imperative, the collective challenge for the supply side of the industry is address the root cause of the many issues highlight by Robin that prevent the progress of, amongst other things, sustainability.  Interestingly the dilemma of CIC is the recognition that professional institutions reinforce a fragmented process and a silo mentality; yet the obvious solution of combining institutions or creating a single one is in the too difficult pile.

Robin apologised for the depressing nature of his comments, he is an optmist by heart. I felt as if the subsequent panel debate focused too much on the negative and failed to emphasise the many good things that are taking place within the industry.  As an industry we do many amazing things and I strongly believe we will continue to evolve in a progressive and postive manner.  BIM is undoubtably providing the catalyst to rethink how we operate and move towards more collaborative and integrated practices.

The 5th Be2Awards

Well done to @eepaul for superbly organising the 5th #Be2Awards on 25th September at the Building Centre.

Be2Awards
Firstly I must congratulate all the winners of the awards for a job well done; you deserve all recognition coming your way.
However, this blog is more about what this event meant to me. This is London Social Media week (23-27 Sept 2013) and the Be2Awards are all about acknowledging the contribution of social media in the built environment; what else does? Now I appreciate that there are people cynical of the influence of social media, however I would happily beg to differ.  Social media is having an increasing impact on the way I operate and I strongly believe it will have an increasing influence on the way everyone operates.  And this was the message the eclectic mix of speakers in their own way was endeavouring to convey.
Interspersed amongst the awards was a selection of speakers with an important point to make; collectively the speakers provided an powerful of the influence of social media:
  1. David Burden (Daden Ltd; @DavidBurden) highlighted the benefits of third digital model to support the design and construction models. The third user model is predicated on interaction with the ‘future’ users of the built asset to influence the built asset. Their interaction is via social media.
  2. Duncan Reed (Tekla; @djhreed67) emphasised that whether we realise it or not we already operating in a BIM world utilising social media.  Whilst the focus is on BIM authoring tools, most need the data from the models and we will utilise this data with social media tools (I’m using one now – wordpress).
  3. Andy Hudson-Smith (@digitalurban) demonstrated that privacy is dead; whilst the implications are only slowly being realised, the phenomenal power of technology needs to be embraced now; the future is already with us.
  4. Anne Parker (@AnneHydeParker) changed the emphasis and implored us to be mindful of the stress that our ever increasingly fast world causes us. We need to be careful of the influence of all the immediacy of information and take time to ensure we focus on what is important.
  5. Gordon O-Neill (Iota Media; @iota_gordon) stressed the ability to communicate effectively is predicated on our ability to convey a message and this is often most effectively done via a story-telling. Very apt for my job.
  6. Robert Klaschka (Studio Klaschka; @StudioKlaschka) emphatically demonstrated that the only way is to open source; history tells us the winners don’t operate closed systems – share to your heart’s content.
  7. Claire Thirlwall (Thirlwall Associates; @ThirlwallAssoc) brought along cakes; yum-yum! Claire’s message to cynics was to embrace social media as this is the future.  Using her own journey from cynic to convert, Claire presented a powerful example of how social media has enabled her SME business to thrive and grow. And the help is all available via social media.
The influence of this event, from a room in central London with approximately 30+ present, was to have apparently had in excess of 4 million and counting.  This is the power of social media and the interaction with individuals all around the globe.
Well done to all involved.

Consolidating for Growth

This is a personal reflection on a recent visit to Byrne Group’s Consolidation Centre. ImageI first came across the principle of a consolidation centre when I was working at BAA on Terminal 5. The consolidation centre was the solution to the problem of getting everything needed for construction and mobilisation on to the restricted T5 site.  Rather than every supplier face the gauntlet of the bottleneck at the entrance to the site, a centre was created nearby where all suppliers dropped of their consignments for consolidating into full loads.
The principles and benefits are well captured in the following articles:
The principle has been developed and separate logistic companies have endeavoured to replicate the operation in London and elsewhere.  I recently became aware that the Byrne Group had also adapted the principle for their purposes. It is promoted on on their website and has received recognition in the form of the “Best Practice in Management category at the Plant Services magazine 2010 Best Practice Awards”. Further information is available

  1. On Byrne Group website
  2. On COINS website
Why don’t more construction companies develop such an approach? This is more rhetorical question and probably a good dissertation topic for one of my students. What was clearly evident to me is that the Byrne Group fully appreciate where value is added in their value chain.  This has enabled them to focus on what is important in creating an efficient and effective operation. Rather than focus on developing their expertise in sub-contract management, their competence is based around effective operational management.
How many other construction companies can say that?