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A South West company has received national recognition for its social value work by being awarded the 2022 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development.

Services Design Solution (SDS) has placed environmental sustainability, employee support, and work in the local community at the heart of its business operations. These aspects of the company’s activities received special praise when the award was announced on 21 April.

The firm has won several awards since it was established in 2004, but this outshines the others for founder Shaun Hoppins. The Queen’s Award for this category recognises sustainable practices in all its forms, including social sustainability. Shaun said: ‘This is the most prestigious award we’ve received to date; it means Her Majesty and her government have recognised our efforts in achieving sustainable business and outcomes.’

The company provides designs for building environmental engineering systems to provide safe, comfortable conditions for people to work and live. Shaun continued: ‘When we commenced trading in 2004, we wanted to differentiate ourselves from our peers in engineering sustainability. As we grew as a business, we gained a broader understanding of what is truly sustainable and captured this within the company values. We have used company profit to drive innovation, provide business growth, develop staff and create job opportunities. Our team are empowered to help local communities through time and financial support.’

What stood out for the Queen’s Award for Enterprise panel was how SDS has embedded social value targets within its business strategy. In addition to each employee being able to donate pro-bono time and volunteer for social value projects, the company donates at least 1% of its annual turnover to provide financial support to local communities. Last year, this was over £50,000 and equated to around £900 per employee. The company also provides free of charge sustainability and carbon emissions advice for public organisations such as Somerset Council; offers careers talks at local schools and universities; and has designed work experience programmes for young people.

The award panel said: ‘The business has set performance targets on social matters, including expanding sustainable sales, volunteer hours, charitable giving and training. Services Design Solution provides an exemplary example of a diverse, sustainable development programme with ambitious long-term goals, including gender, carbon, and wellbeing. They are awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development through their strong strategic focus, helping drive the sector forward, and achieving results through leadership and commitment.’

Shaun commented: ‘We’ve grown our social sustainability commitment over recent years. To have that recognised in a national award reflects the hard work the team has commited during recent years. We’ve had a 148% increase in charitable giving compared to the previous year, and seen a 60% increase in volunteering.’

SDS are committed to protecting the ecology and doing their part to reduce the UK’s impact on climate change. They have been a net carbon neutral business since 2019 and provide their clients advice on the most sustainable systems to support their built environment.

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise lasts for five years, Shaun added: ‘To receive this accolade and be recognised as exemplary in sustainability within our sector is an outstanding achievement. It reflects the commitment of our staff and our promise to protect our planet.’

Construction leaders from across Cornwall attended a dedicated event to discuss tackling the main challenges currently facing the industry in the South West.

The event was chaired by Giles Blight from Bailey Partnership and Lewis Tolputt of Classic Builders.

Held at Watergate Bay Hotel, the event was sponsored by global business insurer Gallagher, and supported further by Bailey Partnership and Classic Builders. The attendees included key clients, local authorities, council leaders, architects, engineers, developers and contractors who all openly talked about their experiences of working in the industry, and shared their recommendations on how to combat the climate crisis, building safety and procurement on value.

Giles Blight, Chair of the Constructing Excellence Cornwall hub, said: “This event was a pilot project for a wider programme being rolled out by Constructing Excellence South West. It was great to be given the opportunity to test the water in Newquay to see who would engage in the conversation and attend on the night.”

“It was fantastic to have so many of the key players who work in construction come together and give up their free time to discuss issues like the climate crisis, building safety and procurement on value to understand their different points of view.”

“Everyone was incredibly passionate about the topics being discussed across the evening, and it was agreed more events like this are needed to help make a real difference to the future of the industry.”

“Construction is fundamental for the UK economy, and so it’s vital we take action now to make sure the sector continues to thrive. Starting small and looking at what can change within our region is a great first step, before rolling out new ideas and initiatives further afield.”

“Constructing Excellence South West enables us to hold events like this, and with Gallagher support, the whole evening was a great success. This is just the start of things to come for CE Cornwall, and we look forward to future events that capture the thoughts and ideas of the great minds in construction.”

Ross Browne, Development Director for Gallagher added: “Fundamental to successful change is people coming together to discuss the pressing issues in their sector for the good of all. To be part

of the evening in Newquay and hear first-hand how the people in the room are adapting to and embracing change, proved the value of that and how we can be better, when we work together.”

Following the collapse of Midas, Constructing Excellence South West’s Devon Club gathered senior leaders across the region to discuss its impact on the wider sector.

In the last year, more than 2,500 construction companies across England and Wales have gone into administration.

The multimillion-pound Midas Group, which went insolvent in February, is just the most recent high-profile example1.

With over 300 employees and several huge contracts underway, the firm’s collapse was a major blow for construction – especially in the South West, where Midas primarily operated2.

The Constructing Excellence Devon Club was quick to respond. Bringing together the group’s network and members, it sought to facilitate an honest and open conversation about what went wrong, how similar situations can be avoided, and how construction can address the biggest challenges that face it.

Andrew Carpenter, Constructing Excellence South West CEO was in attendance and kick-started discussions.

“The Midas collapse has had a devastating impact on the construction industry – particularly here in the South West,” says Andrew.

“But it may turn out to be the wake-up call the sector needed.

“Construction keeps the UK economy thriving – but in my experience, it struggles to adapt in difficult circumstances, and learn from the challenges it often faces.

“Constructing Excellence South West was designed to change that – and by facilitating valuable forums like these, we want to drive change and influence best practice to help shape the future of the industry.”

Silo working is detrimental

Over an evening of debate and discussion in Exeter, the room full of contractors, consultants, clients, suppliers and other key decision-makers from throughout the sector came to a number of conclusions.

The first concerned collaboration. Currently, there isn’t enough of it, and for the sector to succeed, there needs to be a lot more.

All too often, organisations operate in silos, and what little collaboration does take place is misaligned. This obviously has a detrimental impact on the projects in question.

Information sharing was consistently highlighted as a vital area for improvement. Effective knowledge sharing is an essential element of any contractual relationship.

However, with a lack of guidance on best practice and how to effectively do this, difficulties across the supply chain emerge – very often, there’s a lack of understanding about the common project goal, and how to deliver a high-quality product on time and on budget.

Participants also discussed how a shift in culture and behaviours is needed to drive real change.

People shared their personal experiences, and discussed how they believe there is a lack of trust and honesty throughout the sector. This seems to be more noticeable when it comes to the finances of a project.

Players who are driven to make money can sometimes be difficult to work with, and will often fail to abide by the outlined payment terms.

Getting everyone involved around a table early on can help to ensure a robust contractual agreement is put in place, attendees agreed. This is the fairest way to deliver projects, ensuring the prices are aligned, and everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet from the start.

Challenging the status quo

Having analysed the sector’s biggest challenges, the event concluded by exploring potential solutions – and the business leaders present strongly argued that disruption is key.

“The sector has a history of being fragmented – but now is the time to work collaboratively to tackle ongoing issues,” Emma Osmudsen, Exeter City Living Managing Director and CESW Vice Chair stated.

“To do this, we need more disruptors. We have to constantly challenge and question existing ways of working.

“Disruptors can come in, look unsentimentally at how we’ve traditionally operated, and offer the creative, innovative solutions we need to drive real transformational change.”

Attracting and recruiting a younger generation of construction professionals has been a priority for many years – but attendees agreed that as the sector seeks creative solutions to the issues it faces, this will become more important than ever. Talented young recruits have the potential to transform the way the industry operates.

Additionally, participants argued that construction is often too insular, and doesn’t learn from the successes of other sectors. By looking outside the industry to see what works well elsewhere, we can take those insights and apply them to the built environment, allowing us to tackle projects in innovative new ways.

The golden rules of best practice

Discussing the results of the evening, Managing Director of RGB Recruitment and CE Devon Club Chair, Tanya Loosemore, said: “It was an extremely successful event, which allowed us to get the thoughts of the region’s key construction players and come up with a series of next steps that can, in turn, be filtered throughout the wider industry.

“The Constructing Excellence South West Devon Club believe a new code of conduct and set of golden rules that outline best practice will help to mitigate issues with delays, costs and quality.

“Establishing a set of guidelines which clearly define the gold standard behaviour will help to create the trust, honesty and collaboration that’s urgently needed.

“Everybody in attendance has agreed to take this agenda forward on behalf of the South West region, before disseminating it more widely across the nation.”

The renowned Constructing Excellence South West (CESW) leadership dinner series kick starts for 2022 in Newquay.

The organisation, designed to drive positive change in construction, has relaunched its exclusive dinners in the South West region to bring together key clients, architects, engineers, contractors politicians and supply chain in the built environment.

Global business insurance, risk management and consulting services company Gallagher is the sole sponsor of the leadership dinners, which will be continuing to run throughout 2022, across an additional nine areas within the region.

The first event took place in Newquay, and the climate crisis, building safety and procurement on value were the main focus for the evening.

Members of the CE Cornwall family openly talked about their experiences of working in the industry, and shared their recommendations on how to combat these issues head-on.

Andrew Carpenter, CEO of CESW, said: “We’re well known at Constructing Excellence South West for the leadership dinners we host. It’s something we’ve done for several years, and focuses on getting the key movers and shakers from any given area to discuss the biggest issues affecting the construction industry.

“Typically, we discuss key issues in the construction sector, and then consider how they’re affecting the South West in particular. This year we will be looking at climate crisis, building safety and procurement on value – topics which have a big impact on the future of the industry.

“We have nine leadership dinners organised throughout the region and we’re looking forward to seeing what comes from each separate event. We want to thank Gallagher for sponsoring the dinners and facilitating the discussions around building safety. Their contribution has proven vital to bringing together key players from right around the South West.”

Andy Ferguson, Managing Director for Gallagher in Bristol added: “Construction is a significant sector here in the South West and it’s one that we’re well experienced in supporting with insurance and risk management solutions.

“Partnering with Andrew and the wider Constructing Excellence South West teams enables us to further help the businesses in this sector, listen to the challenges they face and support in facilitating positive change.”

The remaining Constructing Excellence South West leadership dinners will be held in Exeter, Bath, Bridgwater, Gloucester, Bournemouth, Swindon, Bristol and Plymouth.

If Rider Levett Bucknall’s (RLB) third and latest procurement trends survey Getting Closer to Your Supply Chain, is anything to go by, no we have not.

This month Martyn Jones argues that the RLB report provides a timely but not hugely encouraging snapshot of procurement approaches from a supply chain perspective. Its publication coincides with a time when the industry is flat out trying to meet demand, with consultants, main contractors, specialist and trade contractor, and suppliers all trying to capture the resources they need to deliver project outcomes.

Securing skills, plant and materials has become very challenging with ongoing illness, low stockpiles, logistical uncertainties caused by the pandemic and Brexit, and the hike in energy prices exasperated by the war in Ukraine. The shortages are leading to problems with programme delivery and sharply increasing prices.

This means traditional procurement- often based on lowest price and the transfer of significant risks down the supply chain – is not just as questionable as ever, but now no longer possible. With a healthy pipeline of work across the industry, main contractors can afford to choose the projects and clients that they see as being more straightforward and less likely to cause them contractual difficulties. Similarly, specialist and trade contractors can be pickier when it comes to working with main contractors. This means that the need to work collaboratively with trusted partners within an effective procurement and supply chain strategy is more necessary than ever.

And that’s before we look beyond our present difficulties and consider the role that procurement will play in shaping the future of construction. As we know, procurement can lead, support and change industry practice for the better in a number of key industry areas and play a significant part in setting our future agenda including procuring:

· for value, including safety and sustainability, and propelling a race to the top rather than the bottom

· to ensure that the full range of design and procurement options – including harnessing the benefits of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and platform-based Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) – are considered in the early stages of projects

· to create a project environment based with greater openness and efficiency by requiring digitisation and the continuity of BIM usage through the lifecycle

· to embed the ‘Golden Thread’ in design and construction processes by insisting that information is woven intrinsically into procurement strategies so that quality is built in, appropriately resourced and sustained, and verified at all stages of the lifecycle.

The RLB survey provides a timely indicator of what progress we are making in procuring more creatively to meet these challenges. But, does it reveal the transformation in procurement that we need to address the stark challenges we face? Here are some of the main findings from the survey:

· We have an active market with strong pipelines of work

· There is a significant decrease in the fixed price periods offered since the last RLB survey

· The appetite for significant design risk by contractors appears to have waned as they focus on securing profitable and low-risk work

· There has been a noticeable fall in the use of Single Stage routes and an increase in the use of Two Stage and Frameworks. The growth in Two-Stage has outstripped the use of Negotiated routes and this suggests that the increased use of Frameworks by the public sector is partly responsible for this shift. But still, only 27% use Two Stage routes to market

· Only 20% of projects are currently Negotiated.

· In Design and Build, Stage 4 is now the significant part of the tender volume, with 71 % of projects issuing Stage 4 design information with Design and Build information: ‘Thoroughbred’ design and build is now a rarity. Factors contributing to this could be the push from clients towards greater quality and the need to retain design control for longer in the process. Covid uncertainty last year may also have contributed too as clients pushed back on large investment decisions providing them with the opportunity to progress design further than normal. Contractor aversion to design risk is also a likely factor in a market where contractors now face significant price and sourcing risks

· Construction Management and Management Contracting approaches to procurement remain a tiny proportion of surveyed volume but have also decreased in the period since the last survey.

Does this survey reveal the degree of creativity in procurement we need to deal with the challenges we face? Clearly not, although we are seeing some small steps such as an increase in Two Stage but clients and their advisers need to now debate and seriously reconsider their procurement approaches rather than try to get back to the normal way of doing business before the pandemic.

Clients, their advisers and their suppliers need to negotiate and commit to a new compact. Many private sector clients have always been comfortable with the Negotiated route but do public clients have the skilled negotiators with the ability to emulate the private sector and negotiate desired outcomes within a robust business case or investment appraisal? Can they set the parameters of what they need and what they can and cannot concede without tendering?

Surely, there’s a huge role here for skilled and experienced advisors with the necessary knowledge, emotional intelligence and nous to ensure that the negotiated value and risk allocation will prove to be fair and deliverable for all parties.

Image used under license from Freestock.com

I wanted to start my opening remarks with a reflection on my first few months on the Board of CESW. Joining the Board at the end of last year was an easy decision for me as we, in the Bristol office of Gallagher, work with clients in the construction industry every day on their insurance and risk management needs. It made total sense to use our experience in the sector and join forces with CESW to support our clients, existing and future, with their work in this vibrant economy in the South West. It’s been a whirlwind few months hearing about the plans for 2022 and, with my colleagues, meeting members from various hubs.

As we turn into the second quarter of the year there’s a real feel of excitement and buzz within the meetings and conversations about getting back out there and meeting with colleagues, partners and friends at the numerous events in the calendar for this year.

It looks like (dare I say it out loud) that this is the year we can start to get back out again and enjoy some real events. There’s no doubt that we’re better together and there is much we can learn from each other to improve the construction industry in the South West, be that a structured training event, sharing best practice or simply a decent networking event with conversations over a drink and something to eat. For our part, with Gallagher as the sponsorship partner for the series of Leadership dinners this year, it’s been great to see the series start with a successful event in Newquay at the beginning of March. I’m told there was no shortage of debate and discussion on the key topics, and I look forward to seeing the output from the event and attending the Bath Leadership dinner myself in May.

There’s a couple of upcoming events on the calendar that I wanted to highlight and encourage you to register for and attend;

· Firstly, the Hinkley Point Sharing Best Pratice event on April 27th in Weston Super Mare where a fantastic line-up of speakers will talk us through the issues and critical considerations for Europe’s largest construction project

· Secondly, the CESW Housing Summit on 18th May in Exeter which looks to be a superb morning programme including round table discussions on topics such as procurement, planning and Future Homes Hub

Continuing the theme of getting together, you may have noticed that Gallagher sponsor the Rugby Premiership. We are always looking to offer tickets and sometimes hospitality to our clients, future clients and trading partners so don’t be shy in expressing your interest if you like a day out at The Rec or Ashton Gate. We work hard but also enjoy a day or evening out with fellow like-minded professionals with good conversation watching local elite sport over a beer or glass of wine.

 

I’d like to close by wishing the best of luck to everyone who has submitted an entry to the CE South West awards with the shortlist that comes out later this month.

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