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EP_19.jpg March/April 2005
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BUILDING A CULTURE
Peter Kingdon was appointed as the new chairman of the Considerate Constructors Scheme in January 2006. Libbie Hammond finds out how the scheme has changed the culture of construction.

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Peter Kingdon’s appointment was the result of a board decision designed to ensure a healthy flow of new ideas and concepts to the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS). It stated that each year two new members would join the board and two would retire. Commenting on his new role within the CCS, Peter began: “This is a great challenge and one I am looking forward to enormously. My predecessors have taken the scheme from a promising idea to an extraordinary national success. The task now must be to build on this success and take the concept forward into the future.”

Peter’s whole career has been focused on construction, beginning in the surroundings of Devon in the UK. His first role was as a management trainee with EBC Ltd in Exeter and he later moved to the family business E J Kingdon Ltd where he was appointed managing director in 1978. He has also held a number of other roles, as he explained: “I had been monitoring sites for the CCS for a number of years, became a director of the Scheme in 2003 and was appointed chairman in January, taking over from David Hardy. I have always been an enthusiastic participant in a number of industry-related groups and organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Building, Devon Construction Industry Training Association and the National Federation of Builders.”

The CCS came about as a result of the Latham Report and was formed by the industry, to ‘Improve the Image of Construction’, through, for example, better management and presentation of sites, improved environmental awareness, improved welfare facilities on sites, better communication with neighbours and generally planning and executing site activities so that disruption and inconvenience would be minimised. It is based on a voluntary Code of Considerate Practice under eight headings (considerate, environment, cleanliness, good neighbour, respectful, safe, responsible, accountable), which is adopted by participating companies, as well as everyone involved in a construction project. Following a pilot study, the scheme was launched nationally in 1997.

The CCS is wholly owned by Construction Umbrella Bodies (Holdings) Ltd (formerly the Construction Industry Board). The Construction Confederation is responsible for the administration of the scheme but it remains a non-profit making, independent organisation which is neither grant maintained nor government funded. It is financed solely by its registrations. The scheme is run, and projects are monitored by, industry professionals who understand the problems faced on sites and have a desire to change the industry for the better.

Being part of the scheme offers a multitude of benefits, as Peter explained: “Construction companies recognise the benefits, particularly in marketing terms, of projecting a positive image and see the impartial advice offered by the scheme as a key element in this process. “Clients have an independent body looking at their sites and, from scheme monitor’s reports, are able to compare the performance of different contractors.

“Contractors are required to think about the impact a project might have upon neighbours, the public, the environment and their workforce and, with the aid of guidance information provided by the scheme, can plan site activities accordingly. All projects registered with the scheme must display posters that give, amongst other information, the site manager’s name and contact number. In most cases, having a point of contact enables enquiries, concerns and complaints to be dealt with quickly and at source. As a result, the public and communities local to sites gain from a better relationship with the contractor. If legitimate complaints cannot be resolved at site level, members of the public now have an independent body that can help. All sites are visited at least once by an experienced monitor who will assess the levels of consideration being achieved and suggest where improvements may be made. Monitors are drawn from the senior ranks of the industry and include engineers, architects, surveyors and contractors. Monitors are trained into the scheme and are encouraged to adopt an approach that is positive, helpful, supportive and constructive to help sites improve standards.

CONSIDERATE PRACTICE “A report is produced after each site visit with a score against each of the eight elements of the Code of Considerate Practice,” Peter continued, himself having worked as a site monitor. “Additional visits are arranged for poor performing sites to enable them to improve. In a worst-case scenario, a site will be taken off the scheme and the client informed. Happily, this has happened only once so far in nearly 16,000 sites.” As an incentive for sites to work within the principles of the scheme, Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards are given every year. Approximately 7.5 per cent of registered sites win awards, with the very best, in the eyes of the Awards Panel, given the prestigious accolade of ‘Most Considerate Site’. During March 2006 some 300 sites will be presented with National Awards at seven ceremonies (five venues) around the country, with around 1500 guests invited. All registered sites are eligible and contractors of all sizes and types win awards.

Although virtually all of the UK’s major construction projects in recent years have been included in the scheme, it is not only the large sites that can benefit, in fact the CCS can prove more valuable to smaller sites. Peter explained: “We do not see that these ‘flagship’ projects have as much to learn from us as some of the smaller sites. However, the importance of the prestige projects is that they generate leading edge practices that can be passed on. Scheme monitors record examples of innovation and good practice so that good ideas can be collated and relayed to as wide an audience as possible. Important lessons have been learnt from all sizes of project and types of work.”

Peter went on to give examples of the important changes that have occurred as a result of the CCS: “It is very difficult to pinpoint a single significant change because we have seen important changes in many areas,” he said. “But we have witnessed marked improvements in presentation of sites, communication with neighbours, interface with the general public, environmental awareness, dress code on sites (beyond PPE), addressing the needs and welfare of the workforce, and quality of welfare facilities generally, but especially provision of showers and changing facilities.

“It is important to understand that while the scheme promotes and encourages improvements in all of these areas, it is the industry that makes the decision to introduce new initiatives and work practices.”

The popularity of the scheme has grown each year since inception, as Peter explained, but they are keen to encourage the smaller sites to get on board. “In the eight years since the scheme was started, it has grown by over 30 per cent year on year,” he said. “Currently, around 400 projects are registered each month and more than 500 monitoring visits are carried out each month. It is anticipated that more than 5000 projects will be registered in 2006. At any time at least 25 per cent of the value of all construction activity in the UK is registered with the scheme. Roughly half the registrations are at the instigation of the client and the rest by the contractor concerned. We recognise that many smaller projects, and particularly domestic contracts, are not registered and we are keen to expand in these areas.”

As the UK has seen such great results from the CCS, other countries are now taking steps to follow the methodology on their own construction sites. “It is probably fair to say that UK construction is at the forefront in the considerate construction field and the CCS has been approached by many countries including the US, Australia, Italy and Sweden to find out how it works,” confirmed Peter. “Indeed, the Foreign Office has enquired about registering its sites overseas. There is no question that the scheme operates very effectively in the UK so there is no reason why it should not be equally successful elsewhere. That said, the scheme is run extremely efficiently and at relatively low cost and this may be difficult to replicate in other countries.”

All of the improvements Peter mentioned have been enhanced by the technological developments that have been introduced into construction over the past few years. He said: “In CCS terms, the technological developments in which we have particular interest are those that lessen the impact of site activities on the environment, the public and local communities and would include use of IT in all aspects of the construction process (not least in the monitoring and management of waste), more efficient/ plant and equipment, off site fabrication and moves towards sustainable construction.

“But these changes don’t happen in isolation, and we have also seen many significant cultural developments, with the industry now having a much more professional approach to dealing with off-site issues, and a far keener awareness of operatives’ conditions and health. Major progress has also been made in the understanding and practice of corporate social responsibility. We now have a professional industry run by professional people and it is only a small minority that gives the entire industry a bad name.”

WORLD-CLASS STANDARDS With the UK construction industry continuing to perform to world-class standards, Peter believes it is ready for the challenge of the Olympics in 2012. “The construction industry in the UK today is highly professional and has the confidence and self-belief to perform as well as any in the world,” he said. “Health and safety standards in the industry are getting better year on year and while there is always room for improvement, our accident records are as good as any in the developed world. We have to bear in mind that projects associated with the Olympics represent only a small proportion of the industry’s output but clearly, they will provide a great opportunity to showcase the industry to the world. I hope and expect that all of the projects will be registered with the scheme, as all Government funded work should be.”

With his fascination for construction sparked at a young age, Peter considers himself to be in the perfect position to keep abreast of all developments in the market and to help encourage high standards. “Some of my earliest memories are of visiting sites with my father, who founded the family building business, when I was a small boy. Throughout my career I have found working in the industry to be fascinating, absorbing and rewarding and I still find it so today,” he commented. “My involvement with the CCS enables me to visit projects of all different types and sizes, to meet the people on site who are trying very hard to operate with care and consideration and, hopefully play my part in improving standards.”

He concluded: “If I could change anything about the industry it would be to accelerate the process of projecting it in a really positive light. At a time when there is a huge and growing skills requirement, it is vital that we highlight what an exciting and rewarding industry construction is and focus on the opportunities it provides for school leavers, graduates and women.”  CT-E

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