In March, as we marked a year since Britain first entered lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, PBC Today’s Editorial Board gathered over Zoom to discuss the impact of a turbulent 12 months for everyone in the sector
Joining PBC Today’s managing editor Andy Jowett, senior digital editor Stephanie Blundell, digital content editor Elisha Sketchley and head of construction media Glyn Jackson were:
- Brian Berry (CEO, Federation of Master Builders)
- Andrew Carpenter (CEO, Structural Timber Association)
- Elaine Cooper (CEO communications and relationships manager, Chartered Institute of Building)
- Rebecca De Cicco (Founder, Women in BIM)
- Trudi Sully (Impact director for manufacturing, Construction Innovation Hub)
- Anna Thompson (Head of engagement, Local Authority Building Control)
A big thank you to all our board members for giving us their time and insights.
Rebecca De Cicco
Much of our work with Women in BIM is a global initiative anyway so we’ve been collaborating with we call them regional leads, who are regional representatives appointed to support our three main drivers, which is to encourage, retain and support women in BIM-related careers.
We’ve managed to run events virtually and to grow our members. It’s been very positive because I think that level of support was required, on many fronts, for people looking for those networks, looking for that support and looking for people they can talk to about their projects and their work.
I think one of the great things that came out of last year was how the Construction Leadership Council pulled the industry together. That has to be a major outcome of this pandemic because, up until then, the CLC did exist but you wouldn’t have known about it and it didn’t really have an effective voice; it didn’t really engage with the industry across the entire spectrum.
The crisis brought everyone together. There were daily meetings with everyone from across the construction sector on the taskforce and we were able, I think, to put a strong case to government that we could be a responsible industry.
In terms of priorities, we are following the “build, build, build” mantra. The build back greener, so the net zero agenda obviously is our unique selling point, so that’s absolutely central to what we’re doing.
The build back better, which is the quality agenda, so there’s a lot of emphasis on quality and we have something called STA Assure, which is our quality compliance assurance scheme, and that has increased membership.
I think we’re all moving in the same direction to raise the bar in terms of quality and assurance.
Like everybody when things kicked off last year, we were very anxious about how we were going to continue, what we were delivering, how effective we could be under those circumstances with so much uncertainty.
We are, I guess, one of the positive stories from last year in that the reaction from the industry and things that happened across wider industries and within government actually really drove support towards us.
Very rapidly last year the pendulum swung to a point where we were having “pull”, so we were having government departments coming to us and saying what’s happening, when are we going to be able to do this, how are we going to be able to do it, who’s involved, and that’s been a really good opportunity for us to get greater leverage and really be able to start quantifying the opportunities for impact and change, which in turn gives the industry more confidence that there is value in the investment and the time taken to collaborate.
There’s a lot of focus now on the future and how we do construction in a post-pandemic world.
We had our Adapt & Thrive conference, [which] was a proper global audience. We had the five presidents of the five sister professional bodies – RICS, the RTPI, us, RIBA and ICE – and one of the things that came out of that was, in terms of adapting and thriving, we have to make sure that we consciously hold on to the good [from the past year]. It would be very easy to let it slip away.
In building control, we’ve been working with people like the FMB to try and keep the world going. Basically, after the first three or four days, we’d got surveyors back on site making sure that work could carry on and we’ve been embracing digital working and remote working.
We’ve been using our existing app, which was for booking site inspections, but also developing a new app for remote site inspections using webcams and things so that surveyors can actually direct a builder to walk round a site and say, right show me what that beam is sitting on and poke around in that insulation, I want to see how thick it is and things like that.
Instead of saying, it’s okay, we’ll just accept photographs, which would be ridiculous, and wouldn’t be a robust way of making sure things meet the Building Regs, we’ve been trying to find ways to do it differently. Remote inspections – will they carry on after the pandemic is over? For some things, yes.