Mark Downes – Rethinking our assets

December 17th, 2019 by

Mark Downes is Business Development Director at Engie.

Mark uses the Heritage and Leisure sector to define and understand the topic of debate; Rethinking Our Assets.

Mark makes it clear that his client base within the H&L sector is not solely grown through talking about technical solutions. It is grown through who they work in partnership with and how they deliver their services in a different way. 

View the full PDF presentation

Challenges & Opportunities in Heritage & Leisure Sector

  •  Balancing need for preservation & public access
  •  Technology adding further value to end users of public spaces
  •  Placemaking and the involvement of third sector in delivery
  •  Helping with the commercialisation of assets

Government Paper

Mark outlines a government white paper from the Department for Culture Media & Sport which discusses place making.

Talks about how the built environment creates a place, how the industry can commercialise public assets and make them more economically available to everybody.

Marks slide outlines some further drivers from the DCMS White Paper:


Mark highlights that before you can commercialise a clients assets. You first have to understand them. An example Mark gives is of the V&A and the British Museum.

‘You first have to understand what assets they have. In the case of the VA and British Museum, some of these assets are priceless. Even some of their buildings. Unless they can be provided with the right expertise or unless their environment can be balanced, such as humidity, temperature. Not within a space but within a bookcase in some instances, when you have 2million visitors, including changes in humidity. Then they will never talk to me about how I can commercialise their asset and turn it into something even better.’

Mark goes onto highlight that moving beyond the technical talk and looking at front of house, including areas like customer experience, can help improve these assets in a different way.

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Further examples of commercialising assets include:

  • Network Rail; Creating the Great British Stations tour. Being able to go to places like Kings Cross, Bristol Temple Mead and Paddington Station in the near future . Taking tours, into areas that have never been seen. Understand about the station and its history. Though this process. 

Mark points out that by doing this, someone proposed an important question of;

A)Is this FM?

Q) Yes in todays modern day environment. Its another way we can commercialise our assets, another way to create revenue off of existing assets.

Digital Environment

Mark moves onto cover the importance of information technology and how this plays a key role in commercialising assets and changing the way organisations use their assets. 

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Living Map

To highlight the way in which companies can increase their revenue and customer experience, improving their assets. Is through a company called Living Map. Giving users the experience to interact with the location they are in more freely, improving the asset for the client. 


Mark moves onto recommend another good example of looking at new ways of doing things through Building Information Modelling ( BIM). With government encouraging public bodies to start using it. (image from slide). Mark goes onto discuss BIM not just in a brand-new environment but in how you retro-fit it to an environment like the VA or British Library.

Two or three different ways of that digital environment is starting to revolutionise the world.

Mark ends with some key takeaways from his presentation.

Key takeaways

  • Understand the sector – ever changing needs
  • Innovative thinking in service delivery
  • Strategic Partner – not just a sub-contractor
  • Continued alignment of values – adding social value
  • Commercialisation – to help sustain and grow the sector
  • Changing dynamic of skills required for FM in these areas


Mark was asked several questions at the end of the presentation.

In relation to where we are in the UK and what you are promoting. Do you think the government is an enabler or restrictor?

Part of the government wants to be an enabler. We need to sort out where we are going with Europe (BREXIT) because European law  defines   public sector procurement strategy and the way public  services and service contracts are procured in this country currently. The government need to work through how this will change, hopefully in consultation with industry and my hope is there will be greater emphasis on partnership working moving forward.  .But there’s a long way to go. 

David Frize – “The Performance Gap – Are we treating the symptoms and not the disease?”

December 17th, 2019 by

David Frise, A former nuclear submariner and now Chief Executive of the FIS; the organization that represents the fit out industry in construction, presents to the Rumford Club – “The Performance Gap – Are we treating the symptoms and not the disease?”

Download the presentation to accompany this talk here.

Is air conditioning, as practiced in 2017, a menace or a benefit to mankind?

December 17th, 2019 by

Martin Liddament is the Chairman of CIBSE’s Natural Ventilation Group.

At the Club’s April 2017 meeting, Martin answered the same question that was discussed 70 years previously at the very first Rumford club meeting: is air conditioning, as practiced in 2017, a menace or a benefit to mankind?

Traditional approaches to environmental control within urban areas require heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that consume energy and emit carbon dioxide.

These approaches result in high energy use, the release of greenhouse gases and pollutants leading to rising temperatures, which then results in the still greater use of HVAC systems.

To break this cycle, we require fresh engineering solutions – ones that make use of natural solutions as well as mechanical ones.

Outdoor air quality

The challenge is that “green infrastructure” (that is to say, using alternatives to air conditioning) is far less efficient than mechanical filtration solutions when it comes to improving indoor air quality. Without exemplary levels of air quality monitoring and control, there may be an argument that natural and mixed mode strategies may be viewed as a poor choice compared to full mechanical ventilation systems with appropriate levels of filtration and purification.

This shows one major benefit of air conditioning. Indeed, over its 70 years of existence, air conditioning has provided high levels of comfort and high indoor air quality.

It’s outdoor air quality that provides the current challenge. A recent CIBSE Journal set out that nitrogen dioxide causes 6,000 deaths annually in London.  And a recent article in the Sunday Times set out that air quality is so poor in some places that developers are to be forced to fit thousands of new homes with filtration systems to purify all the air entering them.

Such hermetically sealed homes have air tight doors and windows which cannot be opened, which aim to block any unfiltered fresh air.

The issues with outdoor air

The results of a major European study on the impacts of pollution on short term effects on levels of health, based on observations in 15 cities, were as follows.

There is a link between poor outside air quality and illness and death.

There were significant increases in daily admissions to hospitals for respiratory diseases (particularly for the elderly) where there were elevated levels of ozone. Essentially, ozone is generated by the photochemical reaction of solar radiation onto nitrous type compounds and these clouds will spread away from urban areas and cover quite large areas elsewhere.

As a standalone gas, there is no association between the levels of nitrogen dioxide and the level of hospital admissions. However, when combined with particles (PM10), there was a significant correlation: “black smoke” has a greater effect on days with high NO2 concentrations.

Sulphur dioxide did not seem to have significant adverse health effects.

Design considerations

When designing air conditioned buildings, we need to take account of:

  • The need to maintain indoor air quality
  • The volume of the building
  • The amount of trapped heat
  • The degree of solar radiation
  • The degree of humidity
  • The amount of incoming hot air
  • The density of occupancy.

In commercial buildings, staff costs make up 90% of the business operating costs but energy costs only make up a mere 1%. However, if you do not manage that 1%, for example by regulating the quality of indoor air, the other 90% is heavily affected.

Improvements in design

Whether we like it or not, modern cities could not have evolved as far as they have without air conditioning.

Over the last 70 years efforts have been made to improve air conditioning, as the result of:

  • Good understanding of how buildings “work” through simulations
  • Mixed mode solutions
  • Effective methods to reduce solar gain
  • Effective methods to reduce internal heat gains
  • Effective introduction of regulations that promote the use of best practice
  • Improved mechanical and refrigeration systems.

In summary, we do need to improve urban outdoor air quality. The challenge is not dissimilar in scale to that faced by the Victorians when they introduced sewerage systems. This in turn will improve air quality inside the buildings in which we live and work.

So long as urban outdoor air quality is not significantly improved, air conditioning is here to stay.

In this time of austerity, will we still have a recognisable BSE sector or has the sector become fractionalised into traditional trades?

December 17th, 2019 by

Tony Howard, Director of Education and Training at BESA 

The Building Services Engineering Association is the UK’s leading trade organisation representing the interests of firms in all aspects of engineering systems and services in buildings.

Skills gap or skills gulf?

Tony opened by defining the new term ‘skills gulf’ as a way to describe shortages in the construction industry.

He set the scene with some research from Arcadis, the consultancy firm:

  • Employers may have to double wages they pay to key trades
  • The sector will need to recruit 400,000 people every year between 2017 – 2021
  • There is the need for 26,400 construction directors.

Tony highlighted the fact that if we do nothing, we will be in a Catch 22 situation. If demand is not met, then vital projects may not be completed, and if demand is met with unskilled labour, quality will suffer.

The evidence of this can be seen in the national media, which is reporting on how house builders are writing off millions of pounds to fix problems on new developments caused by poor workmanship.


Tony highlighted the facts that since the financial crisis of 2008 investment in training has fallen off a cliff and that today the UK is in 17th place in the investment league table of developed economies.

Since 2008 the construction industry has reduced in size by 15%.

Tony put the question: Does that mean we are facing relegation and the prospect of falling out of the “Big League” of developed economies around the same time that we depart the EU?

By contrast Tony pointed out that those in the training industry and whose job it is to monitor and shape training strategies are actually excited about the future. With new trailblazers, apprenticeships and the latest innovation from the government, “T Levels”, he believes that we are on the right track to tackle the skills gulf.

Tony also pointed out that we are turning away from traditional-style university education and towards the vocational model. This is down to better job prospects and the added benefit of being able to avoid incurring a potential £36,000+ in student debt.

He highlighted that this new system is not just aimed at young people; it offers opportunities to re-skill, upskill and move existing workers of all ages into areas they are most needed, while getting the funding to do it.

The new Apprenticeship Levy starts in April 2017. Here is an overview:

  • Employers with payrolls above £3 million will pay into the new levy.
  • Employers in England will receive 90% of the cost of training an apprentice.
  • Those paying into the levy will do so via their digital account and non-levy payers by co-investment.
  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will remain using their current models.
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees will receive 100% of the cost of training an apprentice between the age of 16 and 18.
  • This arrangement also applies to 19 – 24 year olds who have been in care or with an Education or Health Care Plan.

Here is a summary of the recent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report that has come out against the Apprenticeship Levy:

  • The Government’s aim of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020 via the new levy will be poor value for money
  • £2.8bn raised from the levy will not be spent on apprenticeships.

A question was asked, “what value can you put on creating new career opportunities for thousands of people, improving social mobility, and building our country’s skills base in key technical professions?”

Tony answered this by outlining the concerns some people have about the way the Apprenticeship Levy will operate, but the business community recognises the need for a radical change in the way we develop skills.

Research carried out by BESA’s training department has found that:

  • 83% of apprentices believe their career prospects have improved as a result of securing a place on an apprenticeship scheme;
  • 70% of employers say their productivity and therefore their business prospects are improved by taking on apprentices;
  • Every £1 of taxpayers’ money invested in apprenticeships at Levels 2 and 3 pays back between £26 and £28 in long-term economic benefits.

Tony highlighted the fact that funding for STEM subjects has also increased, and that employers now have 2 years to access their funds and can transfer training funds to companies in their supply chains.

Tony made it clear that almost anyone at any stage of their career path can now start an apprenticeship, and this opportunity prevents people from falling through the net and being left out.


Tony went on to explain that the regulatory compliance culture that dominates construction and construction-related professions has also forced skills in the industry down to the level of basic competences; these often simply aim to ensure that boxes are ticked, rather than on focussing on developing high levels of competences that can contribute to better-performing buildings.

As a result, there are now short courses designed simply to get people into the industry (gas in particular) and this has undermined the existing skills base. The result of this is that lots of people are only capable of carrying out basic activities; plumbing has suffered in particular. 

Tony stated that BESA is in a strong position to monitor these issues through its management of the Skills Cards system. And thanks to digital smart cards, it’s easier than before to check qualifications are appropriate and up to date. Tony made it clear that when qualifications are not up to date, instead of people having to be removed, the new system allows BESA to point them in the right direction to receive the right training for the job.

BESA is working closely with employers in the sector to develop and deliver new Trailblazer Apprenticeships at all levels – from initial technician grades right up to degree equivalence – to ensure the sector grasps this opportunity.

Trailblazers are designed to deliver training appropriate to the needs of employers struggling to find the skilled workers needed to keep up with demand.

Focussing efforts on professions that are critical to the country’s future development in areas such as infrastructure and house building can build a pipeline of talent that will deliver a financial return for decades into the future. And by creating career paths and focusing funding where it is most needed, this new programme should deliver value for money for generations to come.

Tony finished by sketching out the bright prospect of enrolling people on a Trailblazer Apprenticeship designed to take their career in the right direction; this means that they are no longer unemployed and they contribute towards the government’s target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020.

Everyone is happy…and the Minister is a hero!

Q & A’s

Are the unions in agreement?

Yes, they are. Initially they were concerned that the Trailblazer Apprenticeship scheme would change levelling and therefore national agreements would be affected. BESA are keeping an eye on the levelling to ensure it does not affect the union position or national agreement.

Is there a minimum wage that these apprentices are paid? Does it fall below minimum wage of £7.20?

Quite fortunately, in the sector the national agreement with the unions does have a pay grading: the lowest pay grade is £6.40.

Most of your talk is about the construction industry. But does that extend out to skills shortages and therefore apprenticeships within manufacturing and other sectors that feed into the industry?

Absolutely. This levy is across the board. It’s down to sectors to engage. There are some sectors that do not engage so well. The Facilities Management sector is a perfect example, with a high wage bill but very few employees.

You talk about opportunities, but how do you engage with young people? A lot of these people have no idea about which direction to follow.

Traditionally the sector has only engaged with and employed people above the age of 18. This has changed a lot in the last 2 years. BESA have a sphere of communication with young people that never existed before. BESA communicates with these “Millennials” using social media to engage with them and using videos that “speak” to them. Areas such as retail is also targeted: too often young people go into such sectors and find it’s a dead end. BESA can move these young people across into careers that can help make their lives fulfilling.

Supporting Class Of Your Own

December 17th, 2019 by

The Class Of Your Own (COYO) is an organisation established in 2009 that aims to deliver an up-to-date, 21st century, digital ‘built environment’ curriculum via its learning programme Design Engineer Construct (DEC!)

The managing director of COYO, Alison Watson created this innovative learning programme and qualifications for students aged 11-18 as she believes education does not currently provide clear pathways into technical and professional careers. The DEC! is a recognised learning programme which has been developed to create and inspire the next generation of built environment professionals.

The DEC! programme offers students level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications using a project-based approach that applies academic subjects to the latest construction industry practices – giving students employability skills and experience.

The DEC! programme is now supported by some of the UK’s leading companies and communities, including The Rumford Club.

The Rumford Club fully support the engineering industry and is a strong supporter of the DEC! programme. Members of the Rumford Club voted to sponsor a school under the Class of Your Own initiative, working closely to support Norbury Manor Business & Enterprise College for Girls, located in Norbury, South London.

In celebration of the Rumford Club’s 70th anniversary we have started the ‘Rumford Club Legacy Initiative’ which aims to help enhance the curriculum by planting an educational ‘acorn’ in order to inspire and enable students to enter rewarding careers that the built environment offers.

Inspiring Students

This initiative gives club members the opportunity to share their knowledge with students, giving them the opportunity to relate to subjects and to benefit from masses of enthusiasm and experience which members of The Rumford Club can share.

As this educational opportunity will continue after the expected 2 year set-up, it will forge a long lasting link with schools and even the students themselves as they progress within their careers in the built environment industry. This will be a lasting legacy.

The COYO strongly feel that the adopted DEC! schools supported by the Rumford Club are adding to their goal of making a positive difference to the world.

An Interview With Alison Watson

2EA® recently interviewed Alison Watson to gain an in-depth insight into what Class of Your Own has to offer and the work they carry out with The Rumford Club. Follow the link below to read the full interview:

COYO, securing the industry’s future – An interview with Alison Watson

Rumford Club debate 16 February 2017: “The future of Professional Bodies in the age of Austerity – a view from CIBSE”

December 17th, 2019 by

The dinner was marked by the presence of these finalists from the CIBSE ASHRAE Graduate of the Year award:

Antoni J Sapina Grau – Winner of Graduate of the Year Award
Katie Ewing – Rumford Bursary Winner
Scott Mason – Rumford Bursary Winner
Richard Garthwaite – Finalist
Samantha Carlsson – Finalist
Farai Mwashita- Finalist
Monica Mondelo Madrigal – Finalist

Antoni J Sapina Grau reported back on a successful visit to the ASHRAE meeting in January.

Geoff Prudence (Vice Chair) paid a special tribute to two members of the Club who were in attendance at this meeting:

Ant Wilson, who was made an MBE for more than 30 years’ service to the industry in the New Year’s Honours. See CIBSE Journal.

Doug Oughton, who was recently awarded the CIBSE Gold Award. See CIBSE Journal.

‘We need to work together consistently and persistently for a common purpose’

Stephen Matthews, CEO of CIBSE, celebrated the fact that in its 70th year the Rumford Club continued to provide a catalyst for change by providing a forum for friendly debate.

He stated that CIBSE also has a vital role to play but certain things have to happen to ensure that it remains effective going forward. His main message was, “let’s “OODA”; Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act”.

The OODA Loop (coined by Captain John Boyd of the United States Air Force) recognises that change is constant and it’s no good in just observing and planning. You must be agile and be prepared to take action. Also, don’t be afraid of the possibility that you will get plenty of decisions wrong.

He likened the challenge to that needed for CIBSE to keep many plates spinning at the same time, and described five such “plates”.

Plate 1 – Membership. CIBSE and the other Institutions need an active, youthful membership. Members will be only attracted to it if the agendas are relevant to them.

Plate 2 – Companies. CIBSE needs to engage with members’ companies as the majority of member subscriptions are paid by them, and also because if CIBSE can help make the sector successful then companies can benefit from this. One challenge is that the larger companies do not always release their people to work for the greater good through CIBSE, and smaller companies may not have the time to offer such support.

Plate 3 – Money. There has to be a balance between affordable subscriptions and generating enough cash to fund member and societal benefits.

Plate 4 – Staff. CIBSE has many loyal and hard-working staff. On the other hand the Institution has to operate with many different priorities, the skills set is changing over time and it can be difficult to attract staff of the appropriate calibre.

Plate 5 – A digital presence. Digital-enabled business processes (such as CIBSE’s new CRM system) and the Institute’s internet presence need to be enhanced to improve efficiency and to meet the needs of today’s engineers.

Keeping all these plates spinning at the same time requires one to listen, watch and take action, and is a bit like walking on a tightrope: progress may seem slow, but that is probably the best way of dealing with the imbalances set up by strong “cross winds”. You must have vision, focus and balance, and be making progress in order to succeed.

Finally, there needs to be some kind of glue that holds it all together: this is the esprit de corps and high morale that ensures success.

In his Presidential Address of 2003, Terry Wyatt stated that we as an industry had to “adapt or die…”. We don’t know why dinosaurs disappeared as fast as they did, but it’s certain that they were unable to spot the sudden changes in their environment. In the words of Tim Wentz, ASHRAE president, “we need to adapt today so as to shape tomorrow”.

Our next meeting

16 March: Tony Howard, Head of Education and Training at BESA (the Building Engineering Services Association), on “In this time of austerity, will we still have a recognisable BSE sector or has the sector become fractionalised into traditional trades?”

Rumford Club debate January 2017: ‘The future of professional bodies in the age of austerity – a view from the CIOB Speaker’ presented by Bridget Bartlett

December 17th, 2019 by

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is at the heart of a management career in construction.

The CIOB is the world’s largest and most influential professional body for construction management and leadership. It has 48,000 members, spread across 113 countries and 8 offices overseas and 10 regions within the UK and Ireland. Since 1834, it has had a Royal Charter to promote the science and practice of building and construction for the benefit of society.

The CIOB accredits university degrees, educational courses and training. Its professional and vocational qualifications are considered to provide the highest level of competence and professionalism.

Bridget Bartlett gave her view of professional bodies in the age of austerity by setting the scene.

Setting the scene

–        The construction industry has a profound impact on the British economy and an even deeper effect on the lives of everyone.

–        It is central to the British economy and is pivotal in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut water and energy consumption and reduce waste.

–        It is essential for building the homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces the nation desperately needs. And the infrastructure it provides is crucial to improving the nation’s productivity.

–        Despite the great recession, construction remains one of the largest sectors of the UK economy, officially contributing around 6% of GDP and 10% of total UK employment.

–        Construction industry has been hit hard, with 400,000 job losses and one of the highest redundancy rates of any sector.

–        This boom-bust model causes uncertainty for business. And the general conditions of the economy often dictate how companies invest in training skills and innovation.

–        Large companies are run by large multi-national organisations. These large companies have chartered management accountants rather than people that understand the built environment. That changes the dynamic and changes the relationship.

–        There’s a ludicrous model in the contracting sector at present. It’s about managing risk, managing money and less about building the product.

–        And this model creates further uncertainty in the economy. Simply with a weak construction industry, will fail to adequately reshape the nation’s built environment to meet the rapidly changing challenges it faces in the coming decades.  

–        Too many young people want apprenticeships, but there are not enough places for them and not enough apprentices complete these apprenticeships.

What does this mean for our Professional Bodies?

Bartlett stated that on paper, recessions should be a nightmare for Professional Bodies.

But the reality is that a clear majority of CIOB members stick with the Professional Body: they understand the benefits of being a chartered professional.

As the market place becomes more competitive, members stick with the CIOB and understand the benefits of being in a bid to stand out from the crowd.

Thus, the CIOB regularly witnesses an increase in retention. However, Bartlett points out that attracting new members can become a challenge.

Austerity in government provides opportunities for Professional Bodies to show that they can add value to society in ways that public spending or private enterprise perhaps cannot. As previously stated, the CIOB is governed by a Royal Charter and act in the public interest. The CIOB is also a charity.  In some cases, this provides the CIOB with opportunities to come up with its own solutions and innovations, got example the CIOB Academy.

Understanding the value of professionals and Professional Bodies

Bartlett stated that the CIOB view is that we are not in an age of austerity but rather in an age of change.

This change involves the advent of new technologies in the industry, which rely on changing the types of skills. Many of these are forecast to be in managerial, technical and digital professions in the industry.

The CIOB academy offers courses around this. Bartlett highlighted: ‘courses for the industry by the industry’

Research was undertaken by the CIOB in 2015 on: “Understanding the public and policy maker’s perceptions about the value of professionalism and Professional Bodies.

The research was carried out to understand how professional bodies in the built environment, like the CIOB, are performing, given the ‘public benefit’ role given to those bodies that have Royal Charters.

The findings of this research were published in a report entitled ‘Understanding the value of professionals and professional bodies’ which it identifies 5 themes:


–        Providing professional and vocational qualifications. Professional Bodies are responsible for increasing human capital and by investing in research they promote innovation and best practice.

–        High level professional education and qualifications have developed with little to no tax payer’s money.

–        Professional Bodies have been busy for over the last 50 years in education and this provides a constant benchmark.

Social mobility:

–        The CIOB provides people access to a professional career at different stages in their lives, regardless of their of social background.

–        The construction industry has given opportunities for people to progress from trade to management.

Governance & ethics:

–        Setting and maintaining professional standards, Professional Bodies and their qualifications promote trust.

–        The CIOB Academy has developed a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), freely available online from 24th January 2016.

International Development:

–        The global respect for UK laws and institutions makes the UK an attractive country to do business with, particularly amongst nations with less developed institutional frameworks.

–        Professional Bodies set the standards and qualifications that are regarded as a benchmark for excellence worldwide.

–        With the world’s population forecasted to grow to 9.7 billion by 2050 and the proportion of people living in urbanized areas growing from 54% to 60%, Bartlett points to the need of sustainable construction solutions and skills.

–        Sister bodies such as RICS, ICE, RIBA and CIBSE are spreading and increasing their international membership.


–        The public interest mandate means that professional bodies are uniquely placed to act as a ‘trusted advisor’ to Government.

–        Within the last year, the CIOB has undertaken research into migration, modern slavery and the ageing population to help inform the debate on these key issues.

–        The modern slavery debate has taken the CIOB from dialogue with stakeholders as diverse as Amnesty International, Qatari government officials and the Home Office right the way to eradicate the illegal trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people in the industry.

Bartlett proudly highlighted the fact that the CIOB’s work has led to the development of a toolkit to support industry and improve the welfare of workers.

Bridget Bartlett finished on a poignant question.

The value of professional bodies can only really be gauged when we consider a world without them. While they are not perfect, who would fill the gap if they were not there?

‘This is a great industry. The buildings and infrastructure that we create last for generations and affect the quality of life for so many people. But the only way we’re going to fully communicate the importance of construction and the built environment to policy makers and the public at large is through Professional Bodies collaborating with both government and industry. The CIOB works with several other Professional Bodies on an arrange of issues mentioned in my speech but more can be done to join up the public interest.

A question was proposed by a Rumford member to Bridget at the end of the talk. They have both allowed the question and answer to be included in the blog.

Q: The CITB is a huge organisation which has been around a long time. Is the model broken, can it change or can it be re-invented?

A: The CITB and the ECTIB are monolithic organisations. There are a lot of people there and things like pension liabilities would need to be considered in any structural reform. Paul Morrell has done a report on it and a consultation took place 3 ½ years ago, and it found it must be re-designed under new leadership.

Bartlett stated that for her, the model has been broken for years. There are too many conflicting interests. But CIOB has met with Paul and he would be happy to discuss the matter with anyone to progress this issue. 

Rumford Club debate 16 December 2016: The future of Trade Associations in the age of austerity’ Presented by Professor Rudi Klein

December 17th, 2019 by

Professor Rudi Klein is a barrister and the chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group.

The UK in 1947

In line with the celebration of the Rumford Club’s 70th Anniversary, and before jumping into the main body of the discussion Professor Klein drew a picture of some aspects of life in the UK 70 years ago:

–        Most of the UK froze over in “The big freeze”.

–        The first nuclear reactor in Western Europe opened at Hartwell.

–        The Tories published their industrial charter. They now appear to be repeating the exercise by publishing their industrial strategy. The charter from 1947 highlighted the need for an end to protectionism and the promotion of free trade.

Professor Klein moved to explain that there is a key role for Trade Associations in the age of austerity but it’s a role that does require some statutory framework.

In 1944, three years before the Rumford Club was established, the government created a committee to identify the way building works were delivered. This committee delivered the Simon Report, which had the additional title of “The Planning and Management of Building Contracts”. The main highlights of the report’s findings were:

–        There were several inefficiencies in traditional contracting including indiscriminate competition. Work was often assigned to organisations with the lowest standards.

–        Within the UK construction industry at the time the focus was on lowest price and the lowest standard.

The UK in 2017

Professor Klein stated that, 72 years later, little had changed. The emphasis as still on selecting those offering the lowest price irrespective if their technical professionalism (or lack of it). Organisations have little incentive to improve skills and invest in training when they have to compete against organisations which could offer the lowest price because they had not made such investment.

Professor Klein argued in favour of the importance in joining professional bodies and gaining professional qualifications. He stated that, as demonstrated by the large number of people in the room with high level engineering qualifications, “we are holding out and showing ourselves as capable and skilled individuals and are placing value on ourselves”.

But across the construction industry, specifically in the contracting sector of construction, there is little store placed on value and on what goes on in the industry and because of this, anyone can come into the market. In his 1998 Report, Re-thinking Construction, Sir John Egan commented on this.  He observed that the city had little regard for construction because there were too many poor performers and no barriers to entry.  

Professor Klein asked this question: “How can you attract people into the industry if you do not place value on what it is you do and what you deliver?”

“Zombie” firms are another example of the problem. Out of 250,000 contracting firms in the UK, 25,000 are zombie firms, firms with no assets.

Legislation in Queensland requires that contracting firms have a certain level of assets. This has resulted in fewer insolvencies in Queensland than in other Australian states.

These firms often drag down the value of the sector.

Trade Associations add value in various ways

Trade Associations in the construction engineering sector do one key thing that brings value to the industry. They are the only organisations that are custodians of quality and technical competence. The industry trade associations to maintain standards and quality. Over the years they have successfully done this by accrediting and inspecting their members for the quality of their work.

This year an All-Party Parliamentary Group carried out a quality review of new build houses and found that there was a significant gap between the customer’s expectations (with regards to services, roofs and surface finishes) and the delivered result.

Building on this, an interim report by the Chartered Quality Institute Construction Specialist Interest Group found that improving quality within the industry could save between £7 billion and £12 billion a year.

Professor Klein highlighted that the roles of construction engineering Trade Associations in this regards are:

–        To inspect, verify and accredit management systems and technical performance.

–        To continuously monitor performance through regular risk status assessments.

–        To write codes of practice to facilitate client/consumer feedback and complaints.

In a survey this year the Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group found that 31% of Welsh local authorities value Trade Association membership for pre-qualification of technical capability but only 6% of English local authorities rely on Trade Association membership for this purpose.

Professor Klein concluded that we needed to build on what Trade Associations are already doing.

Arguably we already have a statutory quasi-statutory licensing scheme albeit it is very disjointed.  For example a building services contractor may have to be a “gas safe registered installer” (Gas Safety Regulations 1998), an “approved contractor” (Water Supply Regulations 1999), an “accredited [Green Deal] installer” (Energy Act 2011), a “competent person” (Building Regulation) and a “certified installer” (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) and a TrustMark “registered firm”.

Per recent research carried out by TrustMark there is a high degree of commonality (80%) between the competencies required for most of these schemes.

Therefore the future for construction engineering Trade Associations lies in bringing these schemes together within one statutory framework that provides for the core technical capabilities (i.e. the 80%).  Within this the role of the Trade Association would be to accredit firms as having the required capabilities and, thus, satisfying the statutory requirements on a deemed to satisfy basis.

Such development, said Professor Klein, could bring about untold benefits – greater investment in skills, more innovation and, thus, increased productivity.  Countries having licensing systems such as the US and Australia have higher construction productivity than the UK.

Our next meetings

There will be dinner discussion meetings on these Thursdays: 12 January 2017, 16 February 2017, 16 March 2017 and 27 April 2017.

The Rumford Club’s 70th Anniversary legacy – Class of Your Own

December 17th, 2019 by

At the AGM on 16 November 2016 the members of the Rumford Club voted enthusiastically to sponsor a school under the Class of Your Own (COYO) initiative. The 70th legacy of the Club is to plant an educational ‘acorn’ which will inspire and enable more young people to enter the fascinating and rewarding careers that the built environment offers.

The Club has pledged £4,000 of its reserves towards the £12,000 needed to set up a GCSE course in the built environment in a secondary school. The balance of £8,000 will be raised by member and organisation funding. Within 24 hours pledges of £1,200 had already been received! These included Cathie Simpson, Zafer Ure, John Field, Robert Higgs, Ellen Salazar and David Wood.

2EA Consulting Ltd. is one of the first companies to make such a pledge. Sebastian Gray, one of its directors, says: “There is a real lack, both in the present and in the future, of skilled people coming up in the industry to fill the gaps. I’d like to see this donation as a driver for other organisations to step up and contribute.”

Once the Club has the necessary funding, a sub-committee will be set up. This committee will begin the search for a suitable secondary school in London willing to work with the Club and the COYO organisers to set up the GCSE course. 

The unique aspect of this initiative is that Club members will have the opportunity to share knowledge with the secondary school students to enable them to relate more directly to the subject and to benefit from wide range of experience and enthusiasm which members will bring to the table.

Mike Hammond, Club chair, says: “Our ‘acorn’ will grow as this educational opportunity will continue after the initial two-year set-up, and will forge a long-lasting link with the school and hopefully with the students themselves as they progress with their careers in the built environment. This will be our lasting legacy.”

Find out more about Class of Your Own.

Rumford Club debate 16 November 2016: “Industry demand for manpower: an analysis of future manpower and skills availability”

December 17th, 2019 by

Mike Hammond (the new chair of the Rumford Club) welcomed everyone to the 2016-2017 season, when the Club will be marking its 70th anniversary.

In 1946 there was a statist Government in place, doing such radical things as setting up the NHS and the Welfare State.

All change in 2016: the Government does not fund many industry-wide initiatives at all – most have to be funded by industry. What was done for the greater public good is now often done by those prepared to pay, for private benefit.

The challenge of this is that no one organisation has all the information, and this can lead to a disjointed approach.

We will be addressing this issue during this speaker season.

The challenges of skills shortages

Over the coming years there will be a dearth of some trades (such as H&V and ACR) and excess of other trades (such as plumbers) to meet demand. Demographics (baby boomers), the lack of apprentices coming into the industry and the inability of Trade Associations to apply pressure on the Government all play their part in choking supply.

Skillcard is the industry recognised smartcard for the mechanical sector of the building engineering services industry, partner to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. Skillcard plays a significant role in upholding standards in health and safety, for example, and around 60% of building sites require such cards.

However, there’s a disaster looming, as evidenced by the Skillcard data.

For instance, while there is the need for 170 ductwork installers, only 25 are being trained right now. There are practically no Level 3 Commissioning Engineers, meaning that the industry has to rely on Level 2, which effectively de-skills the all-important role of commissioning. There is a decent supply of people working in H&V and ACR at Level 2 and below, but these are very low qualifications.

The bulk of Skillcard managers are 45-55 years old and this situation indicates future shortages.

The need to upskill

Demand is increasing on the sector for improved skills to meet the carbon challenge. For example, the Passivhausset default zoom sizeset default zoom sizeset default zoom sizeset default zoom size standard demands high skills sets.

The building services industry needs to recognise its role in educating its workforce to learn technical and practical skills and not slash training budgets. Organisations must not be reluctant to invest in their staff for fear that they will simply walk away with that practical knowledge.

 Our next meetings

15 December 2016: Rudi Klein: “The future of Trade Associations in the age of austerity”

12 January 2017: Bridget Bartlett: “The future of Professional Bodies in the age of austerity: A view from the CIOB”

16 February: Stephen Matthews: “The future of Professional Bodies in the age of austerity: A view from CIBSE”

16 March: (speaker to be confirmed) “What next for green? Life after DECC”

27 April: Martin Liddament: “A debate on the original question posed by the Rumford Club”