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Bosses must back considerate construction passion

“It is a worry that success often depends on individual passion to do a good job rather than any particular corporate desire”

I spent a very enjoyable morning earlier this year with the Corporation of London’s engineering team visiting construction sites in the Square Mile with a group of the judges for the City’s Considerate Contractors Scheme Awards.

It was a surprise to see that there are over 60 live major construction sites in this important but very small patch of London.

And while I have walked past many of these sites, I was not aware how much effort has put in by the Corporation since the scheme was launched in 1987 to help boost the industry’s performance, standing and image in eyes of the local community.

To be honest I returned to the office with a different view of those hoarding notices. My thinking was less “that’s a good idea” and more “you know what - this stuff matters”.

Success in this case is not just about lovely hoardings, useful pedestrian signs or mudfree accesses - although they are important. Success is viewed through the eyes of the pedestrian, cyclist or anyone else impacted by a site or its activities.

Fast forward to the current discussion around cycling safety. Here is a graphic explanation of why “this stuff matters” - why the construction industry really has to work hard to ensure that its activities, all of them, work with the community.

The tragedies highlighted over the last few weeks by NCE’s cycle safety campaign demonstrate why the industry must embrace the ethos of the Considerate Contractors code of practice. As was drummed in to me by other judges as we toured the sites, this code of care, cleanliness, consideration, cooperation, communication in no way stops at the site gate. Think like that and you fail.

The Corporation’s scheme should not, of course, be confused with the more recent national Considerate Constructors Scheme, which came about in 1997 after Sir Michael Latham’s seminal Constructing the Team report in 1994 demanded that the industry do more to boost its image.

This scheme has, incidentally, been handing out its gongs this month to the UK’s best run sites based on criteria similar to those of the Corporation’s scheme.

Contractor Longcross Construction’s Bognor Regis Sainsbury store was named “most considerate site of the year” this week, closely followed by the London Olympic Park. And overall it was great to see so many firms embracing the scheme and raising standards.

However, one of the slightly worrying discussions during my judging visit was that success is all too often dependent on individuals and their passion to do a good job rather than as a result of any particular corporate desire or investment.

Passionate individuals are vital to drive improvements in performance. But only commitment - and investment - from the top will make it stick.

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