5 Key Takeaways from Our Business Breakfast Event at The Gherkin

Colorminium are delighted to have hosted it’s 5th Business Breakfast Event at Searcys at The Gherkin. It is a great opportunity to bring together key voices from industry leading architects, quantity surveyors, project managers, main contractors and clients; giving their thoughts and views around important issues that the market is facing.

The conference was marked by the attendance of notable industry leaders:

 

David Walters – British Land | Gordon Balharrie – Leslie Clark | Jason Balls – EPR Architects | Keith Davies – Buro Four | Kevin Newton – Gardiner & Theobald | Matthew Schaaf – Blackburn & Co | Neil Dobbs – Multiplex | Saverio Pasetto – Skanska | Stephen Field – Arcadis |

 

With a well-balanced forum for discussion, it led to some insightful views being shared and some interesting challenges being raised with the current construction model, which provoked a healthy debate from all sides of the table.

Here are some of the key points raised during the meeting.

 

Early Engagement

A key and reoccurring theme throughout the meeting, was the heightened importance on Early Engagement with emphasis on assembling the right team at the right time.

Early Engagement is one way to ensure buildability is identified at an early stage when timeframes and cost plans are being created. It is important to get this right in those early stages, to avoid revisiting the process at a later stage which costs the industry so much in time.

Keith Davies of Buro Four went on to say: “We need to consider at an early stage the buildability and programme effects that design which is being put forward can have. If it takes an additional six months to deliver the project that equates to a great deal of additional money.”

Jason Balls of EPR Architects believes that “to ensure correct planning is granted and the product design and quality is best achieved then early engagement with emphasis specifically on getting the right people around the table at the right time” is the way to go. “Early design sessions are useful to get into the details as quickly as possible and use as many tricks with standardization and components to make it feel like a bespoke, site specific piece of context driven architecture but without reinventing the wheel.”

Saverio Pasetto of Skanska added; ”a façade is complex as a discipline, and in terms of articulating a structure where you can manage it effectively, you need to put in the right time, the right resources, and engage early with the design team. It is important to be open and have clear understanding of what they are telling you, and create a collaborative environment with the design team, client, main contractor and specialist façade contractor”.

 

Trust

Kieran Mallinson, Pre-Construction Director of Colorminium stated; “There can sometimes be an objection from clients and consultants by engaging early that they are losing a competitive edge, coupled with concerns around cost. It is a high trust arena; you have to trust the advice you are given is valid and of value.”

However, it was felt around the table that these concerns were starting to go away. Keith Davis of Buro Four added; “We are now working with the industry and the specialist skills a lot earlier, that to me demonstrates that the concern about losing that competitive edge is starting to go away.”

Reuben Price, Construction Director of Colorminium described a recent situation where the client approached Colorminium directly to engage with the architect and a specialist supplier to work jointly through Stage 2 and 3 of the project. The specification was written in collaboration between all three parties. Workshops were carried out with the architect, so when they reached Stage 3 there was an aligned position of specification, drawings, and ultimately the cost plan was in line at the end of Stage 4. Reuben commented; ‘We all had a clear responsibility and a high level of trust flowed throughout the whole operation.’

 

Responsibility / Collaboration

Following the enormity of what happened the night of the Grenfell Tower fire, the general public in this country have such a low opinion of the way things are built, construction and development sectors need to create a culture of trustworthiness and humanity. We have a responsibility and a duty of care to the industry to give people confidence again, and technically we won’t allow things to reoccur. Stephen Field of Arcadis noted; “It’s a real challenge, the only way you can do this is with a collaborative approach, so people can see you have got a core team of people that are taking their own responsibilities seriously and also the clients, whether councils, or institutions”.

 

Upskilling

There’s a real learning process that still in 2020 and beyond needs to be tackled in this industry, upskilling and education are critical for the future of the industry.

It was voiced that some young engineers that are advising senior clients in some organisations have gaps in their knowledge and experience; and it was noted there is a lot of work that should be done, that we would all benefit from. Saverio Pasetto, of Skanska commented; “Some of the best Façade Consultants are people who started on the tools; they have drawing experience, have measured and installed. We need to ensure that these skills are not lost and be proactive to this challenge”.

 

Focus on value in addition to cost

David Walters of British Land concluded the discussion; “We have talked a lot about cost, but we haven’t spoken much about value, the concept of value and the role the façade plays in that. We need to get much smarter about how we measure the benefits of what we are doing and demonstrate those to our occupiers and end users. There is a growing piece that is emerging around façades, in terms of sustainability and carbon intensity, which is becoming a much bigger issue that we are starting to talk to our partners about”.

 

Comments from around the table

Matthew Schaaf, Blackburn & Co‘Thanks for the invite to the talk yesterday, it was very interesting to see the variety of opinions.’

David Walters, British Land‘Many thanks for inviting me along to the roundtable – engaging conversation with an interesting group of (clearly likeminded) individuals.  And amazing venue!’

Gordon Balharrie, Leslie Clark – ‘A great morning in a superb location with a great mix of clients and consultants.’

Saverio Pasetto, Skanska‘Thanks for having me yesterday, a well-managed and pleasant event.’

 

Comments from previous events

John Williams, M3 Consulting‘I thought it was a very illuminating meeting and I totally agree that collaboration and working together is indeed the way forward as a successful formula.’

David Lawrence, Flanagan Lawrence‘I thoroughly enjoyed the morning – the message is clear. Wouldn’t it be fun to work on a “model” project together!’

Julian Kent, Buro Four‘Thank you for an enjoyable and enlightening debate this morning.’