Journey to Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and beyond

John Smallwood

Professor John Smallwood

Professor of Construction Management, Nelson Mandela University

Last updated: 7th June 2022

Why I decided to become a Fellow of the CIOB

Fellowship of the CIOB was in recognition of my wide-ranging contributions to the discipline, profession and practice of construction management, primarily in terms of professional association and leadership related thereto, but also general contracting, part- and then full-time academia, research, publishing and delivery of continuing professional development (CPD) activities.   

Fellowship of the CIOB, and for that matter, serving as a councilor on the council of the South African Council for the Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP), engendered intense focus on the disciplines, professions and practice of construction health and safety, construction management and construction project management. Such focus included further related research, publishing, the development and delivery of tertiary qualifications, programmes, seminars, workshops, the organisation of conferences and mentoring. Furthermore, along with other like-minded associates, the establishment of the Association of Construction Health and Safety Management (ACHASM), Association of Schools of Construction of Southern Africa (ASOCSA), and the Association of Researchers in Construction Safety, Health, and Well-Being (ARCOSH). 


The benefits and responsibilities of being a Fellow of the CIOB

From a personal perspective, Fellowship of the CIOB led to major personal development due to the contributions that resulted therein, however, it resulted in responsibility to contribute further, and maintain a level of contribution above the norm. Fellow members should actively promote the CIOB by, among other, referring thereto during discussions, conference and journal papers and presentations, promoting membership thereof, including it in events such as conferences, forums, seminars and workshops, participating in CPD activities and responding to surveys.  


Why should one consider becoming a CIOB fellow? 

Becoming, and being a member of a professional association is important, however, it is the contribution to the professional association and its agenda that is important as the construction industry continues to be challenged by behaviour that negatively impacts on its image and sustainability. Industry participants should promote ethical behaviours and better practice in all respects, and by becoming a member of the CIOB, individuals can contribute to creating ‘critical mass’ in terms of endeavors directed at enhancing the image and sustainability and attracting human resources thereto. From a personal perspective, becoming a fellow member engendered focus in terms of research on the practice of construction management.

In the case of all professional associations the approach should be ‘What can I contribute?’ as opposed to ‘What can the professional association do for me?’ 

A brief introduction to my career…My career and professional association and registration journey 

During my five-year BSc (Building Management) studies, I worked for the regional entity of a large general contractor (GC) during my fourth and fifth years of study, which was a requirement of the programme. After graduating I continued working for the GC for a further five years and five months. During a certain stage of the latter period, I mentored approximately six students, and for two years prior to migrating to academia, I presented the subject Building Management 3 on a part-time basis, in addition to assisting with marking of assignments and tests and moderating of exam papers.  Mentoring during construction, the part-time academic contributions, involvement with the South African Institute of Building’s (SAIB’s) academic and professionalisation related interventions, and the desire to further my studies led to me joining the then University of Port Elizabeth as a Lecturer. I then completed my MSc (Construction Management) followed by a PhD (Construction Management). Professional association and registration are criteria in terms of promotion, and my related contributions led to promotions, and ultimately appointment as the Professor of Construction Management. As of mid-May 2022, I have completed 31 years and 10.5 months service with the now Nelson Mandela University.

My membership of the CIOB has its origin during my five-year BSc (Building Management) studies from 1980 to 1984. Student membership of the then SAIB was permitted from the second year of study. I became an Affiliate member of the SAIB in 1985 after graduating, and a Full member in 1987. I served on the East Cape Branch Committee from 1985 and was elected Chairman for the period 1988 to 1989. As the Chairman of a branch, and subsequent portfolios such as Junior and Senior Vice-President, Acting President, President, and Past-President, I served on national council from 1988 to April 2000. These portfolios enabled me to interact at various levels, and with a range of stakeholders in the construction industry.

Mark Massyn, currently a Senior Lecturer, Department of Construction Economics and Management, University of Cape Town, and a CIOB Fellow and I initiated discussions with the CIOB in 1997 regarding the incorporation of the SAIB into the CIOB. These were successful and heralded a new era in terms of professionalism in South African construction. I, as many members of the SAIB, became a Member of the CIOB commencing 1 January 2002, and upgraded to Fellow class later in 2002. Subsequently I served on the council of the CIOB (Africa) from January 2005 to June 2006. 

I registered with the SACPCMP as a Professional (Pr) Construction Manager in 2003 and served on the council from October 2002 to October 2009. I championed the registration of construction health and safety practitioners’ process during its initial stages commencing 2011 and registered as a Pr Construction Health and Safety Agent (CHSA) in 2013. 

As an educator … 

Most of my time as an educator is spent supervising research at honours, coursework masters, masters by research, and doctoral level, and conducting personal industry- and practice-related research. I have conducted extensive research and published in the areas of construction health and safety (H&S), ergonomics and occupational health (OH), but also in the areas of construction management education and training, environmental management, health and well-being, primary health promotion, quality management, risk management and the practice of construction H&S management and construction management. I have developed programmes, lectured at primarily honours and coursework master’s level and mentored colleagues and continue to do so. In addition to scientific publishing, the focus on research results in requests to author articles for contemporary magazines and newsletters, and to present at a range of events, including international conferences as a keynote speaker.

Engagement includes, among other, Regional Representative, Africa and Middle East, International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB) Work Group 99 (Safety, Health and Well-being in Construction), Chair, Building and Construction Technical Committee, International Ergonomics Association (IEA), Director, ACHASM, Founder Member, Association of Researchers in Construction Safety, Health, and Well-Being (ARCOSH), and Past International Coordinator CIB Task Group 59 (People in Construction).