The role of President of the CIOB goes back to 1838 when the organisation began promoting the science and practice of excellence in building. To be a part of this history is a huge honour and comes with legal and governance responsibilities. The CIOB is highly respected internationally and, to maintain this reputation, we need great leaders and mentors. I am thankful to have found them in abundance during my Presidential year.
Each Presidential year is unique, and mine has focused on three key areas; heritage, diversity and encouraging the next generation of construction professionals.
Sharing conservation philosophy, values and practice with other built environment professionals has been a key part of my year. It’s been a privilege to be able to discuss both the science and practice of managing historic buildings, sharing the diversity of skills required to safeguard our cultural and built heritage, not only in the UK but worldwide.
In the UK, the CIOB Academy Heritage Certification Scheme and training course, ‘Understanding Building Conservation’, has been a huge success so far. The course has been designed by members to provide a comprehensive level of training in conservation for three different levels of expertise, providing professionals with the opportunities to expand their knowledge and specialize in this exciting sector. I was also pleased to Chair the annual Heritage Conference at Somerset House in April, which was a sell out again!
As a global institute, the CIOB is making a positive impact in the heritage sector, with building conservation expertise and methodologies in demand internationally. I was honoured to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Suzhou Wudu Construction Investment Company in Shanghai in December. We will be working together on research, construction methodologies and training. Our construction professionals in China are keen to share their knowledge of cultural and built environment heritage supporting our aim to see the CIOB create a global high standard for conservation.
I have really enjoyed my work on diversity within the industry. This industry is about people, and delivering quality buildings for people, so we need diversity in every sense and description, not just gender diversity.
I have chaired a number of events on diversity, equality and inclusion and met some incredible leaders in this area throughout the past year. We enjoyed a workshop on 8th February in York, led by Sonia Bate of EDIT Development, which helped to establish the purpose and values of the new Special Interest Group. And of course, a key highlight of my year has got to be the Construction Manager of the Year Awards and being able to present the first female Margaret Conway who is herself an inspirational leader; with that top prize. I hope her fantastic achievement is an inspiration and motivation for more women to follow in her footsteps.
Against a backdrop of skills shortages in the whole construction industry, the heritage sector creates demand for truly specialist skills at technical and professional level. The CIOB is the world’s largest professional body for construction management and leadership, and more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of construction professionals who are competent to maintain and restore our historic building stock and to provide high quality new buildings.
While our professional qualifications are a trusted benchmark, the CIOB has been working hard to ensure that changes to further and vocational education are responsive to industry demands and positively redress skills shortages. Most training has focused on modern building, so we are now working to ensure traditional and heritage skills are not lost. I produced a diagram for an earlier blog showing how every subject choice at GCSE can lead to an opportunity in the construction industry.
Some of my favourite events this year have been associated with encouraging the next generation of construction professionals. For example:
- An evening with George Clarke at the University of Wolverhampton;
- Willmott Dixon Open Doors event at the Old Admiralty Building - not many people can say they have given a speech in Winston Churchill’s Office!;
- The Worshipful Company of Constructors and CIOB joint event for the Ian Dixon Scholarship Awards – this was truly inspirational with talks around quality management and 3D printing buildings on the moon.
However, my favourite has to have been the reception at Westminster celebrating the young winners of the ‘My Kinda Future’ competition to design and specify a building to enhance their community. There were some excellent designs and an exceptional winner, Mahanoor Syed from Brampton Manor with the idea for a sustainable shopping area.
In addition to these focused events, my year has included lunches and dinners with incredibly inspirational people.
One of my Presidential highlights is the quality commission, with huge thanks to Past President Paul Nash for leading this work. The industry has a poor reputation for quality and has a long way to go, we have seen some appalling reports of poor workmanship and attitude to the end customer. Paul is an advocate for high quality and ethical working which links strongly to membership of professional bodies who uphold the high standards required and provide a global network of trusted friends and members to share advice and ideas.
I also received the highest honour being invited as a Woman of the Year to their event in September; I look forward to continuing my involvement as a member of their alumni! I was also privileged to be a judge for the CIOB’s ‘Art of Building Awards’. It was very difficult to choose the overall winner from such a high standard of entrants but the ‘Eye of the Tower’ by Mehmet Yasa was truly stunning and worthy of the title.
As my term comes to an end, I have three requests for you:
1 Continue to develop your career - strive for excellence in everything that you do, respectfully, honestly and within the highest degree of integrity
2 Represent, train, develop and continuously support excellent leaders in the industry. Lead and inspire excellence in the built environment, support apprenticeships and use your status as CIOB members to encourage the next generation of construction specialists
3 A challenge for you; the Google images presented if you search ‘construction manager’ do not truly reflect the people working in the industry, or the work that we do in the built environment. The images are not diverse, they show modern building sites, high visibility jackets and hard hats, no sign of heritage buildings or BIM technology. I would love your help to change this image to reflect who works in this industry and communicate the diversity of people and the work that we do.
Please let me take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support, not only for me as President, but the CIOB campaigns that are changing the built environment for the better. Thank you to Members, Trustees, Officers, Executive and the CIOB team, it’s been an amazing year! I look forward to the year ahead under the leadership of Chris Soffe FCIOB.