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Blog: Setting my ‘sites’ on a thriving career in construction

Amanda Byrne

Amanda Byrne

Amanda Byrne details her experience of being a woman working in the construction sector.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m a construction site manager.  ‘That’s not a job for a woman, surely?’ is usually the response I get.  It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving!

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a sports journalist. I was good at English, I liked travelling and played rugby and cricket at school, so it seemed like the perfect job.

By the time I finished school, the construction industry in Ireland was booming and I opened my mind to seriously thinking of a career in this industry.  I enrolled in a four year Construction Management degree at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south of Ireland and my journey started from there.

During the summer breaks I worked for a large construction company, getting on-the-job experience of site management.  I learned a huge amount and by the time I graduated, the firm took me on full time as an Assistant Site Manager.

I thrived in this environment – the fact that two days aren’t the same, working with different people, finding solutions to overcome daily challenges and the sheer satisfaction of seeing a building come out of the ground before your eyes, all adds up to a really rewarding job.

In 2003, I was ready for my next challenge and took up a position at Kier Construction Scotland.  Since then I’ve been involved in several major construction projects and was promoted to Site Manager in 2007.

With Kier, I’ve had the privilege of working at some major projects at Edinburgh Airport, Fetes College, the Western General Hospital and now the Edinburgh College of Art, to name just a few.

I’ve never experienced any set-backs from being a woman in construction.  I’m also lucky to have a great boss and together we make a fantastic double act!

There’s no doubt that there is still a perception that the construction industry is dirty, cold and that we generally dig things!  It’s really not the case.  Of course, I spend some of my time out of the office, patrolling the site, checking quality and safety, but equally I spend much of my time being office based and having briefings and meetings and working with a large team of tradespeople, architects and engineers.  It’s a great feeling being part of a big team and I’ve developed a solid knowledge of so many aspects of construction.

Equally, there are loads of training and development opportunities within Kier.  Soon I’m heading off to Edinburgh Zoo for an ecology day to learn more about protected species and plants – every day really is a school day!

Undoubtedly the construction industry is facing a skills shortage.  It’s important that people begin to see past the traditional construction roles and consider the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

A recent report commissioned by Kier showed that 66% of teachers and careers advisors held negative views of the construction industry as a route for their students to pursue and 73% of parents wouldn’t want their children to even consider a career in the sector.

These findings make for shocking reading and I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.

I’m really pleased Kier is working to change this perception and has pledged one percent of its workforce to act as career ambassadors in schools and colleges over the next 12 months engaging with the next generation of talent.

For my part, I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland, raising the profile of construction and inspiring people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. I’ve been working with high school pupils at careers fairs to try open their minds and help them consider that there are so many diverse roles within this industry – and very few of them involve digging!

  • Amanda Byrne is a site manager for Kier Construction Scotland

Blog: Developers can play pivotal role in improving Scotland’s digital connectivity

Jim Fitzsimons, project director at Countesswells

Jim Fitzsimons, project director at Countesswells

Jim Fitzsimons calls on property developers and authorities to work together to improve Scotland’s “woefully inadequate” digital infrastructure.

Improving digital infrastructure is key to the future success of the Scottish economy.

There are still too many parts of Scotland that have woefully inadequate broadband connectivity and local and national government initiatives are not addressing the problems quickly enough.

In bringing forward Aberdeen’s largest new “town” at Countesswells, we’ve installed ultrafast broadband. We believe that what we’ve done here should and could be replicated by other developers across Scotland and indeed should be a key consideration when planning new housing or mixed-use developments.

Residents and businesses at our new £800 million community to the west of Aberdeen will have access to broadband that is 35 times faster than the UK average. In what is believed to be a first for a new town development, we decided to install the fibre optic network necessary to deliver such high speeds at the same time as it was bringing other services, such as gas and drainage, onto the site.

Countesswells is the first community in Scotland to have access to 1Gbps. This means that a 4k movie, which would typically take eight hours to download, will take just over ten minutes.

Ultrafast connectivity can be harnessed to grow existing businesses; attract further investment; create new businesses; and enhance Scotland’s attractiveness as a place to live and work. Broadband connectivity is now a part of everyday life and one of the first things new home buyers ask for. Typically, developers have been slow to reflect this as part of their offering. At Countesswells, ultrafast digital connectivity was at the heart of designing the new community.

But our vision to make Countesswells the most connected community in Scotland goes beyond bringing the highest broadband speeds into homes. Providing the fibre network is just the start. How you use it is the exciting bit. By installing the internal fibre network across the community, we are future-proofing to such an extent that households could have direct links with the services provided on site such as schools and health centres, enabling home consultations for example. We’re working closely with the local authority as part of the overall approach to place-making to see what is possible.

Businesses on-site will also benefit from the connectivity, whether it be to promote working from home or to attract businesses who rely on superfast connections to transfer huge amounts of data.

We identified the best partner, Grain, and then installed the best fibre network available, along with the work on existing and new roads, which made it relatively cost-effective.

The wider Aberdeenshire region can benefit from what we’ve already done, but rolling it out more widely will require support from the public sector

Local authorities and developers can work closely together to provide the connectivity needed to drive economic growth in Scotland and we believe the forward-thinking and innovative partnership that has been created at Countesswells should be considered across the country.

Countesswells signed an agreement for internet service provider Grain to provide hyperfast broadband to the site.  SSE Enterprise Telecoms were then appointed to support part of the roll-out with enough national fibre background. Grain’s fibre network is now ready and waiting the day residents and businesses move in, providing hyperfast broadband and a crystal-clear fibre telephone connection. Once fully set up at Countesswells, Grain could explore solutions for residents in other areas of Aberdeen to try to solve the broadband problems they are experiencing. Ultimately, our hyperfast broadband could be accessible right across the city.

  • Jim Fitzsimons is director of special projects at Stewart Milne Group, the developer behind Countesswells

Blog: It’s time for a grown-up conversation about how to help solve Scotland’s housing crisis

Andrew McFarlane

Andrew McFarlane

Andrew McFarlane discusses the issue of the housing crisis in Scotland and outlines what action has to be taken to rectify the problem.

Housing has risen up the political agenda once again and, as happens with most politically sensitive subjects, the debate about it has immediately become rancorous and ultimately unproductive.

The irony is that there is a general, across-the board-agreement that, faced with a rapidly rising population, Scotland needs to do something about the chronic lack of decent and affordable housing stock.

Nicola Barclay, the chief executive of Homes for Scotland – widely seen as a builders’ and developers’ lobby group – put the cat among the pigeons recently when she said that Holyrood government’s target of 50,000 new affordable homes is damaging private sector growth.

She said that her organisation’s view was that a focus on affordable and social housing is exacerbating Scotland’s housing shortages, ignoring commercial realities and was not the only recipe for solving the looming housing crisis.

Immediately, she was condemned for being anti-social – that is, against the concept of social housing per se. She was accused of lobbying for the property developer model which is stigmatised as having fuelled the housing crisis in the first place.

Ben Wray, head of policy at Common Weal, claimed that Ms Barclay’s view on social housing was “aggressive lobbying” to extract more subsidies for private developers on top of the new subsidy for private sector build-to-rent.

In terms of a spat, it was all fairly predictable and ran along the lines we have come to expect when political considerations begin to intrude on what should be straightforward commercial transactions.

Ms Barclay was subsequently at pains to point out that focusing on one element of the market to the exclusion of others will not, of itself, solve the problem. The 50,000 target, she insisted, can only be met with the help of a healthy and profitable private sector.

Speaking from my long experience with DM Hall, my role as chair of the Judging Panel for the Herald Property Awards for Scotland and a non-executive director for a registered social landlord, I am convinced of one thing: the issue will not be resolved by fighting over it.

We can all agree on the root of the problem: Scotland needs more housing. The number of properties started in Scotland was down again on the previous year and completions were 36% down on 2007 and below 2010.

First-time buyers need an average deposit of more than £21,000 to get on the first rung of the Scottish housing ladder, typically around 16% of the purchase price. It is little wonder they are called Generation Rent.

But Ms Barclay is right in one major aspect – no one part of the house building sector can provide for all the different requirements demanded by an increasingly diverse and financially disparate society.

Collaboration is greatly to be desired among interested parties. We should not lose sight of the fact that there is considerable cross-sector work going on at the moment, but there is little doubt that there could be more of it, and better.

Another thing we should all be able to agree on is that there is more to be gained by collaboration than by conflict. We have to step back from knee-jerk reactions and try to see the points of view of other participants in the debate for what they are.

There is a generation of young people coming through at the moment who are sceptical about the possibility of ever being able to afford their own homes.

An open and mature debate is required from people with the relevant experience and expertise in the field to find solutions which will satisfy everyone.

Trading insults is not going to help.

  • Andrew McFarlane is a consultant in the Glasgow North office of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.

Blog: Learn the rules of engagement to help your business flourish

Marion Forbes

Marion Forbes

Given the current skills shortages in the construction sector, Marion Forbes outlines the key steps Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has taken to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.

The latest official employment figures for Scotland reveal a 4.7% drop in unemployment compared to the same period last year, with 88,000 more people in work compared to the pre-recession peak.

As the HR director of a successful housebuilder and developer, keeping an eye on employment trends is a key part of my role in ensuring that we recruit the best people, particularly in construction.

But just as important is how we engage the best talent in the business.

Most of us have come across organisations that talk about ‘valuing employees’ and the importance of ‘engagement’. But too often the discussion remains in the boardroom, however well intentioned.

This is surprising given that productivity levels in Britain are lower than in other developed western nations.

Tackling this issue is a complex one and there is no quick fix, but I believe that investing in a consistent programme of engagement and communication – something that values employees as human beings first and foremost – is at least part of the solution.

Why value and engage? Well, higher productivity for one, but it’s also about attracting the best talent in the first place. The best recruitment strategies focus on your ‘employer brand’ and the values that underpin this. For existing employees, engagement is about putting measures in place so that people want to do the best job they can. And if they flourish, so does your business.

Many of us remember the economic crash not so long ago. This slowdown prompted a realisation that Mactaggart & Mickel had to diversify, become more than a housebuilder. We took a long hard look at all aspects of our business.

A key finding was that communication could be better, so we began to consider the wider aspects of communication and its role in driving engagement. A first step was inviting colleagues working at all levels across the business to come up with ideas on how we could, collectively, improve.

That was several years ago and we have made good progress. The average length of service at Mactaggart & Mickel is 11 years. I’m proud of that figure – both as a director of a family-run organisation that genuinely cares about its colleagues, but also as a director of a successful company that wishes to continue to prosper.

But we are not resting on our laurels. We have just launched a new initiative to bring together everything we do to support and develop our people. It’s called Mactaggart & Mickel & YOU.

We chose the name carefully to highlight the importance we place on supporting, developing and caring for our colleagues to achieve their professional and personal goals. This is not just a great result for the individual, but also good for the company as we know from experience that supporting our people produces better company outcomes.

Our aim is to demonstrate the value we place on each member within the Mactaggart & Mickel ‘family’. We do our utmost to recruit the best people and we know they have a choice of where to work. We want them to choose us.

Mactaggart & Mickel & YOU covers four key areas; supporting staff not only in their career development but also to be happy and healthy; keeping them safe; ensuring mutual respect for customers and colleagues, and rewarding exceptional performance and commitment.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor it is it cost-free, but here’s the thing: an effective engagement programme will start to show results within 12-18 months, especially when you compare the financial investment of the programme with the considerable cost of recruiting and training new staff. Far better to keep talented, dedicated people working for you, not the competition.

Today, our engagement programme is seen as part and parcel of the future success of the business, just as health screenings are good for the wellbeing of our employees. It’s no coincidence that we talk about the ‘MacMic family’. Because, when it comes down to it, it’s really all about showing that you care.

Blog: Gordon Gibb responds to the resignation of Neil Baxter

1427977_Gordon_Gibb

Following the resignation of Neil Baxter from the position as secretary and treasurer of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), fellow architect Gordon Gibb tells Scottish Construction Now that Baxter deserves recognition as a champion of Scottish architecture over his ten-year tenure.

The concerted efforts of a small group supported by up to sixty members of the RIAS, questioning governance, direction and voice of the organisation, have led directly to the resignation of its long serving secretary, Neil Baxter.  I think that it is a shame that Neil resigned and that we shall miss his quirky delivery, approachability, commitment and passion for the promotion of Scottish architecture.

In my experience Neil has been a very positive influence in his work for the incorporation and he should receive our thanks and not our condemnation.  As an aesthete and appreciator of culture and the society that is the profession, he has been a great supporter.   He also helped put the RIAS on a much more secure financial footing, through the successful negotiations to reduce the proportion of the subscription to be handed over annually to the RIBA.  Not unknown for his showmanship, he has directly engaged in education, and using his networks has certainly helped to place architecture within the scope of the arts in Scotland and has championed the role of the architect at the highest levels possible, in government.  He may have been deluded in that last endeavour, given the way procurement has changed, but perhaps to no greater extent than the profession itself is deluded.

I don’t believe for a second that the RIAS has got it right.  Indeed, it could be argued that the idea of there being a learned society furthering excellent architecture is an anachronism in this society where finance and expediency increasingly affect the client relationship and the quality of the built product.  It is also important in this new age that governance is squeaky clean and fully financially accountable.  It is a weakness of many an elderly institution, under the current purges.  For the New Chapter Group to take some form of stand, in my view, is justified.  But, do they really care that much about governance, or is this just a stalking horse, and are there other agendas to do with personalities or political control?  The voice of the organisation, the choice of president, and the right of those outside the elected order to choose one, are central to the agenda.   Of course, the whole New Chapter and its personalities arose coincident with the delivery of an RIAS-curated public pop-up display of little houses, including the work of the group’s senior members, that so offended them.  So, are they really speaking for everyone, or do they just want one of their own number to lead and expound instead?

I would suggest that if this group really wants change, they should learn the language of politics and know what they could have gained by asking politely, like the contents of the Royal Charter.  They should also find out what the RIAS is for, and they should find out about what may be public and may be private, before each public declaration.  In their latest statement they seek an explanation for Neil’s resignation.  That either shows an extraordinary lack of awareness of the consequences of their own actions or perhaps an attempt to justify an unintended outcome.  Maybe the RIAS has been too cosy, maybe it does need to hear the voice of the rank and file and it does need to become more inclusive, but I would suggest that it does Scottish architecture no good at all to have a small and far less representative group of members without portfolio self-harming, by publicly stabbing an imperfect but staunch ally in the back.

Finally, I would say that given its limited resources, the RIAS has been a rather better champion of architecture and architects than its larger neighbour and probably much less profligate.  At least the RIAS has not expended our subscriptions on numerous attempts to take over the functions of the regulator and efforts to change architectural education to suit its corporate needs.  The RIAS also does some very good things, and belatedly, the New Chapter group have acknowledged at least one; not surprisingly the practical one that keeps them on the straight and narrow and helps them when they are in trouble.  It is a pity that none of them mentioned one other benefit, that they have been happy enough to put themselves forward for, and accept, the awards and accolades bestowed and publicised by the Incorporation, as expanded, curated and inimitably compered by Neil Baxter.

  • Gordon Gibb B arch, Dip Arch LLM FRIAS RIBA MCIArb is chair of APSA (the Association for Professional Studies in Architecture), an ARB Investigations Panel member, Director of Professional Studies at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, an expert witness, adjudicator and former Vice Chair of ARB.

Blog: Lessons in payment notices and pay less notices

Shona McCusker

Shona McCusker

Shona McCusker looks at two recent cases highlighting the difficulties in practice with payment and pay less notices.

Payment disputes in the construction industry are rife and more frequently we see payments awarded by adjudicators and subsequently enforced by the courts as a result of “smash and grab” adjudications where one party’s failure to carry out its obligations in respect of the payment procedure in the Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (as amended) (“the 1996 Act”) results in another party’s financial gain.

In the past month, two cases considering the impact of not issuing payment or pay less notices as required by the 1996 Act were: Muir Construction Limited v Kapital Residential Limited a decision of 18 October from the Outer House of the Court of Session; and Adam Architecture Limited v Halsbury Homes Limited a decision of 2 November 2017 from the English Court of Appeal.  Although each case was decided on different sides of the border, the relevant provisions of the 1996 Act that were considered broadly have UK wide applicability.

Before considering Muir and Adam, a brief recap of the 1996 Act requirements for payment and pay less notices:

payment notices blogSimple enough? In practice, no! Muir and Adam highlight some of the difficulties: Muir Construction Limited v Kapital Residential Limited [2017] CSOH 132

In Muir the court had to consider whether a pay less notice issued by the Employer provided a basis on which the sum noted therein was calculated.

The court asked whether a reasonable recipient of the pay less notice would have been able to: work out the basis on which the figure in the pay less notice was calculated; understand how the figure was calculated; and make sense of the figure arrived at by the Employer. The Employer’s pay less notice sought to pay £0 to the Contractor on the basis that the value of remedying defects outweighed the sum held in retention. The court did not consider this a basis for substantiating the zero figure and deemed the pay less notice invalid.

While the decision does not analyse the full detail (or lack thereof) of the pay less notice, it does provide useful guidance that was previously lacking. The court set a minimum standard:

“[A] pay less notice in order to provide a basis needs at least to set out the grounds for withholding and the sum applied to each of these grounds with at least an indication of how each of these sums were arrived at.”

Adam Architecture Limited v Halsbury Homes Limited [2017] EWCA Civ 1735

In Adam the contract between the Employer and the Architect was terminated and the Architect issued its final account. Among other matters, the court was asked whether the Employer’s failure to issue a payment or pay less notice in respect of the final account, resulted in the sum claimed by the Architect in its final account becoming the “notified sum”, by virtue of s.111 of the 1996 Act.

The parties did not dispute that s.111 applied to interim payments. It was also the Architect’s position that s.111 extended to final payments and the Employer disputed this point. Further, the contract between the parties only required the Employer to issue a pay less notice in respect of interim applications, not the final account. Following consideration of the “clear words” of the 1996 Act and a body of case law, the court confirmed that irrespective of the terms of the contract, s.111 did apply to both interim and final payment applications. Had the Employer sought to pay less than the notified sum it ought to have issued a pay less notice in respect of the final account. Its failure to do so rendered it liable to make payment to the Architect of the sum claimed in the final account.

This decision follows precedent and does not come as a surprise. It does however demonstrate the importance of contract operators having a sound understanding of the contract, and the payment provisions in the 1996 Act. The consequence of not being clued up could result in an Adjudicator’s award in favour of the Contractor, subsequent enforcement proceedings and the Employer having to pay up and argue later in a subsequent litigation or arbitration. These costs could be avoided if the correct knowledge and administrative procedures are in place from the contract’s inception.

Lessons to Learn

  • Take care in drafting payment or pay less notices. Would a reasonable recipient of the document have a clear understanding of the reasons and figures?
  • Be clear on the terms of the contract and the requirements of the 1996 Act.
  • The requirement under the 1996 Act to issue payment and pay less notices does not die when the contract ends. If a Contractor submits a payment application after termination of the contract or practical completion, the Employer’s obligation to issue a payment notice or pay less notice remains.
  • Even if a Contractor’s payment application appears invalid, an Employer should issue a payment or pay less notice to avoid potentially paying out the full sum claimed by the Contractor.

 

  • Shona McCusker is a solicitor at MacRoberts

Blog: Are payment provisions working in Scotland?

Julie Scott-Gilroy

Julie Scott-Gilroy

Julie Scott-Gilroy looks at how well the construction industry’s payment regime is working.

Payment in the construction industry is regulated by the Construction Act 1996, as amended by the LDEDC Act 2009. One of the reasons behind the introduction of the Construction Act 1996 was to ease cashflow and speed up payment. However, it has to be questioned whether this aim has been achieved (and I note this is the sort of issue raised in the English consultation on the Act, which was published recently).

What is the payment process in Scotland?

Taking the SBCC 2011 as an example as it is reflective of the statutory payment provisions (just like the JCT is in England), the interim payment process commences when the contractor makes an application for payment. The employer is then required to issue a payment notice in the form of an interim certificate not later than five days after the due date setting out the sum the employer considers due at the due date and the basis upon which this is calculated. It should be noted that the due dates are the dates specified in the Contract Particulars. If no payment notice (or interim certificate) is issued, the amount of the interim payment due will be as stated in the contractor’s application.

If the employer wishes to pay less than the due sum, the employer is required to issue a pay less notice. A pay less notice must be served no later than five days before the final date for payment and it must state both the amount considered to be due to the contractor and the basis on which it is calculated. The SBCC contract provides for the architect/contract administrator, quantity surveyor or employer’s representative (or any person who the employer notifies as authorised), to give the pay less notice.

It is worth noting that it is also permissible for the contractor to issue a pay less notice to the employer.

A similar payment regime applies at the final account stage but the final date for payment is 28 days rather than 14 days from the due date (which applies to interim payments).

What is happening in practice?

Invariably, the payment rules are ignored. One of the most common queries I deal with is in respect of a party’s failure to make payment. There appears to be a number of reasons why the payment process is not being followed. These include:

  • A failure to understand the contract’s payment provisions.
  • A failure to diarise the dates for payment notices, pay less notices and the final date for payment.
  • Non-receipt of applications for payment.
  • An inability to process payments within the contractual timescales due to the volume of projects being dealt with.
  • The inexperience of those administering the contract’s payment provisions.
  • Parties changing the payment provisions during the course of the contract and, when there is a change in personnel, these changed provisions are not apparent to those who take over.
  • Entering into contracts that do not comply with the statutory requirements and failing to understand that the Scheme for Construction Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 1998 steps in to replace the non-compliant provisions (its provisions act as implied terms, just like in England).

The big question arises as to what happens when no payment is made and no pay less notice is given. The simple answer is that the contractor can head off to adjudication and get an order for the sum due, either as set out in the payment notice or its application for payment. These are known as “smash and grab” adjudications.

This essentially means that there is no defence to non-payment and the contractor will generally be awarded the sum that it claims. However, that is not always the end of the matter as employers/main contractors will invariably seek to commence separate proceedings to determine the true value of the contractor/sub-contractor’s claim, which leads to uncertainty and a costly dispute process for all parties involved.

Is there an answer?

There is no quick fix to this issue. One piece of advice I always give to parties is to understand their payment process as soon as the project goes live. It is helpful to make a flow chart so it is easy to follow the steps that are required. The payment process has been agreed for a reason and it should be followed to avoid the inevitable disputes that will follow.

  • Julie Scott-Gilroy is an associate at BTO Solicitors LLP

Blog: Deleterious materials in construction contracts

Jonathan Hyndman

Jonathan Hyndman

Jonathan Hyndman, partner at Rosling King LLP, discusses the key legal issues that parties to a construction contract must consider when negotiating provisions as to prohibited materials.

The inclusion of deleterious or prohibited material clauses in both building contracts and professional appointment documents is widespread within the construction industry. Whilst the form of these clauses will vary from contract to contract, their common purpose is to prohibit the use of unsuitable or dangerous materials in construction projects.

Deleterious materials are those materials which are capable of causing damage or harm to the individual, the environment or to buildings and infrastructure. Whilst some legislative prohibitions are in place to limit or prevent the use of known hazardous materials, it is inevitable that further legislation will need to be enacted as new deleterious materials are discovered. Sometimes, at the point in time when the materials are used, they are not known to be problematic and it is only later that the harmful effects of their use become known, like the fatal use of asbestos in building projects or the use of polyethylene cores in cladding products.

However, a material does not in itself have to be deleterious to warrant its prohibition in a project. Often concerns over a material’s sustainability or reliability may also factor into the decision to exclude its use in a particular project.

It is important therefore, that both developers and consultants and contractors consider the specific circumstances of the individual project when negotiating the scope of the obligation not to specify or use prohibited materials.

There are a number of key legal issues that parties to a construction contract must consider when negotiating provisions as to prohibited materials.

The first important point to consider is the extent of the definition of prohibited materials in the construction contract. There is no standardised industry form and the contracting parties are free to define the scope as broadly or as narrowly as they see fit having due regard to the nature and circumstances of the project.

Options include defining prohibited materials by reference to a detailed list, to specific official standards or by reference to independent publications on the selection and use of materials, the most popular being the “Good Practice in the Selection of Construction Materials”, or a combination of the two. Each of the above will usually be supplemented by an express general obligation to exercise an appropriate standard of care not to specify for use, or use, materials which are generally suspected within the construction industry as being deleterious at either the time the material is specified and/or the time the material is used.

The extent of the obligation is a common point of contention between the parties – the issue here is whether the obligation on the contractor or the consultant not to specify or use deleterious materials should be an absolute obligation or whether the obligation should be caveated by the contractor or consultant exercising reasonable skill and care. Whilst developers will obviously prefer an absolute obligation, this is invariably resisted by contractors and consultants whose professional indemnity insurance may not provide cover in circumstances where the contractor or consultant is found to be in breach of such an absolute obligation.

The second important issue parties must bear in mind, is the point in time as to when a material is deemed to be deleterious. Parties will inevitably differ in opinion on whether the relevant time as to when a material is deemed deleterious extends to both the circumstances at the time the material was specified and the circumstances at the time the material was used in the project. Whilst contractors, who are the party actually using the materials, should be prepared to the relevant time as being the time of use, consultants will be concerned that a significant amount of time can pass between the specification of a material and that material’s actual use in the project.

Again, developers will prefer that the trigger point as to when a material becomes deleterious extends to the point in time when the materials are actually; whilst contractors should be prepared to accept this, consultants particularly those with no ongoing monitoring responsibility, should be very reluctant to agree.

Letter to the Editor: Homes for Scotland clears up ‘anti social housing’ claims

Nicola Barclay

Nicola Barclay

Further to an interview in The Sunday Times in which I emphasised that solving Scotland’s housing crisis required a whole-system all-tenure approach, it appears that some people may have misinterpreted my remarks (indeed some misrepresenting them completely), framing them as being “anti social housing”.

With everything Homes for Scotland does focused on ensuring our growing population has access to a complete range of housing options in order to meet diverse need and aspiration, this is clearly not the case. Indeed, since it was established, Homes for Scotland has consistently highlighted the need to recognise the inter-dependencies between the public and private housing sectors and the importance of achieving a balanced tenure mix (as highlighted in our manifesto for the last Scottish Parliamentary elections).

For the sake of clarity, Homes for Scotland has never said (or implied) that “affordable and social rented house building was actually stymying the development of market housing”.  And we are certainly not attempting to “stymie social housebuilding”.

It is also exasperating to see the myth surrounding land banking being trotted out again. Despite a number of studies, no evidence has ever been found to substantiate claims that this is being used to restrict the supply of homes or housing land. With it simply making no sense for developers to allow land that they have bought to lie idle when the only way of getting a timely return on their investment is to build and sell homes, the main constraints on the use of land for housing are related to obtaining all of the necessary approvals and agreements – a process which is lengthy, complex and unpredictable.

What I was actually highlighting in the body of The Sunday Times story was that focusing on one tenure at the expense of others will not, in itself, solve our housing crisis. The stark reality, whether some people choose to accept it or not, is that the current 50,000 affordable housing target can only be achieved if we also have a healthy private sector – since not only do private home builders make significant direct contributions in this regard, the same issues that affect them (such as the poorly performing planning system, front-funding of infrastructure and education provision) also affect the public sector.

Of course, it is right and proper to have a robust debate on the way forward for housing in Scotland, but please let’s read beyond regrettably-worded headlines and look at the real substance of the matter. Some, however, will never seek to engage positively and constructively. I believe that it is this kind of approach that does those looking for a new home, whatever the circumstances, the most misdeed.

Nicola Barclay

Chief Executive

Homes for Scotland

Blog: CITB’s new approach to targeted funding

Geeta Nathan

Geeta Nathan

Geeta Nathan blogs about CITB’s approach to targeted funding, productivity, technology, innovation and recruitment.

As an industry, we need to continually evolve and improve in order to meet increasing demand. At CITB, we’ve identified areas that we need to focus on and develop in order to keep up with the strong pipeline of work – areas like productivity, technology, innovation and recruitment.

And now we have a new way of helping bring about projects that address specific industry-related issues: commissioning.

Commissioned funding is different from our other funds in that we demonstrate the need using our evidence base. Employers then bid for the funding, outlining how they would deliver a programme that meets that need. We set the amount of funding available and devise a list of required outcomes.

This way, employers use their expertise, ideally in collaboration with other employers, to respond to industry-specific issues. And because we’ve identified the need in the first instance, the funds are ready to go to the successful applicants.  The resulting projects should directly help meet the industry’s priorities and have a greater chance of success.

Productivity

There is just one month remaining for you to bid for the new CITB Productivity Fund. We hope successful projects will help reduce avoidable errors, defects and rework in construction projects – and in turn boost profit margins and productivity.

Whether you are an employer, a federation or training group, you have until 5pm on Friday 20th November to enter your applications.

CITB has identified that in the UK construction sector, the direct cost of avoidable errors is on average 5% of project value. This equates to about £5bn per year and greater than the average profit margin for a typical construction project. This figure rises to over 20% of project value when unrecorded process waste, indirect costs and latent defects are included.

This is why we have decided to invest £500,000 in five successful applications.

The projects can be up to 18 months in duration, and must have a clear focus on reducing construction-related errors whilst increasing early identification of errors.

This will ultimately help us significantly improve the productivity, profitability and performance of our industry.

How can I apply?

Current commissions include:

  • Productivity
  • Assessment Infrastructure
  • Assessor Infrastructure
  • Higher Education
  • Contextualised Curriculum

For full details about current and upcoming commissions, guidance notes and application forms please visit here.

And if you want to apply for a commission but don’t have a partner or are open to engaging more, we are happy to help you collaborate. All you have to do is register your interest.

  • Geeta Nathan is head of economic analysis at CITB