Crucial construction debates tackle key industry challenges

The industry is no stranger to a challenge, in the last few years alone it has been put under unprecedented strain following Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. Now it faces a raft of other issues, including tackling the government’s net zero targets, dealing with supply chain disruption, and new building regulation changes.  

One organisation that is charged with driving the change agenda within construction to improve performance and produce a better-built environment is Constructing Excellence South West (CESW).  

Operating in the South West region, this cross-sector, cross-supply chain member-led organisation operates for the good of the industry and its stakeholders. 

One of CESW’s most successful initiatives is its renowned leadership dinner series which brings together key clients, architects, engineers, contractors, politicians, and supply chain from the built environment. 

Andrew Carpenter, CEO of CESW, said: “Our leadership dinners focus on getting the key movers and shakers from any given area into one room to discuss the biggest issues affecting the construction industry. It’s something we’ve done for several years. 

“Typically, we discuss key issues in the construction sector and then consider how they’re affecting the South West in particular. The latest series kick-started earlier this year and has been exploring some of the biggest challenges for the industry including climate crisis, building safety, and procurement on value.” 

Global insurance brokerage and risk management services company Gallagher is the sole sponsor of the 2022 leadership dinners which have reached the mid-way mark. 

Launched in March, the series started in Newquay before moving to Plymouth, Bath and Taunton.  

During each evening, representatives from the CESW clubs openly talked about their experiences of working in the industry and shared their recommendations on how to combat these key challenges for the future of the construction sector. 

With each evening following a similar structure, climate crisis was the first topic to be put under the spotlight.  

Work together to solve the climate challenge 

Although held at different times and in separate locations, there were lots of similarities between each of the four CESW club discussions, particularly when it came to debating how to tackle climate crisis. 

The most important element for each club was collaboration. With CE Cornwall club highlighting that the secret to solving the climate challenge is working together. 

It was agreed there isn’t enough collaboration within the built environment but to succeed that needs to change. Silo working needs to become a thing of the past and instead, companies must combat climate crisis collaboratively. 

But first, more clarity is needed.  

Each club highlighted that with no set action plan, strategy or clear targets in place, things are confused across the region. Although companies are keen to progress, there is a lot of uncertainty on how to successfully move forward. 

For this to change, CE Devon Club believes that more needs to be done to educate and also demystify how the targets can be achieved and what it means for each player in construction. 

CE Somerset Club also recognised this as an opportunity and discussed the role they could play as influencers, to develop the skills and markets to communicate best practices more widely. 

Involve key players as soon as possible 

As an insurance broker, a representative from the Gallagher team introduced the topic of building safety at the leadership dinners. 

Each club discussed the timeline of a construction project and although they believed the key players must be involved at the earliest stage of the programme, to ensure everyone is on the same page, there were slight differences in which players were mentioned. 

With the vital role that they play within the process, CE Cornwall Club believed insurers should be brought in at the beginning of the project. CE Devon Club added that engaging with architects earlier may help to mitigate any issues concerning safety further down the line. 

CE Bath Club also thought it was important to get everyone from across the supply chain to sit at the table to make sure they understand the specification and overall objective of the project. 

Ultimately, with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet, it’s guaranteed to reduce the number of problems along the way, helping to deliver a safe high-quality programme on time and on budget. 

Understand the value of people 

The final topic explored during each evening was procurement on value.  

While each discussion began by outlining how the construction sector has traditionally approached value, the conversations eventually evolved into what value means for each group – and surprisingly, each club shared similar ideas. 

For CE Somerset Club, the attendees agreed that value is not just measured in money. It includes various other metrics like human capital and produced capital. The club acknowledged that different regions place value on different things but if a company is procuring on value, they first need to understand the value of the people. 

Like CE Somerset Club, people were the main talking point for CE Cornwall Club. The club highlighted how value is centred around key players working openly and honestly together to create an outstanding reputation and set a precedent for the sector.  

CE Devon Club were also in agreement about the role that people play in regards to procurement on value and started to explore what they could do as a club to make more positive changes moving forward. The members agreed to demonstrate best practice in their region to be able to share their learnings more widely across the industry. 

Positive changes set for future 

Andy Ferguson, Managing Director for Gallagher in Bristol, said: “It’s been incredibly valuable to be a part of the discussions at each event and this renowned leadership series. 

“As sole sponsors, we believe in the difference we can make when we work together. It’s great to see how many people have given up their free time to not only attend but to also share their personal and professional experiences about working in the sector in a bid to make a positive difference to the future of the construction industry.” 

Andrew Carpenter, CEO of CESW, adds: “Events like this create the perfect opportunity for key construction professionals to have open and honest conversations with like-minded people.  

“Each leadership dinner has been well attended showing there is a big appetite in the South West to change and improve the current practices of the sector. We’re really looking forward to the remaining events and are confident lots of great things will follow this latest leadership dinner series.” 

The remainder of the sessions will take place in the autumn and will be held in Bournemouth, Swindon, Cheltenham, Exeter and Bristol. 

To find out how you can get more involved in these conversations and to become a member of Constructing Excellence South West and a representative for one of its regional clubs, visit: