100,000 and counting…

The Considerate Constructors Scheme is delighted to have recently celebrated their 100,000th site visit which took place at the Riverside South construction site in Canary Wharf, London.

Since 1997, over 60,000 construction sites and thousands of construction companies have registered with the Scheme, making a commitment to improve the image of construction. Every registered site and company receives visits by one of the Scheme's Monitors, experienced industry professionals, who assess their performance against the Scheme's Code of Considerate Practice. The Code is designed to encourage considerate thinking and practices towards the public, the workforce and the environment.

The construction site which received the 100,000th site visit is situated in London's Canary Wharf and involves the formation of ship protection barriers ready for further development of the overall scheme. The contractors - Canary Wharf Contractors Ltd - are no strangers to the Scheme, nor to the benefits of considerate construction practices, and, having toasted the occasion, they gave us their thoughts on Scheme participation, with Executive Director Cormac MacCrann commenting:

"Canary Wharf Contractors has participated in the Scheme for ten years now, and we find that it has encouraged us to focus on continuously improving all aspects of our project delivery. Our industry has come a long way in the last ten years and the values promoted by the Scheme have played a significant part in the real progress made during that time. We believe that our participation in the Scheme will continue to help us, our supply chain and other Scheme participants to continue to improve the industry image as well as the quality of delivery and of end product."

From left: Original Scheme Monitor Doug Goodsir, Past Scheme Chief Executive David Hardy, Scheme Chief Executive Edward Hardy, Scheme Director and Monitor John Sayers, Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association and part owner of the Scheme Michael Ankers, and Scheme Chairman David Watson.

The Monitor who visited Riverside South found that the site had implemented a wide range of initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, demonstrating the ethic of considerate construction perfectly, where a little extra forethought and an appreciation of the surroundings can lead to exceptionally effective solutions. It is such thinking – and action – that underpins the construction industry today. However, as many contractors will remember, it was not always so. The warm welcome on site now enjoyed by Scheme Monitors was once very different, as were the sites themselves.

The earliest days of the Scheme were in fact a six-month pilot study conducted by Doug Goodsir for the Construction Industry Training Board, whose job it was, in essence, to see if the idea had 'legs'. As he explains:

"In 1997 when I carried out the very first visits for the Scheme much of the time the reception I got was highly suspicious, and in some cases downright hostile. Despite my explanations, site managers regarded me as yet another person checking up on them or trying to catch them out in some way. These attitudes were then reflected in working practices too; these were the days when on-site toilets were only for the grandest sites and the notion of washing mud off wheels almost laughable."

The image of the industry in those days, and much of the reality, was indeed very poor. David Hardy, who was soon to take on the task of properly establishing and developing the Scheme as its first Chief Executive, describes the common perception:

"Up until the late 1990's, many builders were recognised by their loutish manners with the general public, cement-covered overalls, littering of pavements and wolf-whistling at passing girls. Sites would have poor or non-existent hoardings, no washing facilities and no showers. The "builder's bum" was a well-recognised feature of the landscape, and the dress code was anything that would do. None of us in the industry were proud to be so."

The Scheme with staff from Canary Wharf Contractors at their Riverside South project

Why is it then, that the Scheme's aims were met with negativity and scepticism? The reason being that a revolutionary concept had suddenly been introduced into an extremely 'traditional' industry, meaning very few accepted any need to change. However, over time, it became clearer to contractors and the industry that the Scheme and its Monitors were in fact, on their side. Scheme Director and Monitor, John Sayers, who carried out the 100,000th site visit, explains the hurdles the Scheme needed to overcome in order to prove to the industry that the Scheme is indeed a force for good:

"The task was to persuade sites that we were there to help them improve and they could seamlessly include considerate construction as a culture change rather than just tick another box. Here the Monitor's role has been crucial, leaning much more towards consultancy than judgement."

Construction sites and companies began to see the benefits of working with and supporting local communities, caring for their workforce by offering facilities and services, and protecting the environment and local ecology. These measures continued and multiplied, and proof of how far the Scheme has come is further proven year on year at the National Awards events, which constantly celebrate yet more imaginative and innovative ideas, most encouragingly by small independent sites as well as the bigger players. In simple terms, the industry has no doubt been transformed within just 15 years.

So is it now "job done" for the Scheme?

Current Scheme Chairman David Watson adds a final thought:

"There is no doubt that the Scheme is much better understood these days, and I think everyone involved can take enormous pride in the progress made. However, for me the future centres very much on the inclusion of smaller sites and smaller companies. Though we count an increasing number of such companies embracing the Scheme, there is a continuing challenge in reaching every level of contractor and subcontractor, and once we manage to overcome this, there will be no end to improving the image of construction beyond standards unthinkable in 1997."

For more information on Site Registration, click here.