Can construction work ever be considerate?

‘Is the term ‘considerate construction’ something of an oxymoron? Welsh property and construction giant JEHU Group’s new marketing and responsible business manager, Lynsey Holley-Matthews, thinks not. Here she discusses how the industry has a long way to go to remedy its often-negative reputation and how the introduction of the self-regulatory Considerate Constructors Scheme will play a key role in achieving these goals. 

Over the past decade, the construction industry has made significant progress in improving its image, with the adoption of responsible business initiatives, the tightening of legislation and an increased awareness of environmental issues. But, despite clear steps in the right direction, the sector still has a long way to go.

The fact of the matter is, whether we like it or not, a negative perception of the industry still remains. Understandable, when you consider that we live in a world where our built environment is constantly changing around us, and where building work often proves costly, disruptive and inconvenient. Add into the mix horror stories regarding cowboy builders, financial woes and safety infringements and it’s easy to see why.

Key to tackling these negatives is to specifically address the damaging impacts of the sector, while also being sure to maximise and shout about the many positives associated with building and construction.

Because the construction industry has such a significant and lasting impact on society, affecting the physical and psychological wellbeing of residents and others, developing and maintaining an attitude of strong responsible business (RB) practice is an industry must.

Indeed, stakeholders, business affiliates and the general public are increasingly expecting more from the industry in terms of how it operates. After all, how a business affects the environment, recruits, trains its staff, invests in the community and respects the rights of people all contribute to the overall perception of that business.

As a result, there’s been an increasing emphasis on responsible business practices across the industry, with organisations adapting their business models to incorporate social, environmental, human rights and ethical strategies.

It’s certainly a good start, but more businesses need to embrace RB. So, how can this be done?

Respecting and being conscious of the communities that we build in is central to this philosophy. That means consistently informing residents of plans, reducing the impact of deliveries and parking changes, as well as contributing to and supporting the local neighbourhood.

With a large proportion of our clients being housing associations, JEHU knows this only too well and are committed to having a lasting impact and leaving behind a positive legacy, whether that’s creating employment opportunities, supporting education programmes, donating to charitable activities, or being involved in regeneration schemes.

Similarly, it’s important that organisations work in an environmentally-conscious and sustainable manner – minimising waste, implementing energy efficient initiatives and utilising responsible materials, both on site and in the office.

Another key area involves changing the poor perception of construction as a career. Training schemes, flexible working initiatives, mentoring programmes, volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships are all excellent ways to go about achieving this, as will helping to ensure that sites improve their levels of professionalism, are well managed and safe.

To meet these requirement, many property and construction businesses across Wales and the rest of the country, including the JEHU Group, have signed up to the Considerate Constructor’s Scheme (CCS) – a UK-wide initiative aimed at improving the industry’s image.

The five-part Code of Considerate Practice that all registered sites, companies and suppliers must follow, covers factors including the environment, workforce and the general public. Membership of the scheme demonstrates a willingness to aim for standards beyond statutory requirements.

And moving beyond the morality of considerate construction, behaving in a socially responsible way also makes good business and economic sense. From stronger operational effectiveness and minimised risks on site, to reduced financial costs, better community and stakeholder relationships, to increased morale and staff retention, implementing an effective CCS programme brings with it a huge raft of benefits – all of which go a long way towards improving both your own corporate image and the industry’s reputation as a whole.

Of course, stereotypical views of the construction industry won’t be altered overnight but they can be gradually addressed and transformed. It will however require the buy-in of the industry as a whole.