The Love Construction campaign has been gathering momentum since the 2 July launch of the UK Government’s latest construction strategy. Its origins lie in an editorial written by Construction News editor Rebecca Evans who argued that it was time for industry people to have their say in how the industry is perceived.
The vision for 2025 painted in the government’s document is ambitious, but it won’t be delivered if current perceptions of the industry aren’t changed, and this isn’t about a slick marketing or PR campaign (Ah, yes, I am also a PR and marketing guy!), it’s about the people already in the industry explaining why it’s a great place to work and develop a career.
This challenge to the industry was picked up by a group of industry people who responded to Rebecca’s call and met in a cramped Construction News meeting room three days after the strategy launch. In little over an hour, we ate sandwiches, did a load of brainstorming, made various commitments, and the campaign began to roll. Four weeks later, we are now seeing people (Mace’s head of BIM, David Philp, for example) and organisations (CITB, Wates, etc) endorsing the campaign.
I joined the construction industry almost by accident, and IT was part of that ‘accident’. I was doing a PhD in criminology but needed work to fund my fieldwork and pay for essentials like housing and food. I could use word-processing software (Wang – remember them?), so I went to a temp agency; my first assignment was at consulting engineer Mott MacDonald and my second was at another consulting engineer, Halcrow. I ended up spending seven years at Halcrow, and, when I finished my PhD, I didn’t want to leave construction.
I’d learned about marketing and found I had writing and photography skills that I could apply. Before long, I was doing site visits, climbing up half-constructed bridges (the QE2 Bridge at Dartford and Second Severn Crossing stand out), photographing motorways, sewage treatment works and tunnelling projects (among many others) and writing about the people behind these projects. And while I was at Halcrow I also began to write about IT as the firm made its transition from manual drafting to computer-aided design (CAD).
This interest in IT continued during four years with Tarmac Professional Services, where I first encountered 3D design tools and electronic document management systems. And when I went freelance in the late 1990s, I wrote numerous case studies about use of IT to support construction projects. This led me to BIW Technologies and then my current business, where I remain actively involved in many aspects of construction IT (from SaaS collaboration to mobile, to BIM, to social media, to Wikipedia).
For me, construction is far more than muddy boots and hard-hats. It’s about people from a wide range of trades and professions working together to create new buildings and other assets, and – increasingly – this means using IT as an enabler. When I started:
- we barely used email – now it’s almost universal
- designers drew things by hand in 2D – now they are modelling in nD
- we shared paper – now we collaborate electronically via ‘extranets’ and other tools
- computers were large vanilla-coloured boxes in offices – now we have more computing power in a pocket-sized smartphone.
Adoption of IT will accelerate as the BIM revolution takes hold, transforming construction from its site-based craftsmen origins into a sophisticated and profitable form of advanced design and manufacture of built assets, and the UK has the potential to be a world leader in construction information technology. It will also provide great opportunities for young people who are often intuitive collaborators and users of software and devices – my son can already collaborate remotely with friends to plan, design and construct tunnels and buildings in real time (he’s 12 and loves Minecraft!). This enthusiasm should be exploited; we should be cultivating Generation Y and Z’s innate collaborative and IT capabilities, not locking them into silos and knocking the creativity out of them.
I love construction. It’s given me a great career, which I continue to enjoy. This is why I’ve written this blog post and this is why I’ve added Love Construction logos to my websites. You should too.
(This is a slightly edited version of a blog post also published on my ExtranetEvolution tech blog.)