sustainable resources and publications update

Items of interest to built environment + natural environment + sustainable communities filtered from the Sustainability Development Research Network (SDRN) update

Engaging Places
A new initiative has been launched by CABE and English Heritage to help every school exploit the world’s biggest teaching resource; ‘Engaging Places’ will champion and support teaching and learning through the whole built environment, from grand historic buildings to the streets and neighbourhoods where we live. Great web resource here

Creating green jobs: developing local low-carbon economies
This publication outlines measures to help create 150 000 new jobs in the low carbon economy – jobs that help save carbon, reduce fuel poverty, increase our energy security and build resilience in those areas at greatest risk from climate change. A must read document.

Policy Exchange Report – ‘Warm Homes’
This report argues that Government efforts to improve energy efficiency in the existing housing stock have been slow and expensive. The grants available are too complicated to administer and have had to be applied for on household-by-household basis, with those that do wish to upgrade required to cover a large part of the upfront costs. This has resulted in millions of homes not applying for the grants to which they are eligible and those unable to find the cash for upfront installation costs being excluded. In addition, such a variety of organisations are responsible for the delivery of energy efficiency improvements, including the Warm Front Scheme and the Energy Saving Trust, that effective joined-up action is prevented and the costs of bureaucracy increased. To quickly install basic energy efficiency measures in every household that needs them, ‘Warm Homes’ suggests that the structures of energy efficiency finance and delivery have to change and makes recommendations of how to achieve this. More…

Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society
The January edition of Building Research and Information includes a set of five commentaries on the earlier special issue ‘Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society’. The commentaries examine from different perspectives the opportunities, barriers and potential for significant carbon reductions through changing the social expectations and behaviours for what constitutes thermal comfort. The heating and cooling of buildings consumes a significant proportion of energy in developed countries and the trajectory of consumption continues to rise. Given that developed countries have a large and slowly growing building stock (less than 2% per annum), technical solutions to upgrading the building stock will take a substantial period of time. Altering societies’ behaviour and expectations surrounding the consumption of ‘comfort’ – specifically through how much heating and cooling we require – presents an important opportunity for lowering energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Commentaries are written by Jim Skea, Mithra Moezzi, Harold Wilhite, Russell Hitchings, and Ian Cooper. More…

Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty
A new coalition of leading UK environmental and social justice groups, convened by Oxfam and the new economics foundation (nef) and including Friends of the Earth and the Royal College of Nursing, has released a report – ‘Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty’ – showing that tackling climate change actually offers a huge opportunity to boost the economy and tackle UK poverty at the same time. The report shows how the need to combat climate change could present a huge opportunity to tackle poverty too. Key recommendations include: increasing household energy efficiency, reducing both emissions and fuel poverty; planning for an equitable transition to a low carbon economy (paving the way for the UK to capitalise on the opportunities and reap the benefits of the new low-carbon economy including the creation of new ‘green collar’ jobs; promoting sustainable public service provision, including low carbon food procurement for hospitals and schools; improving the existing housing stock (moving towards low carbon design in housing and urban development); and investing in a public transport system, which is better for the environment and more equitable. More…

Natural England Draft Policy – ‘All Landscapes Matter’
Natural England is leading on the implementation of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) in England.  This document sets out their detailed policy for working with and through England’s landscapes as an integrating framework for managing change and raising the quality of all landscapes and the benefits they provide, whether they are rural, urban or coastal, ordinary or outstanding. Key policies highlighted consider: landscape management, protection and planning; dynamic and evolving landscapes; landscape as an integrating framework; European Landscape Convention; valuing landscape; landscape, design and development; European and International context; Landscape Character Areas; and landscape monitoring. Natural England is keen to hear views on this draft policy, and invite written comments until the 13th March 2009More…

Community development in local authorities
This new report from CDF examines how community development teams are structured in local authorities. Findings are amalgamated from discussions with a number of local authorities, together with findings from a more formal process of investigation. It attempts to give practice-based insights and intelligence about the role of community development teams. It looks at different structural models and the key factors that help community development, and therefore the voice of the community, to have an impact. This report is part of an ongoing project and the final section poses questions for those currently engaged in developing CD within their local authority. More…


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on be excellent

Around 10 or so years ago I was part of a BE (now constructing excellence) development group which produced the Be Excellent document and tool.

The premise was to increase the awareness of constructions relationship within facilities management and excellence through collaboration by mean of a self, or facilitated assessment tool.

What is Be Excellent?
Be Excellent is a simple but rigorous examination of business practice for all disciplines within the construction industry using the EFQM Business Excellence Model as the platform and take on board the important criteria for Collaborative Working, Supply Chain Management and the “design through to operational requirements” of Facilities Management.
If answered honestly and thoroughly, Be Excellent will identify those areas which an organisation needs to concentrate on to improve performance. Whether the organisation decides to make these a priority is a question of where each sits within their overall strategic plan.

During these last two weeks I have support a number of organisations with Be Excellent, so, with ‘excellence’ being on my mind,  I share my thoughts here.

I continue to use this approach as a first step analysis, helping groups or organisations understand where to put improvement energies and efforts.  It works best as a consensus approach, with a number of assessments done across the width and depth of the organisation, providing an unique and revealing assessment of approaches, deployment and results.  An assessment I refer to as a peoples view of the organisation, which is often at odds with a purely management view.

And here is a main difference between this consensus approach and the top down ISO 9001 improvement or quality models.  People want to be involved, or at least have a voice in shaping improvements, not to be forced into improvements via independent audit non conformance’s.

EFQM ( European Framework for Quality Management) arose out of the 1980/90’s TQM (Total Quality Management) ideas.  The UK construction sector at that time flirted with TQM but never really made the initiative ‘stick’, as it was just that an initiative with a shelf life, and not sustained. Indeed one of the factors that moved me away from employment with large contracting was the lack of ‘stickability’ on improvement, flitting across what was in vogue or required by any client at any one time. It was, and still remains, an add-on to business.

And yet the orginal philosophy and premise of EFQM remains strong and sound, providing an holistic view of any organisation, and in particular the connectivity between functions, approaches and processes, often revealing the weaknesses in the typical siloed organisation.  For example EFQM and Be Excellent force you to address questions such as:

  • How are you strategies, objectives and policies founded on customer intelligence and requirements, now and into the future?
  • How do you manage, recruit and develop people in line with your vision and strategies, How does leadership act as a role model?
  • How do you procure resources to deliver your strategies, are finances, knowledge and information aligned to your strategies, or are they a barrier, and
  • Do processes really translate your vision, objectives and strategies into operations or are they there to satisfy some other ‘tick’ box?

There is an scoring mechanism alongside Be Excellent , but this serves as a device to prioritise actions, and it is the action planning that is the main outcome. From these action plans facilitated workshops can drill down to the real root of issues, using for example the Toyota Five Whys approach, a main ingredient of lean construction or six sigma. Its is amazing where you get to on asking the fifth why, for example a recent exercise identified an issue of poor recognition for good work, 5 whys drilled it down further as:

  • We don’t hear about good things
  • We don’t tell people about success’s
  • We don’t like to blow our own trumpets
  • We look for wrongs not rights in reviews
  • Our lessons learnt exercises focus on negatives and not positives

A programme was then put into place to review the lessons learnt process, to capture good learning points so they can be repeated, in addition to problems to avoid.

Over the years the trends from Be Excellent have become very clear:

  • we are good at approaches, new initiatives, new management systems, achieving ISO standards and other on the wall certificates.
  • we are ok, but not so good at deployment, that is deployment of the approach is not sustained, either over time, or across an organisation, and often suffers at the whim of changing management.
  • we are poor at learning, at analysing results for trends causes, and comparisons, and then on closing the loop to improve.

Sadly, this reflects the view of Deming back in the 1950’s, that we do not close the Plan Do Check Act loop, even less so see this as a spiral, with the Act taking us to a better, more informed Plan position for the next project or time period.  Be Excellent provides the peoples view to kick start and to sustain the improvement cycle.

A copy of  Be Excellent can be downloaded from here and you if would like to discuss this topic in more detail contact us here.

collaboration makes construction lean

Whilst sharpening up my knowledge on the latest lean in construction thinking I came across this excellent article by Karen Wilhelm which mashes up collaborative working, lean, BIM, 3D and 4D design, collaborative contracts, value chains and more. The brief for Karens paper reads:

Lean in the construction industry offers some lessons for lean manufacturers. Collaboration among companies in the value chain is facilitated by 3D and 4D modeling of the product and process. This focuses the players on constructability, avoiding costly mistakes and assuring just-in-time availability of materials and workers. In some instances, collaboration and lean are being built into standard multi-party contract templates.

on getting out, learning and sharing, unconference style

As I plan another ‘benchmarkwalk’ for tomorrow in the English Lake District, I realise I haven’t described my benchmarkwalks approach here on the blog.

In some ways I now realise this approach is very much like an outdoor unconference – delegates choose the themes for discussion and, rather than standing in a lecture hall, or hotel room to present, people can talk on their topic in a way that engages very differently to the more traditional front of room or around the table discussion.

The following is the original concept from my website, (which has now been long overtaken by using this blog as my main presence).

Benchmark Walks talk the walk in landscapes to fire inspire

Aimed at improvement individuals and teams, Benchmarkwalks has been compared to doing business on the golf course but more stimulating and rewarding by far. Many leading organisations are beginning to realise the benefits of outdoor or walking-based meetings as a way of encouraging open discussion and getting away from office environments.

From the Benchmarkwalks home base within the Forest Of Bowland, itself an area of outstanding natural beauty, we organize and facilitate your business or improvement team away day. We make use of a local inspiring venue within the Forest of Bowland for events and as a base for a local benchmarkwalks

Benchmarkwalks can be tailored to suite individuals looking to improve business improvement knowledge on a unique one to one arrangementâ

You set the topics – Benchmarkwalks assembles the experts, so you can learn from improvement experts in inspirational landscapes. Find out what works and what hasnt worked from leading UK benchmarking experts.

Choose from easy, low-level valley and woodland walks through to challenging mountain days, whatever; the chance to talk the walk and learn cannot be bettered. Walks can range from an hour stroll as part of a days facilitated event through to whole days on the hill.

Benchmarkwalks have formed partnerships with leading walking and guiding organisations to arrange and lead our mountain walks

Business Improvement has often been compared to a journey where the journey itself is the reward as well as the destination. With Benchmarkwalks you will reap benefits from both the physical journey and discussions on business improvement topics

Benchmarkwalks can cover any business improvement topic, for example: benchmarking, sustainability, quality management, value management, customer relations, excellence and EFQM, collaborative working, supply chain management… Any, all or none just ramble and learn.


more information @ benchmarkwalks

2008 KPI’s

Constructing Excellence issue 2008 KPI data

The latest UK Construction Industry KPI data is now available interactive and on-line at KPIzone (http://www.kpizone.com). Supported by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), KPIzone contains over 700 graphs and charts, together with industry standard KPI definitions and methods of measurement.

In the age of open source, and the fact that these KPI’s are a key measure behind the UK Sustainable Construction Strategy is it correct to charge for access to this data and KPI material? Surely if Constructing Excellence and the Government are serious about change in the sector then these should be open to all to encourage greater use. Of course the CE business model would be then around benchmarking and sharing, ie a support service rather than selling a product.

rethinking construction still requires massive system change …


Collaborative working champion colleague Henry Loo posted the comment below in response to my recent posts on rethinking Egan.  This short response article is so spot on, going to the heart of the matter I have elevated it to a full post to give it more prominence.  Thanks Henry.

Egan didn’t emphasis one important pre-requisit to his message: to deliver the kind of vision he is talking about require a massive system change.

When we went to Japan last November, we saw how Takeneka, Shimizu and Kajima successfully translated the efficiencies that Egan was talking about in Rethinking Construction from manufacturing into construction. It was just like the book.
Their critical success factor was the ability to combine Design and Construction operation as seamlessly as possible.
In UK, we can’t possibly deliver that level of success because of the steep Consultancy/Contracting divide, and until such time that we can successfully come up with a breed of people under one organisation that can do both successfully together, we would never be able to deliver Egan. This goes straight to the heart of Lean Thinking because no matter how hard to try to squeeze out waste, the inherent system is not design to be efficient in the first instance (type 1 Muda is inhibiting efficiency!)
The car industry is efficient because it is output driven.

The construction industry is still inherently input driven – note when a client needs a building, rarely can he go directly to a prime contractor and gets everything under one roof; whereas that is exactly what you do in buying a car! note when a Japanese manufacturer needs a new plant, they go straight to Takenaka and Takeneka can wheel out in chapter and verse what a modern manufacturing plant would look like and reasonably accurately forecast productivity based on their research activities gathered worldwide.

Kajima spend over £200million on R&D last year, 4.5% of its annual turnover. They see R&D as their USP & innovation is where the future of their business lies. No innovation=no future. Little wonder why Egan’s vision is still less than half way?

Continue reading

time to re-read rethink construction…again

Following my post yesterday and having had chance to read the transcript of Egans speech on 10 years of rethinking, I am convinced that this is a must read for all in the construction, and indeed in the built environment, to understand What the report set out to do?; What’s going wrong?; and how do we fix it?.

I am sure Egans comments will be picked up and discussed by many in the UK built environment blogging fraternity,  giving a wider view – for example take look at Mel’s comments over at Elemental

Egan cites the successes within the demonstration projects, producing some 20-30% cost savings.  In addition I am aware of and work with projects that have achieved similar benefits that are not demonstration projects. Yet for many the understanding of Egan, the Rethinking Construction report and targets just isn’t there. KPI’s derived from the Egan Report are seen as a nusaince, something to get through for bidding, rather than used or real improvement.  At mosts events and training sessions I lead I have to distribute copies of Rethinking Construction.  (A copy can be downloaded through the documents link on the left hand side panel on this page)

Egan’s recommendation for the future is to … go back and read Rethinking Construction and try and get it right second time around.  The key for me, ever since first reading back in 1998 (although I must admit to providing some input, albeit remotely) was in the title Rethinking Construction.  And I think ever since I have used the Einstein quotation of not being able to solve todays problems with the pattern of thought that created them. Those that have embraced new patterns of thought with in the industry are those who see benefits in winning work, in profit and in working conditions generally.  Those who haven’t still fight for work in competion on lowest cost, (ie on lowest profit) struggle to make margins and profits and generally have a hard time of it.

Egan on productivity:

The activity rate on a building site is still probably I guess no better than 30-odd per cent, and yet 60-odd per cent is quite easily attainable with good pre-planning and having everything available when you want it on the site.

Egan on lowest cost

I think lowest cost tendering (and I think the government is absolutely the culprit here, they were very bad as the main buyer of projects, still buying the education department with lower cost tendering) is absolutely ridiculous.

Egan on collaboartive working:

And the point to remember is that it’s a team that does it – a designer, a construction team a supply chain and so on. Working hard together they can produce a good cost. But they can’t do it if they work separately. And lowest cost tendering starts them off as separate groups.

And on how to fix it:

So, I think if anybody wants to know how to reduce the cost of what they do a lot, they could read the ‘Rethinking Construction’ report all over again. Any of the steps you miss out will cost you. I think if you don’t do all of the steps you’ll fail. But in the mean time, I think there should be the concept of two teams of target costs with plus or minus 15% gained or pained between the client and the industry, and perhaps then we might start seeing some real improvements.