U.K. Contractors Work To Display Their Better Side
The British may not be as courteous as they are sometimes credited, but their contractors seem to be an increasingly considerate bunch. A scheme to turn jobsites into good neighbors is fast covering the country and is attracting interest from builders across the Atlantic.
The Considerate Constructors Scheme "has been extremely successful and it pays for itself," says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, who likes the program. CCS is voluntary and covers over 34,000 U.K. sites pledged to follow behavioral guidelines. Until this recession, "We grew at 30% a year for ten years", says Chief Executive Edward Hardy. CCS now covers 65% of eligible sites, he estimates.
For logistical reasons, sites open for under six weeks are not eligible. But they will be captured beginning in July when registration of small companies starts. Fees paid by contractors range from $850 for sites worth over $7 million, dropping to $140 for jobs under $140,000.
Sites are scored periodically by CCS’s monitors on eight parameters, such as cleanliness, respectfulness and neighborliness. Monitors assign points from zero to five for each category, with sites garnering three or more for each earning a Certificate of Compliance. The top 7.5% receive annual awards.
At the other end of the scale, CCS has a mentoring role. "We will highlight areas where they could be improved. We are not just going to produce a damning report," says Hardy. Up to a fifth of sites are "noncompliant," he adds.
CCS sprang from a recommendation to improve construction’s image included in the wide-ranging 1994 sector review known as the Latham Report. Launched in 1997, CCS is owned by three construction associations and administered on a not-for profit basis by one of them, the Construction Confederation. Day-to-day management is outsourced to Valewell Ltd., established by the Hardy family.
The company employs 26 staff and fields over 100 monitors, mostly self-employed veterans. "On some smaller sites, our monitors will be the most experienced adviser they ever had," says Hardy. He concedes it’s hard to gauge the scheme’s success among the general public. An absence of grumbles would be the acid test, but that’s still fantasy.
Staff tries to mediate the thousands of complaints about sites CCS receives annually. "In the vast majority of cases we are able very simply and quickly to resolve the issue," says Hardy.
The industry’s response is more easily gauged. CCS’s recent annual audit, based on independent polling, found over 95% of owners and contractors willing to recommend the scheme to their peers.
Among participating contractors is Kier Group PLC, Sandy, with nearly 1,000 registered sites. "We take it very seriously. It becomes part of our corporate responsibility," says Alan Smith, corporate communications director. "If you want to improve the reputation of the company, it’s got to be good."
Smith compiles and disseminates a series of performance reports based on CCS’s data. "We get the monthly reports of scores of every project visited. There can be 25 to 40," he adds. "Everyone in the company can see the performance of all sites that have been inspected."
CCS is unusual, believes Hardy. Singapore has a state scheme, and the Netherlands is working on setting one up. U.S. interest has come mainly from New York builders.
"We started more than a year ago an effort to investigate ways of improving the appearance and neighborhood compatibility of sites," says NYBC’s Anderson. Going for a CCS-type scheme has been an option. But the congress this month chose to follow a more modest path of piloting self-policing sites.
"I’m reluctant to take on another full-blown assignment," says Anderson, who points to problems in importing CCS. "If we have monitors like those the U.K. uses, who assumes liability for any litigation? In this country, you can take a deep breath and someone will sue you."