Conversations that Matter

Each month CEWales along with their CE colleagues in the South West, Midlands and North East run a state of the nation event. Robert Chapman of RC2 represented Wales on 27th November and gives us a synopisis of the discussion.

Each month Constructing Excellence in Wales run a state of the nation event with representatives from the South West, North East, Midlands, and Wales. The aim is to generate ‘conversations that matter’ where key Construction and Built Environment news and issues can be discussed by both panellist’s and attendees with the aim of improving the sector. I was invited to participate on 27th November 2020.

Within my 5 – 10 minutes slot, I attempted to highlight some thoughts on:

  • Specific projects in Wales
  • Finance
  • Leadership, and (if there was time)
  • Sustainability.

Some Specific Projects in Wales

1.  UK Wind Week: The day before the state of the nation event, I attended a ‘virtual energy network’ event which posed this suggestion: Wales could be on the cusp of an offshore wind boom. This was set against a backcloth of (i) Westminster’s 10 point plan, (ii) the pace of change (by 2030 there will be a quadrupling of offshore wind {circa 40GW}), (iii) the Everoze Report (commissioned by the Crown Estate) on the future opportunities for wind (including offshore floating technology) and (iv) various projects, including Bluegem (off the coast of Pembrokeshire), the South West Wales catapult’s ongoing work (MEECE and The Floating Wind Centre of Excellence), the Swansea Tidal Energy Project and the Gwynt y Mor Offshore Wind Farm Extension.

2. The consortium that won Welsh Government Funding to Retrofit 1300 Welsh Homes.

Managed by Sero, a remarkable collaboration of 68 partners, including 26 social housing providers was awarded more than £7m by Welsh Government to deliver a pioneering programme that, as well as decarbonising more than 1,370 Pathfinder homes, will create the tools required to roll out the large scale decarbonisation of homes across Wales. As well as social housing providers, this large-scale collaboration of partners includes a range of research, innovation, academic, technology, energy, and industry organisations from across the UK. Alongside providing supplier and employment opportunities across Wales, these will lead supporting activities such as cutting-edge research, training, and upskilling, and establishing frameworks for the retrofit industry, to enable the Welsh economy to become a true leader in decarbonisation

3. Building a Welsh Wood Economy

Commissioned by Wood Knowledge Wales, Foundational Economy Research Limited produced a report entitled Serious about Green. It highlighted the opportunity to grow commercial woodland in Wales to supply the construction industry, premised on the idea of Welsh wood substituting high carbon construction materials. Whilst not a template, Eire was highlighted as an example where the country’s afforested land has doubled since the seventies with 40% of harvested woodland now serving the construction industry.


Finance: naturally funding is fundamental for construction. I thought it was worth highlighting some perspectives because they show a definite direction of travel.

(i) An infrastructure revolution was suggested in the Chancellors recent statement. Rishi Sunak promised £100 billion of capital expenditure on infrastructure in 2021! Notably, the government is targeting 12GW of wind and solar energy in the latest auction.

(ii) The role of the finance sector – ‘Our Planet: Too Big to Fail’ – was highlighted in a WWF video recently. It explores the risks of inaction, the impact of investing-as-usual, and the role the finance sector can play in powering a sustainable future.

(iii) Earlier in the month of November, Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England gave a speech at the Corporation of London Green Horizon Summit. It made overt references to Climate Change and funding resilience.

(iv) On the 26th November 2020, the Impact Investing Institute celebrated the anniversary of its first year.

(v) The RICS held a webinar on 25th November entitled ‘Reflecting sustainability in valuation reporting’ (taking a valuation purpose such as financial reporting or secured lending, are there valuation methodologies and techniques that better support the application of sustainability standards?).

Leadership: at any time, but especially now, it is important to show leadership, especially when underscoring the importance of construction to Place. I thought it was worth highlighting these examples:

(i) Constructing Excellence in Wales participates in timely Welsh Ministerial Construction Forum meetings. One was held on 19th November 2020.

(ii)  A leadership group has come together in the guise of the Built Environment Alliance Cymru (BEAC) group. It encompassesICE, CIOB, RTPI, CEW, RSAW, RICS and CIH. Also, the Welsh Infrastructure Alliance (WIA) comprising ICE, ACE, CECA, CEW, CIHT, CITB, CIWEM, CIWM and IStructE.

(iii) There is also a Wales Construction Federation Alliance [WCFA]. This alliance represents the six major construction, civil engineering, and materials employer trade federations in Wales, namely, the:

  • Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Wales/Cymru
  • The Specialist Engineering Contractors (SEC) Group Wales/Cymru
  • Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Cymru
  • Home Builders Federation (HBF) Wales/Cymru
  • Mineral Products Association Wales/Cymru
  • Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) Wales/Cymru

(iv) I applauded the continued leadership by Mark Farmer who was involved in the recent launch of ‘Offsite for Everyone’ supported by the Supply Chain Sustainability School.

(v) I applauded the leadership of newly appointed ICE President Rachel Skinner who entitled her presidential address ‘Shaping Zero: Towards net zero carbon for infrastructure’. The embedded video is inspirational.

(vi) I applauded The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) who continued their journey (beyond signing a Climate Change Commitment in September 2019) with the launch of NABERS in the UK.

Sustainability: embraces the three pillars of (i) social, (ii) economic and (iii) environment. In Wales, we include cultural wellbeing because of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. I wanted to look at this briefly through the prism of construction.


On 30th June 2020, the IED (Institute of Economic Development) launched a report – ‘‘From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction’’. This was the headline finding of this major construction industry research report.

There is not a common, comprehensive definition of what counts as social value, to frame understanding, benchmarking, or reporting, and aid comparison of tenders and to determine best practice. This has given rise to significant disparities in what counts as social value activities, and no requirement to focus on improving the wellbeing of those who are most disadvantaged”.

The report per se was not particularly flattering. Clearly there is much more to be done about procurement to leverage wider benefits.

In Wales, community benefits have been a consideration since 2004. For example, the Can-Do toolkit was produced jointly by i2i and Value Wales to offer practical and clear guidance to public sector buyers and social landlords in Wales on maximising supply-chain opportunities through their contracts.

Coincidentally, in July 2020, the Construction Innovation Hub launched ‘The Value Toolkit’. I was an attendee at the launch which was attended by more than 400 people. The toolkit is a definite step in the right direction. Ongoing workshops have been arranged.

Finally on this topic, I just wanted to mention that there is now a Social Value Portal. I’m pleased to say that there is also a National TOMS for Wales. TOMS stands for themes, outcomes and measures.The aim of the National TOMs Framework is to provide a minimum reporting standard for measuring social value.


On the subject of the economy, I know that it is very important to sustain peoples’ lives. But I’m concerned about the continual ‘growth’ mantra. There is no growth on a ‘dead planet’ especially with the onset of accelerated global warming and adverse weather events. I subscribe to the kind of economics promoted by Professor Kate Raworth. Do people involved in construction think about their impact on the environment especially as we are now in the midst of a declared Climate Emergency?


Two things came my way recently. First, via a colleague at the RICS, information about the Leeds Climate Commission, a can-do city. Second, via The Architecture Centre, Bristol I attended a session entitled ‘designing for a climate emergency: flood’. It underscored the importance of a national flood and coastal erosion risk management (FCERMstrategy. Both impact on, and have implications for, construction.