These are interesting times in which we live, much of the world is in turmoil with huge numbers of people having been displaced from their countries through conflict or choice to improve their economic opportunities.

This destabilisation has affected the status quo and created political pressures around the World. To protect the interests of our country and business we have decided to exit Europe which has brought about much uncertainty.

Since the banking crisis and the squeeze on public spending, SME’s have struggled to plan for more than a few months ahead and the larger Tier 1 construction companies have published huge deficits in their profits.

Generally profits have been squeezed down in a need to remain competitive, thus reducing the capital available for training apprentices or investing in business. It is a time for survival of the fittest, being wary of the pitfalls and minefields within our industry, set to strip cash-flow to provide the profit margins within the supply chain. It’s a sad state of affairs but it’s become a dog-eat-dog world, surely this is not sustainable.

We hope to continue working with our trusted and valued customers who have been loyal to us over the years. We are aware that they too are experiencing the same threats to their businesses, so we are all in the same boat.

It seems in our world that the ridiculous has become plausible looking at the James Bond style nemesis in Korea, and the state of politicians around the world standing back waiting for something to happen. Even our children are starting to question what’s going on and our worrying about the state of world affairs.

Nothing is predictable anymore making strategy planning difficult, so what do we do? Plan for the worst, or don’t do anything and wait for something to happen? Each day we survive another day of world crisis, in the hope that somehow it will get better.

In business its day-to-day, month-by-month survival. In our industry opportunities are being thwarted by ‘value engineering’ or corner cutting exercises designed to benefit corporate investment or meet spending restrictions.

Some of this profit needs to find its way back into the system otherwise there will be no more skilled tradespeople to build the buildings of the future. We also need large developments to sustain the construction sector around the country to encourage our youth to want to part of the construction industry.

We also need to make sure there are opportunities for those who aren’t academic but have excellent vocational skills. The education system has been designed to value only those who go on to University, with huge numbers of people being left to find their own way to survive.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, there are opportunities to do things better. Value engineering has played a sinister role in this tragic disaster. Everyone in the supply chain trying to survive as profits have been squeezed to meet a budget set by the local authority, but driven by the successive governments’ agenda to reduce public spending. As such, are we not all responsible for wanting our taxes to go further, presuming that there has been not profiteering throughout the supply chain.

In my mind, the solution would be for the insurance companies to prove the fire safety of public accommodation buildings, in the same way that some check the Local Exhaust Ventilation systems prior to underwriting the risk. Fire compartments should be pressure tested to determine the air tightness not just at new build stage but at any refurbishment stage. This needs to work in tandem with the building regulations and the selection of suitable materials to prevent the spread of fire.

Insurance costs would increase as the insurance companies would need to employ specialist assessors. This cost would then be added onto the operational cost of the building which ultimately would be passed onto the tax payer, but the dwellers have a right to live in safe accommodation, we cannot put a price on their lives!

The only way to guarantee that the standards are met is to put the onus on the insurer carrying the risk and not leave it to the contractors to deliver, as under the contract KPI’s things get left.

There should be a record in the site Health and Safety file of all penetrations made and the fire-stopping method and completion should be witnessed and photographed by a suitably qualified/experienced person. Ultimately the principle contractor should be made responsible for fire stopping and a cost allocated to all trades for the provision of this as a preliminary cost to ensure it has been completed. So many times it has been left to the independent trades to sort and the wrong materials have been used, or it simply hasn’t been completed, or it has been broken out to install other services such as data-cables etc.

On a positive note we continue to keep our eyes open for opportunities. The company has been going for 35 years, for 20 of those years I have been here working towards a better future passing on knowledge and encouraging graduates to enter the building services sector. I must say mentoring is very rewarding and seeing those achieving their goals is brilliant.

Here’s to Another 35 Years!
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