Opening address of the 2016 Annual Conference of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers by Lord Lytton
Good Morning, and a very warm welcome to you all and particular greetings our members from Hong Kong and Malaysia. We are very privileged that you have come all this way to be with us.
Well, don’t we just live in incredibly interesting times! If you’d told me last year that the country would vote for Brexit in June and that 4 ½ months later Donald Trump would quote our decision on the way to becoming the next American President, I would not have believed it.
But either way, it is an enormous pleasure for me as Patron of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers to welcome so many of you here today to this year’s Annual Conference at the splendid surroundings of the Park Royal Hotel.
The theme of this year’s conference is “aiming for excellence”, and I would suggest that excellence in design and construction can be judged, in part, by the longevity and flexibility of the buildings we produce and their ability to retain contemporary utility, value and attract high quality care and forward investment. Good environments hold value and buildings that perform well avoid premature obsolescence.
For example, parts of this hotel date back to the 1830’s, a time when Earl Grey was Prime Minister and William IV was on the throne, and although at that time the building was a modest vicarage to the nearby church, the construction has stood the test of time and is still in valuable use today.
For the Chartered Association of Building Engineers these are exceptionally interesting times. The Association continues to see large numbers of professionals, from the UK and overseas, joining its ranks, and the team at headquarters are striving to maintain the friendly and personal level of service even as we grow; indeed greater recognition has been gained, with the Association achieving ISO9001 accreditation in July. There have also been some major landmarks achieved during the last twelve months, such as our first major exhibition in the USA, and more recently the formation of our first Chapter in mainland China, with members in Shanghai getting together last month and an academic conference planned in Malaysia next year. It may be slightly tempting fate but the Association has also been shortlisted for a national award for its webinar Wednesday programme, which provides accessible professional development for members and non-members alike, and as they say on all such occasions, the results are in but unfortunately they won’t be known for another week..
One of the most satisfying elements of this annual conference and exhibition, is that we have seen continued growth in the event year on year, and the opportunities it presents for members to come together to share knowledge. Once again the conference is bigger and better than the previous year.
Your President, Ben Bradford has made very clear that one of the key objectives of his Presidential term is to raise awareness of professional ethics and responsibility, and in seeking excellence in the built environment it is essential that the highest standards of professional conduct are maintained.
Over the next day and a half you will hear much about excellence, quality and ethical conduct to reflect this key aim. Our Charter sets this out namely that we have to deliver on public interest first and foremost as the basis of our professional endeavours – and we will be judged by that.
There has been a great deal of focus on the uncertainty of the future of the construction sector following the referendum on continuing membership of the EU, however running alongside this there is an ever increasing call for the industry to provide more homes, better quality buildings, particularly new homes which achieve a much higher level of customer satisfaction, resulting in fewer complaints about developers, designers, warranties and building control.
In July of this year the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, of which I am a Vice-Chair published a report from the commission of inquiry into the quality and workmanship of new housing in England.
This report entitled “More homes, fewer complaints” made ten key recommendations to improve the position of the end user in the construction process and to embed the spirit of a duty of care to these householders upon those involved in the design, construction and evaluation of new build housing.
Earlier in the year the House of Lords Ad Hoc Committee for Government Policy on the Built Environment reported on what good design and construction quality means for place making, social cohesion and public health. In short, that quality in construction and design which goes beyond the bare minimum standards, also optimises social and financial investment.
The concept of improving quality and aiming for excellence is repeated throughout the conference programme before you, and the wide range of informed speakers will aim to give you an insight into the perspective of all of those involved as well as looking to provide updates on changes within the sector and hopefully some thought provoking papers which will generate ongoing debate.
And finally, the country needs more of you. The shortfall in competent technicians, project managers, quality controllers and construction practitioners is acute. We will make inefficient use of our available construction resource if it is not backed up, guided and directed effectively.
The Chartered Association needs your support in helping fill that gap.It simply remains for me to wish you a productive and informative conference which I now formally declare open.
Lord Lytton, 10 November 2016