As the first quarter of 2022 comes to an end, we have been reflecting on and celebrating the achievements of Copper’s Construction Practice.

From a recruitment perspective we are delighted to have welcomed several new starters to the Construction Practice, to support a strong start to the year and further growth.

While our Director, Caroline Romback, has been appointed to the board of the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS) as a non-executive director, enabling us to further contribute to knowledge and best practice sharing across our client, contractor and consultant audiences, and wider industry.

As part of that knowledge sharing, we’ve delivered a range of thought leadership campaigns. Back in February, our paper: ‘Levelling up: a construction perspective’, was published and unpacked across media/social media.  This document helped decipher the contents and reactions to Michael Gove’s Levelling Up White Paper, which sets out how the Government will spread levelling up opportunities more equally across the country and the impact these new policies will have on the construction sector. Our news story analyses the 12 topics incorporated in the paper and how this will impact the future of UK construction.

Also in February, we were proud to highlight talent across the industry as part of National Apprenticeship Week. We drew on the skills of individuals from our clients, featuring some incredible professionals from Transpennine Route Upgrade (East), National Highways, J.P Murphy and Sons, and Eiffage. All those who featured spoke with passion and authority on the benefits of recruiting apprentices.

In March, Copper hosted an industry leaders round table, in partnership with Construction News, focused on how we build back better with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Participating organisations, including HS2, Heathrow, Considerate Constructors Scheme and multiple Tier 1 contractors, shared their insights and best practice from across the sector.

We were also privileged to showcase a diverse range of leading women during Women in Construction Week and International Women’s Day, including features from inspirational women, such as Carolyne Ferguson from Kier Highways, Natalie Penrose from HS2, and our very own Fiona Woolston.

Copper is proud to ‘buck the trend’ with our Construction Practice having such a strong female presence. We’ve long been advocates for inclusivity in the Construction industry and are proud to practice what we preach.

March also saw us confirming our membership of Social Value UK, aligning with our Social Value specialism at Copper and an increasing focus in this area in support of contractors and clients developing early approaches at bid stage, through to on the ground delivery at construction stage.

Our final highlight for March is our response to the Spring Statement Report by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to highlight and explain what the government’s fiscal decisions mean for the UK Construction industry and its impact on our sector in the years to come.

We’re only three months in, but our plans for the rest of the year remain just as ambitious.  Our next exciting event is Net Zero: A Material Consideration. This breakfast panel discussion will feature construction product manufacturers, architects, contractors, and consultancies. It will consider some of the ways in which the built environment can address Net Zero carbon and explore the steps the industry is taking to increase the circularity of the construction industry.

We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Social Value Act by asking Social Value industry experts to contribute to a Copper podcast led campaign and insight report. We look forward to sharing the findings with our network.

We’ll also be attending UK Construction Week (London) in May 2022, the UK’s largest built environment event with various shows and stalls, allowing us to engage with our wider construction colleagues.

For more information on our work, or if you’re interested in discussing this article further, please get in touch with our Director, Caroline Romback, at: caroline.romback@copperconsultancy.com

Challenge

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is part of the Government’s strategy to keep the lights on in the UK. National Grid is building a high-voltage grid connection for the project, between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. In 2009, we were tasked to develop and deliver a consultation strategy to support the Development Consent Order application. We have been retained ever since, taking this major project from planning through to construction. The project is in construction, and we continue to support National Grid and its contractors. Our team also works to protect and enhance National Grid’s reputation to leave a positive legacy for the project.

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Insight

Hinkley Point C is a nationally significant infrastructure project and a major investment in the region’s electricity network. However there was significant local opposition to the proposals throughout the planning and development stages. This posed a risk to the project if it were to continue into the construction stage. We needed to switch the communications approach from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ and reposition the narrative to concentrate on the project’s benefits.

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Strategy

We worked closely with National Grid’s team to identify and promote positive stories about the project. We used this as the foundation to develop and implement a sustainable programme of project communications to meet the formal requirements of the Development Consent Order.

To minimise the risks of project delays, opposition and criticism we provide clear and timely information to stakeholders about the work in their area too, and quickly respond to any concerns. We devised procedures to inform and update local communities and other stakeholders about construction work and the steps National Grid and its contractors take to reduce local impact. We also put processes in place to monitor the mood of local communities, allowing us to identify and respond rapidly to any emerging issues.

Amplify

Since construction started, we have communicated with more than 10,000 households. We also maintain and regular update a project website, making it the ‘go to’ place for stakeholders to learn the latest information. We have established positive relationships with local community groups and parish councils and use these links to help spread information as widely as possible. Should there be any concerns amongst the public, a responsive 24-hour contact centre service enables the local community to get a swift response.

Outcome

Despite the highly disruptive nature of the work, there is widespread public acceptance of the project. A minimal number of complaints have been received and no issues have been escalated by local residents or community stakeholders to the media or their elected members. These successes have given National Grid the confidence to reposition the project narrative going forward. In the future, communications and engagement will place an even greater emphasis on the positive impact and benefits National Grid will bring to the area over the next five years and beyond.

Challenge

Cadent is carrying out essential gas mains replacement work across London, replacing ageing metal gas pipes with new plastic ones. Our role is to work closely with Cadent and their contractors to deliver a strong communications strategy, ensuring all affected communities and stakeholders know the benefits and critical nature of the works.

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Insight

The work poses potential disruption to those living in the community and local businesses. With the risk of negative community reaction and opposition, we’re tasked with clearly articulating how Cadent is committed to delivering gas mains replacement works across London, particularly in high profile areas, in the safest and fastest way possible to local communities. While Cadent is making sure the customer experience of gas works is as non-disruptive as possible, it remains vital that the economic and community benefits of the gas mains replacement programme are promoted.

In granting Cadent permission to undertake the work, Transport for London and local authorities in multiple London boroughs asked for a significant commitment to stakeholder engagement.

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Strategy

Our targeted strategic approach concentrates on articulating the essential nature of these gas mains replacement works and developing mutual understanding and tolerance for the work amongst communities across London. We continue to explain the consideration given to residents and businesses in the planning of works and efforts to keep disruption to a minimum, while emphasising the long-term benefits for the capital. We have also implemented processes to protect Cadent’s reputation and minimise adverse reactions.

Amplify

We created and maintain a robust communications narrative around the project’s community and safety considerations and are working with Cadent and contractor teams to ensure they live these values. Our team is continually producing promotional materials to explain the needs for the works and translate complex engineering information into concise explanations to generate understanding and acceptance from the public.

Public exhibitions, community liaison working group meetings and briefings relating to key developments for local MPs, councils, schools, businesses and the wider public are integral to our engagement strategy. This is underpinned by providing regular stakeholder updates through email and letters to mitigate risk of project delays and sustained stakeholder opposition.

To mitigate the risk of project delays, negative media coverage or sustained stakeholder opposition, we respond to stakeholder feedback, using the expertise and specialist information provided by Cadent project teams working across London.

Outcome

This project is ongoing. So far, we have successfully helped Cadent articulate the importance of investing in London’s gas mains replacement programme to millions of stakeholders. Clear, concise, relevant and timely information and materials are being delivered every day. We have improved political, business and community stakeholder relationships with Cadent, as well as communication channels between Cadent and the city’s other key service providers.

In his flagship levelling up white paper Michael Gove has set a path for the future of UK construction. What does this white paper actually say, and crucially is it enough?

The levelling up paper is made up of 12 key areas, however most relevant are the focus on Local Leadership, and Pride in Place.

Arguably, Local Leadership is the most prominent part of Gove’s herculean 12 ‘missions’ with its focus on devolution. Gove signals a shift away from Whitehall towards a system change implementing the “London style mayors” in other regions of the UK, with nine areas so far being invited to negotiate these powers. What this will mean, and whether a London mayoral system will serve these areas, will have to be seen. As Zoe Billingham, co-director from the Centre for Progressive Policy’ states “without fresh funding in the next budget, local leaders will lack the fiscal firepower to deliver on the Government’s good intentions”.

Some could argue, and the paper itself actually references, how this idea of devolution through mayors has been largely inspired by Europe, especially Paris where the mayor has greater powers in terms of welfare, schools and some aspects of health. An interesting aspect to watch will be what this devolution will mean in terms of planning regulations on a national and local level.

Under the banner of Pride in Place and ‘Restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging’, the ambition to regenerate 20 of England’s towns and cities is highlighted. This is heavily focussed on remediating brownfield land, and a combined public and private sector approach to ‘transformational developments’ including ‘housing, retail and business in sustainable, walkable, beautiful new neighbourhoods’. This will be supported by the Office for Place which is currently an advisory board for the government’s Planning for the Future. Again, what this means for the future in terms of planning or construction is not really expanded upon.

Interestingly, as MACE’s CEO Jason Millett comments in Property Week, the regeneration of derelict areas is a step forward but, the report could go further to put sustainability truly at the heart of the levelling up fund by mentioning initiatives such as retrofitting older properties. Millet goes on to point out that ‘with 80% of building stock by 2050 already built, failing to reduce the emissions from these buildings could further disadvantage local communities.’

How the report will ultimately address sustainability, let alone how Net Zero will be managed given greater powers of devolution, is not clear. Yet, as Stephanie Hyde, chief executive at JLL UK states, the “substantial commitments to funding for regeneration and housebuilding in the Levelling Up white paper underlines the central role that the real estate industry has to play in supporting this important agenda”.

In Copper’s recent levelling up podcast featuring the Financial Times’ Whitehall Editor, Sebastian Payne, Payne states how the levelling up white paper is the first serious granular attempt to address the national disparity that came to the fore during the 2016 Brexit referendum and 2019 general election. Payne describes it as a fundamentally interventionalist approach which demonstrates a new conservative steer away from traditional party by-lines. Payne goes on to state the major problem for the white paper will be the investment that’s required and if a more fiscally conservative government is willing to back it.

Overall, there has been a mixed response to the paper, with the British Property Federation saying that the delivery of the government’s ambition needs to be “bolder” and that the paper itself could have gone further. Where it has excelled, and as Stephen Beechy, Group Sector Director at Wates Group highlighted, it shows how the construction industry has a critical role to play in delivering government targets. It will certainly be interesting to see how far this paper will go in practice to revolutionise the way in which the UK system operates, and whether the 2030 deadline will be met. Ultimately, we will have to wait and see, and as Andrew McFarlane, Head of Regions at Colliers has said, we hope that the paper goes far enough to “level up our regions once and for all”.

Copper Consultancy has appointed two senior construction communications specialists, to support the agency’s growth, strengthening the construction team and demonstrating Copper’s commitment to clients and the development of major infrastructure projects throughout the UK.

Copper has an established pedigree in construction communications, helping the largest projects across the country to maintain and enhance their licence to operate, while supporting major construction companies to achieve their goals. Copper’s construction practice has continued to grow substantially in the last year, supporting projects including Hinckley Point C Grid Connection, West Midlands Interchange, HS2, and working for companies including National Highways, Cadent Gas, National Grid, Costain and Murphy.

Georgina Bass joins as Associate Director following recent senior roles at built environment communications agency Redwood Consulting and in-house at property developer Delancey, bringing a proven track record of strategic communications delivery and developing placemaking initiatives to promote cross-functional relationships contributing to business growth. She has advised on some of the largest and most complex construction programmes in London, such as the Elephant and Castle Town Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Earls Court.

These skills, combined with previous agency experience of delivering creative campaigns for construction product brands such as Prysmian, Knauf and Serge Ferrari, help to add value to Copper clients and will drive continuous growth within the construction team.

Commenting on her appointment, Georgina said: “I am thrilled to have joined Copper at a very busy and exciting time for the construction team and the company as a whole, as client confidence and investment into the sector begins to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“My previous experience will help provide strategic support for clients and drive business development into new areas of the construction sector. I am looking forward to supporting the substantial ongoing growth of Copper as it continues to tackle some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects.”

Ella Sanders, joins as Account Manager from Faithful + Gould, bringing with her a wealth of experience in communications and stakeholder engagement to assist clients as they navigate the complex regulatory process associated with major infrastructure projects.

Speaking of her appointment, Ella said: “I’m extremely excited to join such a dynamic and fast-growing team. The construction space has evolved rapidly in the past year and Copper is exceptionally well positioned to deliver insightful, data-driven and creative communications. I’m looking forward to building on the success of the business and delivering for our clients.”

Director of Construction, Caroline Romback commented on the appointment: “During the last 12 months the construction business has gone from strength to strength. We’re working with more and higher profile clients than ever before and are running dynamic and engaging campaigns.

“This is an exciting period for Copper and we look forward to Georgie and Ella providing integral roles in helping to realise our ambitions to grow the construction business and contribute to Copper’s continued success as a leading communications consultancy.”

Copper is currently recruiting additional talent to help deliver a range of exciting projects across its Construction, Economic Development and Infrastructure sectors.

To find out about our latest job opportunities, visit our careers page or get in touch at careers@copperconsultancy.com.

As a specialist communications consultancy that’s dedicated to infrastructure, we have a unique opportunity to become involved across the whole development lifecycle. We have a role from policy development, through planning, construction and eventual operation of everything from roads, to windfarms to schools and hospitals.

Despite the brief hiatus caused by Covid-19, we are enormously optimistic about the state of our sector. The UK has faced numerous challenges for decades, from imbalances in the economy, to low levels of productivity and poor connectivity, to the looming need to decarbonise energy generation and transport.

These problems have seemed insurmountable. But that may just be changing.

There has been an acceptance across all levels of government that things can and must change fundamentally if we are to establish a successful net zero economy. That change will be all pervasive, impacting our working, as well as domestic lives, and it is inspiring an infrastructure revolution.

The outcome is that the infrastructure sector is booming, and Copper is growing fast to help accommodate and support it. We have expanded substantially in recent years, increasing the number of projects we are working on, the sectors we support and the services we offer. We expect to continue that growth in years to come, and see that our partners across the infrastructure sectors are experiencing the same increase in opportunity.

The biggest single thing that we need to capitalize on that opportunity, and to enable the change to UK infrastructure that’s needed, is to boost the availability of great people.

We have worked enormously hard to attract people into Copper, but more broadly into the infrastructure sector. We recruit at all levels, from those beginning their working life, to experienced seasoned professionals, and we are continuing to do so.

But the whole industry needs to capitalize on our moment in the spotlight, not to achieve short term growth, but to revitalize our offering to the people we work with and ensure that we are able to attract the brightest and the best people, from all walks of life.

We can offer a career path that provides rapid development, but perhaps more importantly enables people to make a tangible difference to the country. We cant promise an easy life, as infrastructure projects are complex and frequently demanding, but we can promise a job with an enormous amount of satisfaction and sense of achievement.

But that must be matched with offering ways of working that are compatible with modern family life, that are flexible and that trust people to work how, when and where will deliver the best outcomes, rather than forcing people to comply with outdated office-bound structures.

In our own really small way we are trying to take a lead in this area, enabling a completely flexible working arrangement, and allowing our highly capable team to work in ways that are right for them. People at Copper can work from any of our three offices in Bristol, Birmingham and London as suits them, but also remotely, and to decide how they structure their working week.

We support a wide range of working arrangements, with a number of our team choosing to work part time to support family commitments or academic studies.

We also offer an increasingly flexible range of benefits, including a fitness fund to support wellbeing and a flexible training fund to support personal and career development, in addition to on the job training and support.

We are far from a perfect employer and we are continuously striving to do better, with our dedicated People and Culture Director helping to ensure that we do everything we can to attract the very best people from across our industry and beyond, and to demonstrate the wonderfully fulfilling career that infrastructure can offer.

 

Carol Stitchman, Technical Director Rail Group, WSP 

In Copper’s Perspectives series on UK rail stations, we’re asking construction sector leaders for their insights on challenges and opportunities arising from the new ‘golden age’ of station development. 

Following on from her role as a panelist in Copper Consultancy’s recent event, Insights from a new golden age of rail stations, Carol provides a behind-the-scenes account of modern station design and accessibility. 

The redeveloped Birmingham New Street Station opened in September 2015 after a £750 million transformation. Carol’s work at Birmingham New Street spanned 14 years from feasibility to completion. 

As Head of Design for Network Rail, I worked to transform Birmingham New Street station into a major transport and shopping hub, stimulating economic growth and regeneration for the Midlands region. Today, Birmingham New Street is the busiest major station outside of London. 

At the heart of the development of Birmingham New Street is inclusive design. Inclusive design aims to deliver spaces and places for everyone and puts people at the core? of the design process of spaces and places. In the development of Birmingham New Street, we worked with stakeholder panels to help us develop spaces that were truly inclusive, ensuring that people were at the centre of the design process, so everyone can use the railway safely, easily and with dignity. 

We did a lot of work around accessibility with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities and the largest community of blind and partially sighted people. A key priority for us was how could we make Birmingham New Street station a lot easier to navigate for the visually impaired. 

The RNIB suggested that most members would want to first and foremost be able to access and navigate to the ticket office simply to buy tickets and or seek assistance for travel. To do this in a vast area, we located the ticket office in the centre of the station. In this area, we included a contrasting floor surface in the centre of the station in the atrium. We referred to this as a ‘pebble in the pond’, and the flooring in this area, glass blocks, differentiated texturally with the granite surface around it. If you are sweeping your cane in that area, you can feel the change in texture helping you to identify exactly where you are in the station. 

We also included sensory aroma cues to act as a navigational aid in the centre of the station. The Pret a Manger coffee shop which has a distinctive smell has been deliberately placed centrally by the textured flooring to act as another navigational instruction for our visually impaired travellers and visitors. Both sensory indicators are designed to tell visually impaired customers that they are in the centre of the station and the ticket office is located right in front of them. 

There are three distinct entrances into Birmingham New Street station, and we also created a ‘shoreline’ to help with access into the station. Shorelines are an important element of how a visually impaired person navigates. Shore lining is following a wall, kerb, hedge or other contrasting surface to the one a person is walking on to maintain a specific orientation while travelling through environments to arrive at a decision-making point. Shore lining allows a person to use their cane either to constantly contact a surface or use two-point touch technique to cross an open space and easily travel towards the station. 

From speaking to visually impaired groups interviewed early in the design stage, we found that they often counted the number of steps to help them navigate themselves from point A to point B, so we placed positioned lighting columns in particular locations along the shoreline at the eastern entrance opposite the Bullring and a certain distance apart, so they acted as another helpful navigational aid. 

Looking to future station developments in the city, the future HS2 Curzon Street Station in Birmingham – which, when built, will be the first brand new intercity terminus built in Britain since the 19th century – is unique, as it has a lot of landscaping around it which is very unusual for a railway station in a city centre location. 

One distinct feature of the Curzon Street Station design is the change of levels from the different entrances from the east of the west. One question we asked ourselves when designing this new station is how we could help our visually impaired passengers navigate through each entrance/exit, so they know which entrance they are approaching. 

To help announce to visually impaired passengers which entrance they are arriving towards, we asked our landscape architects to introduce scented landscaping that would differ at each entrance/exit to help with navigation, and we also included shorelines into the design, like at Birmingham New Street. Shorelines at Curzon Street include the buttresses that are part of the architectural design that support the roof. 

In the Curzon Street design, a customer information hub has replaced the traditional ticket office. Following feedback from visually impaired groups, this is placed directly at the front of the station western entrance and not at a right angle to the main entrance. Obstacle detection and warning can improve the mobility, as well as the safety of visually impaired people especially in unfamiliar environments. 

Based on our increased understanding and consideration of wellbeing and mental health awareness, a new element has been incorporated in the Curzon Street Station design to help our passengers who perhaps are not comfortable in large crowds. Large transport buildings like railway stations and airports attract large numbers of people, however for some, this is not a comfortable situation to be in. We incorporated quiet rooms in the design where people can retreat from the crowds. For passengers who would prefer not to be inside at all, the Curzon Street station design has a large public square to the western entrance with the opportunity to create areas outside where they can wait in a place of safety and be under cover, sheltered from the sun and the rain. 

Accessibility in station design must be a priority. Taking a journey by train is not as straightforward process for all passengers. Passengers have unique needs, therefore, it’s vitally important that this is taken into consideration in station design. Speaking directly to groups that use our stations means we have a better understanding of how we can design infrastructure that is accessible and inclusive for everyone, ensuring that all passengers can use and move through the station safely and independently. 

Carol Stitchman, Technical Director Rail Group, WSP has worked in the railway industry for over 20 years. Major projects under Carol’s belt include Birmingham New Street station where she was Head of Design and led the design for the station redevelopment. Following her award-winning work at Birmingham New Street for Network Rail, Carol went on to work for WSP as a Technical Director in the Rail Group division. 

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Hala Lloyd, Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations, HS2 Ltd

In Copper’s Perspectives series on UK rail stations, we’re asking construction sector leaders for their insights on challenges and opportunities arising from the new ‘golden age’ of station development.

Following on from her role as a panelist in Copper Consultancy’s recent event, Insights from a new golden age of rail stations, Hala highlights the importance of major station developments leaving behind a positive and lasting legacy.

In her role as HS2 Lead Architect, Hala will help deliver the station buildings and public realm at both Curzon Street Station and Interchange Station. A key element of her work includes leading design engagement with the independent design review panel and key local stakeholders.

I have been fortunate enough to help deliver some notable station developments in the UK. I now support HS2, the largest infrastructure project in the UK since the Victorian age and one of the most prominent in Europe. In its entirety, the project will include 345 miles of new high-speed track connecting Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London.

HS2 will connect 30 million people and eight of our largest cities, with 25 stops from Scotland to the southeast. My role is to help bring forward the Phase One station buildings and public realm at both Curzon and Interchange in Birmingham and Solihull, respectively. While station functionality is crucial to the project, it is also essential to consider where they are and how they will impact current and future generations living nearby.

Our design vision for Curzon and Interchange aimed to secure a lasting legacy right from the outset. Our plans are underpinned by three pillars that informs our design approach, guidance and station requirements. Firstly, people will use the stations, so we must ensure that everyone benefits from and enjoys our design. Secondly, we recognise the importance of place. We have developed designs that make the stations a destination and somewhere people want to be, not merely a means to travel. Thirdly, we want our stations to last for a long time while benefiting their local communities. To hold our local stakeholders and us to account, an independent design review panel regularly measures our progress against these fundamental principles.

We are also keen that our stations designs align with local strategies. For Curzon, we have collaborated with Birmingham City Council to identify five key moves required to embed the station in its setting. This will enable future regeneration to take place in this part of the city. We are supporting Urban Growth Company and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with their plan for regional growth in the UK Central Hub. We want Interchange to become a major catalyst for economic growth there, bringing together the NEC campus, Birmingham Airport, Arden Cross, Jaguar Land Rover and Birmingham Business Park.

We have established some twenty-first century game-changing design requirements for Curzon and Interchange, aiming to create a lasting legacy.

Firstly, we have set out to ensure safety considerations span the lifetime of the stations, all the way from design to deconstruction. To meet this goal, our stations designers have looked to maximise an off-site manufacturing and, pre-fabrication mode of construction.

To set new benchmarks for equality, diversity and inclusivity, we are ensuring high standards permeate through design requirements, engagement, activities and delivery. As a result, we are already driving diverse and inclusive outcomes. For example, we have set mandatory requirements above current industry guidance for inclusive customer experience, including gender-neutral toilets, adult changing places, facilities for guide dogs and faith and quiet rooms.

The final key design requirement is to build sustainable stations to help the UK meet its commitment to become a net-zero economy by 2050. Consequently, we have set a BREAAM target of ‘Excellent’ for all stations, placing them in the top 10% of UK buildings. We have also established a requirement for all stations to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to the Phase 1 baseline assessments. Again, our station designers have responded to our challenges. ARUP exceeded our target by achieving a BREAAM ‘Outstanding’ certification for Interchange. This is a global first for any train station and puts it in the top 1% of UK buildings to achieve this rating at design stage.

We endeavour to leave a lasting legacy by upskilling Britain. We have already begun to meet this aspiration and intend to keep up our strong start. To start with, at peak construction, we will need 30,000 people to design and build HS2, including over 2,000 apprentices. More than 2,000 businesses have already delivered work on HS2, and 70% are SME’s. Throughout this project, we will always aim to maximise training and employment opportunities both at HS2 and in our extensive supply chain. This will not be exclusive to the south either, with employment opportunities available along the entire Phase 1 and 2 routes.

Community engagement and art and culture are of fundamental importance to the station projects and their legacy. Thus, we have sought to embed creative design thinking in developing and delivering our stations from the beginning. Additionally, we have engaged with local communities in the design stages for both stations to maximise inclusivity. Our engagement involves many activities and spans HS2 and our supply chain, including leafletting to homes, engagement events, displays, and interactive presentations.

Our engagement has generated a tremendous amount of feedback, especially on the design of the stations. The key messages we developed around Curzon and Interchange adhered to peoples’ opinions on external landscaping, diverse environments and heritage. The feedback has also been absolutely invaluable in helping our designers to progress the projects. While we have held thousands of engagement events involving numerous attendees, our engagement needs to ramp up now that the station contractor has been confirmed for Curzon. The same requirement will exist for Interchange when a contractor is selected.

In essence, our objective to leave a longstanding legacy is integral to the station projects at Curzon and Interchange. We have already begun bringing this into reality through our design vision and requirements, the employment opportunities we have created, and the brilliant feedback we have listened to through our community engagement. Of particular note, the sustainability credentials of the stations are of utmost importance as they can play a crucial role in promoting a positive agenda. It is not just about how they technically perform, but it is also about sustainable community growth. Younger generations must be brought along in our development process because their insights are vital, and they will benefit from the outcomes they influence.

Hala Lloyd joined HS2 in 2016 as part of the engineering team. Then in 2017, she was appointed Lead Architect for the Phase One Area North stations. Hala has over twenty years of experience working on transformational public sector projects, including the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street Station and Crossrail at Farringdon.

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There are many benefits to working in the construction sector. The sector contributes greatly to economic growth and has a big impact on both the economy and society. Not only does the industry account for 10% of the UK’s total employment, but the outputs of the industry also touch us all, from schools and hospitals to our homes and workplaces. The sector provides the infrastructure we need to give us a better quality of life. But what about the lives of those working in the sector?

This week, it is Mental Health Awareness Week which takes place from 10 to 16 May, it’s the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health. It is our reminder to regularly have those conversations about mental health in the hope it becomes more familiar, less daunting and no longer stigmatised.

Construction is a great sector to work in (I’ll testify to that) but it makes stark reading to be reminded that despite making concerted efforts in this area, the industry has one of the highest rates of mental health issues. Given the vital impact the industry has on all our lives, it is crucial that the sector continues to focus on supporting and helping to improve mental health amongst colleagues as a priority.

Known for high workloads, tight deadlines and financial pressures there are a range of factors in the sector which make it a perfect breeding ground for stress and anxiety. These can be coupled with pressures outside of work for example with family or friends that can provide further sources of tension. It is not always the easiest of environments to speak up and start a conversation and say that you are struggling or confide in your colleagues that something is wrong.

Nonetheless, the sector is working hard to make it less daunting to speak up, so the emphasis is truly on ‘health and safety’ and not just safety.  Workplaces have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to do all they reasonably can to support the health, safety, and wellbeing of their people. Yes, we still need to worry and consider the physical dangers on worksites, but we need to consider the mental impacts of the workplace in equal measure and how to best address these and create a supportive environment for our colleagues and friends.

Like our physical health, our mental health can fluctuate, impacting on our moods and behaviours. Unlike physical health issues, it can be harder to pinpoint and address causes of our personal struggles and challenges. The recent public health coronavirus crisis has given us all another challenge to navigate through. Helping people navigate through work has never been more necessary for organisations to address than it is now.

The first step is something all workplaces can do, and that is committing to making a difference. Not just saying it – but doing it. From here, organisations can begin to start creating, sourcing, sharing, developing resources and initiatives that can support their people, from the top to the bottom.

The construction industry is known for sharing best practice and learning from experience. Throughout this week we will be sharing ideas and initiatives from a range of different organisations. We’ve asked them how they are tackling mental health in their workplaces for their people. This is our chance to share and learn from each other, and we look forward to starting this conversation with you.