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  • Lawrence Bailey

Making changes before they happen

A mantra drummed into me a long time ago is that being unprepared for change is a sure way of being swamped when it happens.

OK, this may be a blindingly obvious observation, given recent global events, but it’s nonetheless true, even in non-pandemic times.

My experience from working with a range of different ventures over the years is that what generally distinguishes the successful ones is an ability to adapt plus a willingness to innovate.

Let me share an example of a project on which I hold a watching brief. This is the CWIC Scaffolding Academy located at Bay Studios Business Park.

It may not sound like a particularly big deal but this £1.5m initiative is part of the Construction Wales Innovation Centre, a major purpose-built resource based at the University of Wales Trinity St David in SA1 Waterfront.

Backed by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the unique partnership is delivering world-class training and bespoke programmes for a sector that will prove crucial in aiding economic recovery.

As it happens, this expansion is going to coincide with a significant shift in the industry towards new energy efficient design and sustainability demands.

I visited the SA1 centre last year and was amazed by how they’ve geared technology towards boosting construction aptitude. Some of the techniques like tactile 3D simulation and virtual construction methods take things to a new level.

Their scaffolding academy, located further along Fabian Way, might seem more suited alongside a campus than a film studio complex. That’s where adaptability come in; for what you may not know is that film-set rigging involves much the same methodology where planning, speed and reliability are key factors.

Since opening last October, the nine-bay facility has seen some 27 apprentices complete respective programmes along with 36 students looking to further their studies in the field. It’s expected that around 350 students will pass through the centre in its first year.

This isn’t just about back-filling the skills gaps either. A pivotal part of the transformational training is making sure we have a workforce proficient in new methods and materials.

“Homes as power stations” has gone from being a futuristic concept to a reality. New energy efficient houses that don’t need central heating are up and occupied in the region and more are on the way.

The pace is picking up in terms of sustainability too. A key consideration in new schemes is how drainage and local ecology systems can be safeguarded.

The commercial sector is also finding it necessary to navigate its way around a changing development landscape. Advanced construction will be vital for revised spatial demands as we rethink our working environments.

It’s no surprise that this dynamic is already a driver in mixed schemes where housing associations and urban developers seek to future-proof their investment with an emphasis on biophilic (green) buildings.

All in all, the construction industry is experiencing change at a frightening pace and it will need outfits like CWIC to provide a technical lead where it can.

However, what’s badly needed now is for a practical two-way dialogue between Welsh government and those at the sharp end as to how policies can be cost-effectively put into substance on the ground over the coming decade.

That would make a welcome change in itself.




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