Friday last week saw most of the Construction News team leave our desks and head out to sites across the country for the first Open Doors weekend.
While I was in Bristol, my colleagues were in Cambridge, Manchester, Birmingham and London joining members of the public to get an inside view of what the industry can offer.
We took pictures, we tweeted, and we ooh’d and ah’d along with everyone else. It was a truly inspiring day – and that was for CN journalists who’d been to sites before; the awe felt by people who were behind the hoardings for the first time was tangible.
On the same day, back at the office, the remaining members of the team published the story that the latest official figures show construction output is at its lowest level for 13 years. It was almost enough to take the wind out of everyone’s sails. Almost, but not quite.
The industry doesn’t need official figures to reveal how bad it is: contractors of all sizes already know. Friday’s statistics came in the same week that we’d had the sad news that 100-year old contractor Patton had entered administration and that the UK’s largest contractor had almost 20 per cent wiped off its share value after issuing a profit warning.
But what the construction industry does need is to continue striving to ensure its potential is realised – in both senses of the word. Everyone working in construction thinks the industry is not as good as it could be at promoting itself or its potential.
Open Doors weekend was a fantastic initiative on a scale unlike anything the industry has done before. The best thing about it was that it was national and local at the same time: it emphasised the industry’s strength when contractors take a stand together while displaying its flexibility, innovation and sheer variety from site to site.
Open Doors must not be a one-off. Let’s make it an event in the year that people know and look forward to, like the equivalent Open House event in architecture and initiatives beyond the built environment. This will require more promotion, less fear of what people might find and see on site (clients, I’m talking to you!) and the same self-fulfilling belief that this industry is one worth shouting about, showing off and ultimately one of the very best to work in.