CN’s most-read comment pieces covered some of the year’s biggest talking points, including Grenfell, mental health and diversity.
Editor Tom Fitzpatrick reflected on some of the talking points from his exclusive interview with Laing O’Rourke chief executive Ray O’Rourke, including his plans to walk away from the group in three years’ time and his vision for the industry’s future.
As Tom said: “When Mr O’Rourke speaks, the industry sits up and takes notice.
“My perception of the 70-year-old is that he sees an open door at the moment, and meets enough clients, financiers and peers to know that this feels like a tipping point for the industry.
“There will be plenty of change at Laing O’Rourke in the coming years. But what won’t waver while Ray O’Rourke is in charge is his focus on people and the industry doing things a better way.”
As part of our coverage for International Women’s Day, Morgan Sindall graduate site manager Kathryn McAdam told us her story about leaving her career as an opera singer to move into construction.
“There are a lot of spaces in the industry that women could be filling and there’s a real call for women in the sector,” she said. “Of course, there are people in every industry who don’t believe there are roles for women in work, but I’ve found the culture on the sites I’ve worked on to be incredibly supportive, collegiate and affirming.
“From my experience, people entering the industry need to be prepared for a very direct, upfront culture. You have to be able to be humble sometimes and laugh at yourself.
“It’s also really important not to get hung up on the fact you’re a woman working in a male-dominated environment – being a key part of a well-functioning team is what’s important.”
The second entry in this top five from CN’s editor was written in the wake of the fire at Grenfell Tower.
The media glare had swiftly fallen on the construction industry, with questions rightly being asked about the industry’s failings and whether it was to blame for the fire.
Tom said: “Rydon and subcontractors Harley Facades have felt the ire of the nation’s press in particular this week, despite the lack of evidence as to why the fire ravaged the building.
“Rydon insists the work it carried out met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards and there is no proof that they have done anything other than conform to required standards at this time. But in the aftermath of Grenfell and in a new era of compassionate politics, it’s time for the industry to consider whether simply ‘meeting standards’ is enough.”
CN launched its Mind Matters campaign this year to help start a conversation about mental health.
As well as an extensive survey which revealed some striking statistics, we heard some stories from people in they industry about their own experiences with mental ill health.
One of these came from Warren Alexander-Pye, an associate director at Mace. “There isn’t a single day when you become ‘fixed’ after having had a mental health issue,” he said.
“But by ensuring the right support is in place for people re-entering work and greater awareness of mental health through proper education, the industry can go a long way in improving people’s lives and removing the stigma around mental health.”
Rounding out our top five is this piece from Yosof Ewing, the chief executive of Ewing ADR.
He was also responding to our mental health campaign, Mind Matters, specifically the results of CN’s mental health survey revealing that one in four construction workers had considered suicide.
He said: “Let’s get rid of the stigma surrounding mental health. Your brain is like any other part of your body and sometimes it needs a little help or work to ensure it performs as we want or need it to.
“I see many campaigns from construction firms about going home in one piece; maybe it’s time we added a bit about returning to work in one piece.”