Enthusiasm, professionalism, and a love of punk rock — just the qualities you'd expect from Ian Eggers, CIOB Building Manager of the Year.
Construction management can be a thankless task. The long hours, the lashing rain, arbitrating between client, architect, operatives, site neighbours – and the demands of the Israeli prime minister – do not add up to a job likely to attract top-flight graduate talent, perhaps. So what persuaded Ian Eggers, the 36-year-old Mace man who has just been named building manager of the year, that this was the job for him?

The answer, says Eggers, is Lego. "I've always loved it. And to see something that you've helped to build rise out of the ground is an amazing feeling."

Even if the inspiration really was as simple as that, the harsh realities of site life certainly have little in common with small plastic bricks – as Eggers discovered first hand on his first job. This was an army training centre that he worked on for Tarmac in a year out from his civil engineering degree. "My office was on stilts, the door wouldn't shut and inside it was disgusting. I had a bunch of bricklayers sleeping under a raised floor because they couldn't find any digs," he says.

That experience played a big role in informing his approach to construction management. The Eggers philosophy is that if people are treated badly, they will work badly. "You have to have respect for everyone on site," he says. "From the scaffolders to the canteen lady; everyone has a role to play."

In practice, this consists of at least three things. First, as Mace colleague Ian Crockford (himself a Chartered Institute of Building award-winner) says, Eggers tries to create a non-hierarchical structure in the office. We are all in this together. Second, he tries to keep the site as clean and safe as possible, with decent amenities and services. We are all in this together – as comfortably as possible. Third, he encourages once weekly trips to the pub so that people can get gripes off their chests outside the formal chain of command. Although we are all in this together, it is still your round.

As you might expect, Eggers has a string of prestigious project to his credit. Right now he's working on the £40m Greater London Authority headquarters at Tower Bridge, sharing an office with the "fantastic team" of Arup and Davis Langdon & Everest. (He is adamant that the project will open on time and to budget.) However, his first big job came after he was poached from Tarmac in 1987 to join the Bovis B division. This is the Bovis team that worked on Rosehaugh Stanhope's Broadgate development in the City of London, at the time the biggest of its type in Europe, and the project that launched so many glittering careers.

Yet Eggers was not as bowled over by the experience as you might expect. "It was a new way of working," he says, but it was not the job he is most proud of. That was a group of four buildings in the Ludgate area in the City, "not as big as Broadgate but we did good work with a skills shortage and an even tighter budget".

Nor was it as difficult as Carlton Gardens, the project that made him the CIOB's Building Manager of the Year. This was, says Eggers, a straightforward nightmare. It was a £28m luxury apartment block (penthouses at £3.75m, anyone?) in the heart of the St James conservation area in the West End, wedged between the RAC and Reform clubs. Eggers had to plan all the noisy work around heavy schedules of banquets and evening gatherings. If that did not test his management skills sufficiently, he once had to close the site with 12 hours' notice because Binyamin Netanyahu, the then Israeli prime minister, was in town to visit foreign secretary Robin Cook, whose official residence was across the street.

So, what's next for Eggers? He says he wants to stay in the business. He is not fazed by the constant takeover speculation that surrounds Mace, the company he joined in 1990, joining the exodus from Bovis. "It's a good business, so I can understand why people would want it," he says, but adds that he likes Mace's independence.

The job offers came in thick and fast after the award, but he says he is in no hurry to leave Mace. He joined the board last year, but insists that he has no ambitions to go further up the ladder. "Jobs like that change people, they go all corporate," he says. In fact, his plan is to try to inspire the next generation of construction managers. "I would like to become a lecturer. They have a great lifestyle and I would like to give something back. Young people turn up without having any idea about what life on site is really like."

But Eggers does not intend to swap site life for academia just yet. "It will take five years to get the construction bug out of my system."

Personal effects

Who’s who in your family? I’ve been married to Hilary, a systems analyst with IBM, for 10 years. We have two sons; Eddie, aged six, and George, three. When I came home with the CIOB medal, Eddie thought I had been in the Olympics. Where do you live? Winchester. I’d move back to London tomorrow but we couldn’t afford the kind of lifestyle we have here, and anyway my wife works nearby. What music do you listen to? It’s got to be punk rock. The Clash and The Sex Pistols. At football, I drive the lads mad by taking a tape-player into the changing room and blasting them with the Pistols. What would be your dream project? I’d say Wembley except that I don’t fancy the politics behind it. So it has to be redeveloping Upton Park (West Ham’s ground). What car do you drive? A Ford Galaxy. It’s a family car. You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff two kids need.