Lara Oyedele talks about the importance of role models and inclusivity and the need to tackle construction’s ‘adversarial’ culture
Building magazine is 180 years old this year. What lessons about the built environment should we take from the past?
Well built, good quality buildings last ‘forever’.
Space and circulation (of people and air) are eternally appreciated and beneficial.
Who or what has had the most positive impact on construction in the past couple of decades?
Sir John Egan and Re-thinking Construction commission of 1998
What does the construction industry do well and why?
Adopting technological advancements and promoting itself.
What does construction industry do badly and why?
Relationships between so called partners always appear adversarial and confrontational. Grenfell is an example of where everyone in the chain is blaming everyone else and no one takes responsibility.
It is accepted as normal practice that delivery will always be over budget and late.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen during your career in construction?
There has been much greater emphasis on health and safety. However, construction still tops the list as one of the most dangerous industries to work for.
There are a few more women on sites and in the sector. However, progress on gender balance remains inadequate.
What do you think will have changed by the time Building celebrates its 200th anniversary?
Much more digitalisation. The integration of web enabled components will be an every-day standard practice and no longer just for those who can afford it.
The demographics of the sector will better represent society. There will be more women across the sector. There will be more ethnic, racial, religious and sexual orientation represented in the decision making and leadership roles.
If there is one thing individuals and firms could do to improve construction and the built environment what would it be?
I have two -
Standardisation – too much bespoke results in expensive maintenance. It also results in delays and waste.
Role models – Make the professions in the sector more attractive to millennials and generation z. They want organisations that are truly ethical, fair, represent diversity and are compassionate.
What is the best thing government can do to support the industry?
Make the architectural profession licensed.
Reduce the scope that planning officers have to refuse planning applications. Give community decisions more power than planning officers. Planning policy and approval is very precarious. Planning Officers have power but no responsibility. The appeal process is too expensive.
What do you hope the Building the Future Commission can achieve? And what role can you play?
Ensure we have increased supply of residential building via diverse providers. Alternatives to the large building / property development companies should be encouraged to provide at least a quarter of the nations output. These alternatives can include Community Land Trust, Housing Co-op and Self-build Groups.
A sector that is more diverse and representative.
What is your favourite building/piece of infrastructure and why?
No answer just now.
Tell us one thing you are passionate about outside of work
I love shoes and I want to eliminate homelessness.
Not enough homes for single people
Lara Oyedele, president, Chartered Institute of Housing
Building the Future Commission
The Building the Future Commission is a year-long project, launched to mark Building’s 180th anniversary, to assess potential solutions and radical new ways of thinking to improve the built environment.
The major project’s work will be guided by a panel of 19 major figures who have signed up to help guide the commission’s work culminatuing culminate in a report published at the end of the year.
The final line-up of commissioners includes figures from the world of contracting, housing development, architecture, policy-making, skills, design, place-making, infrastructure, consultancy and legal.
The commissioners include Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, Katy Dowding, executive vice president at Skanska, Richard Steer, chair of Gleeds, Lara Oyedele, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Mark Wild, former boss of Crossrail and chief executive of SGN and Simon Tolson, senior partner at Fenwick Elliott. See the full list here.
The project is looking at proposals for change in eight areas:
- Skills and education
- Energy and net zero
- Housing and planning
- Building safety
- Project delivery and digital
- Workplace culture and leadership
- Creating communities
Building the Future will also undertake a countrywide tour of roundtable discussions with experts around the regions as part of a consultation programme in partnership with the regional arms of industry body Constructing Excellence. It will also set up a young person’s advisory panel.
We will also be setting up an ideas hub and we want to hear your views.
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