Good beginning to week, but some fear it is too inward-looking to be a complete success.
National Construction Week got off to a healthy start on Monday with high-profile radio appearances and the promise of a raft of research tackling a range of industry issues.

Hammerson director Geoff Wright appeared on Radio 4's Today programme and Tarmac chief executive Sir Neville Simms was on Radio Five Live's 7.45am business section.

Wright had to fend off questions about cowboy builders, whereas Sir Neville was quizzed about skills shortages on millennium projects before he could get in a plug for the week.

There was early interest from television companies in the Midlands and from Carlton in London, with a whistle-stop site tour by Wright in Simms' helicopter proving a particular attraction. The Evening Standard and Sunday Business provided early press coverage.

But it was too early to say whether National Construction Week would prove a media hit, with more impact still likely to be gained through lower-profile visits and events. There was criticism that the launch event itself was attended only by industry leaders and sponsors' guests.

Political support

A video message from deputy prime minister John Prescott at the event's launch made it clear to guests that he believes there is still room for improvement in the industry.

He said National Construction Week was an opportunity for the industry to improve its image and commit itself to quality, to reduce accidents and to improve the way it works.

Overarching all this must be a commitment to quality. This is the vision I have for construction

Nick Raynsford

Construction minister Nick Raynsford underlined this, saying: "Overarching all this must be a commitment to quality. This is the vision I have for construction." Raynsford presented Tarmac with an award for being Britain's most considerate contractor after 10 of its sites won honours under the Considerate Constructors Scheme. South-east-based contractor Mount Anvil won an individual site Considerate Constructors award for its work on Holy Trinity Church in Maidstone, Kent.

Following on from The Improving Performance of the UK Construction Industry report, published with Building last week, two other publications have been issued.

Good reports

The People Report concluded that 113 000 extra skilled construction workers would be needed next year. It said Britain's construction workers were not as well rewarded as they should be and better training was also needed.

Raynsford said: "Construction companies have a key role to play. They have to commit to provide a more civilised working environment, and they also need to encourage more lifelong learning – training should be continuous." The second report, Construction: A 2020 Vision, sponsored by Morrison, will set out a vision of how the industry will look in 21 years. It predicts materials such as carbon fibre beams, self-mending plaster to eliminate cracks and walls that grow insulation in winter. It says developments such as cheap lasers for stripping paint will be able to cut waste from building sites and that buildings are likely to be preassembled by robots in factories.

A green focus group headed by Laing chairman Sir Martin Laing was also launched. Other members include Bovis' Homes chief Malcolm Harris, Ove Arup & Partners partner Lorna Walker and Crown House chief Brian Tock. However, the report warns that the industry must not become too pre-occupied with its own problems and ignore the need for high investment and opportunities to be gained from technology.