Phil Clark finds members of Building’s new networking club in Manchester to be full of youthful ambition

To Manchester, and the second Phase One event, the club for new construction professionals. I wander past the striking new Hilton hotel tower on the way, designed by the evening’s special guest speaker, architect Ian Simpson.

He’s very keen on tall buildings, which appears to put him at odds with many locals. Despite objections to his bold schemes Simpson reckons in a few decades no-one will flinch at a shiny new slab being thrown up in a city centre. Not sure about that Ian, given that one of your ambitious new forms is due to spring up just a drop-kick away from Building’s HQ in Southwark, South London. What about my view of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament?

Simpson ran through some nice piccies and stressed the need for project teams to work together, then the networking began in earnest. The turnout is good tonight with nearly 100 bright new entrants to the industry sharing their excitement and enthusiasm for their future careers.

There are only a couple of casualties from the night – a couple of representatives from a borough council near Blackburn (I won’t name the exact place to protect them from embarrassment or disciplinary action) who took to the free drink on offer a little too enthusiastically and were ushered home by about 8pm.

I ended up in something of a cul-de-sac for the first half hour – everywhere I turned there was a Turner & Townsend staffer. A very friendly bunch they turned out to be, and undoubtedly committed to the social cause – one, cost manager Tom Wallbank, made the journey to the North West from flood-torn Sheffield and two of his colleagues managed to schlep it up from Nottingham through nose–to-tail traffic on the M1.

We talk flooding, what first attracted to them to quantity surveying and the recent antics of RICS Matrics members at their recent annual dinner. “Will getting drunk and destroying furniture be a new test within the APC?” one asked.

I circulate and discover a strong contingent from WSP, who have a 160-strong office in Manchester. Blimey. I end up chatting with three of them - one of them is angry about the ICE, one is getting frustrated with architects coming up with schemes that will end up being out of date, and another requests the DJ play a song by Mika and starts dancing in front of me. I think we can declare the evening a success.