The ULI UK Construction Masterclass on 28th March, started with an introduction from Peter Rogers on his career beginnings. Since he was very young, Peter has been fascinated by how to assemble things: “I knew I wanted to build but I wasn’t sure what.”
Peter went on to tell us about his first meeting with Sir Stuart Lipton. It was in the late 1970s, whilst he was the contractor and Lipton the developer of the commercial Cutlers Gardens scheme in the City. This was the beginning of the well-known long-time collaboration between the pair, who went on to found Stanhope together.
Peter spoke his work on the MI5 headquarters to illustrate that client presence in meetings is key in order to have everyone on board throughout the delivery of a project: “clients need to put a lot of effort in for it to work.” And this is exactly what Stella Rimington, former Director General of MI5, did for the MI5 HQ, attending all development meetings.
One of Peter’s most memorable projects was the renowned Broadgate office complex around Liverpool Street station, a scheme that stretched the boundaries of the City of London, and which was inaugurated by Margaret Thatcher.
Peter also raised a number of key challenges that the industry is facing. Engineers and architects continue to be trained in silos. Contractors in the property industry have very low margins, and this is one of the main reasons why there is a continuing lack of investment and innovation in the sector. A lack of workforce skills in the labour market continues to be an issue, despite the repeated government reviews.
Peter gave an excellent piece of advice: “A good contractor is reliable, provides quality, builds on time and on budget. Looking for, and sticking with, a good contractor is more important than going after savings offered by another.”
In the second part of the masterclass Tom Bradley, Project Executive at Lipton Rogers Developments, gave a fascinating presentation on the challenges faced, and innovative engineering solutions employed during his time working on 122 Leadenhall (The Cheesegrater), having been Engineering Lead for Laing O’Rourke. In case you wondered about the distinctive shape of the building: it comes from one of St Paul’s Cathedral’s eight protected view corridors. One of the challenges in construction was that the central gravity is different from a square building. As such, models of the buildings had to be monitored and reviewed regularly to make sure the building was stable and moving as expected. In fact, as the building lacks a conventional core, the stability comes from the K-bracings visible on the facade.
The masterclass’ Q&A session finished with a discussion on how the Government’s procurement system is not giving enough space to small companies, which can only be viewed as a shame, as they tend to be more entrepreneurial and hold a stronger company identify – something valued greatly by Peter and Tom.
Words by Pauline Niesseron, Greater London Authority & Young Leader responsible for the ULI UK Masterclass series.