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Interview with Andrew Carpenter: CEO of Constructing Excellence Midlands

Here, we caught up with Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence Midlands (CEM) to find out about the role of CE Midlands and how it is looking to overcome the housing crisis in the Midlands.

Andrew Carpenter, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence Midlands

 What is the goal of Constructing Excellence Midlands (CEM)?

CE Midlands is a membership organisation that aims to drive excellence within the sector through innovation and collaboration. Membership is open to the entire supply chain and provides companies and individuals with the opportunity to influence the industry, network and exchange knowledge with like-minded organisations. We also provide a platform to engage with strategic research partners to help inform solution development and gain insight that you wouldn’t gain elsewhere.

At CE Midlands, our membership increased by 50% in 2023, highlighting the value that companies are placing on involvement with CE Midlands and the knowledge and insight that can be gained through membership.

 

What is the biggest issue that CE Midlands is looking to address in the Midlands?

One of our key areas of focus in the Midlands is the creation of affordable housing. Development in this area is crucial as not only are we already in the midst of a housing crisis, but the population continues to grow rapidly with a diverse set of needs. So, there is a pressing requirement for not just affordable housing, but sustainable, inclusive and community-centric housing solutions. In turn, this growing demand is highlighting the urgent need that we have in this country for more effective housing policies.

In 2022 we set up a CE Midlands forum to deal with the specific issue of Social Housing sector, concentrating on the Future Homes Standard, which is open to all our members to join. Since then, the forum has welcomed a series of industry speakers who have each instigated lively debate and discussion with many valuable take aways available for those present, as well as providing an occasion for valuable networking opportunities for those working in this field.

 

What are the challenges when it comes to creating more affordable housing in the Midlands and elsewhere?

There are many challenges that need to be overcome. For example, the industry-wide skills shortage – both in terms of quantity and quality – especially in the wake of the Building Safety Act where competency levels are being brought into question. With an aging population and rising housing costs, we are seeing growing demand for multigenerational housing, meaning bigger homes need to be built. Add to that the need to consider accessibility and other varying social and cultural needs within the housing design. Finally, even if we could build more housing, there’s the issue of whether our outdated infrastructure could support it: would the electrical grid be able to supply a sudden influx in new housing stock in the area? There’s more to it than just building homes, they need to be well-designed, well-built and the surrounding infrastructure needs to be able to keep up with rising demand.

 

How can these challenges be overcome?

A forward-thinking and collaborative approach to housing is paramount. We need to inspire conversations and foster a shared commitment to creating a housing landscape that truly serves the diverse and evolving needs of the region’s residents.

There is huge potential for collaboration between the Government, private entities and local communities in order to drive community engagement and investment. We need to bring in initiatives that empower residents, encourage affordable cohesion and prioritise the creation of vibrant, sustainable neighbourhoods. After all, housing is much more than just bricks and mortar!

Of course, we must also embrace digital transformation, as innovations like smart infrastructure, sustainable design, and data-driven solutions can contribute to the development of more efficient and responsive housing that will continue to meet the evolving needs of its residents over time.

At CE Midlands, we are also advocating for the streamlining of regulatory processes in areas like planning, and the incentivising of sustainable development, to create an environment where affordable housing can grow and thrive.

 

You have also been working to engage young people on this issue through CE Midlands’s Generation4Change (G4C) network. Can you tell us about that?

CE originally came into being on the back of a government report from 26 years ago, which said the industry was too fragmented and adversarial – a sentiment we have seen alluded to again recently in Dame Judith Hackett’s report. So, to continue to inspire collaboration, we introduced G4C with the idea that if we could create an arena for young construction industry professionals to collaborate with their peers, then collaboration would become their raison d’être, ready for when they became the leaders of tomorrow.

So, G4C is a national network that young professionals can use to connect, challenge and shape the future of the industry. Our G4C group in the West Midlands get together once a month with a guest speaker and once a quarter for a CPD session. They have also been arranging their own regular socials which is great to see! We currently have 300 young professionals attending G4C West Midlands events and activities, with such success that a G4C network is now being launched in the East Midlands based on the West Midlands model. I highly encourage young people from the sector who are interested in these issues to get involved in their local G4C group and start making a difference in their area.

For more information and to join Construction Excellence Midlands or Generation4Change, please visit: www.cemidlands.org.

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