JCT interviews…Dr Andrew Flood

In this series we shed some light on some of the key people who are involved with or give their time to support JCT, to ensure that all areas of the construction industry are represented and can contribute to the development of our contracts. We will look at how our interviewees contribute to JCT specifically, and gain their views on JCT’s wider role within the industry.

Dr Andrew Flood
JCT Council Member, Local Government Association (LGA)
Chair, JCT Sustainability Working Group

Dr Andrew Flood is a director of SSPP Ltd, a company he formed in 2005 specialising primarily in public sector procurement.

Commencing work as a trainee quantity surveyor for a roofing contractor, Andrew moved to local government where he pursued a public sector career working for Newcastle-under-Lyme Council within the architect’s department. After graduating from Nottingham Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University), his career took him to such varied places as the Western Isles and Thurrock Council in Essex, where he became chief quantity surveyor and then head of procurement and property services.

A chartered surveyor since 1985, in the mid-1990s Andrew completed an MBA with the Open University. He is a former president of the Society of Chief Quantity Surveyors (SCQS) within local government and a co–author of a number of publications including the Calculation and Deduction of Liquidated Damages. In 2004 Andrew Flood completed a professional doctorate from Anglia Ruskin University. His research thesis, Constructing a Substantive Theory: A Grounded Theory Approach to the Thurrock Local Business Initiative was nominated and short-listed for a European Union award relating to ‘The role of local and regional authorities in the sustainable development strategy.’

JCT: Andrew, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?

AF: I first became involved with JCT around 13 years ago through the Local Government Association (LGA) Procurement Panel, which was the vehicle for nominating the JCT client college representatives for local government onto the JCT Council. I was always keen to be a member and be involved with various working groups because of the knowledge that is created, acquired and shared through participation. But of course like many of us my first true involvement with JCT was as a young man and student when studying construction and contracts at college. I think it is important to be involved with JCT because the way in which the contracts are developed enables users, practitioners and stakeholders to contribute and influence the outcome. Accommodating different perspectives, including the public sector, does, I believe, contribute to the success of JCT and it being the contract of choice for the industry.

JCT: You are a not only a member of JCT’s council, representing the Local Government Association (LGA), but also the Chair of JCT’s Sustainability Working Group. Can you tell us more about what that role involves and the activities of the Group? The requirement to have a sustainability working group is something JCT recognised a number of years back due to the importance of sustainability to the construction industry as a whole and the values of JCT as an organisation.

AF: The working group was set up to consider JCT’s approach and policy as an organisation to sustainability, and also the role that JCT contracts can have to help other organisations realise their own sustainability objectives and ambitions. My role as chair has been to help formalise a programme and to bring together representatives from the JCT colleges and a number of co-opted sustainability experts to develop JCT’s work in this area.

We have published the guidance note Building a Sustainable Future Together along with a number of other useful resources online via the JCT website, which includes details of the JCT Sustainability Policy, sustainable case studies, and links to useful sustainability websites.

An aspect currently being considered is the area of social value and how this can best be recognised and accommodated.

JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights? What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?

AF: My most rewarding construction project was one whilst at Thurrock Council. I was the project manager/quantity surveyor (on, I hasten to add, a JCT contract). It was a joint development on a church site for three – the church, a private day care centre and the Primary Care Trust.

The levels of complexity and uncertainty were high, funding for each of the three clients was complicated and at the same time dependent on one another. There were no title deeds for the land, but by working together as a team we were able to get the project committed and the contractor constructed a very attractive looking scheme, designed by a young local architect, on what was previously a rundown site. The scheme looked quite stunning, was much needed and was well used by the community. It was an excellent team effort and achievement from everyone.

I have also managed to work with and help some local businesses grow, as part of a local business initiative (subject of my doctorate research) and I helped to run and create a trade school for 15-year-olds. The aim was to encourage young people to obtain a skill and enter a trade. The trade school was held on Saturdays and comprised a 30-hours learning course over 12 weeks, which was very hands-on and great fun. At the end of the course, a graduation ceremony was held where the young graduates were presented with certificates, a DIY book, tools and a tool bag for their trade and an open reference. It became central to the Council’s local business initiative and construction strategy to encourage local businesses to employ these young people as apprentices. Over the years hundreds of young people have graduated the course, but getting the scheme off the ground initially meant overcoming a great number of invisible organisational barriers.

The construction industry has great diversity and an ability to adapt and be creative, whilst still being rather set in its ways. It needs to be able to adapt due to the cyclical nature of the economy, and how it manages to adapt and cope is something to be proud of, along with the undoubted high skill level of the workforce in many areas.

So where does the construction industry need to improve? I think we can all always do more and better, but so much is linked to the economy, funding need and supply and demand. Ensuring that we have a skilled workforce of the right age must be a continued priority as no workforce means no industry.

JCT: What do you think makes JCT unique? What are the benefits of the way in which JCT contracts are produced?

AF: Without doubt it is the college structure of JCT and how all stakeholders are represented and contribute, with many freely offering their services. The structured approach of having Council and additional key working group meetings, and the nature of the JCT representation means that JCT is always up-to-date in what it discusses and its publishing intent.

The stakeholder rather than shareholder model of JCT means that its contracts are produced through partnership and the collaborative working of industry experts and practitioners.

Having a fully representative membership enables knowledge to be created, as views and opinions are presented and subjected to scrutiny, lively debate and challenge to arrive at what is best and appropriate for the industry. In addition, JCT contracts are aided by the historic precedents and expert professional and legal advice that is on hand.

JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry, particularly related to public sector or sustainability issues, over the next five years?

The main challenge for the industry from the public sector perspective is uncertainty. Uncertainty as to funding levels in the medium and long term, uncertainty as to who will be in power and uncertainty in relation to future economic activity. Yes, profits are important and we know that many house builders have been able to double their profit levels, but what is really needed is more sustainable housing that is planned to a more sustainable programme. I believe that the public sector can play a major role but I do fear that the potential of that role may not be best exploited.

JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?

AF: Yes definitely, but in many ways the role JCT currently has is more than just producing contracts, although that in itself provides value.

The journey is often as important as the destination. It is how JCT goes about producing its contracts in an inclusive way, how knowledge is created and shared and how it contributes to and seeks to influence the industry. To my mind this is what makes JCT a valuable institution, a body that is sustainable and will be around for the next 80 years, when the world and industry will be in a different but hopefully more sustainable place.