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New tool launched to measure social value of Britain’s railway

A new online tool to help the rail industry measure the social value of its investments, infrastructure projects and day-to-day operations has been launched today. The Rail Social Value Tool (RSVT), co-funded by Network Rail, is provided by the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) and Loop (formerly Social Profit Calculator).

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TIME FOR A GROWN-UP CONVERSATION ABOUT SOCIAL VALUE, SAYS TOPLASS

FOLLOWING reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg is preparing to shake up government outsourcing as part of his new role as minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, an industry heavyweight has said that while the rhetoric around such changes can be incendiary, there is a real need for social value principles

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LEVELLING UP WHITEPAPER: A WELCOME SIGHT – BUT IT MUST DELIVER

THE government’s long-awaited levelling up whitepaper has been unveiled in full at long last. The document outlines the government’s commitments to rebalancing the UK’s services and economies, which is segmented into 12 key mission statements. Gerard Toplass, executive chairman of The 55 Group, which heads a collective of businesses operating

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THE CONSTRUCTION PLAYBOOK: PRINCIPLES TOO SLOW TO BE IMPLEMENTED

THE Confederation of British Industry has this week stated that the adoption of the principles for better contracting set out in the government’s Construction Playbook is too slow. This is a view echoed by Gerard Toplass, group CEO of The 55 Group, which is the parent company for national framework

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PIONEERING COLLABORATION AIMS TO ‘SHAKE UP’ THE UK CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

A GROUNDBREAKING new collaboration aimed at transforming the future of the UK’s construction industry can be unveiled today. National framework provider Pagabo has forged a research agreement with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), aiming to together challenge current methods in the construction sector, and pioneer fresh

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BDC 319 : Aug 2024

gerard toplass

New tool launched to measure social value of Britain’s railway

A new online tool to help the rail industry measure the social value of its investments, infrastructure projects and day-to-day operations has been launched today. The Rail Social Value Tool (RSVT), co-funded by Network Rail, is provided by the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB) and Loop (formerly Social Profit Calculator). The RSVT allows the rail industry to forecast, monitor and evaluate the social value of its activities. This is about measuring the impact on the welfare and wellbeing of both individuals and wider society, the net positive (or negative) social, economic and fiscal value that a project, organisation or specific initiative generates.   With 500 indicators, organised across 12 social impacts, the RSVT can measure and monetise a wide range of benefits. These include:  Improving safety Jobs created, apprentices employed and training provided  Change to air quality  Increasing biodiversity, by protecting and boosting plant and animal life, and planting trees Curriculum enrichment support for young people Design features that make rail travel more accessible and inclusive Employee and community volunteering Co-designing infrastructure and services with communities The RSVT has undergone extensive testing since November 2021 by early adopters, including Network Rail and companies in its supply chain.  Liz Holford, Network Rail’s Sustainability Strategy manager (Social Performance) said:   “The launch of the Rail Social Value Tool is an important milestone which enables our industry to make a step-change in how we understand and manage our impacts on people.   “We’re already using the tool to forecast and maximise the social value of station redevelopments and infrastructure enhancements as well as current projects and some completed ones, and we’re looking forward to using it further to manage and improve the impact our railway has on society.”  George Davies, RSSB’s Director for Sustainable Development said:   “It’s fantastic to see the Rail Social Value Tool launched today. It’s a first for the rail industry, and I would like to thank everyone involved in its development.   “Rail is one of the most sustainable forms of transport. However, until now, we haven’t been able to measure its social value in sufficient detail.   “We can now assess, and importantly place a financial value on the effect the railway has in a number of areas including the natural environment, communities, people and their health, cultural heritage, housing, inclusivity, and distribution of opportunities.   “As we transform the Railway and deliver the vision of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, the Rail Social Value Tool will guide decisions on rail development across the country to ensure the best return on those investments for society.”  Gerard Toplass, Group Chief Executive, Loop said:  “We are proud to have worked with RSSB and the wider rail sector to help them deliver the Rail Social Value Tool.  Together we have developed 449 measures (KPIs) across 12 social value impact areas that cover people, sustainability and economic activity. “It is a first for the industry, and our software team worked in true collaboration with RSSB to develop a simple and accessible tool that can be used throughout the supply-chain and is aligned to the sector’s needs and objectives.Over the next 5 years we look forward to further developing the tool and helping the rail sector continue to deliver measured social value.”

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TIME FOR A GROWN-UP CONVERSATION ABOUT SOCIAL VALUE, SAYS TOPLASS

FOLLOWING reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg is preparing to shake up government outsourcing as part of his new role as minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, an industry heavyweight has said that while the rhetoric around such changes can be incendiary, there is a real need for social value principles to be reviewed. Gerard Toplass, executive chairman of The 55 Group that includes social value specialists Loop, said: “Social value is something that everybody in the construction industry has an opinion on. “The Social Value Act itself has been around for a decade now but hasn’t really been fully adopted, but the Construction Playbook has made everyone re-examine their approach towards innovating in that field. “If you take Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments* in that context, I think what he’s doing is trying to have a grown-up conversation about how we move this forward. There is clearly still an understanding within government that there is positive potential for every pound spent on procured projects, so this is unlikely to be a wholesale move away from social value, particularly as it is a key cornerstone of levelling up and achieving net zero. “However, there is a serious need for better understanding of the impact and outcomes from social value, as figures are often used up front to try and win bids but are then not adequately followed through on. “With a lack of quantifiable measurement, throwing big social value numbers around can sometimes be seen as an unfair advantage for larger firms that have the resources and teams in place. “For example, a large contractor with a 1,000-strong workforce could say at procurement stage that it will commit to using ten apprentices on a certain scheme, while a smaller firm of 100 employees says it can commit five. “The absolute numbers look better for the larger firm, but you could argue that the smaller firm is taking social value more seriously as it is a bigger percentage of its workforce. “This review is a chance for Mr Rees-Mogg and his team to look at finding ways to level the playing field when it comes to social value and start encouraging the industry to take a more macro approach to measurement. I would also like to see efforts to support SMEs that don’t always have the resources in bidding generally.  We need to make it easier for all companies to demonstrate social value. “When a company sets out what it’s going to do at procurement stage, let’s start properly measuring its impact. Government procurement is a powerful tool to do good –  the best procurement teams know this and will integrate outcomes and impacts in the way that best serves the local area.”

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LEVELLING UP WHITEPAPER: A WELCOME SIGHT – BUT IT MUST DELIVER

THE government’s long-awaited levelling up whitepaper has been unveiled in full at long last. The document outlines the government’s commitments to rebalancing the UK’s services and economies, which is segmented into 12 key mission statements. Gerard Toplass, executive chairman of The 55 Group, which heads a collective of businesses operating within the construction sector – including national framework provider Pagabo, along with risk, compliance and contract management software company Sypro, social value specialists Loop, and digital-first training platform Tequ – has a positive outlook on the whitepaper. He said: “The levelling up whitepaper has been long-awaited by us all, and it’s great to see it has finally been published in full. While generally speaking, the 12 missions outlined by the government cover pretty much every aspect of daily life, we’re especially pleased to see a number of aims that align with our values. “Our businesses operate nationally but are headquartered in central Hull, which is a city that understands the value that comes from investment – something that we have supported by investing in the transformation of 55 Whitefriargate to bring it back into use. “We are really encouraged by the approach to devolved administrations, decentralising the power from Whitehall and putting it in the hands of people in the areas it is needed. It’s really pleasing that our region is one of the first areas to be able to open negotiations on this topic and we look forward to seeing how this develops in time.” A number of mission statements within the whitepaper focus on improving infrastructure and huge regeneration projects, which will need to be led by local authorities and public sector bodies. Jason Stapley, managing director of national framework provider Pagabo, believes that construction professionals and their expertise will be the key in taking these schemes beyond promises and into reality. He said: “The whitepaper puts great emphasis on restoring local pride, detailing how the government will support 20 towns and city centres with the undertaking of ambitious regeneration projects. It’s a proven fact that positive environments and delivering the infrastructure communities need will elevate an area or region in terms of jobs, productivity and economic boost. “Such large-scale ambition for regeneration is met with the detail of dozens of local authorities set to be supported by the High Streets Task Force to transform town centres. For built environment specialists, our support of public sector bodies for the delivery of such schemes will be key – and ensuring the gold standard of procurement will make sure that true value can be delivered to communities in a way that creates maximum positive impact, while streamlining processes and budgets. “Equally, there is a focus on levelling up infrastructure and transport connections. With net zero carbon targets also set in place by government, it is these large-scale projects that provide huge opportunity for decarbonisation, along with an approach to refurbishment and retrofit to make sure existing building stock also minimises impact on our environment. “Our frameworks are placed to support with all of these aims, with the ability to track all-important KPIs around a scheme as required, such as social return on investment, carbon reduction and local impact. We are set to go live with our civils and infrastructure framework in the coming weeks, which has been designed with these kinds of schemes in mind – so we look forward to working with clients on their projects that will work towards the levelling up agenda.” Social value is a hot topic within the industry, and one that will extend into every reach of life. One of The 55 Group’s businesses is social value calculation specialist, Loop. With several of the mission statements outlined by the government focussing on social-led topics, making sure that organisations are able to identify the actual positive impact of their work on communities will become a big operation. Angus Townsend, group social value lead, said: “Some of the missions outlined within the whitepaper may appear to some as ‘softer elements’, such as improving life expectancy. However, these elements are all interlinked and very much tied to social value and the types of outcomes we help our clients demonstrate from their operations. “It’s likely that generating social value and delivering the levelling up agenda will become synonymous with each other – but the responsibility on doing both will be on all of us. It will be important to make sure we can examine the impact of everything we do and how that plays into the core mission statements from the whitepaper. As ‘the social value people’, we are primed and ready to work with our clients to help demonstrate both quantitative and qualitative evidence to show how they are helping to work towards these outcomes.” Gerard concluded: “There has been a mixed reaction to the whitepaper so far, but we are hopeful that it will mark a moment where direction changes towards making actionable change to rebalance the country. The key will be ensuring it delivers what it promises – and it will be up to us all to keep momentum and hold leadership accountable to making process. “Of course, a lot of our operations are within the construction industry so there are ample ways our work will be able to support the aims around regeneration and infrastructure. However, our work stretches far beyond this, working on key areas including social return on investment and seeking to modernise skills and training to make it fit for the modern world. “Seeing a focus on research and development and improving education standards is hopeful – but will largely rely on adequate funding. Part of levelling up is putting the power into the hands that need it, so making sure that we are working towards practises fit for the future will be a huge part of the journey. For example, in the construction sector there is an ongoing shortage of skills that training courses are simply not fit for purpose in tackling due to relevance, complexity or overall length.

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40% OF GLOBAL EMISSIONS COME FROM CONSTRUCTION: INDUSTRY LEADERS DISCUSS VISION FOR CHANGE

Hopes are high that the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP26 – will help to bring about significant change for the future of our planet. The construction industry is increasingly aware of the important role it must play in tackling the crisis – but how can it foster real results? National framework provider Pagabo’s latest ‘Building Blocks’ podcast, hosted by executive chairman Gerard Toplass, and featuring Julia Barrett, chief sustainability officer at national contractor Willmott Dixon and Jose Hernandez, director of sustainability at multi-disciplinary consultancy Pick Everard, explored the issues.  Gerard said: “The Construction Playbook and Build Back Better initiatives rolled out by the UK Government have already placed sustainability, net zero emissions and a change in best practice at the forefront of work in the built environment. Now it is hoped the crucial COP26 summit in Glasgow will strengthen global action, provide a strategic vision and allocate sufficient resources for solutions to tackle the issues we face.  “There has been a sea change in the world’s view of the climate crisis, influenced by a number of factors such as high-profile campaigning, media reporting, increased awareness among young people, recent weather extremes and our post-pandemic recovery. It feels very much like this is something that people are taking more seriously now during their daily lives and are calling for real action from our leaders.” Awareness of environmental issues is finally increasing  “While many businesses have spent the best part of a decade looking at sustainability in terms of their own activity, reducing carbon emissions and maximising recycling for example, we now recognise on a wider scale that more must be done as a united front. The general awareness is now much greater; we need only look to the likes of the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change declaring a ‘code red for humanity’ and the Environment Agency warning on natural disaster deaths that will happen here and elsewhere to see that. “We need new strategies to build on what we have already achieved, taking into account Scope 3 emissions; this may consider employee travel and commuting as well as those emissions associated with the processing of raw materials and contracted solid waste disposal among other things. “As an industry, we have a responsibility to think about our approach both in terms of materials and the impact they have on emissions during production, otherwise referred to as embodied carbon. For example, concrete production represents around eight per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.” Jose added: “It is concerning that reports have shown that last year global emissions may have reduced by six per cent but the forecast for this year is an increase of four per cent. Moreover, the entire building and construction industry must understand its role when considering it is responsible for roughly 40 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. It is critical that we use all this information as an opportunity to decouple absolute and relative carbon emissions from economic growth.” Covid-19 took our choices away and forced us to change Julia said: “One of the key impacts of the pandemic is how it has actually advanced the environmental agenda, not least because of the way the construction industry adapted but also because of the dramatic decrease in people travelling. “Businesses realised they could save time, expense and increase efficiency through online meetings and virtual working. We all recognise the importance of in-person meetings for relationship building but the new hybrid approach to working has been a real positive to come from the last 18 months.” Modern construction methods are key As well as delivering great buildings, the industry has a responsibility to ensure they perform at the best level through their operation lifecycle and with minimised embodied carbon. By the time a new building is in use, between 30 and 70 per cent of its lifetime emissions are accounted for. Julia added: “In practice, this means engaging clients early on in the brief to ensure that sustainability and efficiencies are embedded rather than an ‘add on’. Understanding that addressing environmental impact early on, despite some larger upfront costs, will also have a positive economic outcome in the long-term is vital. This is a shift change in some cases but will play a hugely important role in supporting the climate change agenda. “It’s also really important that supply chain SMEs must know what they are spending on fuel and energy because of the impact on their carbon emissions. According to the CBI, only 11 per cent of SMEs know what their carbon emissions are, which is a massive opportunity to reduce fuel costs thereby increasing profits while protecting the planet.” The benefits of frameworks Gerard continued: “The key elements in a framework are the references to whole life carbon. The impact doesn’t stop once the building has been completed and starts being used – and this is vital when it comes to climate change and sustainability. “Frameworks provide a consistent structure and scope, giving firms an opportunity for growth and alignment. It levels the playing field in a collaborative and positive way to drive up standards, creating a ‘gold standard’. The Construction Playbook has been a driver for change within the industry, but wider adoption particularly among the public sector in terms of sustainability requirements is key.” Thoughts for the future “COP26 is now underway and while we have started to see the conversation changing, there is still much to do. Each country pledged to sign up with its nationally declared contributions to reducing emissions to limit a global temperature rise but it is not yet clear what that means. It’s time to stop talking and take action. “Innovation, particularly within the construction sector, is widespread so we have an excellent opportunity to embrace sustainability and climate change as key drivers for what we do next. We collectively need to make changes now, embrace new technologies, ways of working and thinking as we make strides towards our ambitious but vital carbon targets.” Listen

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THE CONSTRUCTION PLAYBOOK: PRINCIPLES TOO SLOW TO BE IMPLEMENTED

THE Confederation of British Industry has this week stated that the adoption of the principles for better contracting set out in the government’s Construction Playbook is too slow. This is a view echoed by Gerard Toplass, group CEO of The 55 Group, which is the parent company for national framework provider Pagabo, leading risk, management and compliance software company Sypro, and social value specialist Loop. He said: “We absolutely agree that the principles of the Construction Playbook setting out better contracting are not being adopted at a quick enough pace. We’d also say the same of all of the principles covering the procurement and project lifecycle. The Playbook should – and quite frankly must – be at the heart of everything we do. “At The 55 Group, we embrace the Construction Playbook and everything it stands for. Whether it is at the initial procurement stage, managing contracts and project processes, managing ongoing estate risks, or examining the social value benefits of schemes or activities, our businesses are right at the forefront. This is all wrapped up in a digital-first approach, both in our own operations and in driving technology adoption across the whole industry for processes and training alike. “We’re on a mission to help the industry gain a better understanding of the Playbook’s principles and the best way to implement those into all activity. This includes work Pagabo is currently doing with the Open University to create a series of podcasts that focus on the key elements of the Playbook. “This series aims to provide the public sector and any other clients with the building blocks to implement the Playbook’s core aims and will be launched later this year. “Most importantly, as built environment specialists we must support our clients, the public sector, and each other in understanding the key policies and how to implement them. This means that we need to not just talk about them but find ways of educating and driving the all-important change needed across the sector. “We need to work towards talent density within procurement, properly set up frameworks that have good coverage of suppliers, lots and geographies, and the use of digital technology – all wrapped up in compliant practice with social value at its heart.” For more information, please visit https://www.the55group.co.uk/  

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PIONEERING COLLABORATION AIMS TO ‘SHAKE UP’ THE UK CONSTRUCTION SECTOR

A GROUNDBREAKING new collaboration aimed at transforming the future of the UK’s construction industry can be unveiled today. National framework provider Pagabo has forged a research agreement with the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), aiming to together challenge current methods in the construction sector, and pioneer fresh ideas and innovations that embrace new technology and advanced manufacturing methods. Joining them in the venture are C4DI, the Hull-based incubator company that promotes growth in tech businesses, specialist data centre company Yondr and industry leader Lord Bob Kerslake. Just a few weeks into the new relationship, vital research into harnessing technology to streamline health and safety methods on construction sites is already under way. Gerard Toplass, executive chairman of Pagabo, said: “Everyone agrees that construction is a sector that has been left behind in terms of new ways of working and innovation. Many methods in construction have been used for decades. “What we want to do as a group is to totally shake up the construction sector – and create real change to drive economic growth and establish the UK as a global innovator.” He said that Hull-based Pagabo was so committed to the use of new methods that it had created The Future of Construction (TFOC) initiative to drive industry-wide collaboration to shape the sector’s future. “It’s vital that we think about the industry as a whole and how we can promote new technologies to improve how we do things,” he explained. “The construction sector needs a revolutionary moment – similar to the aerospace industry when it created the ‘black box’. “This new collaboration between Pagabo and the AMRC will bring the sector together, unify common objectives and drive forward real change. We will be building an enterprise that seeks to leverage new techniques, innovation and automation. “We intend to build on the government’s agenda for value, procuring for value and its ‘build, build, build’ initiative. But we also want to foster a new way of doing this that future-proofs the construction sector, secures jobs and builds sustainably – with economic, social and environmental processes in mind.” The University of Sheffield AMRC is a network of world-leading research and innovation centres that work with manufacturing companies of all sizes around the globe. It has particular strengths in the automotive and aerospace industries. Its pioneering research develops innovative methods that are of practical use to the manufacturing industry. The organisation transforms industrial and economic performance by making step changes in productivity, increasing competitiveness, developing new products and processes and training new talent and skills. Steve Foxley, CEO of the University of Sheffield AMRC, said: “We see construction as a wildly exciting and opportunity-filled industry to benefit from our learnings over the past 20 years. “We want to work closely with Pagabo to create a real catalyst for change. Pagabo has a unique and important role within the industry as a framework provider and has influence across a wider portion of the industry via its ecosystem of contractors and supply chain partners. “We will be learning from the automotive and aerospace industries and seeing where we can adapt methods and innovations that would work in the construction sector. “We want to look at areas like enterprise architecture, the future of buildings in a digital world, and how standards and interfaces will enable the digital world in construction.” Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, is a non-executive chairman of Pagabo who helped forge its relationship with the AMRC, seeing an opportunity to transform the construction sector through the sharing of expertise and collaboration. “Research and development remains low in construction,” he said. “And there is very little collaboration on this among key players in the industry. Combined, we want to make a real and transformational difference in construction within the next ten years.” He said one of the biggest objectives was to feed into the government’s levelling up agenda to create a more level economic playing field across the UK. “This is a project which sees innovation and development and research in the construction sector happening up north, in Sheffield and in Hull, with a huge focus and drive for economic growth. This new collaboration between Pagabo and the AMRC is hugely powerful.” John Connolly, managing director of C4Di, said the research agreement is powerful because of the way it will accelerate new ways of partnering on innovation. He said: “There are interesting models of innovation happening around the country, but the AMRC is the exemplar of how to bring large industry bodies together. Their experience harnessing the mental horsepower of large academic institutions and collaborating with industry to drive change is incredibly exciting. “This new research agreement benefits everyone. Leveraging learning and experience from the AMRC, and Pagabo’s connections within construction is a formidable force. The AMRC brought large industry players together to solve their challenges and Pagabo and its TFOC model builds on that; this is an exciting next step to extend the work of both organisations through collaboration.” Dave Newitt, CEO of Yondr, the specialist data centre operator, is involved with Pagabo and its TFOC initiative. He said: “We believe that construction has a great deal to learn from manufacturing,” he said. “We want to look at modularisation and taking works off-site – so, building off site rather than on site. It’s how the manufacturing world operates, and we want to emulate that to improve productivity.” Professor Rab Scott, head of digital at the AMRC, said that in just four weeks, the new collaboration had already created change. “We have already started working with Pagabo on health and safety on site and looking at ways of using digital technologies to streamline processes. In terms of results, if we can prevent one accident or one hour’s lost time, it has an immediate benefit, and our work is immediately scalable. “The diversity in the team is one of the great things that makes me get up in the morning. We are proud of what we are

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