The Construction Culture Initiative – Building a Better State

Nicolette Di Lernia – ED  

The Construction Culture Initiative (CCI) began in early 2020 with a conversation between me and MBASA President Andrew Marshall.  We spoke about the mood within the construction community – the pressure to deliver against decreasing budget and program, loss of knowledge within client organisations as well as within the sector and the stress that this places on all participants.  All of this takes a toll on our collective ability to produce work that we are proud of, the sustainability of the sector and on individual wellbeing.  It was clear that there was a striking consistency in what we were feeling, and that we wanted to improve the culture of the construction sector.

Andrew and I believed that this was not something that we could or should tackle individually through our respective organisations, but something that was relevant to architects and other consultants, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.  We were also aware that this was not a new conversation.  However, there appeared to be an appetite to do something about it now.

The CCI has since grown to bring representatives from across sector organisations together, all of who agree that change is needed.  Over a series of meetings, the CCI has developed a statement setting out the key issues, defining overarching goals and stating why this is important for the sector, clients and the community.

The next phase of the CCI is broadening the scope beyond this core group of organisation representatives and engaging with members to collect data and share information.  This will enable us to build resilience and knowledge across the sector specific to South Australia.  It will allow us to compare our experience with work being done in other parts of Australia and internationally.  As a united voice for the sector and with an evidence base to back up our objectives, we have a stronger opportunity to advocate for change.

The first of these activities is a series of workshops for Institute members within the first 15 years post-graduation – the EmAGN demographic.  Having noticed that early to mid-career people across the sector are particularly vulnerable to the adversarial, high pressure culture, we want to ask them directly what their experience is, what is supporting/hindering their development and what the future should look like.  As the future of the profession, we want to hear what they have to say in a safe, supportive environment.  The first workshop is being held on Thursday 11 November, and we ask that practices support their younger staff to attend.

Other projects to be rolled out over 2022 include:

A cross-sector survey to define what a successful project looks like
Workshops to develop a benchmark for ethical behaviour across the sector
A review of the Education Capital Works projects to explore the impact of time, cost, procurement and other factors on outcomes
information sessions about the resources and support currently available

All of these activities will provide the basis for internal review and outward facing conversations.  Both are required if we are to effect sustained change.

So, if you see information about the Construction Culture Initiative, don’t write it off as something that is not relevant to architects.  It is intrinsically about architects, for architects and relevant to architects.  It’s about how the profession ‘fits’ in the evolving construction sector, educating clients and the community and changing perceptions.  It’s about a sustainable and rewarding future for the profession and the sector.