By anyone’s standards, 2015 was a good year for C&D Consultancy. It started with the man who set up the company, demolition consultant John Woodward, winning an Industry Achievement award from the United Kingdom’s National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC).
It ended with him being named Construction Manager of the Year by the country’s Institute of Construction Management (ICM) – the first person from the demolition industry to receive the honour.
And in between times, for the collective team that makes up the C&D corporate entity, there was a triumph in the Collaboration category of the World Demolition Awards as well.
So how does John Woodward look back on the chain of events?
“The ICM award hasn’t changed what I do,” was his immediate response.
“The ICM was running parallel to what the IDE [the Institute of Demolition Engineers, of which he is a past president] was doing.
“It’s a small institute and there aren’t a lot of members, but the Construction Manager of the Year is chosen from the members, and it was good for a demolition man to win it. And the award from the NFDC was the first time it had been presented.”
While those successes could be described as individual, the World Demolition Award for Collaboration was definitely a team effort, and not just the team within C&D Consultancy.
The project that clinched first place – the demolition of Whitevale and Bluevale Towers in Glasgow – also included local company Safedem and Italian contractor Despe, all working in conjunction with the Glasgow Housing Association. The blocks are among 36 that C&D has dealt with since it started out in 2005.
John, however, is determined that the company should be known for other things apart from tower block demolition.
Two and a half years ago, the company appointed Mike Kehoe to run its Liverpool office, one of four in the UK that it now operates from. Mike describes himself as a “third generation demolition man” who left school on a Friday afternoon and started working for his father in the family business on the Monday morning.
That was 30 years ago, and Mike took over the running of the company in 2001. Part of the reason why he joined C&D was that it wanted to get into hospital-related demolition and he had the expertise, having been involved in more than 50 projects over the years.
As John Woodward says: “We’re using that experience.”
The other part of C&D’s activity is training. The company ran almost 400 courses in the 12 months to November 2015, and recently joined up with the Health and Safety Executive, the Working Well Together charity and the National Demolition Training Group to provide free asbestos awareness sessions for small businesses and self-employed people.
The training is not limited to what happens on demolition sites either – John believes issues such as contact management are equally important, observing: “A lot of demolition companies never train their telephonists.”
John is just as passionate about bringing younger generations into the demolition industry, “instead of joining a pop group or becoming a footballer.”
It is something he has pursued in both his company role and as a council member of the IDE.
He often gives talks as part of the government’s Inspiring Futures scheme that helps young people with career advice and guidance to help them make better decisions about what they want to do once they get into the world of work.
“I spend a lot of my time in schools,” John says of his involvement with the scheme.
“And I spend a lot of time telling people how good the demolition industry is. It’s not just about scrap metal. We’re looking for the new young breed of engineer. We have two new engineering apprentices and the other day they were talking about ‘the cloud’. I don’t even know what that is.”
For such as an obvious pro-industry institution man, and indeed a representative of an obvious pro-institution company – C&D’s website lists four of John’s colleagues who are IDE members or fellows – John is honest enough to admit that not everything is perfect in the demolition industry’s membership-based organisations.
“At times institutions do need to stand up and be counted a bit more. There is a need to lobby MPs for change; there aren’t enough government grants around to encourage us to train people.
“I don’t think the government appreciates what we do and how much we put into the economy, and that leads to the general public having a split view as well. Some see us as very good, some see us as very poor. I don’t think that the mainstream media has helped with its coverage of demolition. They don’t appreciate how technically difficult it is.”
As C&D enters its second decade, the company is increasingly taking on work – including some blue chip developments – in the London area just as John Woodward himself is looking towards more of a back seat role within the company. But it’s difficult to see how the passion or his industry that has brought him to this point will ever be diminished. This is a man who believes the challenge of promoting demolition remains as big as ever.
“As an industry we need to tell clients that we are professional, and that they need to be professional. Too many tenders are still decided on price first and quality second. There is not a lot of profit, so there isn’t a lot of money for investment. But to do a job, we need the time to do it. We’re not the poor relations of the construction industry.”
*Originally published in the January-February 2016 issue of D&Ri. You can register to receive the magazine on a regular basis at www.khl.com/subscriptions