#BuildingsILove: Central Library, Manchester

#BuildingsILove: Central Library, Manchester

There is a building in Manchester I am desperate to introduce you to. It’s Central Library, a rotund beauty of Portland stone in St Peter’s Square. Opened by George V and Queen Mary in 1935, it was designed loosely on the Pantheon by architect Vincent Harris.

In the splendid building which I am about to open, the largest library in this country provided by a local authority, the Corporation have ensured for the inhabitants of the city magnificent opportunities for further education and for the pleasant use of leisure.

The tradition of topping-out ceremonies

The tradition of topping-out ceremonies

The pageantry and superstition of topping-out ceremonies has always fascinated me, taking place, as they do, in the no-nonsense world of construction.

The topping-out ceremony is held when the last beam or equivalent is put in place within the structure. Alternatives can include a ceremonial pour of the last section of concrete or laying the last block or brick. Essentially it signals the frame of the new building reaching its maximum height and while at this stage, much of the rest of the construction is still unfinished, an important milestone in the project has been attained.

The origins of the ceremony can be traced back many centuries across multiple cultures, including ancient Egypt and the Americas. However, most sources reference the Scandinavian practice of placing an evergreen tree atop a new building, in a bid to rehouse any tree spirits displaced when the required timber was lumbered. The tradition then migrated across Northern Europe and then the Americas.

Today the practice provides a great PR opportunity for the client, contractor, subcontractors and design team, as well as celebrating the achievement of reaching the highest point of a new building. Given that buildings seem to be getting ever taller, this is no mean feat.

Marketing: the missing link to attract young people into the construction industry

Marketing: the missing link to attract young people into the construction industry

The construction industry skills gap 

There is so much debate at the moment about the skills gap the industry is finding itself in. Of course part of the problem is that the UK economy is just beginning to pull itself out of the biggest black hole most of us have ever seen. Many people left the industry through this time, whether through choice or necessity and its unlikely they will be attracted back.

So now the focus is on how to make careers in the sector attractive to school kids and how to shift the perception of a career in construction from being one of labouring to one of aspirational achievement. Of course, many a successful career in construction was started on the tools, but trades are considered to be something only boys who didn’t try harder at school end up doing, rather than the highly-skilled occupation they really are.

The point is that the impact and purpose of the industry isn’t understood by people responsible for careers advice (including parents); its myriad benefits, including forming the backbone of the economy, improving communities and creating jobs. The industry is also one of the places you will definitely see the most awe-inspiring courage and ingenuity on a daily basis. I have often wondered why this isn’t more widely understood, appreciated and communicated.

Leveraging marketing to provide a solution  

My proposal to the industry is for it to leverage some of the fantastic marketing and communications talent it has to tell the construction story. Not just once, but over and over and over, using a variety of appropriate channels and media including activities, writing, images and video and to a wide spectrum of non-industry stakeholders.

The role of social media 

The built environment is such a visual industry that it is ideal for social media. I saw a fantastic time-lapse camera shared on LinkedIn by Clancy Consulting today . Time lapses aren’t new in themselves, they’ve been around for ages, but this was the first time I had ever seen one shared through social media channels. You can see the film here. I love this kind of thing and wish it was more accessible. It’s also rare to see photos or case studies of projects, unless you specifically know where to look. Why isn’t this sort of collateral more widely shared?

Challenges 

There are two key challenges to my idea. Firstly budget. I know the industry isn’t awash with money at the moment, but let’s find inexpensive solutions, particularly as most people are lucky enough to own smart phones these days. Share progress photos and videos via Twitter and LinkedIn. Share collateral wherever you can. Connect with local schools and start dialogues.

The second is the role and perception of marketing. It’s time to integrate the discipline properly into the sector and into projects. Let us help and support you to communicate and tell the story. Doing this will ensure more stakeholders understand the role and value of construction, and it will be more attractive to people considering their career options.