Meeting construction challenges

With the UK economy in such a state of flux and both business and families facing financial uncertainty we’re of course contemplating how the current challenges will affect the commercial construction industry in 2023. Will the work we’ve tendered go ahead; if it does, did we price it correctly? Have we got the right resources in place; is our supply chain strong; what will happen to material prices? The key takeaway it would seem is that challenge and construction go hand in hand.

Despite the uncertainty and challenges ahead, we leave 2022 with two new clients and a portfolio of successfully completed projects across all our business sectors. Our organisation is also in a good place: we’ve completed our six-monthly employee reviews and garnered some useful feedback, creating tailored employee training plans to support our commitment to learning and development, which in turn will benefit projects across the 2023 period.

As 2022 comes to an end and we all look forward to a much-needed break, we’d like to wish our friends, associates and clients a Merry Christmas and a healthy, fruitful 2023. We’ll see you again on the other side!

Managing Change

A number of momentous events have taken place over the past month. We have witnessed the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth 11 and the proclamation of King Charles 111, an unprecedented rise in energy prices, the appointment of a new Prime Minister, turbulence in the economy following the budget and the sharp fall in the value of the pound. These changes have impacted all of our lives and may well continue to do so for many years to come.

At Corniche there have been changes too. We have regretfully seen the departure of our Operations Manager and we thank him for putting in place solid foundations for us to build on. We have taken on four new employees and are still looking for candidates for other posts, including that of an Estimator. We have successfully completed some great contracts, had some excellent feedback and started several new projects.

Change is inevitable. It is part of life and happens whether we have planned it or not. The important thing is how we respond to changes. At Corniche we pride ourselves on our ability to manage change. We take action to ensure that any changes are to the benefit of our business and continue to improve the services we offer our clients. Our positive attitude towards managing change is something that won’t change.

Interim annual report

We’re half way through the year and rushed off our feet. After the sustained period of Coronavirus lockdowns, time just seems to be flying by. This of course, is because most contracts are urgent as our clients try to catch up with their delayed projects. However Coronavirus has not gone away and has affected a number of staff members this year. We are managing to deal with it and importantly we have adopted the right approach, making infected staff stay at home.

Apart from the workforce being impacted by illness the industry is suffering from an acute labour shortage, overall, in the wake of Brexit. Along with rising prices, of both materials and labour, this is creating a challenging working environment. At Corniche we are keeping a close watch on costs and keeping in contact with our supply chain to ensure we deliver our contracts on time and on budget.

The Building Safety Regulator is beginning to reveal the improvements that are to be made as a result of the Grenfell Enquiry. It is our belief that any new regulations are likely to filter down to all types of construction, not just High-Rise Residential Building. We have already seen evidence of this in our more recent projects. So looking forward at the rest of the year we are preparing ourselves for changes ahead.

Training and Development

It’s only February but we can already see that our new Business Development Strategy is going to be successful in 2022. We have a strong order book and to cope with the increased workload we have added a number of new members of staff.

We’ve taken on new carpenters, a new labourer and in the office, a new accounts assistant. We welcome them all. They will undergo their first Performance Management Reviews in April and no doubt, some Corniche training will follow.

We are continuing to roll out new process maps and the management team has already had their first training session on conflict avoidance. This was delivered by HR as a workshop where we learnt how to deal with things in a different way. But what’s not different this year is our commitment to staff development.

It will maintain and improve our service and help us to build better relationships.

New Year. New challenges.

This year, new Building Regulation changes are coming into force which are centred around thermal efficiency, carbon emissions and increased ventilation. In all there are five new documents uplifting existing legislation.

We will also start to see the impact of the new Building Safety Regulator in Construction affecting High Rise Residential Buildings. And we expect this will devolve down to all building work, new and refurbishment, over the coming years. Having completed our first build under EWS1, we have already seen and had to accommodate the new regs (and it was only a 3-storey building).

There will almost certainly be further challenges ahead this year but as the days begin to grow longer we will face them with increasing optimism.


The year ends pretty much as it started; we are back working under the same rules and safety measures. We are reducing office presence to protect our staff, we have reviewed our site practices and we are working in accordance with current guidance. Even though most of our staff are double vaccinated and some have boosters, we have still had a member of the senior management team contract COVID. The report back is that it’s very unpleasant so cautious planning and preparation remain our focus.

It’s not all Humbug, however. We end the year in a good position with a number of great projects in the pipeline and an order book value of circa £3.5m. To deal with this we have a new Construction Team, overseen by Darren Whenham and headed up by Karl Whyte. (Karl was on a temporary contract and is now permanent.) We hope to see 2 new General Foreman joining us, one being Mike Wilson who will also be our carpentry apprentice mentor. In addition we are currently recruiting a new bricklaying apprentice and a Quantity Surveyor to add to our commercial team. So some good news at the end of a very trying year.

Looking forward to 2022 the matter of most concern is the Building Safety Bill. We have already seen changes in materials and construction methods and expect to see the full effects when this Bill becomes law. Corniche have now introduced various process maps to demonstrate our competence and commitment to this. We signed up to the RICS Conflict Avoidance Pledge some time ago and we have now signed up to the CIOB Diversity and Inclusion Charter because we believe our industry could be fairer and more open for everyone. We are also noticing that tenders have a far greater emphasis on quality rather than price, something we have always advocated.

Finally, we want to wish everyone who has taken the time to read this a very Happy Christmas and prosperous, safe 2022.

Evolution means Change

Over the course of the last year we have undergone various changes at Corniche. We changed our logo, corporate identity and the livery on our fleet of vehicles; launching a new, more dynamic branding that better reflects our business. And there have been a number of changes to our team members, as well.

In April Darren Whenham joined us as our Operations Manager. He has undertaken a business review and put in place new processes and work streams to enable us to operate more efficiently as we manage our growth. We said goodbye to Rachel McHugh and we welcomed Pip Grindley. Pip, previously with Armfield Construction, has a wealth of experience in bid management and preparation and has taken over responsibility for business development.

We said goodbye to Ian Maynard who has gone on to start his own venture and welcomed Gary Richardson who has quickly settled in to the ‘Corniche way’. Karl Whyte has joined us in the capacity of Construction Manager. Bringing extensive experience of Site Management he is currently mentoring our existing Construction Team. Regrettably, we said goodbye to Neil Kelly, who had worked with us since 2005. We really do wish him well.

There have also been changes in staff development, with some great personal achievements and a raft of NVQs. Anna Bataille, already level 4 in Health & Safety, now has a TechIOSH. Kamil Michalowski attained level 4 in Site Management and so too did Scott Walker. Many congratulations to them all.

Everything changes over time and change is inevitable as a business grows and evolves. Managing change is key and we are confident that we’ve successfully recruited excellent new additions including working mentors, managers and operatives to help take us forwards. But one thing won’t change at Corniche, our dedication to quality and standards and our commitment to building relationships.

Working in the ‘New Normal’ world.

Here at Corniche we pride ourselves on our expertise in the Education sector. Our first job in this area was for St Boniface School in 1987 and we have undertaken an extensive array of construction projects for Education clients over the 34 years since then. We have dealt with clients in Surrey, Sussex, London, Kent and all over the SE and in many cases we have been asked back when new projects have come up. We’ve a lot of experience in Education.

Surprisingly, despite the problems imposed by COVID, it seems 2021 will be no exception. Even the late confirmation of Condition Improvement Funding bids has proved of no consequence. With DFE notification delayed until the end of June many of our school clients found a way of self-funding projects and others have put their plans on hold for later in the year. Currently we have some 27 projects on site, not all are Education clients but a fair number are.

Though we are now used to managing sites with COVID restrictions, working in the ‘New Normal’ is problematic. We are under the constant pressure of having to cope with limited resources as the effects of COVID on the industry continue. Most projects are on programme and where slippage has occurred, we are working with our clients to ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum. And with the continuing trend of price increases in both labour and materials we are having to keep agile and resourceful. The ‘New Normal’ demands that we must be even more detailed with our planing and programmes, to ensure we meet our clients’ expectations.

Keeping ahead of the game

NBS held a virtual seminar this week, ‘The Construction Leaders’ Summit: Building for the Future’ which made me think about where Corniche is, with all that we have had to deal with over the last 18 months. We have made changes within the company, said farewell to some colleagues and prepared for another challenging year.

To help us deal with the challenges 2021 will bring we are welcoming some new faces into the business; people who will equip us better to cover the range of work we have and future proof and enhance our site teams.

We are pleased to announce that Darren Whenham is joining us as Operations Manager, bringing with him a wealth of experience. Having started out as a bricklayer he worked his way up to become a National Contracts Manager for PRMF. We look forward to his contribution to our growth strategy in support of the business.  

Those following Corniche on Facebook will have seen the mix of interesting projects we have continued to work on over the Winter and Spring. The full restoration that we have undertaken of Our Lady of the Assumption at Egham, is just reaching completion. Now we are busy with a three story residential development (the crane is now on site) and another demanding but rewarding project in the commercial sector; a substantial D&B fit out of a property in Borough Market.

As the third lock-down restrictions are lifted we expect to see more changes in the industry with anticipated material shortages and the global effects on prices caused by the pandemic. Factor into this the impact of the UK leaving the EU and the challenges keep coming. However we remain positive. Corniche will continue to stay agile, work hard and try to keep ahead of the game.