Brunton’s Blog – Conference Round Up


Conference Round Up

This year’s SPRA Conference, which took place at Heythrop Park last week, hopefully had plenty of interest and relevance in a packed agenda, for all members. When I refer to ‘Conference’ I really mean the whole event which comprised of; a member exhibition area, a full meeting of the SPRA Technical Committee, a SPRA workshop, the Conference itself with excellent guest speakers, the SPRA AGM, the Awards dinner and ceremony and finally (the following morning) a full Council meeting. Any single one of these items would be a major event in any trade association’s calendar. To bring these individually important events together at the same time ensuring that they were organised to run smoothly and effectively, required a huge professional commitment from Cathie, supported by the SPRA team. We certainly hope our members found real value in the overall event and initial feedback seems tremendously positive.


The central theme of this year’s event concerned addressing ‘risk’, of all forms and specifically how it affects our work in the construction industry.  The Conference speakers addressed this issue head on with excellent presentations on key issues in the construction industry today, that concerned analysing risk. Some of the key topics presented and their relationship with the Conference ‘risk’ theme are outlined below;


Grenfell and the Hackitt Review have focussed attention on poor quality and have demanded both a change in culture and the whole construction business model. The industry must focus on achieving safe buildings and thirteen working groups have been investigating how to do this as part of the Hackitt Review. The risk of not doing this was highlighted by Peter Caplehorn of the CPA as he explained the work to date and how competence development in future was critical for the industry. As I am sure you are aware, SPRA has participated directly in the response to the Hackitt Review process.


Risk associated with fire in buildings is certainly much clearer following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Nigel Blacklock, SPRA Technical Chairman, gave a comprehensive analysis of the associated standards concerning fire in buildings, bringing members up to date with the changes to Building Regulations as a result. This presentation explored some of the inaccuracies and myths associated with this important subject matter and brought clarity, where possible, to these requirements and recent changes


In a presentation concerning the quality of building technique, the risk of not adopting digitalisation across the construction industry was highlighted by John Taylor of TR Control Solutions. John drew the audience’s attention to the opportunities that lay ahead by utilising digitalisation to assist in eliminating building defects. Again, a presentation warmly welcomed by the audience.


A very important and impact generating presentation was made by Rev. Kevin Fear of CITB. Kevin spoke movingly of issues associated with mental health in the construction industry and how we must communicate more effectively with our fellow workers to listen, understand and assist. The risk of not doing so could have catastrophic consequences for construction workers affected whereas by simply talking with them to understand how they feel could really support them through difficult times.


The keynote speaker address was delivered by David Smith, Economics Editor of The Sunday Times. David gave an update on the current race for Prime Minister with an insight into the risks and opportunities associated with Brexit. It was a presentation full of economic factual data with, in some cases, a light-hearted twist concerning the economic impact.


At the Awards event during the evening dinner all that is good and great across all categories of single ply roofing were honoured and many congratulations to all award winners. This year there appeared to be some very significant projects in the mix to receive awards. At SPRA, have already began to look ahead to next year’s awards process and will actively encourage more input from contractors in collaboration with manufacturers, so watch this space and all SPRA platforms for information throughout the next twelve months.


Finally, at Technical Committee last week, during the Heythrop Park event, the rest of this year’s technical activity was outlined. The 2020 Design Guide update work will begin now for completion before the end of this year and guidance concerning concrete decks for ballasting and from a bonding and mechanical fixing attachment perspective will be main agenda focus points.


The development of SPRA is all about engagement with members and links to key industry issues and topics that are important to understand to enable this development. The series of events and meetings last week at Heythrop Park were part of this ongoing process. Many thanks to our sponsors and all members by continuing to support these important events.


Dr Ronan Brunton B.Sc MBA GMICE, Technical Manager