Open Doors: experience construction for real
Find out what it’s really like to work in construction at one of hundreds of exciting live sites across the country during Open Doors, from Monday 18 to Saturday 23 March.
There’s nothing quite like the buzz of being on a live construction site. During Open Doors, you can borrow a hard hat and rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, doing a diverse range of roles on projects that shape the world around you.
All doors open in construction
Bouygues UK, one of many construction companies taking part in Open Doors, is welcoming visitors to 12 of their sites in England and Wales.
At the Baroness Road Infill Site, Bouygues UK is turning an old car park into much-needed housing for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Alison Cormack, Resident Liaison Officer, says it’s great to get interested people in to experience what it’s like to work onsite.
“We give out the same protective gear that our workers have and do a short induction to show people the ropes.
“Then before we have a look around, we ask people from a range of trades to give a quick talk about how they got into construction. Everyone has a different story!
“One of our young engineers said her family wanted her to go into nursing or education – seen as ‘traditional professions’ for women. Her auntie tried to put her off: ‘You don’t want to fix cars for a living!’ They had no idea what civil engineering was – but they’re very proud of her now.
“And we have an architect who was in the army for 20 years before retraining. It just shows it doesn’t matter what your background is – there’s always space for you in construction.
“I was in childcare originally, which made the move into construction health and safety somehow seem straightforward,” she smiles. “Now I’m a point of contact for local communities. It works for me because I’m naturally interested in people and care about our relationships with our neighbours and the communities where they live.”
“I love my job”
Over at Pontoon Dock, more than 250 workers are constructing 236 apartments in 3 blocks with impressive views across the River Thames in East London. There’s so much going on!
“I’m the site manager for Block C,” says Bruno de Blois, a civil works engineer for Bouygues UK. “I’m responsible for the quality and progress of work here, as well as the safety of everyone in my team.
“I have to make sure that we get the job done in the right way at the right time. I need to get tools, materials and workers where they should be, when they should be.
“I use a special app on my iPad to help me keep track of progress. Soon we’ll be using 360° cameras in every room that relay the latest updates to us.
“There are 47 tasks that have to be done successfully before each apartment is finished – and that’s just for the internal work.
“That covers everything from dry lining to joinery to electrics to tiling. After plastering, we put a mist coating on the walls, a very fine layer of paint that helps to show up every little imperfection. Our quality controllers check everything is right before we sign it off.
“I love my job. I was lucky enough to spend time in Australia as part of my training. My parents say that I’ve wanted to work in construction since I was 4 – but I don’t remember saying it back then,” he laughs.
Exciting new tech!
Bruno’s colleague Sylvain Ruggi, the project lead, is particularly proud of trialling new technology at Pontoon Dock.
“We were so delighted that Pontoon Dock won the company’s Top Site Innovation award, chosen above more than a thousand other Bouygues projects around the world.
“We’re using all kinds of monitors and devices to improve the site environment for workers and our neighbours. But new technology is making our work easier and more efficient too.
“With Building Information Modelling (BIM) we can create 3D designs to help us view things from any angle. As we build, we take 3D scans of the work and compare them to our plans so that we’re able to detect the smallest variations down to the millimetre.
“We’re getting in new trainees to operate our new technology. And it’s great we have so many women working here too, particularly in our production, quantity surveying and design teams.”
Meanwhile in Lower Broughton, Manchester, you can see the vital work underway to restore the Grade ll listed building, Church of Ascension. This beautiful Victorian building, designed by architect James Medland Taylor, was completely gutted by fire after an arson attack in 2017.
“It hit the community hard, as the church had just undergone a £250,000 refurbishment,” says Albert Hardman, the site manager working for Seddon, the main contractor, “but they campaigned to bring it back to its former glory and the funding was found.”
“One of the first things we’re doing is stabilising what’s left of the building. We’re using hundreds of tonnes of scaffolding to keep it in place. It’s quite a sight!
“As we replace the damaged sandstone columns 3 at a time, we prop up the building on special jacks. Stonemasons are replicating the fine stonework that was damaged, and plaster experts are recreating the historic mouldings from tiny surviving pieces, scaling up from 3D models.
“It’s very satisfying to return this building back to the community, one of the reasons I’m so happy to be working in construction. I left school at 15 and became a labourer, but then followed my brother into hairdressing for 4 years. It wasn’t for either of us; he joined the army, and I went back to construction.
“I’m so glad I did. You don’t have to start out with qualifications, but if you work hard and show some skill, you’ll go far.”
Book a free site visit!
Come and visit one of the Open Doors sites across England, Scotland and Wales. Find out firsthand why people chose construction and see what it’s like to work on a real-life site.
With so many careers and opportunities in construction, there is something for everyone.