19/03/2020 • What we believe
Designing a culture for quality #1: Environment
Construction may only just be getting started, but The Silk District in Whitechapel, E1, has got off to a flying start. The site has already received two outstanding Considerate Constructors Scheme inspection reports, which praised the site’s culture, the quality of its work, and how it cares for the people working on site.
For Mount Anvil Project Director Andy Hunt and the rest of the Production function in the business, that’s a source of huge pride. They’re all passionate advocates of how designing a culture thoughtfully helps drive the outcome we want – high quality homes and communities. For Andy and the team, creating an outstanding place where people can thrive started well before the project even broke ground.
We caught up with Andy for a series of mini interviews all about his philosophy on how culture supports quality outcomes. On our first visit to Whitechapel, we kicked things off with a chat about how the physical environment – the site itself – has a part to play. It’s not your average building site.
Hi, and welcome to Whitechapel! What did you think of the site coming in?
I thought we were asking the questions… It looks great – looks like you’re running a tight ship!
I was hoping you’d say that. For me, first impressions are so important. That’s true whether we’re talking about the public, the local community, contractors, our own people or a CCS inspector. When you walk around the corner this doesn’t look like a typical building site. That’s because it isn’t. It’s a Mount Anvil site – it’s The Silk District!
So, for you the site experience starts as soon as you arrive?
Definitely, as soon as you walk through security. And it’s more than that – I want people to be aware that they’re at The Silk District, you know? It’s not just a building site, it’s a big, beautiful new residential development that’s taking shape. We’ve already started creating those great quality homes and a new community here, even if it just looks like a lot of concrete for the time being…
It looks like your site team have really bought into that idea too!
I’ve been in the construction game long enough to have worked across a real range of sites. One thing I can tell you is that pride is contagious, and that the culture of a site makes all the difference.
On a simple level that just means that if a site isn’t kept tidy, if people aren’t proud of where they’re working, then they don’t respect it. It’s just the place they come to do their eight hours and get paid.
But if everyone is making the effort – keeping common areas tidy, finishing jobs and leaving the site looking its best – then that will keep happening. New contractors see that’s how we work, and they follow suit.
So, it’s a cultural thing, even this early in the build?
Absolutely. Creating beautiful homes starts from day one on site. The finish line can feel a long way away – we’re here for five years, building 700+ homes – but if everyone stays connected to that end product, then everyone stays conscious that the work we do now directly impacts the quality of The Silk District’s homes.
That awareness and respect, that’s the foundation of the site’s culture. We build on that in lots of other ways, I’m sure we’ll get into some of them in these chats, but that’s where it all starts.
We’ve been here 9 months now, and there’s been no graffiti, no vandalism of the hoardings or the site – so this culture is successfully communicating who we are and the quality of what we’re doing here, even to the passing public.
And the physical site itself has a part to play in that culture?
100%. Back in the day, building sites were a mess. Things went wherever they went, people just got thrown on there and expected to build decent homes. And trust me, that’s still how things are for some developers.
Before we’re even on site we take a step back, and plan how it will work. We look at layouts, at access points and storage areas, at better lighting in works areas, at getting the heating on as soon as we can in the build. We carve out a decent space for accessible health and wellbeing facilities.
The result is a site that works hard for us and our contractors. It helps them do great work, earn their money more efficiently, feel happy and confident on the job, and go home to their families safely at the end of the day.
Do we spend more money than other developers on planning and creating the site?
I don’t have the figures, but my experience would be that we spend more money and more time on site planning. It’s a bit more out of our pocket at the front end, but it’s repaid many, many times over in the quality of the work it allows people to produce. It’s a no brainer.
So, it’s about creating a space where people are happy to work?
Oh definitely. Putting time and resource into planning the site allows us to have a very different relationship with our contractors than a lot of developers.
Too many sites are still just about cracking the whip, pushing contractors to bang product out quickly – that creates a terrible relationship between the site team and the homes they’re making, and the quality really suffers. Just a really ropey way to work.
The site we’ve got, and how we all maintain it, shows the respect we have for the people working here, the respect they have for us, and how we’re all pulling together to create something great.
That’s brilliant, thanks for talking to us Andy – we’ll be back soon to chat more!
Looking forward to it. Thanks for coming!