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Wednesday, November 11, 2020
At the 2020 Building Awards, many things were different – no glitzy black-tie do, no champagne and no dodgy dancing – but there was also a new award specifically in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new ‘Proud to Help’ Award was introduced to recognise the work of organisations who had gone above and beyond during the pandemic. At BESA we were delighted to be shortlisted alongside a number of other companies in the construction sector for this honour (Barratt Developments, BDP, D2i Management, Fit Out UK, Gripple, Interserve Construction, J3, Laing O’Rourke, NG Bailey, Nuaire, Places for People and Wates)
At 4 pm sharp on the 3rd November, the day before the BESA Virtual Conference, we tuned in to find out if we had won. Building Magazine decided that all finalists deserved the accolade so, in an unprecedented twist, we were all made joint winners. It just goes to show that as an industry we really can rise to the challenge when we need to; be agile and innovative – and work as a team.
SO why were we joint winners for this new award? Well when the pandemic hit in March, BESA quickly became the industry’s ‘anchor’. We swiftly pivoted and focussed all our attention to supporting not just our members, but the whole sector during this difficult time.
BESA staff were all committed to providing succinct and timely guidance. We carried out the research so business leaders and technical leads had quick access to the information they needed to focus on managing the crisis. With all colleagues working from home, we focussed all attention on identifying and summarising what the sector needed to know. Our advice teams took thousands of calls from concerned individuals and businesses seeking support and guidance.
Easy to follow guides, templates and explainers were developed swiftly and issued via a dedicated COVID-19 website area. Hundreds of pieces of published guidance, FAQ’s, latest news and information were made freely available to the whole industry.
A special committee of health & safety experts was assembled to tackle additional detailed guidelines for HVAC contractors to enable them to work safely on site. Our specialist groups came together to review and issue guidance and best practice for ventilation and on how to safely mothball and recommission buildings.
We also hosted daily webinars delivering crucial updates on everything from the business implications of lockdown to the government’s furlough scheme and the new site operating restrictions. We interviewed government ministers; healthcare experts; Dame Judith Hackitt and other sector leaders as well as scientific and technical experts who were able to reassure and inform busy business leaders. BESA seized the initiative attracting over 16,000 registrants and 12,000 attendees to the webinars during the height of the pandemic.
We also collaborated with BESA affiliate members to provide ‘Lockdown Learning’: a series of free CPDs for furloughed workers accessed live and on-demand. In addition, a dedicated Facebook Group was set up as support for industry workers who had been furloughed. This was managed in their own time by furloughed staff members and tackled financial advice, mental health and general well-being and support.
Our slogan became: ‘If you want essential services, you need building services’ as the vital role of heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air conditioning – particularly in healthcare buildings and supermarkets – became increasingly apparent at the height of the pandemic. We showcased the great work being done by our sector and championed this on social media and in the press.
The need for building services contractors to get access to cash to keep their businesses afloat became a personal crusade for BESA’s CEO, David Frise, as he campaigned for the release of £4.5bn worth of retentions.
The organisation also supported the sector financially in as many small ways as it could despite the fact that membership organisations often don’t have deep pockets themselves. BESA made its ‘mothballing and reactivation of buildings’ software (SFG30) freely available to members because, as a business, we felt it was just the right thing to do. The business also made applying for or renewing a SKILLcard free for those affected by redundancy to help individuals in this difficult time.
An unexpected outcome from this dedicated push at sector support has been a flood of new members. The trend across most membership organisations has been a downward one for many years, BESA it would seem, are bucking the trend, with more enquiries during the pandemic than across a normal full year.
The dedicated approach BESA demonstrated to support the sector has proved the value of membership and shown that together we are stronger.
As our CEO likes to say: “You can’t google this sh#t”. The pandemic has raised the profile of our expert advice and shown the value of the support an organisation like BESA offers.
It can be a lonely business, running a business – BESA’s daily crusade to reach out to businesses and individuals during the crisis made it that little bit less lonely and easier to survive.
The feedback from members and the sector has been incredible, below are just some of the comments we have received from members and non-members alike:
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