Meet the Experts: Steve Highwood


If you’ve already read our interviews with John O’Sullivan and Eddy Pegg, you’ll know all about our Meet the experts: A year in review’ series. This time Vicky Shah, our sector lead for retail, hospitality and leisure, speaks to Steve Highwood, business development director and UK sector lead for construction.

Here Steve discusses his experience across more than 25 years in the construction industry, the key compliance challenges faced by developers and how his lifelong passion for sailing has helped him to raise more than £75,000 for charity.

Vicky Shah: Tell us about your own experiences through the years and how they help you in your role at Bureau Veritas.

Steve Highwood: I’ve worked in the construction industry for more than 25 years now, working with Tarmac, several local authorities and also serving in the British Army. I’ve been involved with the delivery, promotion and management of consultancy services and now as business development director for Bureau Veritas, I combine my technical background with my business development and communication skills to support clients.

I’ve been behind the development of the Bureau Veritas Construction Consultancy division’s major project teams, working with clients such as Manhattan Loft Corporation, Qatari Diar, Legal & General, British Land and the BBC, to name a few. It’s an incredibly varied role and I work closely alongside all areas of the business, particularly with the technical teams involved in the delivery of projects, challenging and communicating with the delivery team to ensure the service is delivered to the expected high standards.

I’m also the UK sector lead for construction, which gives me the opportunity to engage with European and global clients and across the Bureau Veritas network to support UK and International opportunities.

Outside of work I’m a competitive open water swimmer - a good 10km swim keeps me happy! I’m also a keen yachtsman and I’m extremely proud to say I’ve raised over £75,000 for Meningitis Research through my lifelong love of sailing.

VS: What is the most significant legislation that impacts your clients and how can Bureau Veritas support them?

SH: Our Building Control Approved Inspector Service forms the backbone of the Bureau Veritas Construction Consultancy division. We are one of the leading Approved Inspectors in the UK and a leading provider globally.

The Building Regulations cover all sectors of the construction industry and our specialist teams can advise clients on the ever-increasing complexity of the Regulations. We have extensive experience in providing a full range of services on national portfolios and major projects across the UK.

VS: What are the key areas to be considered?

SH: For consumer-facing businesses like retail and hospitality, where there are visitors to take into account, we consider key areas such as Fire Safety (Part B), Access (Part M) and Conservation of Fuel and Power (Part L), combining clients’ specific brand standards where relevant.

Our early engagement with clients is where we can bring the most added value. By appointing our services to the design team at the early stage, for example, we can assist in preventing abortive design time and assist the client in achieving their dreams and aspirations. We can support the design team, help steer them through the complex Regulations and identify where clashes between operational, brand standards and Building Regulations occur.

VS: What is required to achieve compliance?

SH: Compliance doesn’t just start and end during the construction design phase. We as an industry need to ensure that the term ‘compliant’ is achieved during the initial concept, continuously challenged and checked through the design, construction and operational process.

It's a challenge for everybody in the construction industry but the ‘golden thread’ needs to be recognised, supported and developed throughout the life of the building.

VS: In your mind, why does it sometimes go wrong?

SH: The biggest risk is to not engage our services at an early stage on a scheme, which would mean the design would progress without input from the Building Control team. This, in turn, can lead to abortive design time where concepts have to be revisited in order to achieve compliance with the Building Regulations and associated legislation. Another key gap which the industry is beginning to recognise is between the construction team and the operational team.

VS: How does your team help?

SH: We offer a unique range of services, which ultimately enable continuity during the design and construction phase to be continually monitored. This continuity continues throughout the life cycle of the project - in the case of fire safety, for example, via fire risk assessments, fire management plans and fire safety training.

VS: What one top tip would you give your clients?

SH: Ultimately project consultants, contractors and clients all want the same goal; occupancy. In the hotel sector it’s ‘heads on beds’, in retail it’s tills ringing and in commercial it’s desks occupied.

If we can all communicate as a team, reduce the blame culture, think about whom you want on the team rather than just the fee and encourage continuous innovation, then we can achieve the goal with a lot less pain.

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