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Knowles Celebrates ‘Women in Construction’ Week 2022

Women in Construction week takes place in March every year and is celebrated as a time to highlight all the great initiatives and work of women within the industry. Through the celebration of women in construction, and the numerous efforts of the association, many more women have taken the bold step to venture into the industry, which is predominantly filled with men.

The stigma around women working in construction has reduced over the years, however, currently, women represent around 11% of the workforce in the construction sector, and as little as one percent of the manual trades.

At Knowles, we are proud to say that 40% of our Board is female and we have women across multiple roles and disciplines within the company, including, accounts, buying, marketing and on-site.

We spoke to some of Knowles’ female team members to find out more about working as a woman in construction:

Natalie Smith, Document Controller 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

With Knowles I work in construction site offices and work on a number of active projects across London and the Home Counties, engaging with different client, design and construction teams and I enjoy that no two days are the same as this keeps the working day interesting. It is also great working on construction sites as get to see projects take shape from start to finish, literally from the ground up to client handover.

Have you always worked in construction?

With a couple of breaks in between I’ve worked in construction for coming up to 11 years in total on projects in the Home Counties, London, the Midlands and mainland Europe for a short time. Prior to Knowles I worked for a main contractor predominantly on commercial projects which is where I got to move around as relocated to where the project was based and an Architect Engineer practice in London.

How did you get into construction?

I initially began my career in construction as a temp worker, was taken on permanently after a few months and ended up staying with the company for 9 years.

What does a day a work look like for you?

Knowles use the document management system Viewpoint for Projects. My working day is mainly dictated by the project information received via Viewpoint for Projects which is uploaded by the design consultants and subcontractors on each individual project. I monitor Viewpoint for new and revised information, carry out a basic quality check of all documentation received and notify the design consultants to review and approve subcontractor information, and the construction team and subcontractors to ensure that all are working to the current construction information. I also set up new projects, have developed document management procedure documents and hold regular training sessions with the internal, client/design teams and subcontractors.

Are there any misconceptions about your job?

Document control is generally viewed as a generic admin role but it is a key part of the construction site team. There are a number of attributes required to carry out the role effectively but mostly you need to have great attention to detail and be able to work effectively as part of a team, which quite often includes the client themselves. 

Building these professional relationships helps for example when you need to reject documentation when someone hasn’t followed the project guidelines, without them taking it personally – everyone has a job to do!

How would you encourage more women to get into construction?

I think articles such as this where profiles of existing female staff to encourage others into the construction industry. The construction sites I have worked on have always had a very small percentage of female employees but I just this morning saw an article promoting the first female crane operator in Ireland which goes to show that there are vast opportunities available for anyone interested in entering into construction.

Abbi Leanne Haynes, Assistant Buyer

Did you always want to work in construction?

Not at all, I actually studied towards working within the Travel & Tourism Industry. I fell into this industry by accident, but it has become one of the best career choices I have made.

What do you love most about working in the construction industry?

The fact that no 2 days are the same. Throughout my 8 years in the industry, I can honestly say I learn something new every day. I also love seeing each of our projects going through the various stages from start to finish, it really does fascinate me as I love architecture.

Do you have any advice for young people thinking about a career in construction?

Hard work really does pay off. Whether you have a degree, or you start from the bottom, it is still quite easy to climb the ladder as long as you apply yourself. Be confident and willing to adapt yourself as new building applications, techniques and procedures are being introduced all the time.

Women working in construction is becoming more common, but do you think there is still some kind of stigma or misconception preventing more women from joining the industry?

From my own perspective and experiences, the industry has come a long way. When I first started out in the Builders Merchants, I found it difficult to build up my client base just because I was a woman and they all assumed I had a lesser knowledge than my male colleagues. Once I built up my confidence and with backing from my colleagues and managers, I managed to get through preconceived notion this and excel. 

In my current position as an Assistant Buyer at Knowles Construction, I can honestly say I have not faced any of these issues and I was quickly able to prove myself to be very competent to our site managers and suppliers alike.

In your view, what does the industry need to do to help attract and retain more women?

I believe it is pretty clear the industry is becoming more equal. I see more and more woman in various roles, even on the grab lorries etc. if anything this needs to be encouraged more within schools and vocational colleges to attract such students into the industry. At that age, I didn’t even know myself how diverse the construction industry could be, hence why I opted for Travel and Tourism. If I knew then what I know now I would have 100% joined this industry a lot sooner and would probably be a lot more advanced in my career.

Megan Steele-Knowles, Group Brand & Comms Director

Why do you think it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

Yes, absolutely. For a long time, women sat in the background – whether it be at an organisation, on a Board seat or generally within decision making roles. Therefore, we must celebrate this seismic shift, particularly within the Property and Construction sector, which have been slower at adapting and embracing this shift than others. Now are on the precipice of making real and permanent changes, we should shout about it and celebrate it, not only to recognise the work, but to inspire others to maintain this momentum.

Have you faced any challenges in your career as a woman and if so, how did you overcome them?

I have worked in both totally female dominated company (in a previous career) and now within a largely male dominated environment, and the difference has not been as stark as one might think. However, at Knowles, we are proud to have 40% of our Board as female, I would say that is about as high as you will get in 2022 within Construction.

Truthfully, I have never felt that that my gender has created any significant challenges for me,  however on reflection I think it would be fair to say that albeit subconsciously, I have had to work that little bit harder to establish my position, particularly within male dominated environments. But the way to overcome any challenge is to reaffirm why and how, not only to yourself but to everyone around you and genuinely to stay firm in your beliefs.

Is there another woman on whom you would like to shine a light, in the luxury property industry and why?

Suzannah Nicholl, Chief Executive of Build UK is a role model particularly for women within the Construction Sector, or women wishing to get into Construction. Build UK is the leading industry body, and with a woman at the helm, this gives us the confidence that we do have a place in the sector. 

How can we encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship or senior leadership roles in the luxury property industry?

By talking about it and showing that it can happen, but most importantly, show that it does happen. I think there needs to be more of an emphasis on attracting internships, work experience and apprenticeships.

What is the best advice you have been given?

It’s actually in the form of a quote – “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

Jordan Hart, Office Manager

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have learnt so much in the 2.5 years in the industry, each day is different which is great as my role is very reactive which keeps me engaged and productive.

I am always learning on the job and taking on more roles and responsibilities when and where I can as I enjoy being involved in the business as much as I can.

Have you always worked in construction?

No my last job role was in the Maintenance industry for 3 years as a Contract Support.

Prior to this I worked as an Administrator for the Essex Police.

How did you get into construction?

I fell into the construction industry by luck, I decided I wanted a change and that wanted to move away from the Maintenance industry.

When this job presented itself it was exactly what I was looking for and looking back It was the best decision ive made.

I have worked within the construction industry for 2.5 years and thoroughly enjoyed my time at Knowles what I have achieved so far within my career.

What does a day a work look like for you?

A general day to day involves a mixture of recruitment, HR, general office duties and diary management this is just some of my duties. I have many different roles/responsibilities within the business, its something new everyday.

Are there any misconceptions about your job?

I think as a women it can be hard to build and gain respect however from my own experiences its been very positive.

I get treated as an equal and feel respected within the business.

How would you encourage more women to get into construction?

The construction industry is becoming more equal as I have seen personally more and women joining construction.  

There are plenty of opportunities within this industry to learn and develop new skills if you work hard and push yourself.

KNOWLES TEAM – Q&A with Knowles Project Manager, Neil Pym

Tell us about yourself and your career history 

I started my career in the construction industry as a scaffold labourer as a summer job when I left school.  After this baptism by fire I felt a move to a carpentry apprenticeship would be a better fit for me and from here I progressed through my NVQ’s and onto a HNC. It was during the latter where I moved from Devon to London to pursue my dream of following an opportunity in project management.  From this point on in knew I had found my passion of managing and delivering projects from tender through to practical completion.

 

What projects are you working on at Knowles? 

Currently running 2 super prime projects in St. John’s Wood and Wimbledon.  Both consist of large basements with a new build superstructure above through to a complete fit out.  Internally they consist of ultra-high end finishes where I thrive on the challenges associated with delivering a project of the highest standard.

 

What projects have you worked on in the past? 

I have worked on a variety of projects from museum fit outs in the UK for the 2012 Olympics to discovery centres in the middle east.  For the last 10 years I have found my natural home working in the high-end residential market in Prime London.  During this time work has taken me to properties in the most exclusive of postcodes in London, predominantly in the Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea areas.

What’s your project management ethos? 

I am a firm believer that the most important aspect of project management is good communication.  This leads to a clear understanding of the client and their dream, working with the project team to construct their vision and delivering it with the use of some of the best specialists out there. 

 

What can we expect from a project managed by you? 

A ‘hands on’ collaborative approach working openly with all members of the project team.  No project is without its difficulties but problem solving can be one of the most rewarding aspects and encourages a team.  Building a positive atmosphere is essential to a successful project and one that can only enhance the end product and even a bit of fun along the way.  

WATCH | KNOWLES’ 2021 REVIEW MOVIE

2021 will yet again be a year that has been memorable for many, but for Knowles, we are fortunate that we will look back on 2021 fondly as a year when we commence and delivered some incredible projects, continued our growth trajectory, and build on our expertise with significant new senior management hires. Read our blogs here.

 

Despite the continued challenges we all faced this year, Knowles were lucky to continue our operations, commence some new exciting projects and deliver projects to our Clients.

This year, Knowles have delivered multiple schemes across London and the Home Counties, from Private Residential and County Estates, to Luxury Commercial Schemes, and we finish the year with a strong foundation of 22 live projects. You can spot Knowles sites in Surrey, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, St John’s Wood, Mayfair, and Belgravia, to name but a few.

Projects we were proud to have commenced include a new private residence in North London Wood, a luxury townhouse conversion in Eaton Square, a family-home on Wimbledon’s Parkside, our luxury commercial scheme on High St Kensington and the Castle Club, a combined restoration and modernisation of a Fulham Landmark.

 

2021 has also seen the creation of support divisions, K Piling and K Plant, of which are in place to support and aid in the delivery of Knowles projects. Established to enable Knowles to remain dynamic, reactive, and also provide our clients with the best possible service.

 

As we head into 2022, we are preparing for our new projects, of which we look forward to sharing with you in the new year.

But for now, we wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

KNOWLES TEAM | Q & A with Mantas Rimavicius, Knowles’ Health and Safety Assistant

We interviewed Mantas Rimavicius, Knowles’ newly appointed Health and Safety Assistant to find out more about his career so far. Mantas originally started with Knowles in 2015 as labourer progressed to site foreman where Mantas’ skills and eye for Health & Safety were evident.

In 2020 Mantas expressed his interest to evolve into a Health & Safety role, and today in 2021, we are very pleased to have him a part of our growing internal health & safety department – an essential part of Knowles. 

Knowles encourage progression across all our site teams and we are pleased to share Mantas’ story!

 

Firstly, can you give us an overview on yourself and your career history with Knowles?

I came to England at the age of 19 from Lithuania – and on my second day in London I started working at Knowles. It was my first experience in construction, and I was interested in the industry and started as a labourer to learn from the very beginning. With my colleagues help, I’ve built strong knowledge foundations and slowly I started stepping up in Assistant Site Manager and Supervisor roles, where my skills developed both on site and in administrative paperwork, especially health & safety – and here I am now.

 

What do you wish you knew in the early part of your career that would influence you and your role today?

To be honest, I got a lot of experience in the early part of my career which helped me gain a lot of knowledge about construction and especially temporary works – which are heavily involved in every Knowles project.

 

What are the key moments in your career?

Key moments were when I started working with a lot of responsibilities, organizing activities on sites, and becoming a supervisor at work, attending many courses and developing and gaining further advanced qualifications. The most memorable moment was when I started to get involved in Health & Safety. Over the years I have met a lot of smart people in Knowles which allowed me to gain further experience and knowledge about my new role and who I’m now.

 

What are you most excited about for your new role with Knowles?

I’m most excited to help improve systems at work, reduce any risks and give advice on how to do it better. I enjoy communicating with people who are happy and like to work with existing Health & Safety standards and see how we grow as a company.

 

What are you most passionate about?

My passion has always been doing a job right and properly, but in all these years I develop that most important to do right and safely. Now I can do this 100% and implement that system for our company teams, new people, any workers who need assistance with Health & Safety.

 

What are the key ways in which you implement change within your team?

First of all, we need to have the right people on the team, who love their job and what they doing. When we start thinking the same then implementing any changes or new systems is very simple and even enjoyable.

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS | Q&A with K Piling’s Commercial Manager, James Downing

Firstly, can you give us an overview of yourself and your career history?

I have been working on constructions sites as a laborer since the age of 18 during the rugby off-seasons. After graduating from university with an engineering degree I went on to start managing projects and specifically piling works.

Some hero projects that I managed that you might know are:

  • Coal Drops Yard, Kings cross – BAM (~1.1 mil of specialist piling works)
  • Royal College of Music – Gilbert Ash (~500K of specialist piling works)

For the last 3 years, I have worked in contractual/commercial roles and overall division/company management.

 

Can you tell us about K Piling and how it integrates with Knowles Construction?

Knowles Construction have always done a lot of piling work on their sites, however, the issue with using external piling contractors is, it is very hard to find unity and a clear positive direction as each entity is always looking for the answer that best suits them. Since we are in the same group, we have the same overall goal. By working very closely with Knowles Construction, we have the beneficial opportunity to decrease overall job programs and find ways to minimise overall costs where possible – making us more competitive and appealing to clients.

What projects are K Piling currently working on with Knowles?

50 Hyde Park Gate: Completing a heavily restricted 450mm secant wall and 450mm bearing piles with 2 no KLEMM 702-02 piling rigs.

Private Estate, Berkshire: Completing approximately 550no 450mm diameter bearing/ tension piles to form part of the foundations of the main house and 3no outbuildings. Works being completed with a SOILMEC SF50 CFA piling rig.

AUTO CAVE Scheme, Surrey: Completed a contiguous piled retaining wall in a private residence to retain ground during the installation of a hydraulic car lift/storage.

 

What are the current challenges you face with piling and how do you overcome these? 

Piling, unlike most other elements of construction, is extremely time-sensitive. For example, once you start a pile it must be constructed (reinforced and concreted) that day. This means the usual concrete delays and plant breakdowns you typically get on sites can cause significant challenges to the piling team. We overcome this on-site by always having a plan B and C and ensuring we communicate issues to the wider Knowles team straight away. In a group of companies as large and diverse as the Knowles, the solution is always a phone call away.

 

How does K Piling keep up with the latest technologies and innovations when it comes to your sector?

We make sure we are always using the latest and most efficient piling rigs and techniques. Safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we ensure we only employ highly qualified and experienced staff who go above and beyond to ensure the most recent safety standards are upheld.

Finally, we put a large responsibility on our engineers who are some of the top in the country, to ensure the latest design methods are used to increase safety and ensure the designs are always valued engineered.

A combination of the above means we can get high-powered rigs in the smallest spaces doing the most complicated piling works possible.

For more information or to enquire about K Piling’s Services email james@kpiling.uk.com or contact@kpiling.uk.com 

LinkedIn | K Piling

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KNOWLES TEAM | Q & A with Knowles’ Design Manager, Royston Diggle

We’re pleased to introduce you to one of the members of Knowles’ site management team, Royston Diggle. We sat down with Royston to find out more about him, his career and what people can expect from his sites.

 

Tell us about yourself and your career history

I’ve been in design management for around 12 years now, I started my career as an apprentice cabinet maker, I progressed through various roles up to a workshop manager then things started to change with the introduction of computers I swapped over to design in various forms of CAD design & coordination, I developed my skills & rounded knowledge, enabling progression into design management

 

What’s does your role as Design Manager at Knowles involve?

Aside from reporting to the Senior Team on a project, my overall responsibility is to maintain and develop Knowles’ Company Standards and delivering the specific design and related services requiring technical & design input. Other key tasks and duties include:

  • Leading the translation of contract drawings, specifications, and documentation into an effective solution
  • Management of consultants
  • Coordination of trade packages, including responding to design queries, managing change control, and drawing approvals to agreed protocols
  • Resolving all day-to-day design problems as they arise by preparing solutions thereto and, where appropriate, liaising with the construction team for submission to the Client for approval
  • Awareness and identification of design risks and proactively driving appropriate resolutions
  • Regular attendance at project meetings

What projects are you working on at Knowles?

I currently have two major projects, including a Super-Prime Private Residence in the Cotswolds

What projects have you worked on in the past?  I’ve worked on many projects ranging from simple store fit-outs to ultra-prime residencies, hotels, high-end apartments & factory units, education, hospitals & social housing. 

 

What can we expect from a project with your involvement?

I like to focus on good communication, teamwork & quality – these attributes, I believe, will lead to a well-executed project they people are happy to say I was part of.

 

What are the key attributes you feel are necessary for any effective design manager?

Complex Problem Solver, Critical Thinker, Excellent Communicator, Monitoring & Mentoring, commercially aware

KNOWLES TEAM | Q&A with Knowles Senior Project Manager, Nic Goulbourn

We’re pleased to introduce you to one of the members of Knowles’ senior project team, Nic Goulbourn. We sat down with Nic to find out more about him, his career and what people can expect from his sites.

 

Tell us about yourself and your career history

I’ve been a Project Manager in high-end residential now for over 12 years after spending several years working in trade whilst I studied at college and university.  I went on to study a part-time Master’s degree in Construction Project Management and passed with Distinction whilst running construction projects in London for a residential building company.  I’ve since used these qualifications and my experience to gain MCIOB status with the Chartered Institute of Building in 2020.

 

What projects are you currently working on at Knowles?

I’m currently starting a 65,000 sq. ft project in the Home Counties which consists of a subterranean development, construction of the new superstructure, fit-out and landscaping works, plus ancillary buildings.

 

What types of projects have you worked on in the past?

I have always worked in the high-end Residential market and have extensive experience in a wide range of projects including, large cut and carve refurbishments in the prime locations of Central London right through to New Builds in the Home Counties.  

 

What’s your project management ethos?

Simply – Commitment, Teamwork and Loyalty. 

 

What can we expect from a project managed by you?

I focus on collaboration as this is the key to a successful project.  Collaboration encourages teamwork, stimulates information sharing, helps improves communication amongst project team members and most importantly, improves the quality and efficiency of the project.  This will ultimately result in a happy Project Team with a good quality end product for the Client

 

What most excites you about working with Knowles?

I like the fact that Knowles can take on some of the most structurally changing projects in-house whilst also offering the delivery of top end fit outs.  There are very few companies in this market sector that can offer a ‘one stop shop’ for the Construction of Super Prime Residential Homes and for me it’s great to be involved in the whole life cycle of the project.  Knowles can offer client’s continuity across the project without the downtime and issues created by splitting the Sub / Superstructure and Fit Out packages.

 

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS | Q & A with Interior Design Consultants, Riley Brooks

Knowles work with an array of leading industry teams to provide our clients with a seamless turnkey service – including delivering the all-important finishes to a project.

Interior Design Consultants, Riley Brooks, of whom Knowles have now worked with on various projects over the years are recognised by their interior style of serene colour palettes, luxurious fabrics and materials and complete sense of home.

We sat down Liberty Brooks, to discuss how the practice works, what clients can expect from them and provide insight into their newly formed consultancy.

 

What can clients expect from Riley Brooks?

Whether it be a musician’s loft, family town house or a country home, our initial focus is to build a picture of our clients’ lives; their daily rituals, how they gather with family and friends, herd their children/dogs and relax. This process allows everyone to understand how the home should feel as well as function. We offer consultancy at any stage of a project.

Tell us a bit about you and the history of your practice?

As a team we began working together in 2014. Liberty coming through an artistic background and Honor previously working in publishing including World of Interiors, House and Garden and going on to work with Ilse Crawford at her studio.
Over the years of working on wonderful homes, including heritage projects and developments, our relationship with furniture suppliers, craftsmen, antique dealers and auction houses has led us to launch our sourcing consultancy. As well as sourcing contemporary, vintage and bespoke furnishings we also offer paint colour and curtain consultancy.

How would you describe the studios style?

Our emphasis is on quiet design, offering comfort and a calm elegance. We are happy to dial up the rock and roll factor, just as long as it’s all in tune!

What has been your favourite project to work with Knowles on?

All our Knowles projects have happy memories! Knowles’ impeccable attention to detail, lack of ego and concentrated focus on what is best for the building always underscores our belief that the right teams working together are crucial to outcome of a project. Our most recent project (pictured) in West Hampstead being a case in point.

To view some of the projects Knowles has worked on with Riley Brooks, visit our portfolio pages:

Private Residence, NW3 

Chepstow Place, W2

Bayswater, W2

KNOWLES TEAM | Q&A with Knowles’ New Project Manager, Jerry Fahy

We’re pleased to introduce you to one of the newest members of Knowles’ senior project team, Jerry Fahy. We sat down with Jerry to find out more about him, his career and what people can expect from his sites.

 

Tell us about yourself and your career history

I have always had a keen interest in Construction and the built environment. I studied at Nottingham University for my bachelor’s before starting work on-site as an Assistant Engineer setting out groundworks and RC Frame construction. From there, I progressed through to Project Management and have enjoyed working on a variety of projects around London. Concurrently I have maintained my professional development recently achieving my MSc in Civil Engineering and I also keep membership of industry bodies such as the ICE, CIOB and APM.

What projects are you working on at Knowles?

I am currently working on a new scheme in Pembridge Crescent. It is a very interesting project with elements of retained façade, basement excavation and underpinning of neighbouring properties. The tight site constraints make thorough sequencing vital to ensuring a successful outcome for the project. I am also assisting on programming for some of Knowles’s upcoming works.

What projects have you worked on in the past?

I have worked on various projects throughout my career throughout London. I have worked on numerous residential projects ranging from low-rise RC frames to twenty-plus storey towers. I have also worked on a shopping center and hotel. The projects have varied from new builds to cut and carve to repurpose existing structures. In terms of project phases I have been involved from preconstruction all the way through to handover and practical completion.

What’s your project management ethos?

My project management ethos is one of collaboration and communication. If all the various interested parties and stakeholders maintain an attitude of collaboration and keep open lines of communication, then the project has a wonderful chance of success in both delivering the client’s vision and doing so in a safe and timely manner.

What can we expect from a project managed by you?

You can expect the highest standards of safety, environmental consideration, and a strong duty of care to the site staff that make the project happen and the local residents. You can expect an open-door policy and a desire to solve problems and not lay blame. Hopefully, you will see a project where everyone involved is working together and has a genuine stake in seeing the project completed safely, on time and within budget.

A View From The Top | Timelapse Cameras At Knowles

In keeping with our manifesto of constantly evolving and investing in innovative technologies on our sites, especially those that benefit both us and our clients, Knowles work with time-lapse cameras on certain sites – often those of a larger scale, complexity, and those in a hard-to-reach location.

 

With the global pandemic putting the opportunity to host site visits on pause, we found our time-lapse cameras playing a vital role in the management and overseeing of our sites vital. The cameras allowed for both the Knowles team and our Clients to be kept up to date with progress on site.

Knowles currently have three cameras installed on our sites, two of which are located at projects in the Home Counties, and the third located at our project on Kensington High Street. These state-of-the-art cameras are high definition, and record constantly, allowing for real time, and past time updates when necessary.


Please see the video below which demonstrates the use of a time lapse camera at our Kensington site.

The benefits of Knowles using these cameras can be seen across the project, by multiple project roles – from our project managers and quantity surveyors to Clients and other project teams.  both from our teams and the Client’s. See below how key roles at Knowles utilise and benefit from this technology:

 

“I check into the camera every day, and often leave it running so I can see in live-time what is happening on site. I use the programme to verify works that have taken place, check on deliveries and support monthly valuations and reports’

George Winters, Quantity Surveyor

 

‘The time-lapse cameras are great for key project stakeholders and Clients to be able to view a project when visits may be hard to make. Equally, we find the technology very useful for international clients, especially in the time of COVID when international travel has been limited. Furthermore, it is a great tool to showcase the efficiency and progress on a site’

Robin O’Toole , Project Manager