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As business leaders, I think it is always good to stay in the loop and try to identify current industry trends. We want to be on the front end of things that are moving in the right direction. I’ve written about economy-related pricing trends and green building, but what’s on the horizon now? I think we’re about to see a little more of the Golden Rule in action. Maybe this goes along with the reuse, recycle and sustainability aspect we are seeing on sites. Maybe it’s a trend toward job sites that are friendlier to consumers as well as the total environment. Here’s why.

I recently read an article in Architectural Record about the city of New York pressing contractors to present a more positive image on city construction sites. While the approaches vary, the theme is not so different from an initiative I stumbled upon in London last fall.

The UK Considerate Constructors Scheme is a national project founded in 1997. Sites and companies that register are monitored against a “Code of Considerate Practice” designed to encourage best practices beyond legal requirements. The Scheme covers any area of construction with direct or indirect impact on the image of the industry as a whole, and focuses on 3 categories: the general public, the workforce and the environment. More than 40,000 sites have participated so far.

So what does the Code of Considerate Practice include to protect builders from getting a bad rap and improve industry image? Here are the 8 basic premises for site evaluation and grading:

  1. Considerate: Does the site minimize inconveniences for all those who may be affected by the work?
  2. Environment: What is the site doing to minimize impact on the environment?
  3. Cleanliness: Is the site doing all it can to appear tidy and well presented at a standard the industry should be proud of?
  4. Good Neighbor: How well is the site communicating with those who may be interested/affected? What impression will contractor leave behind when finished?
  5. Respectful: Does every person on the site create a positive image of their company and the industry?
  6. Safe: Is there a proactive approach driving up safety standards?
  7. Responsible: Is the contractor playing a role in the recruitment and training of the industry’s future workforce?
  8. Accountable: Is the contractor accountable and accessible? What is being done to create a sense of pride in working in construction? Are there any measures taken on the site that could be classed as exceptional and unique?

How’s that for a report card? If you could improve your grades in those 8 areas, think about what you could do for your community and your business. It’s happening in London. It’s happening in New York City. Can you make it happen in your city?

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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I’ve often thought that most builders strive for one of two major goals—to make the most money possible or to build a legacy. I’m not sure about you, but as a business owner I’d like to think at least some of what we do will go beyond legacy status and have a lasting impact to help others. I was reminded of that aspiration on a business trip to New York last week.

When I travel for work and I have the time, I try to take side roads as opposed to the major thoroughfares. As I mentioned here, you can get the true flavor of a place and see so much more than the generic interstate view. When I left LaGuardia to head north for the real estate we own, it was one of those days I had a little extra time. I passed over the Whitestone Bridge and I decided that instead of turning north on I-95 (that infamous road from Maine to Miami), I would forge straight ahead on New York State’s Hutchinson Parkway, which becomes the Merritt Parkway when it crosses the Connecticut line.

My impromptu side road tour turned into a meaningful history lesson. The Hutchinson, or “Hutch” as it’s referred to, and the Merritt were part of America’s Work Projects Administration (WPA) days. When men and women could not find employment, the government created this much-needed program to put folks back to work. Jobs were not only in concrete, steel and roads, like the Hutch and the Merritt, but in the arts. We supported all kinds of writing, including songs and poetry. My personal favorite WPA supported art is photography. These images are available from the Library of Congress and we’ve bought several to hang around the office. They provide beautiful architectural references and a first hand look at our country rising above the Depression.

Beyond the infrastructure of the highway, WPA workers crafted a unique collection of bridges along The Hutch and The Merritt. I believe there are about 70 bridges on the Merritt and every one of them is unique. Each has a distinctive style and uses different combinations of concrete forms, stone and shape. This year marks the 75th anniversary of The Merritt—a project that created a 4-lane road that has served the Northeast for almost 8 decades. They also built a heritage of beauty intrinsic to the bridges that span the Hutch and the Merritt.

Looking back at a harsh economy that produced projects with such lasting function and form can’t help but remind me of the challenges we as business leaders, builders and Americans are facing today. It’s inspirational to remember that true legacies were built during our country’s darkest financial days. I’ve challenged myself to stop making excuses and live with legacy top of mind. What can I do now to leave a lasting impact or the future?

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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.