Ben Harwood, managing director at Naismiths

A discussion with Ben Harwood: The construction industry needs to 'get up to speed' with sustainability targets

Following his promotion to managing director of Naismiths in May 2023, Ben Harwood (pictured above), discussed with Development Finance Today the ins and outs of the development finance industry.

Ben noted that construction had always been an interest of his due to family connections.

He said: “It’s always been something that I've been keen on getting an active engagement into as well.

“So, when Naismiths came around, I sort of jumped at the opportunity to do something that I'm interested in while using the skills that I've got.”

Ben summarised the firm’s role as made up of three sectors: project monitoring, building consultancy and the restructuring and advisory area.  

We then discussed what Ben thought the key role of Naismiths was, to which he stated: “the project monitoring world… that’s where we link directly with the funders."

He said that the biggest pain points within any construction deal are anything that can cause a delay.

“A delay in a project means the delay in them getting money out at the end of it, increasing financing costs, increasing everything else.

“The whole point of our role is to come in to highlight where those potential issues are whether that is planning is going to take you four or five weeks longer than you expect it to, [or if there will be trouble] getting materials.

“So how are you going to account for that in the plan which is in place?”

A significant current pressure on developers and real estate consultancies are the sustainability targets desired by funders.

Ben commented: “The world is changing.

“Everybody's accepting sustainability, energy efficiency and all these environmental factors which are coming in.

“What the construction world needs to do is get up to speed and get in line with those.

“We're going to have to accept there are extra regulations.

“But a lot of the developers that we're working with now are fully on board with the changes.”

In relation to his new role as managing director, Ben told us about his aspirations for Naismiths.

He said: “This business is 60 years old now.

“I still want the business to be here in another 60 years and being successful.

“[Naismiths] want to be seen leading the industry in changes in technology and advancements in what we can do.

“The main part of my role now is ensuring the longevity of our business and how we get there while taking the whole of the construction industry with us as well.”

The strategies that Naismiths has been working on to enhance the business in the future surround strategic planning, how they work with clients to ensure long-standing relationships, and creating a new analytics platform.

In relation to this, he said that within the industry “you’re only ever known for the last job you did ,” highlighting the importance of consistently delivering great results.

When discussing gaps in the industry, Ben was quick to bring up the lack of skill and resources within the market.

He said: “There are not enough people coming through for the output that we're supposed to be delivering year-on-year.

“There's not enough people training in construction-related courses at the moment.”

In creating a solution to this gap in the market, Ben suggested that the development finance industry continually fills the market with younger university students, making sure that they have the right training and skills.

“I want Naismiths to become the known company in the UK from every sector of the construction industry,” Ben concluded.

Following this interview, Naismiths launched a new analytics platform last month to streamline the due diligence process for property developments.

The platform uses Naismiths’ own data gained from the monitoring of thousands of property development projects.

Ben commented: “This is a significant step for us as we embrace a digital approach in the evolution of how we appraise and monitor projects more effectively.

“I expect great things from the new division, and we are very proud to launch this platform as a business first for Naismiths.”

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