IHBC Yearbook 2023

REVIEW AND ANALYSIS 17 DIRECTOR’S UPDATE CHARTING TERRITORIES, OLD AND NEW SEAN O’REILLY, IHBC DIRECTOR IT IS with some relief that, from 2023, the IHBC can say ‘so long, and thanks for all the fish’, to the worst impacts of the pandemic, while still continuing to build positively on the many lessons offered by that global interregnum. This is extraordinarily good news when, as I write, we are both seeing out our highly successful 25th anniversary year, IHBC25, and looking to thoughts on adopting a more overt presence across both environmental and construction landscapes, as a body with a Royal Charter. As the pandemic’s impact on our patterns of work have waned over the last year and more, it may be hard to remember the sheer complexity of the concerns needing response or resolution. The ever-changing nature of the threats had to be written into plans, services and even experiences, and so generating substantial yet increasingly diverse profiles and levels of risk. For example, while preparations for our 2023 Aberdeen School were firmly rooted in 2021, from the start of 2022 the country opened out with much more confidence than was evident in the previous months. So, only as the school approached could we finally make substantial presumptions about detailed adaptations to a, by then, postcrisis environment. At every point in that planning, as a responsible charity and company, we were prepared to compact back into pandemic mode in case new threats arose. Impacts of that transitional management were best witnessed by the many delegates who came to enjoy our Aberdeen School in person. It was the first chance after Covid for us to re-engage with our historic training model, the now in-person school, and, with so many meeting up again at last, it also served as our traditional and de facto annual conservation festival. Delegates on hand could enjoy the splendid places (real and digital) on offer from local castles, cities and harbours to the vistas and live reports from the South Pole. Many also took the opportunity to both recognise and learn from the curious details being generated by our postCovid circumstances across the entire experience, both personal and professional. From overt masking to the more covert constraints at our first Annual Dinner, Gus Astley and Marsh Awards, evening receptions and more, all were borne with good will and grace as members delighted in their return to real life, in-person, and fundamentally human interactions. More importantly, we also delivered successfully on both immediate and long-term learning and training objectives. Most ambitious, pre-Covid at least, were the dual achievements of increasing access to our training, through our blended or hybridised format, while also reducing associated carbon footprints. At the same time, the 2023 School was by far the most logistically challenging IHBC CPD event in our history. Despite rapidly changing social, educational and political norms, it accommodated a range of pilot and experimental approaches, themselves essential tests for future event arrangements. The school also managed to respond rapidly to veering priorities around health, sponsors and costs, while still offering greatvalue, quality services equally to both traditional in-person delegates and to our digital participants. Its strategic success was confirmed by positive feedback, not least in the only entirely digital facet of the programme, our new (and still evolving) Heritage Marketplace. For all the learning in and from Aberdeen, the School’s real achievements will be felt most strongly in the future. For events, the lessons learned will filter through to branches and partners. At the same time the superb engagement by, and understanding support from, the Scotland branch’s school committee, led by Douglas Campbell and populated by an impressive array of Annual school delegates viewing a scale model of an oil rig at Aberdeen’s maritime museum. One of the most challenging topics raised by the school centred on the historic significance and value of the last remaining North Sea oil rigs.