Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building


Construction Manager of the Year Awards 2020: President’s Award

4 January 2021 | By Charles Egbu

Sir James Wates is the deserving first winner of the CIOB President’s Award. Past president Charles Egbu explains

Change does not come easy. It takes a certain kind of person to lead from the front, to set the tempo from which their organisation, their people, and even an entire industry can follow. 

Construction is transforming, and it needs to. We don’t have nearly enough diversity in our workforce; we have only started to recognise the silent crisis of poor mental health and wellbeing. And these issues are holding us back from fulfilling our potential.

Which brings us back to why changing the way we do things is so important. But for change to take effect we need people who are bold enough to show us what is possible and how to take a different road.

It is for these reasons that I am delighted to award Sir James Wates the CIOB President’s Award.  

Under Sir James’s stewardship the Wates Group is setting new standards for what can be achieved in terms of health and safety. Their Zero Harm Strategy is a success story in its own right, with the ambition to make their construction sites as safe as their offices, while placing an equal focus on occupational health and work-related illnesses, like mental health.

We are seeing more construction businesses open up to the challenge of diversity and inclusion. Sir James’s bold leadership has committed Wates to reflect society more fully by 2025. Making fairness and openness not just phrases but corporate objectives that are reported upon.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when UK government looked for a chairperson to develop corporate governance principles for large privately owned companies, they asked Sir James to lead the work. The resulting Wates Principles encourage high standards of corporate governance, and crucially reflect the impact that large privately owned companies have on society and the economy.

Many will know that outside of his family-owned business Sir James is a true champion for the industry. He has held numerous positions at various leading bodies. He was recently chair of the CBI Construction Council and the co-chair of Infrastructure Exports: UK. He is currently chairman of the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Trust.

Please do join me in congratulating Sir James Wates as he receives the CIOB President’s Award.

Professor Charles Egbu FCIOB is vice chancellor at Leeds Trinity University and past president of the CIOB

Sir James Wates CBE FCIOB, Wates Group 

CIOB President’s Award winner

“It is a great honour to receive this award. I became a CIOB associate in 1985, so for 35 years I’ve been seeing the great work the CIOB does. It is a beacon for quality and ethics in our industry. Of course, we can’t stand still. We have to keep working on being safer, less tolerant of poor quality and more inclusive. 

The work the CIOB does, the work we all do together, is vital to bring about that change. Thank you to everyone who really cares about what they do and thank you for this wonderful award.”


Congratulations Sir James, so pleased your efforts are recognised within our industry peer group, you should be so proud.

Adrian Fennessy, 6 January 2021

Leave a Reply