People, innovation, planet, and community: Rob Cook of Winvic discusses the building blocks of sustainable civils

With 24 years industry experience under his belt, Rob Cook, Director of Civils & Infrastructure at Winvic, has well and truly worked his way up the construction ladder from manual worker to senior manager. “I think having entry level skills and experience has been a great advantage. It’s relatively unusual for someone to come off the tools and into senior management, but for me, having that grounding has been key for my professional progression and effectiveness in my current role,” he begins. “Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by inspiring mentors, and a recurring theme has always been honesty and openness. If you are open and honest, and strive to create a collaborative environment, you can always get things done as a common goal. A problem halved is a problem shared, after all.”

Winvic Construction Ltd is a leading main contractor specialising in turnkey solutions for industrial, build-to-rent, student accommodation and civil engineering projects. With three key sectors; multi-room, industrial, and civils and infrastructure, the business boasts a turnover of more than one billion pounds and a headcount of over 500 employees.

As Director of Civils and Infrastructure, Rob’s key priority is to ensure continued steady growth through both the public and private sectors, building on his division’s already impressive turnover. “I champion safety, and embed appropriate, cultural behaviours to ensure our programmes of work are executed to the highest safety standards. I’m also responsible for bringing in new talent. From apprenticeships to leadership programmes and graduate schemes, we are exploring ways to encourage new talent into the industry. We want to help people progress on their chosen career paths, and make a genuine difference to the industry,” he enthuses.

“Across the business we have a high staff retention rate. As a privately owned organisation, our working requirements are very flexible and fair. We cultivate a collaborative and respectful culture, which creates a great environment in which to work. People enjoy working here. We encourage our staff to take community engagement days, for example, where they can volunteer for causes close to their heart. We champion people’s values as well as our own. While Winvic is a working environment, it’s also a pretty pleasant place to be.

Delivering on expectations

“We work hard to create a supportive culture. Looking back, when I started in the industry, no one was talking about mental health and wellbeing. Today, at Winvic, we boast an employee assistance programme that offers a range of wellbeing support resources. We encourage people to speak openly. We’ve seen the benefit to this approach and continue to invest in bolstering that package for our employees.”

Winvic started 2023 on a high, surpassing milestones in its development of the new state-of-the-art multi-modal logistics hub in Northampton which commenced early 2021. The project remains on course for completion at the 450-acre site. SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton is expected to create around 7500 new jobs. It comprises five million square feet of modern warehousing and logistics space and a dedicated 35-acre Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI). Winvic is also delivering significant highways works as part of the project.

For Rob, the project is a very high priority and one of which he’s incredibly proud to be delivering, alongside the on-site team. “The work incorporates a rail freight terminal, a bypass, a strategic upgrade on Junction 15, some minor works, smart motorway works and enhancement works, alongside an extensive earthworks package,” he continues. “We are on schedule, and the team is delivering to a superior standard. There’ll be a big push over the next 12 months, but we are set to complete on target.”

Winvic was also awarded two Lot contracts across four regions within the new Scheme Delivery Framework (SDF) for National Highways. The company is one of 50 contractors to deliver £3.6 billion of road renewal works on England’s motorways and trunk roads over the next six years. “From programme delivery to our sustainability strategy, we align with the client’s values. We have delivered a successful programme to date and have another four-to-five years to fulfil the framework,” he explains.

A positive impact

A further notable development Rob is keen to discuss is the Peddimore infrastructure project, involving works to create a new roundabout and a new combined pedestrian and cycleway bridge across the A38. IM Properties and Winvic made a long-term commitment to deliver a programme of community benefits, which has in part been informed by the Birmingham Skills Investment Plan, Birmingham City Council’s skills strategy to 2026. In addition to helping local people access new employment opportunities and improve their skills, Peddimore will deliver a long-term social return on investment and create a positive legacy for years to come. The development will support thousands of jobs through the construction phase and when the facilities are operational.

“We recruited and resourced locally for the Peddimore project. While this has always been our approach to private sector work, we are now able to deliver the same ethos to our increasing levels of public sector contracts. We have always strived to make a positive impact on the local area, and our history of delivering social value has provided opportunities and put us in a really great position for our work in the public sector,” Rob enthuses.

“We have a sustainability and innovation hub which we used to benefit the local area during the Mercia Park development for repeat client IM properties. Used in the collaborative and design phases of construction, in this instance, we opened the facility, and its digital technologies and capabilities, to the local community, and in particular, to local schools, colleges, and universities, to inspire future generations. We held recruitment fairs on-site, and allowed people to sample the BIM equipment, for example. Young people want to see how companies give back, and this is just one shining example of how we do that.”

Collaboration enables Winvic to deliver social value successfully and it extends to sharing best practice and ideas across the industry. Winvic’s social value team is proud to play a part in driving forward principled practice and being thought leaders in social value. Many of Winvic’s partners encourage such behaviours, further championing this collaborative work ethic.

Rob continues: “The terminology we’re hearing from local authorities and the public sector is integration. While we already work collaboratively, the next step is to integrate and work as a united team. I believe true integration means doing right by our clients, staff and members of the public, and that is the way to move forward.”

Ahead of the curve

Rob and Winvic, as an organisation, are firmly focused on embracing the future of civil engineering. “We are all looking to new ways to streamline operations for the wider good. From autonomous plant and alternative fuels to upskilling people in the industry, we are all on the change journey,” he elaborates.

Indeed, Rob is extremely proud of the robust processes and sustainable operations that Winvic has established to achieve its vision to become a net zero business. Alongside this, the organisation is raising the bar for delivering net zero assets for clients and occupiers, and the wider civils industry as a whole. With ten zero carbon projects under its belt to date, Winvic is proving to be ahead of the curve, and with a further ten currently underway, one of which being SEGRO Logistics Park Northampton, the business is making great strides as a market leader.

Maintaining the competitive edge

“From being the principal contractor all the way down to our Tier 2 and 3, and material suppliers, net zero is embedded,” Rob highlights. “We are always trying to source materials that are carbon efficient, and exploring where we can possibly add new technology. Collaboration with our supply chain is critical to achieving our net zero ambition, so we work with a focused set of suppliers to do exactly that and that group is expanding as we go further along the journey. We always try and jump on any opportunity to explore new technologies, products, and solutions. We have a working group dedicated to testing those options to assess their suitability for use and subsequent roll-out across the organisation.”

Looking to the future, Rob emphasises aligning further with clients’ needs and with upcoming opportunities in the pipeline. “We need to look at our clients’ future requirements, as budget constraints and circumstances are forever changeable. We will also be examining our internal requirements to meet the needs of our own healthy pipeline of projects.

“We will continue to focus on maintaining a competitive edge, and enhancing our presence in the public sector, because I believe we have a lot to offer.

“The sector is forward-thinking and challenging. A great deal can occur in a short space of time, and we know that we can’t just stay in the moment. We have to always be ahead of the game. I think that’s what makes it a really enjoyable industry in which to be,” Rob concludes.