The Construction Sector Unit at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is responsible for the government’s relationship with the construction sector.
It works closely with the industry and other key stakeholders to promote and facilitate improvement and positive change in all its aspects - including productivity, profitability and best working practice - and to encourage innovation, efficiency and competitiveness.
When Denis Walker was appointed director of the CSU in July 2006, he discovered an industry that was suffering from fragmentation and an inability to capture and share knowledge.
Furthermore, successive government reshuffles had resulted in the construction portfolio being entrusted to five ministers in six years, so that there was a distinct lack of understanding of the industry, its practices and the challenges it faced.
Over the past eight years, under Dr Walker’s dedicated and sensitive leadership, the CSU has - with the assistance of a series of state-of-the-industry reports and the recommendations they contain - initiated, supported and implemented a wide range of reforms.
These efforts have resulted in better regulation, improvements in payment practices and productivity, enhanced health and safety procedures and more enlightened skills and workforce development, as well as making a significant contribution to the creation of a sustainable, low-carbon built environment across the UK.
Dr Walker was also instrumental in the introduction of the post of the government’s chief construction adviser to oversee reforms that will ensure the sector remains entirely fit-for-purpose in the years and decades to come.
On being asked to comment on Dr Walker’s attributes, colleagues within the public sector and elsewhere in the industry cite his intelligence, his integrity, his diligence and his genuine desire to change things for the better.
A Mancunian by birth and a historian by training, Dr Walker spent 38 years in the civil service - during which time he has fulfilled more than 30 different roles, including that of director of the National Measurement Office.
Dr Walker’s exceptional efforts to improve the building services sector make him a worthy recipient of this year’s B&ES Gold Award.