Ten things we wished you knew about our sector - CIfA online event 29 June 2020

Archaeologists frequently work closely with the construction sector, from small domestic projects to large-scale infrastructure and civil engineering projects. Both disciplines work collaboratively to allow the archaeological objectives to be achieved and the development to progress. But what more can they learn from each other?

On 29 June we hosted an event with Caroline Raynor MCIfA, from Costain who presented “Ten things the construction industry wished archaeologists knew” put together from discussions with her colleagues in construction.  Martyn Cooper MCIfA from CIfA Diggers’ Forum then followed this with “Ten things archaeologists wished the construction industry knew” with ideas fed in from some of our Registered Organisations.

Following the presentations, participants were asked to respond, and to address two key questions in particular:

  1. What they could be doing differently to address some of the issues discussed?
  2. What could CIfA be doing to promote better communication and engagement?

Collaboration and communication

Communication emerged as a key theme; how can the sectors communicate more effectively at all levels, and how can we develop a shared language, and a shared set of values?

CIfA has been working on these areas for some time and currently collaborates with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), delivering joint RTPI and CIfA CPD events on the importance of collaboration and engagement when working with the historic environment.

CIfA is working as a specialist consultant to provide expert input and quality assurance on a project to revise the 2008 CIRIA publication Archaeology and development - a good practice guide to managing risk and maximising benefit. The revised guide is due to be published early in 2021.

CIfA worked closely with CSCS and the wider archaeological sector to establish the appropriate mechanisms by which archaeologists could achieve CSCS certification, based on the professional skills demonstrated by CIfA accreditation.

However, participants highlighted that CIfA should do more to promote these existing relationships with the construction sector to raise awareness amongst the membership.

As the leading professional body for archaeologists, participants agreed that CIfA has a clear role in advocating for archaeologists by speaking to other construction professional bodies, and to provide resources to educate and raise awareness.

A shared role in promoting our profession

Participants agreed that we all need to build on the work CIfA has been doing to promote archaeologists as highly skilled and qualified professionals who undertake an important task. Archaeologists need to be seen as professionals, experts, academics, community leaders; an image the whole profession aspires to and which other industries respect.

Discussion highlighted that the messages in the existing professional practice paper Archaeology: a guide for clients should be reinforced by CIfA, Registered Organisations and accredited members. These messages promote the need for archaeologists to be involved from the start so that they are integrated properly into the project design. Not only does this allow the archaeologists sufficient time to do the work, but there are efficiencies in site management, project planning and potentially in carbon reduction.

A generic approach to health and safety with standard working methods and rules on PPE are not always appropriate to Archaeology. Early involvement means that risk mitigation is appropriate for both archaeology and construction and any problem interfaces can be identified and resolved at the outset

The Client guide also helps explain different archaeological roles and functions, including where archaeologists fit in, and why and how they are making a fundamental contribution to securing project success. It touches on the public benefit of archaeology, and this is a particular area where CIfA could work alongside the construction sector, helping them to realise the huge benefits and publicity this can offer and to forge links between a development project and the local community.


One idea that came up as part of the discussion was about educating new construction sector graduates as part of their academic training, and construction site staff about the role of archaeologist, for example through providing tours and talks on site. (Indeed, this is what the revised CIRIA guide is aiming to achieve).

A further role for CIfA was envisaged in providing a programme of training for non-archaeologists in the construction industry and possibly designing a lecture on archaeology for construction undergraduates. Archaeologists themselves would like training in NEC contracts.


The shared discussions during the event proved useful in highlighting the importance of promoting the role and skills of archaeologists. This was summed up in a comment from Stephen Carter Chair of the Board of Directors.

“We need to be communicating from a position of self-confidence. As a sector, we don’t need to be apologetic about why we are on site and what we are doing. We need to be able to explain that clearly and possibly be more forceful. Being helpful, accommodating and fitting in may not be appropriate. As long as we are confident we have the evidence and information to support our position, we should be putting that very strongly to the main contractors and everybody else involved with the project to enable us to do our work better and therefore to enable the project to go better.”

The presentations and video from the event will be made available in due course.