01 February 2022 5 min read

BAME Shaping the Construction Industry


A diverse representation matters in every industry, whether it’s retail, health care, technology, engineering or hospitality. The greater the inclusion, the bigger the chances of making a real impact - and isn’t that what we all want? Let’s see how the construction industry is changing when it comes to diversity.

February is the month when we celebrate the achievements of African Americans and the time for recognising their central role in our history. Despite being annually celebrated everywhere, Black History Month is commemorated on different dates around the world: it is happening in February for the US and Canada, but in October for the whole of the UK.

Although we think that their accomplishments should be celebrated throughout the year instead of being limited to one month only, we would like to grasp this occasion and reflect upon ethnic minorities and their representation within the construction industry.

What Is The Meaning of BAME?

BAME is an umbrella term that stands for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic. It’s commonly used to describe non-white ethnicities.

The term derived from the UK’s anti-racist movement in the 1970s when various black communities gathered together to fight against discimination. It was originally referred only to Black ethnicity (BME), however, around twenty years later, the acronym was extended to include those of Asian origins as well, hence BAME.

Important Figures in Construction and Their Works

When it comes to Black influence on the construction industry in North America, it begun in the 16th century when African slaves were brought to the east coast of America as workforce necessary to build big cities, such as: New York (formerly New Amsterdam), Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.


America relied on the crafts learned by Blacks during slavery and passed along to offspring from generation to generation.
- Harry C. Alford, the co-founder, CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce


Even though construction unions made it difficult for Black workers and Black-owned construction companies to succeed, there are a few that managed to survive on the market. The three largest construction businesses are: Powers & Sons, SR Smoot and Russell. All three were set up in the southern states (Mississippi, West Virginia and Georgia) and their founders put a huge emphasis on education of their children and next generations.

5 Renowned Black Architects in The US

Many people nowadays still feel like a lot of Black construction workers, architects, inventors and innovators are not given enough credit when it’s due - in other words, they lack the recognition they deserve. This is the reason why we decided to showcase some of the most important personalities that contributed to the growth of the construction industry throughout the years:

  • 01

    Norma Merrick Sklarek

    The first Black woman to become a licensed architect in New York and California. Thanks to her architectural management skills, Sklarek successfully completed complex projects, like Terminal 1 at the LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) or the Pacific Design Center in California.

  • 02

    J. Max Bond, Jr.

    Educated at Harvard, Bond was forced to develop a real strength of character and perseverance that helped him overcome racial stereotypes he had been facing since college. Today, he is best known for creating the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

  • 03

    J. Max Bond, Jr.

    Best known for designing in Southern California, Williams is the creator of over 2,000 homes in the hills throughout LA, including the most beautiful residences in Hollywood. He also designed the space-aged LAX Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport.

  • 04

    Julian Abele

    Despite being one of the most significant architects in America, he never signed his work and was, therefore, not recognised during his lifetime. Abele contributed to the design of over 400 buildings, including the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard University, Duke University Chapel and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

  • 05

    William Sidney Pittman

    Rumoured to be the first Black architect to practise in the state of Texas, Pittman received commissions to design a few important buildings in the capital, Washington D.C. Unfortunately, his work was never fully acknowledged nor was it preserved, so he died penniless in Dallas.

Programmes That Help Introduce The Construction Industry to The BAME Society

There are many initiatives that focus on bringing inclusion and minority representation into construction. BPIC network is one of them: it is a built environment inclusion business working with industry organisations to improve ethnic minority representation and retention.

They help by providing inclusion guidance, career opportunities as well as training and networking events. Their mission consists of increasing the participation of BAME individuals in the construction industry while educating and empowering them at the same time. BPIC targets workers in various areas of the industry from major infrastructure projects, fit-outs, SMEs to specialist professions, like tech.

If you wish to compare what the situation of minorities in the construction industry looks like in the UK, follow up our article where we explain this issue in detail.

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2024-07-21 07:29:24