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Ransomware: how to avoid falling victim to the global threat of malicious malware

April 26th, 2018 No comments

Ransomware is a growing cyber-threat that finally hit mainstream headlines in 2017, due to the Petya and WannaCry attacks that throttled the NHS and caused huge financial losses for globally-recognised businesses.

The aftermath of the attacks proved the most costly for two of the most high-profile victims of the Petya attack: Merck and Maersk.

US pharmaceutical giant Merck lost over $310million due to the production shutdown caused by the Ransomware virus. Its operations were shut down, employees weren’t even allowed to work, and it estimated $135million of the total cost of the attack was due to lost sales.

Similarly, Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, attributed a loss of over £210million to Petya as the majority of its 76 ports were shut down. So severe was the attack, the company had to deal with no IT infrastructure whatsoever for 10 days, and manually dealt with arrivals at its ports every 15 minutes.

This infographic from UK IT support company TSG presents some key statistics on the growth of Ransomware, as well as tips on how to avoid falling victim to this omnipresent threat.

 

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Transformation of UCL’s world-class Law teaching facilities completed by Gilbert-Ash

April 24th, 2018 No comments

Award-winning UK construction, refurbishment and fit out contractor,
Gilbert-Ash, has recently completed an extensive £16.2m rebuilding and remodelling of UCL’s renowned Faculty of Laws facilities in Camden, London.

The works connected the University’s past with its future, fully integrating a Grade II listed building, Bentham House, with a neighbouring mid-20th century building, Hillel House which housed the Gideon Schreier and Graduate Wings, within the predominantly Georgian conservation area. The adjacent building was significantly remodelled including a major extension at the rear and a completely new exterior façade with Portland stone, complementing UCL Laws original historic home.

With a growing UCL student and Faculty body, Gilbert-Ash delivered a high-quality, technically advanced, bright space, reflecting modern methods of learning. Working closely with leading architects Levitt Bernstein, the development also comprises a central social hub, state-of-the-art research facilities and cutting-edge office and teaching areas.

The two buildings are now linked across all levels, with floor-to-ceiling windows, maximising the natural light and a new spacious atrium improving the student and Faculty experience. The development incorporates sustainability features, including a bio-diverse roof with photovoltaic arrays.

Rodney Coalter, Project Manager, Gilbert-Ash, commented, “Working closely with UCL, Levitt Bernstein and the whole redevelopment supply chain, we are really pleased with the high-end teaching facility that has been created.  It enhances the learning environment and experience for both students and faculty, as well as visitors and alumni. Recognising the renowned reputation of UCL, the redevelopment also aims to build on the traditions and character of the University whilst providing an extended, modern space for continued ambitious learning and socialising.”

Professor Piet Eeckhout, Dean, UCL Laws said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have the pleasure to welcome the Faculty back home to Bentham House. UCL Laws has, at long last, a home fit for our world-leading research, teaching and social enterprise. The project has given the Faculty more than a building: it’s given us an inspiring environment in which our whole community can come together.”

Professor Dame Hazel Genn, UCL Project Sponsor said, “At the very core of the vision for redeveloping Bentham House has always been how the building will support, inspire and motivate the world-class teaching and thriving research culture within UCL Laws.

“The highly creative plans for the building have seamlessly married the much-loved traditional spaces with bright, modern facilities, giving our Faculty a home that reflects and respects its heritage, while also supporting and driving its forward-thinking, global agenda.”

The UCL Faculty of Laws development is part of a larger scheme, Transforming UCL, the largest capital programme in the university’s history. It will see substantial investment of over £1.2 billion over a 10-year period to refurbish and develop some of UCL’s most iconic buildings whilst also bringing forward new world class buildings to enable continued growth.

Highly detailed design, advanced logistical planning and development goes into every Gilbert-Ash project, with the team skilled in delivering the finest quality projects in the UK and globally.

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Bill proposes greater security for SME construction contractors

April 23rd, 2018 No comments

Bill proposes greater security for SME construction contractors

A change to the way UK construction companies deal with contractors may be imminent as MPs get set to debate the second reading of a proposed new Bill later this month.

The Construction (Retention Deposit Schemes) Bill is seeking to ensure retention money (payments to contractors that are withheld for an agreed period of time after the completion of a project) is held in a ring-fenced trust.

According to construction law experts at Manchester firm Slater Heelis the Bill, if passed, will offer greater financial security to SME construction contractors.

Matt Grellier, head of construction & engineering at Slater Heelis, said: “Employers rarely place retention in a separate bank account held on trust. This exposes contractors to financial risk as the money is not ‘ring-fenced’ in the event of employer insolvency.

“The collapse of Carillion has amplified the concerns of many SME contractors. The new Bill proposes that retention monies are placed in a Government approved scheme, similar to that which applies for deposits taken from shorthold tenancies.”

According to Government figures, almost £8bn of cash retentions have remained unpaid over the past three years and with no ring-fencing in place retention cash can be used to pay other creditors in the event of employer insolvency, leaving contractors out of pocket.

According to Mr Grellier, even if the Bill is passed, contractors must not become complacent over the terms of contracts into which they enter.

He added: “Contractors must still ensure they protect themselves in the terms of their contract to ensure prompt payment.

“It pays to be on your guard in relation to bespoke amendments to ‘standard form’ building contracts. Amendments to provisions regarding payment, defects and time for completion may have knock-on effects on retention release.

“Contractors should risk review payment terms pre-contract formation. Contractual ‘milestones’ in relation to payment should be diarised so that key dates are not missed.”

The Construction (Retention Deposit Schemes) Bill is set to be debated by MPs in the House of Commons on Friday 27 April.

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York council terminates Interserve Guildhall revamp contract

April 20th, 2018 No comments

City of York Council is terminating its £9m Guildhall development contract with Interserve.

The two stage contract has been ended after costs came in over budget on the first stage.

The council said: “The first phase has now completed and the council has reflected on the current approach to developing this complex and historic site.

“As a result, the construction phase will not progress and instead, the council will consider options before inviting new bids from the market.”

Interserve was working with SES Engineering Services and hosted a supply chain event late last year to find subcontractors after being awarded the deal last August.

Construction was originally due to start early this year.

Neil Ferris, director of economy and place, City of York Council said: “I can confirm we have terminated our contract with Interserve to develop the Guildhall.

“We set-up the contract following government procurement rules and as such, included a contractual break point after the first stage of the contract.

“We recognised from the start that given the site complexity and risks around the foundation structure, there was always the chance that estimate would be higher than anticipated.

“We structured the procurement in this way to protect York residents from potentially spiralling costs.

“We remain committed to the Guildhall development and are excited about the potential it offers local businesses, communities and visitors.

“Our next steps are to review options to reduce costs, such as revising the scale, scope or access arrangements to the site and we will invite members to confirm their preferred option in May.

“In the meantime, to reduce delays, we will progress less disruptive works, such as fitting new utilities.”

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Specialist surveyor fails to spot asbestos

April 18th, 2018 No comments

A specialist asbestos company has been fined after failing to detect asbestos at a demolition site.

Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how EAS Asbestos Limited were commissioned to conduct refurbishment and demolition surveys by Mercer Brother Limited who were demolishing garages for Hyndburn Homes.

EAS Asbestos stated in their surveys that asbestos was only present in the cement roof sheets, there were no areas that could not be accessed, and that there was no asbestos insulation board present in the garages.

On Wednesday 1 February 2017, the demolition of the garages went ahead but work was immediately stopped when suspect material was found.

Another surveying company was brought in and confirmed the presence of large amounts of asbestos insulation board in the demolition rubble.

An HSE investigation found that the survey carried out by EAS Asbestos Limited was incorrect and misleading.

EAS Asbestos Limited of Sutton in Ashfield, pleaded guilty to breaching safety regulations and was fined £6,700 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Jacqueline Western said “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards”.

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Carillion collapse hits 2018 commercial property lending

April 17th, 2018 No comments

The collapse of Carillion is being blamed for a unexpected 4% fall in lending to the commercial property sector in January to £4.1bn.

Lendy, one of Europe’s leading peer- to-peer secured property lending platforms, said construction would typically sees an increase in lending and investment in-between December and January as new commercial building projects began for the New Year rather than this year’s fall.

It blamed the collapse of Carillion for spreading nervousness among many mainstream lenders to property and construction.

It said there was a particular concern about whether smaller construction firms, whose main client was Carillion, would be able to stay in business.

Some traditional lenders have also seen their loan books severely affected by Carillion’s collapse, with Lloyds commercial banking writing off £108m of loans to the failed group.

Santander tripled its impairment costs in 2017 to £203m, citing bad loans made to Carillion.

Liam Brooke, co-founder of Lendy, said: “The unexpected fall in lending highlights just how big an impact Carillion has had on the commercial property industry.”

“Lenders who have had to deal with heavy losses following Carillion’s collapse may think twice before giving loans for some future commercial real estate projects.”

“However, the fundamentals of the construction sector remain strong, and the decline in lending from traditional sources, creates opportunities for non-traditional lenders to enter the marketplace.”

“There are still numerous opportunities for lenders, both traditional and non-traditional to get involved in good, financially sound construction projects.”

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PSH. forms new leadership team to position business for exponential growth

April 16th, 2018 No comments

Leading engineering consultancy PSH. has promoted four of its team to director roles as part of a re-structure as the firm lays foundations ahead of its ambitious growth plans for the next five years.

Ian Law and Andrew Haskins have been promoted to directors for the Mechanical team.  Charlie Cross becomes director for Electrical, and Mark Whitfield is now director of Project Management. Photographs of the newly promoted directors can be downloaded here.

PSH, provides specialist mechanical, engineering and plumbing (MEP) services to the real estate and construction industry.  Its current clients include Centrica, Crosstree, Legal & General, GLH Hotels, Marriot International, Cadogan Estates, Quintain and Rockwell. Over the last 15 years PSH. has enjoyed rapid expansion and now includes more than 30 professional members of staff across its offices in London and Wokingham. 

Peter Scholes, Managing Director, PSH. said: “PSH. has an established reputation across the property sector as a highly recommended and trusted MEP building services expert. With the skills and experience of Ian, Andrew, Charlie and Mark behind them, our highly skilled teams will continue to work with some of the biggest players in the real estate sector, across all different areas of the market.”

PSH. has increased its annual turnover year-on-year since launch in 2003 and has ambitious growth plans over the next five years.  The initial stage of this includes establishing a new leadership team with sector and services specialisms.

Peter Scholes, said: “PSH. has worked hard to build an experienced and professional team, with unrivalled market knowledge and sector experience.  We have an excellent track record of repeat business and our client list includes some of the very best names operating in the sector today.  The re-structure will enable us to develop a more agile approach across the company as we grow, giving our clients an even better service.”

PSH. provides full MEP building services, as well as offering sustainability, vertical transportation, BIM, fire services and acoustics advice to developers, consultants and contractors across all sectors of the property and construction industry.

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TSA Members welcome SmartWater’s co-ordinated response to equipment theft

April 16th, 2018 No comments

A new alliance between The Survey Association (TSA) and SmartWater is leading to detailed analysis and police follow-up on every incident of equipment theft.

A three-year agreement between TSA and SmartWater, sponsored by the leading manufacturers, is the first, co-ordinated response to thieves that persistently target surveyors.

As a direct result of the TSA initiative, SmartWater operatives are sharing incident information with the police and discussing the impact of theft on survey companies with crime prevention officers.

Dave Bennett, Business Manager at Topcon GB & Ireland, commented: ‘’The biggest impact theft has on surveyors is loss of working time and the additional cost of replacing equipment.’’

‘’Collating data around stolen equipment will support affected engineers, as well as elevate the issue within the industry, which is why we back TSA’s initiative with SmartWater,’’ he added.

Incidences of equipment theft routinely halt work schedules, raise concerns about personal safety and security and incur additional costs in replacement and insurance premiums for survey companies.

John Fraser, President, UK & Benelux Hexagon Geosystems said, “Theft in the UK of survey equipment is rife, and Leica Geosystems is working hard on many fronts to provide solutions and support to the industry, so we actively support the TSA initiative of the Smart Water database.’’

Theft data submitted to SmartWater’s Intelligence Portal puts the estimated cost of stolen equipment to TSA Member companies from September 2017 – February 2018 at £1.8 million, an average of £300,000 per month.

Ian Pennington, Geospatial Strategic Key Account Manager at Trimble said, “Theft of survey equipment has become a huge problem for our profession causing tremendous distress to the surveyors involved and significant financial loss to businesses.’’

‘’We fully support this important initiative by TSA to assist their members on crime prevention and equipment recovery measures,’’ he added.

Information submitted through the Intelligence Portal is also used to compile monthly reports for TSA Members, identify crime hotspots, emerging crime trends and possible links to current investigations.

An additional risk rating briefing for Members is issued each quarter, with advice for crime prevention to those likely to be a target.

For further details and to submit information on theft of survey equipment, email TSA office@tsa-uk.org.uk

Non-TSA Members can also report their thefts through the Intelligence Portal to ensure that the whole picture is captured, though only TSA Members will receive SmartWater’s monthly reports and briefings. For more information on TSA www.tsa-uk.org.uk/

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LEADING TRAINING PROVIDER SUPPORTS CALLS FOR APPRENTICESHIP LEVY CHANGES AS NUMBERS DROP AGAIN

April 10th, 2018 No comments

A leading utilities and construction training provider has added its voice to calls for change in the Apprenticeship Levy.

As latest figures showed a 25 per cent slump in new apprentices, Chris Wood, CEO of Develop Training, said: “The government should take action and make structural changes to the Levy.”

Develop Training, whose customers include some of the biggest names in construction and household name utility companies, has called for three adaptations to the scheme.

  • Make the Levy more flexible by extending the time allowed to use funds beyond the current two years
  • Widen apprenticeship choice
  • Unshackle the de facto value cap on apprenticeships, a move which would help training firms to deliver more schemes

Mr Wood added that employers also needed to get to grips with the scheme: “There are issues with how the Levy works, but it could be argued that a major cause of the problem remains ignorance of the Levy and its implications.”

He said a cut in the rate of the Levy, which some have called for, was highly unlikely as it could be politically suicidal and fail to address underlying skills shortages. Conversely, raising the rate, in an attempt to put more pressure on employers to make use of it may negatively impact the important work performed by other separately levy-funded bodies such as the CITB and ECITB.

More flexibility in the scheme, allowing Levy funding to pay for different kinds of training, might help, he said, welcoming news that more firms were implementing higher level apprenticeships.

This month (April) marks the first anniversary of the Levy, which requires larger employers to invest in apprenticeships or forfeit their contribution to the scheme. However, preliminary government figures released at the end of March showed a 25 per cent drop in the number of people starting apprenticeships in the first two quarters of 2017/18. This led to employer organisations, including the Engineering Employers Federation and the CBI, to renew calls for an overhaul.

The government pointed out that the latest figures are preliminary, and also welcomed the rise in higher level training being provided under the Levy.

www.developtraining.co.uk

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More buildings hit by Scottish school collapse defects

April 9th, 2018 No comments

Construction faults have been found at 19 more public buildings across Edinburgh in the wake of a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School in the city.

A report from watchdogs at the Accounts Commission confirms the scale of problems unearthed by investigatiors since the school wall failure.

Nine tonnes of masonry came crashing down in 2016 at Oxgangs due to missing wall header ties.

Seventeen schools were closed following the incident.

Now it has emerged that further problems have been found at schools, libraries, community centres and care homes across the city.

The Accounts Commission report states: “At the end of January 2018, of the 154 properties where assessments had been completed, 19 properties had been identified as having issues similar to those identified at Oxgangs School.

“Remedial work to address the defects identified on these buildings (which include schools, libraries, community centres and care homes) is ongoing.”

The Commission is now calling on all councils to improve their checks on construction work.

It said: “The report emphasises the importance of all councils undertaking regular, comprehensive structural risk assessments and inspections on public buildings to ensure the safety of service users.

“Where a council employs a company to provide construction services, it’s vital that it puts in place appropriate checks and controls.”

Graham Sharp, Chair, Accounts Commission said: “While reduced resources mean councils must make difficult decisions about service provision, they should have an appropriate level of expertise to deliver and safely maintain buildings.

“People must have confidence in the safety and integrity of public buildings.”

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