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Archive for December, 2010

5.5 billion Battersea power station redevelopment approved

December 31st, 2010 Comments off

batterseaLondon mayor Boris Johnson has approved plans to redevelop one of London’s most iconic landmarks by Real Estate Opportunities (REO).

The £ 5.5 billion redevelopment of Battersea power station, which has been derelict since it closed almost 27 years ago, will see the construction of thousands of homes and shops and could see London Underground’s Northern line extended as far as the site.

It is expected the redevelopment could create up to 25000 jobs, 16000 during construction and 15000 once the project is up and running.

The grade-II listed building, which featured on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album, has stood empty since it was decommissioned in 1983 as a number of plans to redevelop the 40-acre (16.2 ha) site failed.

REO’s redevelopment plans include a £ 200 million towards the funding of a two-station extension of the Northern line from Kennington.

Approving the plans Mr Johnson said, “Battersea power station has long been an iconic feature of the capital’s skyline, and these plans will make sure that status is retained for years to come.

“The building was once a vital motor helping to power the capital. With its future secured through this regeneration, it will once again play a part in driving London’s economy.”

The plan now needs the final approval of secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles.

Welcoming the mayor’s decision, Rob Tincknell, director of REO, said “We now look forward to the application passing to the secretary of state for communities and local government for final consideration.”

REO said it hopes to begin construction on the first phase of the redevelopment in early 2012, with completion scheduled for 2016.The remaining phases, including the new underground stations, are scheduled for completion in 2024.

The coal-fired power station was constructed in 1939 to provide power for London and was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, who was also responsible for the UK’s distinctive red telephone boxes and Liverpool Cathedral.

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Public sector home registrations rise

December 29th, 2010 Comments off

big5Registrations for new public sector homes in September to November increased by 4 per cent on the figure for the same period last year.

National Housing Building Council statistics show a total of 8,968 new public homes compared with 8,609 the previous year.

The south east, the north west and London saw the biggest percentage increases, of 38, 37 and 31 per cent respectively, totalling 1,239 extra homes across the three regions.

The south west saw a fall of 36 per cent in public homes, from 1,241 to 792, while the figure for the east of England fell by nearly a third, from 999 to 688.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all saw public home registrations fall, with 352 fewer homes.

Imtiaz Farookhi, chief executive of the NHBC, said: ‘Now that the scope of the planned cuts is known, there seems to have been a slight bounce in consumer confidence which may allow the industry to build some momentum in the early part of 2011.

‘What the industry needs above all from government in the year ahead is clear and consistent policy and, in particular, positive measures to improve mortgage availability which is now clearly the major factor constraining volumes.’

Private sector registrations increased by 7 per cent, from 18,557 to 19,842.

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Non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon by 2019

December 28th, 2010 Comments off

Housing minister Grant Shapps has confirmed that non-domestic newbuilds must be zero carbon by 2019. The news came as part of a wider statement on sustainable buildings, zero carbon homes and the definition of zero carbon.

The UK Green Building Council welcomed the news, with the publication of its own reasearch into non-doemstic newbuild. Paul King, chief executive, commented: “Government deserves a lot credit for sticking to the ambitious timetable for zero carbon. The picture of how this will be achieved is gradually becoming clearer, which is essential to give industry confidence and to drive investment. Confirmation of the 2019 target, for all new non-domestic buildings to be zero carbon, is particularly welcome. Our research for government earlier this year, which we’re able to publish today for the first time, shows that industry is up for this challenge, they just need policy certainty to be able to get on and deliver it.”

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An overview of 2010

December 23rd, 2010 Comments off

2010

It was the year we all knew was going to be bad. It was just a question of how bad. The key events everyone was waiting for, with bated breath, were the general election in May and George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review in October

As we now know, both the election and the CSR have left the industry wounded and plenty of firms have buckled under the pressure, including major industry players Connaught and Rok. Still, some comfort can be taken from the fact that the industry itself is still alive and kicking – but with a lot to kick against. For those that survived the year, it has been a case of reassessing business plans, moving into emerging markets and adopting survival strategies.

From main contractors to architects, consultants and specialists, the ability to adapt has been a saving grace. Firms that didn’t put all their eggs in the public sector basket have best survived its collapse. For those that did, the latter half of 2010 could not have been much bleaker as the coalition government slashed public projects. The cancellation of the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme in July piled on the pressure.

Firms that had spread their workload across public and private, or had already started to pursue work in emerging markets such as Brazil, India, North Africa and China, were in a far less precarious situation this year. But they too must prepare for a difficult 2011 as the rush to the private sector continues, increasing competition.

A survey of the top 15 contractors, consultants and architects in May showed that every firm was planning to reduce its public sector workload considerably over the next year to three years, replacing it with private sector projects. The question is how sustainable this is. While commercial and retail projects are finally showing signs of life, it is certainly not happening quickly enough, or in sufficient volumes, to support such a huge number of firms desperate for work.

2010 has also been the year of the client – particularly in the private sector where firms have been able to exact a lot more from their contractors and consultants. Hammerson’s Vinod Thakrar has admitted that getting contractors to take on the risk on a project is much easier these days – firms desperate for work will say yes to almost anything. Even so, private clients have also been one of the heroes of the year with lots of work in the pipeline for 2011 and beyond. Not only that, but the vast majority is yet to be sewn up and clients are looking for new supply chain members to deliver it. Some welcome good news.

Not that bad news ever went away. Towards the end of the year, Ireland’s economy came crashing down, bringing its construction market along with it, more redundancies were announced at major UK firms and construction work fell 22% in November as public work dried up.

A grim story indeed, leaving the industry in no doubt that 2010 was the year the public sector fairy tale came to a swift end. But it wasn’t all bad – which is why we have kicked off our review of the year with the heroes of 2010 – something a little more positive to ease you in.

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Giant windfarms are lifting hopes

December 20th, 2010 Comments off

Giant windfarms are lifting hopes – but could the east coast miss the boat?

n an airless Westminster committee room this week a shirtsleeved energy secretary came close to promising the earth. Laying out government plans to make renewable electricity more profitable to produce than smokestack, greenhouse gas-producing power, Chris Huhne said the market reforms would mark “a seismic shift” towards cleaner energy, underlining David Cameron’s vow to be “the greenest government ever”.

Up on the windy north-east coast, recession-lashed ports such as Grimsby and Hull have been eyeing the prospect of building huge windfarms for the North Sea for many years now.

But here at the sharp end they remain to be convinced that Huhne’s long-term changes to the market are quite the kick-start that is needed to revolutionise the UK’s industrial future.

Throughout the UK it is striking how unaware most people are of the enormous scale and ambition of Britain’s planned “round 3” offshore windfarms.

Thanet, a “round 2” site with 100 turbines so far, located about seven miles off Foreness Point, Kent, opened two months ago and is now the largest offshore windfarm in the world. Yet it is a mere drop in the North Sea compared to the nine “round 3” sites set out on the coastal map produced by Crown Estates, which owns the rights to British waters.

The three sites to the east of Britain are on a staggering scale. Dogger Bank, off the Yorkshire coast, will fill close to 3,475 square miles, with 1,700 wind turbines. The Norfolk windfarm will cover an area larger than the county itself, while Hornsea, off Grimsby and the Humber, will be nearly as wide as England is from Hull to Liverpool.

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Measured Building Surveys.net

December 17th, 2010 Comments off

logo-header-jpeg Measured Building Surveys.net have recently added a Topographical Survey service to their existing range of Measured Surveys, ‘As Built’ and Floor Plan Surveys.

“Work has been brisk over the last few months for the team and this includes commissions from the UK and abroad.  In fact we were asked to carry out some measured surveys in Ukraine, Eastern Europe. This proved to be very successful and the client was very pleased with the results, so much so that we are quoting for more work over there in the near future” a spokesman told us.

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Kier Stoke supports 80 apprenticeships in two years

December 16th, 2010 Comments off

people-72_tcm17-3948With local sustainability and workforce development as a core policy, Kier Stoke has announced it has taken on over 80 apprentices and placed them throughout its supply chain to complete apprenticeships in just two years. By July, many of the youngsters, aged 18 to 24, will be completing their training and fully qualified thanks to the scheme.

As a recognised National Skills Academy for construction, Kier Stoke, a division of Kier Building Maintenance, is serious about investing in the future of its local community and hopes to have supported 200 apprentices by the end of the project in four years’ time. Despite the tough economic climate, the building maintenance company recognises training is imperative to support future growth and providing the skills needed to provide a strong construction industry.

Working together with PM Training, a local social enterprise training provider, Kier Stoke is able to offer a period of work experience through its supply chain of over 60 businesses which could then be extended into an apprenticeship offer. As a business, Kier Stoke recognises the importance of employing local labour, upskilling its workforce and working closely with schools to give the students a ‘heads-up’ in terms of career choices in construction for both boys and girls.

Kier Building Maintenance national corporate and social responsibility co-ordinator, Helen Walters, said: “We aim to support the local Stoke economy and contribute towards local regeneration targets. One company in our supply chain took on 15 apprentices, which shows tremendous support in the scheme. This valuable experience will help participants become more employable and gives them hands-on practise to gain knowledge while carrying out real-life tasks. Many of the youngsters were able to accompany skilled workers out on the road who could mentor and demonstrate skills and knowledge while carrying out the work.

“Stoke-on-Trent has one of the lowest proportions of people in employment (full, part-time and self-employed) in England and Wales and the 70th highest rate of unemployment. We hope Kier Stoke can contribute to rectifying this situation for present and future generations by providing employment and training.”

Kier Stoke has worked closely with one of its supply chain partners, Holdcroft Heating and Gas Fitting Ltd, through the apprenticeship scheme. After a history of successful apprenticeships, the business took on local lad Joshua Jones as a gas engineer apprentice earlier this year.

Holdcroft Heating and Gas Fitting Ltd director, Tina Holdcroft, said: “We’ve been delighted with Joshua’s enthusiasm, passion to learn and hard working nature. We are committed to offering as much work experience as possible to the teenagers within our local area and this scheme between Kier Stoke and PM Training makes it easy to organise. We’ve had great experiences in the past with many of our apprentices still working for us now.”

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City of London’s Construction Lull Ends

December 15th, 2010 Comments off

City of London’s Construction Lull Ends as Rising Rents Drive Developments

City of London office construction is set for a resurgence after a lull of more than a year as the first of at least four projects breaks ground in 2011.

Bloomberg LP’s plan to build its new European headquarters in the financial district is the biggest City development to be announced since UBS AG agreed in August to add a property to the Broadgate complex. Bloomberg, the New York-based parent of Bloomberg News, said yesterday that the project will comprise one building with more than 500,000 square feet (46,000 square meters) of space and another “speculative” property.

City of London real estate is becoming attractive again to developers such as Land Securities Group Plc and British Land Co., both of which revived office projects in October to take advantage of rising values and rents. Prices have recovered since August 2009 as the weak pound fueled demand from overseas investors and financial-services companies competed for a dwindling amount of new office space becoming available.

“A little bit of confidence is returning,” Elaine Rossall, head of central London research at U.S. broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc., said in an interview. “Those companies seeing their prospects improving are starting to accommodate that growth.”

UBS, the largest Swiss lender by assets, will initially pay annual rent of 54.50 pounds ($86) a square foot to lease its new 700,000-square-foot building at Broadgate, the City of London’s largest office property. Average rents in the district will increase about 9 percent next year to 60 pounds, according to DTZ Holdings Plc, a London-based property broker.

Aon’s Offices

Aon Corp., the world’s largest insurance broker, occupies five office buildings in the City and aims to move into a single building in the district, said Katherine Conway, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company.

Work on Bloomberg’s new property, to be built on the Walbrook Square site close to the Bank of England, is scheduled to start in 2012 and the project is expected to be completed three years later, yesterday’s statement showed.

Bloomberg, which has about 150 offices around the world, in most cases is a tenant. The company owns its facilities near Princeton, New Jersey, as well as a stake in its current London building. It leases its New York headquarters from Vornado Realty Trust.

‘Vote of Confidence’

The decision to build new City of London offices is “a vote of confidence in London and an expression of our desire to get exactly what we want on the site itself,” Bloomberg President Daniel Doctoroff said in an interview.

Work on most City of London office projects was halted two years ago. As a result, the smallest number of properties since at least 1980 will be completed this year, U.K. property adviser Drivers Jonas Deloitte said in a report last week.

British Land, the U.K.’s second-largest real estate investment trust, revived a plan to build the Cheesegrater tower in the City on Oct. 25. A week earlier, Land Securities — the country’s largest REIT — announced that the Walkie-Talkie tower development would proceed.

The Bloomberg and UBS projects will increase the amount of new leasing agreements in the City this year to about 6.5 million square feet, DTZ estimates. That would be the highest since 2007 and 20 percent more than the 25-year average of 5.4 million square feet, the company said.

Demand for office space may be fueled by a hiring spree in the financial-services industry. The number of jobs in the City will increase 9.5 percent to 345,000 in 2015 from 315,000 this year, the Centre for Economics and Business Research Ltd. estimated in an October report.

The strengthening demand may drive an increase in building that goes too far, Drivers Jonas Deloitte said in its report.

“We are approaching a tipping point in the City office market recovery,” the London-based company said. “Without a strong economy driving healthy demand, there is a real danger that the market swings from too little new space today to too much” in 2014 and 2015.

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Good news to end the year on for construction

December 13th, 2010 Comments off

NOW that we are into December, we are due some good news in the construction industry. Let’s not mince words, for many people, 2010 has been what Her Majesty would describe as an “annus horribilis”.

But the pages of the latest trade press herald a bright spark of hope that things might just be starting to get better.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that our industry saw the greatest increase in employment of any sector in the second quarter of 2010.

The figures showed that construction sector employment rose by 53,000 between April 1 and the end of June.

By the end of this period, there were 2.1 million people employed in the construction sector.

On top of this, the number of people in construction being made redundant was on the way down in the third quarter of the year.

Between July 1 and the end of September, 18,000 people in the construction sector were laid off, compared with 21,000 between April and June.

This is compared with 38,000 between July and September the previous year.

As positive as all of this seems, let’s not get carried away. We are still well behind where we were a year ago.

At the end of June 2009, there were 2.175 million people employed in construction, 75,000 more than at that point this year, and we have seen Connaught and Rok go into administration since that time.

In terms of the money earned from construction, there are signs of a halt in the fall.

In September 2008, the average weekly wage in the sector was £537, which dropped to £533 one year later. In 2010, that figure remained static.

So, when we look at the growth in construction jobs, the reduction in the number of redundancies and the levelling of wages, we see a picture being painted of a sector balancing out.

However, the fact that all of these figures relate to the period prior to the Comprehensive Spending Review may yet prove significant.

Likewise, we have all seen and heard the doom and gloom which continues to affect people we know, or know of.

Should these trends outlined by the Office of National Statistics continue through to the second and third quarters of 2011, then I suspect we can really see a rise in confidence in the construction industry.

For now, it is a good start, but we are certainly not out of the woods yet.

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Foundations

December 10th, 2010 Comments off
Ask anyone in the construction industry about foundations, and they will tell you that they are the most important part of a building. Yet when it comes to reducing energy in the built environment, foundations have, up until now, been overlooked.

‘The majority of people don’t think about foundations because they are hidden in the ground,’ said Prof Saffa Riffat, head of the Institute of Building Technology at Nottingham University. ‘So when they talk about low carbon buildings, people talk about the buildings themselves, the windows and the doors…but in fact energy use of foundations is massive.’system_first_1

Riffat, who is also president for the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technologies, has worked with construction company Roger Bullivant Ltd to develop a modular house foundation system known as ‘System First’. The process is designed to replace traditional trench-fill foundations using prefabricated steel beams that lay across concrete piles. These piles are covered with polystyrene slabs which are then covered with a layer of concrete screed to create a lightweight and insulated floor slab.

‘System First provides a floor which is suitable for use in homes of the highest sustainability standards due to its exceptionally low heat loss through the floor,’ explained Riffat. ‘It uses significantly less concrete and raw materials than traditional flooring construction and has lower embodied CO2. The floor slabs also have minimal heat transmittance which reduces the building’s energy requirements and CO2 emissions.’

The System First technique is claimed to achieve an 88 per cent saving in water, a 75 per cent reduction in construction time and a 92 per cent saving in raw materials; foundation which would conventionally use 233 tonnes of cement can be reduced to 18 tonnes. The concept  has already been demonstrated in a wide range of projects including in the BASF House, the Mark Group House, and the Solar Decathlon House at the Nottingham University Institute, in the Llanelli School extension, and in Buckshaw village in Lancashire.


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