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Archive for April, 2011

FMB demands action after building industry decline

April 28th, 2011 1 comment

SMALL building companies suffered another decline in demand during the first quarter of 2011 according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

First-quarter results from the survey suggest that the Wales SME construction sector has now seen three years of declining conditions.

Richard Jenkins, director of FMB Wales, said: “Although conditions are slightly better than they were in the final quarter of last year, they are still heavily negative, suggesting that small builders in Wales are continuing to struggle.

“The first quarter results have confirmed three years of declining conditions for small firms in Wales and this is why we are lobbying hard for the policies in our manifesto for the Welsh Assembly elections, Building for Success.”

He added: “In tough times like these it is more important than ever to target resources where they will be most effective. This is why FMB Wales is campaigning for the investment in the green technology required to de-carbonise our housing stock and secure our energy supply; campaigning for the investment in skills and training our young people need so that they can help drive the recovery; and campaigning for reform of inefficient public procurement processes so that Welsh taxpayers get more bricks and less paper for their money.

“The construction industry is well placed to lead a homegrown recovery and is at the heart of everything that Wales hopes to achieve in the years ahead, including more homes, improved transport, better schools and hospitals, and improved workplaces.”

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The Building industry is still far from recovery

April 27th, 2011 1 comment

The chief executive of the house builder Persimmon has warned that the UK housing industry is still far from a full recovery – despite his company posting encouraging sales figures for the first part of 2011.

After a torrid end to 2010, caused by the uncertainty ahead the Government’s spending cuts and the bad weather during November and December, Persimmon has rallied in the new year, with the value of its new sales reservations up 12 per cent on the same period last year.

However, with the total value of their order book standing only at the same level as in April 2010, the chief executive, Mike Farley, warned that the market still has a long way to go to recover fully.

“It is a modest recovery that you have to put in context,” he said. “In the first three and a half months of this year we have only been able to take our order book back on par to where it was last year. The economic backdrop is challenging. It’s been very tough since the credit crunch because of a lack of mortgage availability. In that period we saw availability drop from 120,000 to 30,000 [a month]. We’re back up to 53,000 but there is still a lack of finance and we’re a long way off 2007 levels.”

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This weeks featured products

April 27th, 2011 Comments off

See a list of this weeks featured products. Every week products will be featured here, some will be at a special offer price, up to 50% discount!  and some will be new to market or of specific interest to our readers.

So check back often to see what is on offer.

Also see:
Free Trial Software
to download
Knowledge Base
Support Contracts & Software Upgrades

abd if you don’t see what you want, use their Source & Supply facility.

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Surveying Equipment

April 26th, 2011 Comments off

For all your surveying equipment and instrument requirements, Mobile CAD Surveying have added significantly to their range. With many fairly unique products and for specialist measuring and monitoring situations, like the Crack Monitoring range of products and the new Angle Measures & Inclinometers category.

They have also added a range of Environmental meters abd Thermometers including some Infra Red Cameras. With many new Surveying Tools and more categories added recently it is well worth a  visit.

For more information, please visit: Surveying Equipment & Instruments

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London 2012 Olympic Games main stadium

April 21st, 2011 Comments off

London-2012-main-stadium-007On time, within budget and with an excellent safety record, – that’s the achievement by all involved in construction of the iconic London 2012 Olympic Games main stadium in a futuristic new parkland that has been recovered to a large extent from contaminated industrial wastelands.

Chairman of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and Olympian Frank Fredericks, Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) chairman John Armitt, London 2012 chair Seb Coe and 400 m hurdles 2012 hopeful Tasha Danvers recently laid the last piece of turf on the Olympic Stadium’s field of play, marking the completion of construction on the flagship venue. IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald and IOC Executive Director Gilbert Felli also took part, alongside local schoolchildren from the ODA’s Construction Crew.

Construction started on the Olympic Stadium just under three years ago in May 2008 and has been completed on time, under budget and with an exemplary safety record. Over 240 UK businesses have won contracts for the construction of the Stadium and over 5,250 people have worked on the project over the past three years.

The final surface of the running track will be laid later this year by LOCOG. This is to ensure it is protected during the programme of temporary overlay including work for ceremonies which may need cranes in the field of play and could damage the track.

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INNOVATIVE ACOUSTICS CALCULATOR TO ASSIST ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNS

April 20th, 2011 1 comment

Architects can now assess basic sound insulation requirements for educational or healthcare buildings at the touch of a button thanks to an innovative new online calculator.

Following consultations with practitioners across the North West, Manchester-based Azymuth Acoustics has created the free calculator as a guide to architects at the earliest design stage of education or healthcare projects.

The calculator uses data and methods contained in Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) and HTM (Health Technical Memorandum) 08-01, which set standards for educational and healthcare buildings respectively.

“Appropriate acoustics in these environments are a key consideration in the design process, but up until now architects haven’t been able to easily assess the basic requirements for partition walls or floors,” said Azymuth Acoustics consultant Stratton Barrett.

“With the calculator they simply select the proposed use of the rooms in question and input three or four pieces of information detailing variables such as partition size and floor area.”

The calculator takes 30 seconds to complete but could save architects considerable time and effort further down the line, as Stratton explains:

“Using this calculator, from the outset architects can get a handle on how substantial the building fabric needs to be in order to achieve good sound insulation between rooms.

“If, for example, partitions end up needing to be much thicker than has been laid out then this can be very disruptive to the overall vision, as floor space is always at a premium.

“Our experience is that acousticians are seldom brought onboard a scheme until the design is well underway, if not complete. Acoustics should be thought about from the earliest stages in a project, especially in the case of educational buildings where research shows that pupils’ attainment is enhanced by favourable acoustic conditions.”

The calculator generates a weighted sound reduction index (Rw) value – a numerical measure of the degree of acoustic separation, or noise reduction. This can then be used when researching construction data to specify wall and floor systems.

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NTS340R – Reflectorless Total Station with Windows & Bluetooth

April 19th, 2011 Comments off

340rWhat must be the cheapest Total Station on the market with Windows and Bluetooth is being promoted by Mobile CAD Surveying Ltd.

The NTS340R – Reflectorless Total Station is expected to come in a shade under £3,000 when prices are released soon. There will be two models available, the NTS342R a 2″ instrument and the NTS345R a 5″ instrument.

For more information or to express an interest, visit: Mobile CAD Surveying Ltd

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Construction to start on Wales’ tallest building

April 18th, 2011 Comments off

Construction work is set to commence on the tallest building in Wales, contractor Ardmore has announced.

The firm has revealed it is to get to work on the structure, which will house a five-star hotel, in September, the South Wales Echo has reported.

With a budget of £62 million, developers of the Wyndham hotel scheme have stated they are confident they will have the funds in place to start on the 32-storey site.

Chris Odling-Smee, the businessman who is behind the scheme, told the newspaper that it is looking in good shape, despite the current market and economy.

Although the programme is six months behind its original schedule, he stated it is due to work being taken slowly.

“We have taken our time so that when we do fire the starter’s gun we can deliver on every aspect of it,” Mr Odling-Smee added.

The announcement follows the news from Wates that it is set to take on an additional 300 members of staff this year after seeing a rise in profits during 2010.

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Why Aren’t There More Women in Construction?

April 15th, 2011 3 comments

The construction industry is one of the UK’s largest and most important sectors. It provides a tenth of the country annual GDP, is worth an estimated £1,5 billion, and employs some 1.4 million people. But just 9% of this 1.4 million is women in construction, which makes one wonder why there aren’t more women in this thriving industry.

The Equal Opportunities Commission recently did a report on women workers in the UK and found that while they make up about 49% of the total workforce, just 9% of this is in the construction industry. This breaks down further into the following statistics about women in construction: trades people at 1%, design and management at 4%, secretarial at 84% and sole traders at 2% and micro-enterprises at 4%.

Are fewer women choosing to work in the construction industry because they see it as a traditionally male dominated industry and don’t like the safety shoes and construction wear? Or is it because male employers see women as the weaker sex and do not want to recruit them in construction jobs?

After doing a survey with some 3000 construction companies and professional women in construction, the following research was found:

  • About 55% of companies had to adjust their hours in order to accommodate their female employees.
  • 79% said that they did not specifically look for women when recruiting employees.
  • The companies cited a male dominated environment, long hours, and not being child-friendly as reasons for recruiting fewer women in national construction.
  • The women were asked why they were interested in working in construction and 85% said they had a fundamental interest in engineering and building, cited good career prospects or the desire to do something “different” in life.
  • About 40% of the women surveyed had a history of six years or more in construction and 66% of these said that they were aware of sexism in the industry.

Up to 20% of new enrolments in the construction industry are women with some 4% of management positions being filled by women. It seems that recruiters are choosing new employees based on merit and not on gender, and that fewer women are applying for these positions. This explains why there are few women in construction at present.

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Centralise to cut School Building Costs by 30%

April 14th, 2011 1 comment

In a recent Review of Education Capital by a team of businessmen led by Sebastian James, group operations director of Dixons Retail, says that costs can be cut by 30% and recommends procurement of construction to be centralised and standardised.

The review, commissioned by education secretary Michael Gove, makes numerous recommendations. Among them. it says that instead of designing all schools from scratch, new buildings should be based on a set of standardised drawings and specifications.

It also recommends that the Department for Education takes control of school building away from local authorities and other responsible bodies (e.g. academy trusts and dioceses that also run schools). The report says: “There must be a single, strong, expert, intelligent ‘client’ acting for the public sector in its relationships with the construction industry and responsible for both the design and the delivery of larger projects.” Local authorities and other responsible bodies would have responsibility for maintenance. “Currently there is no explicit obligation to maintain buildings and no agreed standard. Funds are wholly devolved to school level making it impossible for responsible bodies to prioritise their needs at a local level.”

In a covering letter to the education secretary, Mr James wrote: “It has taken slightly longer than I anticipated, as I was very keen to test the emerging recommendations with as wide a group of interested parties as possible before putting them to you.”

He said: “In summary, I have found that the system of capital allocation and spending which has developed over at least the last decade has frequently resulted in poor use of resources, a bureaucratic system for providers and Local Authorities and a mixed – and at times poor – outcome for both parents and children. The schools building programme, Building Schools for the Future, has been one of epic proportions, at least in terms of the money deployed. However, because procurement has not been sufficiently centralised, and because the Government has not ensured that contracts are always negotiated by those who have the appropriate expertise, the public sector has failed consistently to get the value it should have done, given the commercial leverage that this scale of programme should command.

“While the civil servants, local authorities and frontline professionals involved have done their best to administer the system they were asked to use, it is, in my view, the case that the system is not fit for purpose and has been working against them.

“I believe that there are some very significant opportunities to increase the amount of schools regeneration that we can undertake for any given sum of money. To give you a flavour of this, the consensus view from our workshops was that as much as 30% of the total money spent could be saved and this is borne out by our initial pilot project in Doncaster.

“By reforming the capital allocation system so that investment is focused on the condition of buildings and the provision of high quality school places, and by creating a robust and fair local process for prioritisation of projects, funding can get to where it is needed most. Through a more standardised approach to design and an expert, centralised approach to the procurement and delivery of major projects, greater quality and value for money can be achieved. Sharper accountabilities for maintaining buildings and better procurement routes for doing so will help ensure that the current estate is able to deliver for our children in the decades ahead.

“My vision is of a system which prioritises both quality and value, which makes the best use of professional expertise to ensure that, even at a time of significantly reduced budgets, we achieve your aim of providing fit-for-purpose facilities and securing additional places where they are needed and helping the disadvantaged.

“Putting my recommendations into practice will be a major challenge. I know that I am asking for a significant change in culture and practice. Getting the right structures in place to deliver at national and local level will be vital. I anticipate that, for some stakeholders in the process, there will be parts of my suggested approach that may be less palatable than others and that there will need to be some give-and-take. However, the team has been heartened by the high level of consensus that has been building among the many different parties that have been involved in this process, and I believe we all need to remain focused on the goal of delivering the educational infrastructure that we need at a cost that we can afford.”

Welcoming the report, Michael Gove said: “I thank Sebastian James and his review team for their incredibly hard work and Partnerships for Schools for their help with the Review. I welcome this independent report and we will respond soon. The system we inherited had profound problems. We must have a system for school building which is much simpler, less bureaucratic, and which targets priority projects.”

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