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Government Response to the Low Carbon Construction IGT Report

August 30th, 2011 2 comments

The Government response to the final report of the Low Carbon Construction IGT was published. While encompassing all of the 65 recommendations, the Government response focuses on the key themes identified by the IGT:

Demonstrating the benefits and opportunities of low carbon construction through leadership and cooperation across the private and public sectors.

Creating greater clarity in a complex landscape, enabling the industry to better understand the opportunities that will be available to them in the future.

Ensuring that we have the right framework of incentives and interventions to enable the market to flourish and the right levels of skills, research and innovation to enable and support growth.

The CIOB’s Carbon Action 2050 Initiative www.carbonaction2050.com, and procurement research are highlighted within this key report.

The IGT’s recommendations will be taken forward through a joint Government and industry action plan.

The review has looked at the strengths of and opportunities for the UK construction industry in a low carbon economy and considered how the UK can be a world leader in this sector. This review has been led by Paul Morrell, the Chief Construction Adviser and been undertaken by a mix of industry experts and those with wider business experience.

The report highlights four themes that government and industry need to engage on to rise to the carbon challenge:

  • The potential size of the market – meeting the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions will affect every aspect of the built environment. The scale of the necessary change is considerable but there is much that could be done now, particularly with the existing building stock.
  • Opportunities for SMEs – transforming the built environment to low carbon could provide the industry with a 40 year programme of work and act as a springboard to growth for more than 200,000 small businesses in the sector.
  • The wider green economy benefits – the green economy represents an area of substantial potential growth for the UK. Creating a low carbon construction industry would develop skills and expertise that would be of great value to other sectors.
  • Stimulating demand – there would be little point in developing the necessary capacity and skills if the demand for low carbon was not there. Government and industry need to work closely together to identify the best ways to stimulate the market for low carbon and energy efficiency measures.
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FMB fears for construction sector SMEs

August 26th, 2011 Comments off

fmbSmall and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the construction sector are in a “perilous situation”, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said.

Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics report on construction activity during the second quarter of 2011, the FMB noted SMEs have suffered a “sharp decline” in workloads.

There was a 6.1 per cent quarterly decline in repair and maintenance projects for public housing and a 2.5 per cent fall in these jobs for private accommodation, resulting in an overall drop of 3.2 per cent.

“For the many thousands of small businesses in the construction industry, this type of work is their main source of income,” FMB director general Richard Diment said.

New work rose by 2.4 per cent, but compared with the same period 12 months ago fell by 0.6 per cent.

“More significant levels of growth are needed” if the industry is going to recover from the “dreadful decline” experienced at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, Mr Diment stated.

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Extensions and Conservatory’s require planning permits

August 24th, 2011 2 comments

diy-conservatoryPeople thinking of adding a conservatory to their property might want to seek planning permission from the local authority before they begin work.

Deputy chief executive officer for the Glass and Glazing Federation Giles Willson said this is “the first issue” homeowners will need to address when building this structure.

The local planning office can provide details of how to gain a permit, before the builder considers decisions such as roofing materials, framing, style, glazing, orientation and overall size, he advised.

Permission “must be obtained prior to installation”, with current British building regulations stating that this must be sought for all constructions with heating, the expert noted.

Mr Willson pointed out that extensions with external-grade doors and windows separating them from the main building, no warming system and that are less than 30 sq m in size are exempt from regulations.

The government considers extensions to be covered yards or ways, porches, conservatories and carports that open on at least two sides.

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Changes needed’ before housing construction improves

August 22nd, 2011 1 comment

It is unlikely difficulties in the UK housing market will be significantly resolved in the near future, one expert has argued.

Steve Lees, director at property website SmartNewHomes, said greater availability for “mortgage finance and the supply of land for development” is needed before the situation can “improve drastically”.

However, currently there is a vast difference between the number of domiciles being created and demand from the nation, resulting in a “massive shortfall” between what is needed and what exists, the expert continued.

This is not going to change until financing for this kind of building project becomes more accessible, he asserted.

Recent research from the Department for Communities and Local Government found there were 23,400 house building starts in the June quarter of 2011, adjusted for seasonal variations.

This represents a nine per cent drop since the March quarter, with completions similarly decreasing by four per cent over this time period, from 29,020 to 27,750.

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RICS welcomes new planning framework

August 19th, 2011 Comments off

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has welcomed the draft National Planning Policy Framework released by the government, noting that it could assist the UK in stimulating economic growth.

Rics argued the current system has failed to provide the homes and infrastructure required in the country, which has also reduced employment prospects.

However, the group claimed the new draft legislation “strikes the right balance in safeguarding the environment and promoting strong, vibrant and healthy communities”.

The organisation stated that the framework will provide “clarity and certainty” to employers and businesses, recognising that the English countryside must be safeguarded while enabling construction projects and “delivering sustainable growth”.

Bringing economic stimulus to the nation is “in everyone’s interest”, Rics continued.

The Department for Communities and Local Government stated it intends to create a planning system that is “less complex and more accessible” and has set up a public consultation on its proposals, which will close on October 17th.

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Photogrammetry Services

August 18th, 2011 Comments off
Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry

The well known Mobile Surveying Solution provider and Measured Survey experts are now offering quite a unique service with their new Photogrammetry Service and Photogrammetry Surveys.

Photogrammetry is the practice of obtaining information about physical objects through the process of recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images. It is most commonly associated with the production of topographic maps through aerial survey, although in recent years it has been increasingly used in such diverse applications as architecture, archaeology, engineering, geology, underwater, and forensic work amongst others. In fact it may be used any situation that requires the generation of accurate three-dimensional data or precise drawings, and is ideally suited to the survey and measurement of buildings and monuments. in any situation that requires the generation of accurate three-dimensional data or precise drawings, and is ideally suited to the survey and measurement of buildings and monuments.

To read more visit: Photogrammetry Services and Example Drawings

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Renovations sector ‘has bottomed out’

August 18th, 2011 1 comment

Home-RenovationIt seems the home improvement industry is finally recovering from the global financial crisis, according to one expert.

Jason Orme, editor of Homebuilding and Renovating, said “all of the evidence” indicates that the market has bottomed out and is “now moving up”.

Developments to upgrade people’s property have been “relatively strong” and, although there is a lack of enthusiasm about the short-term future of the sector, the wider industry is “picking up slowly, rather than decreasing further”, he explained.

Furthermore, it will survive in the long term as families grow and requirements change, with renovations “something that people eventually feel they have to do”, Mr Orme continued.

That is “the beauty of the home improvement industry”, the expert asserted, noting that construction projects may be delayed temporarily but will eventually have to commence.

However, data from the latest IMRG/Hitwise Hot Shops List found major DIY retailers have fallen from its analysis of the top rankings of stores.

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Bicester eco-town to be built

August 16th, 2011 Comments off

Planning permission has been granted for a major environmentally-friendly development in Bicester.

Cherwell District Council confirmed the project, which will involve the construction of 393 homes and a 400 sq m renewable energy centre with car parking, service infrastructure and amenity spaces, will go ahead.

Furthermore, outline planning permission was given for office accommodation, a pub, a 1.34 hectare primary school, a nursery, a community centre, three retail units and an eco-business building up to 1,800 sq m in size, which will be targeted towards start-ups.

This will be part of an Exemplar site, which is to be 30 per cent affordable housing and over 40 per cent green infrastructure.

David Warburton, head of area for the Homes and Communities Agency, which provided an investment of £6 million, said: “We are strongly supportive of the plans for this community and that is why we have agreed to invest in the affordable housing.”

This development will also require upgrades made to the transport links in the town, with possible alterations to junction nine of the M40 and improvements to the rail service between Bicester and Oxford planned.

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New planning reforms, will they work?

August 15th, 2011 Comments off

The proposed National Planning Policy Framework finally started making waves in the national media recently after conservation groups stepped up campaigns to force the government to ditch the introduction of a presumption in favour of development. The Campaign to Protect Rural England has called on the public to rise up and oppose the policy in the same way that led to proposals to sell national forests to be quickly withdrawn. Comments by planning minister Bob Neill about a “left-wing smear campaign” merely helped put the story on the front pages.

Does the government have the will to stick to the policy? And taken with the totality of planning reform from the coalition, which includes the scrapping of regional housing and density targets, will it be positive even if it does make it?

Going head-to-head on the issue are Nigel Moor, a planning consultant with 40 years’ experience in the industry who is a keen supporter of the reforms, and Roger Humber, strategic policy adviser to the House Builders Association, who is sceptical of the government’s ability to make it work. Moor, a former conservative councillor in his home town of Wallingford, was also part of a team consulted by the Tory opposition when drawing up its plans. Humber represents smaller housebuilders and is a former leader of the Home Builders Federation.

Joey Gardiner: Nigel, why do you support the plans?

Nigel Moor: Since 1990 the default position on planning has been “no”. Most local authorities have been able to find, in their local pans, policies to prevent development for whatever reason they want.

So there’s been that default position, something that under New Labour a succession of planning and housing ministers never got to grips with. I think this is the first team at the communities department that has got down to what it really means to try to deregulate planning, trying to simplify it and give a positive outcome.

Roger Humber: If we look at the reforms both from the point of view of what the NPPF tries to do positively, and also in the context of the abolition of the regional spatial strategies, I have real fears about this. While the local authorities are being told to plan positively, I fear that they are not going to be willing to do this. It’s the political dynamic in the absence of housing numbers that I really worry about. Let’s face it, [communities secretary] Eric Pickles is a very political character. I don’t think he’ll want to fight to the death and die in a ditch.

I agree with Nigel on welcoming the reversal of the political intention [of the default position being no]. I just wonder about the deliverability of it when they take away the principal weapon they had for ensuring it happens, which was the central housing numbers. It seems a tragedy to wipe away the housing numbers, and then introduce such a positive NPPF with the risks there.

NM: But the [housing] figures are there in the ether, because the evidence base that has come out of [the research done to draw up the individual] regional strategies, is there. In Oxfordshire the figures approved by the [inspector’s] panel and subsequently adopted by the government are now guiding the councils. It’s going to be a question for the inspectorate [but] it seems to me they will give a lot of priority to this evidence base.

RH: I agree, the evidence base is there. The problem is that we know there are other [local authorities] who have said “we can now scrap all of this and just start all over again”. There’s a risk of plans being taken forward that don’t reflect the evidence base. The inspectorate will say it’s not sound. This should open the door for the presumption in favour and for the secretary of state to grant appeals until such time as they adopt a sound plan.The problem is that’s a system on a collision course from the outset, that can only end one way – in favour of the grassroots Tories. No secretary of state is going to sit there for too long and allow this to happen.

NM: But the difference now is that the coalition has the highest majority of any post-war government since Clement Attlee. If it wants to take this thing forward, then it’s going to have to take the back bench flack and not buckle. I just hope there’s a bunch of ministers – who do seem to be working well together – that have got the balls to work this one through.

RH: Over the last 25 years, we’ve always seen ministers flinch in the face of backbench revolts. Obviously an awful lot of this conflict will only unwind much closer to the election, and that’s the time the coalition will be starting to unravel, and pre-election positions will be starting to be taken.

I hope that they’re prepared to stare down the barrel at [opposition] and stare them down, but the political dynamics point to big risks.

NM: But in Oxfordshire they’ve planning portfolio holders have been pretty robust. I’ve seen them recently having to take very difficult positions with regards to additional housing, [facing] a lot of ward difficulties in the district council.

JG: Is all this reform necessary anyway, was the previous planning system really failing?

RH: Contrary to everything [housing minister Grant] Shapps says about the housing numbers being like Soviet tractor targets, government statistics show clearly they were working. Between 2001/2 and 2007/8 the housing numbers – total net additions – had risen by 58%, and the trajectory they were going at would have seen them get to about 240,000 homes per year, by next year.

The statisticians are telling the truth that the politicians did not want to acknowledge, that the figures were on a virtuous trajectory pretty well opposite to the position portrayed by Shapps.
I’m not saying it didn’t need reform – but at least the housing numbers were coming through.

NM: The difficulty is to disentangle whether that was a reflection of those targets, or benign conditions in terms of the housing market itself. We both agree that the figures won’t really go away; they’re in the system. We need to find a way of making sure the system reflects that. But ministers aren’t going to be prepared to sanction the tractor targets again.

JG: The government promised to give local control. But given estimates that 95% of councils won’t have local plans up to date, they’re potentially subjecting the huge majority of development in the hands of this presumption in favour. Will this cause problems?

RH: There’s quite a lot of smoke and mirrors on this and at some point the government is going to find itself held to account and asked some very hard questions by people who believe in localism and thought they were going to have quite substantial localism.

There were obviously those who hoped that the first thing it would allow them to do was virtually have a standstill on development if they choose to do that. At the moment the government is signalling to them no, that’s not what it means.

The other bit of it is that at neighbourhood plan level, where the degree of localism and the degree of what can be done locally, is so much less than I think, they were led to believe by Shapps, [planning minister Bob] Neill and Pickles. I’ve been to a presentation by [government chief planner] Steve Quartermain at the National Planning Forum, about how a neighbourhood plan would have to be brought forward, and everyone was sitting there with their head in their hands at the end of it, thinking that’s absolutely ridiculous, no one will ever want to do it.

NM: It was always a big call, because for a local community, the costs of assembling the kind of package of information and documents you need for any significant proposal was always going to be of a high order. At the moment the localism appears to be limping along behind these major changes. I’ve been involved with my community with a new community shop proposal. It’s taken a great deal of cost and pro bono time on everyone’s parts.

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Newest and most energy efficient tower for Canary Wharf

August 11th, 2011 Comments off

362The Canary Wharf Group plans to construct a 128 m high, 20-storey tower this autumn. 25 Churchill Place, at 500,000 ft2, is the last tower to be set out in the masterplan for the London Docklands regeneration project. It will create approximately 1000 construction jobs, and is being designed to be one of the most energy efficient office buildings on the Canary Wharf Estate.


Songbird Estates, the owner of Canary Wharf, said it had cleared the way for construction after signing a pre-let  for half the building to the European Medicines Agency.
“The building of 25 Churchill Place is a symbolic milestone as it completes the development of the original Canary Wharf masterplan,” Songbird said.

Environmental features will include elevators that store and reuse energy elsewhere in the building, the latest ultra-efficient air-conditioning equipment that recycles the energy from exhaust air and photovoltaic cells to generate energy from the sun’s rays.

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