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People Skills – Construction4Growth

October 30th, 2012 Comments off

Over 900 construction industry leaders recently came together to spearhead a new campaign – Construction4Growth – aimed at kick-starting the industry.

The campaign, which has been welcomed by the Prime Minister, calls for measures to address concerning industry statistics. According to figures released by CITB-Constructionskills last month, 160,000 construction workers are currently claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance with 45,000 jobs lost across industry so far this year. Worryingly there is a potential further loss of 82,000 construction roles in the next five years.

Earlier figures from CITB-ConstructionSkills show that the sector is facing a skills vacuum with around one in six workers due to retire within 10 years and the number of young people in the industry more than halving since the start of the recession. So how can we ensure a skilled workforce for the future?

We ask two construction-related firms to share their views on the skills shortage and what they are doing to address this shortage within their own organisation.

Dan Maher, Partnership & Business Development Director for Kier’s maintenance business:

“Concerns about skills shortages within the construction industry were raised and discussed well before the current recession.

“Supporting education, training and employment programmes is an ‘invest-to-save’ policy that the industry must continue to embrace to prevent a broadening skills shortage in an uncertain economic future.

“The link between high levels of youth unemployment and the needs of the industry are two sides of the same coin. We need real investment in Britain’s built environment to support economic recovery, a recovery that will lend itself to greater delivery of youth and adult apprenticeships across the industry.

“Kier continues to support construction as a vocational option within schools, investing, as it always has, in youth and adult apprenticeship programmes across all its partnerships. Kier also has a graduate employment programme, ensuring the continuing development of Kier’s workforce of the future.”

Dave Stone, MD of Stone Technical Services

“We’re often seeking to recruit more apprentices but we do find it increasingly difficult to attract young recruits to the sector.

“If you join a company like Stone Technical Services as an apprentice, you’ll learn a trade from some of the very best in the business. You get the chance to gain industry qualifications and hands-on experience that could set you up for life. That’s what I did and now I’ve built up a successful business that operates all over the UK – and I want to give more young people that opportunity.

“But we are finding it hard to entice young people into the industry which surprises me as the rate of young unemployed people seems to keep on growing.

“There is a lack of traded labour these days so we have an up-skilling programme to allow us to perform a wide variety of services for our clients with our existing staff who constantly undergo the highest levels of industry training.

“We think that this is why our retention rate is good as people enjoy and appreciate that we are  investing in them with training and advancements, including financial.”

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Raising the green roof

October 29th, 2012 Comments off

Green roofs boast many benefits from providing insulation and absorbing rainwater to helping to lower urban air temperatures but are they suitable for mass installation?

A green roof or living roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems.

There are two types of green roofs: intensive roofs, which are thicker and can support a wider variety of plants but are heavier and require more maintenance, and extensive roofs, which are covered in a light layer of vegetation and are lighter than an intensive green roof.

At the recent New Designers Exhibition – showcase for the UK’s best graduate design student work – Brunel University student, James Ward, Industrial Design and Technology BA, unveiled his plans to bring Green Roofs to the mass market.

His design uses carpet fibre as an alternative to soil – helping to solve the problem of old carpet materials ending up in landfill. Plastic tiles replace slate – and these can be produced out of recycled products.

Secondly the tiles are specifically designed for pitched roofs. Currently ‘Green Roofing’ is only available for flat roofing, but Ward felt this was missing a trick, as the majority of buildings outside of high-rise office buildings have sloping roofs.

The tiles are designed to slot together in a similar way to traditional roofing tiles, making it easy for people to install the roofing themselves, and the grips built into the tile holds the carpet fibres in place.

James says: “Green roofing and turning eco is the way forward. We have got to change our ways; all this gas guzzling is killing the environment. You look at cities and you look at reports and it is full of issues like the Urban Heat Island and water absorption issues.

“Green roofing helps to tackle all of these and it brings wildlife to the environment. It brings benefits to the environment but also people who live in these green roofed houses. It increases their insulation and brings down energy costs.”

One of the perceived barriers against green roofs is the structural implication to the building. Green roofs promoter livingroofs.org says: “Any landscape feature on a roof will have loading implications and the saturated weight of any such features must be used to calculate the structural load. It is interesting to note that many inverted roofs are covered in paving slabs in order to ballast out the insulation. The use of an extensive green roof system would have a negligible effect on the structural load in this instance.”

Recently a structural report for a current commercial building in London allowed for an extensive green roof to be applied on top of the paving slabs of an inverted roof without any negative structural implications.

As design applications and experimentation in lighter materials progresses, then the potential for seeing our town and city roofscapes turning an eco shade of green looks a lot more promising.

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Growth and Infrastructure Bill ‘will cut construction red tape’

October 25th, 2012 Comments off

The prime minister has revealed plans to cut red tape for construction projects in order to unlock infrastructure schemes and promote investment.

Billions of pounds might be added to the economy and thousands of jobs could be created through the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, it is said.

A range of measures will be introduced through the initiative, which is set to come into force today (October 18th).

Some of these include reforming the planning system to support energy developments, including gas market infrastructure valued at £160 million.

At present, companies have no methods by which they can vary their consents, which can prevent them from improving their proposals. As a result, a firm that wished to incorporate new energy efficiency devices or to add recent technologies to a building may find they are unable to do so.

Amendments to the Electricity Act will ensure these organisations will have to complete a three-month consultation instead of  having to apply for consent again when making ambitious or innovative changes to their schemes.

Furthermore, the levels of paperwork required for planning applications will be reduced, with Penfold Review recommendations being implemented to reduce the number of barriers to investment that exist.

Self-builders, commercial developers and large-scale businesses will all be able to benefit from these legislative changes, the government said.

The policy changes will also work to prevent business rates undergoing unexpected hikes, which should provide tax stability for companies.

David Cameron said the bill should help the UK to “compete in the global race”, as well as deliver an “aspiration nation where we back those who want to get on in life”.

“We are slashing unnecessary bureaucracy, giving businesses the confidence to invest, unlocking big infrastructure projects and supporting hard-working people to realise their dreams,” he declared.

“It is heartening to know that government has listened to the industry and acted to remove some of the uncertainty in the planning process,” chief executive of Land Securities Robert Noel said.

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Risk of Power Failures by 2015

October 24th, 2012 Comments off

Britain runs the risk of running out of energy and experiencing power failures by the year 2015, according to the UK energy regulator.

Ofgem has issued a stark warning to home and business owners across the country. Its findings, published in the Electricity Capacity Assessment report, predict that the amount of spare power capacity could drop from 14% to only 4% over the next three years; and that coal-fired power stations could be closing sooner than expected.

Secure and sustainable

It means that Britain will rely more on imported gas which could result in a price hike for UK consumers, and Ofgem has put part of the blame on EU environmental legislation.

The regulator claims that investment is needed to create new generating capacity to deliver secure, sustainable and affordable energy supplies for consumers. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, has said that the government will respond to the report by the end of the year.

Energy UK confirmed Ofgem’s report; saying that over £150 billion of investment is needed to keep the UK’s lights on and this can be achieved by replacing aging power stations and infrastructure.

Detrimental and stressful

Following the revelation of increased power outages which will leave thousands of citizens without electricity, a leading generator hire firm is advising UK properties to make sure they have a dependable back-up system.

Mark Stuart, Marketing Director of Mather and Stuart, said: “Losing power can be extremely detrimental on businesses and very stressful for homeowners. It is vital that your power supply is safe, secure and reliable especially in the coming winter months.”

You can cut the risk of power failure by having a generator system in place that will give you peace of mind that should a power cut occur, all the electricity needs are taken care of. They offer total reliability and you can save money on fuel efficiency.

This article was provided by Mather and Stuart, the specialists in generator hire. If your business loses power and you need it back fast, call the experts. And if you want to improve your property’s sustainability, enquire about their state-of-the-art carbon reduction generators.

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When debating the green belt we can’t see the wood for the trees

October 23rd, 2012 Comments off

Arguments over development of the green belt miss the point; the answer to our housing crisis lies in our cities

As Policy Exchange has published a report asking why we are aren’t building enough attractive homes, I’d like to pose a second question: what exactly is an attractive home?

Many first-time buyers and young professionals consider an attractive property to be an affordable home close to their place of work within a city centre. They are more concerned about price and location than expensive apartments situated around the “desirable” green belt.

There are many derelict buildings, brownfield and abandoned sites in city centres. Our focus should be on transforming these areas into affordable developments, leaving the green belt untouched.

Councils are responsible for half all public land which is fit for residential development. With private investment, this land could be quickly turned into affordable housing, helping us to solve the housing crisis while also raising funds for cash-strapped councils. It could transform local eyesores into communities where people want to live and work.

There is enough brownfield land to create 1m affordable homes – not to mention the thousands of buildings and stalled projects on developers’ books – yet the focus is already turning towards developing touched land. When it comes to the green belt, we can’t see the wood for the trees.

Before these buildings and sites can to be put to good use local authorities need to be more open about what property they own, working with reputed developers to release derelict, unused stock for development. We are not calling for land or property to be simply gifted away, yet the only thing holding developers back is co-operation with local authorities.

At Fresh Start Living, we have two developments in central Manchester that are stalled due to section 106 agreements that were put in place before we acquired the development, and prior to the downturn in the property market. As soon as this red tape is removed, we can begin work to bring more than 200 affordable apartments on to the market in a prime city location. This will breathe new life into the area, benefitting the local community in the urban area – and importantly the green belt around the city won’t be affected.

We are also working hard to acquire another development which we want to transform into 180 homes. It has been sat empty for 10 years, yet we are being blocked by a local authority.

There is a desperate need for affordable housing in the UK in urban locations, and both private developers and local authorities must play their part in tackling the problem. So before looking at green belt land, let’s look closer to home and focus our attentions on the buildings and sites sat dormant in our cities.

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Sharp fall in UK construction output

October 22nd, 2012 Comments off

UK construction output slumped in the last three months, as the government reduced its spending on house-building, infrastructure and other building projects.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed a 0.9% drop in construction in August from the previous month, which led to a 12% drop in the third quarter compared with the same period last year.

Economists said construction is likely to drag on GDP in the third quarter. Chris Williamson of Markit said official figures will probably show the economy grew by 0.6% in the third quarter, but says that flatters performance because of the rebound from lost working days in second quarter. He forecasts that the economy actually grew by just 0.1%. “We’re scraping through, the economy overall has been stagnant for the past year.”

Sector output drops 12% in the third quarter as government cuts cause steep declines in public spending on building work

Government cuts caused steep declines in public spending on building work. New public housing work and other building projects fell by more than 20%, while infrastructure spending was down 18% from the third quarter last year. The private sector was not much better, with new housing and commercial work down 12% and 14% respectively on last year. The only sector where input increased over the period was new private industrial work, which rose by 1.8%.

Williamson said: “The construction industry looks likely to have acted as a drag of GDP in the third quarter, though perhaps less so than in the first half of the year. The ongoing downturn is being led by falling public sector spend and the housing sector, though an increase in private industrial work provided a welcome bright spot, which suggests that there is at least some upward momentum resulting from increased construction spending by companies.”

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Flir T400bx-Series Thermal Imaging Cameras

October 19th, 2012 Comments off

Well experienced users of the thermal imaging cameras like service providers and professional building inspectors and demanding more from thermal imaging cameras. They want ergonomic systems that they can use several hours per day, cameras that offer high image quality and that are equipped with all the necessary features that will help them to save time when doing their everyday jobs. The T400bx Series are fully user friendly cameras well suited also for the first time user.

For the building sector a compass has been integrated in the Flir T440bx. This way the inspector can see in which direction he is looking and to which direction a wall is orientated. This can be important information when doing building inspections.

Flir T400bx-Series

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Self-build ‘changing UK’s housing sector’

October 16th, 2012 Comments off

The housing industry is beginning to become more accommodating to self-builders.

In an article for Mortgage Finance Gazette, Raymond Connor, BuildStore Financial Services chief executive, claimed this change in the sector occurred following the launch of the coalition’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Before this legislation was enacted, self-builders typically received little support from local authorities, while volume housebuilders generally ignored these individuals and planning regulations stifled their ambitions.

When the NPPF was enacted, councils and planners were obliged to create local self-build opportunities as part of a wider requirement for them to create sustainable communities, improve options for home ownership and create a wider variety of high-quality residences, he explained.

Ted Stevens, National Self Build Association chair, told the news source that his organisation has already received proposals from around 20 housing associations and 40 local authorities regarding the facilitation of custom build developments and individual self-build projects.

Collectively, these represent approximately 40,000 new houses being planned, he asserted.

Although there will be a wide range of approaches to the issue, whether these relate to working in partnerships with Community Land Trusts, developers or housing associations, or deal with land provisions or quotas, the NPPF is still promoting the growth of self-build, the expert claimed.

It is “forcing housing providers to realise and explore the benefits of building homes in this way, where before the sector received little credit”, Mr Stevens said.

Mr Connor stated that if local authorities begin to “act proactively” to meet the demands of the self-build sector, there could be a “step-change” in the way the UK constructs and provides housing.

Mortgage lenders could benefit from providing funds to the burgeoning sector, he argued.

Recently, Mr Connor recommended that self-builders research the industry carefully before they begin work.

He advised people to study all of the planning permit’s paperwork and to ensure any proposals meet any conditions specific to the site.

“Befriend the local planning department before you submit your application,” the expert advised.

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NEW QMini GPS 1-3mtr accuracy with SBAS rugged IP65 handheld unit

October 15th, 2012 Comments off

NEW QMini GPS 1-3mtr accuracy with SBAS rugged IP65 handheld unit

 

New QMini GPS Units

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Brodex Vision25 Elevated Telescopic Photography Pole Kit

October 11th, 2012 Comments off

Brodex Vision25 Elevated Telescopic Photography Pole Kit

 

VisionHi camera pole with a quality pan and tilt quick release flip head and a padded pole carrier bag.

Our poles are made from black anodized aluminum and they utilize one of the most advanced clamping systems available on the market place.

Poles have been used by 1000’s of users including professional photographers and videographers around the world and they are testimony to their durability and build quality.

The price for our VisionHi 25ft Camera pole complete with pan and tilt quick release flip head and protector carrier bag

For more information

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