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Painless delivery for hospital built offsite

August 30th, 2013 Comments off

The largest ever off-site building project for the health sector is nearing completion.

People do a lot of things remotely these days. There are conference calls instead of meetings, assignments carried out at home instead of in the office.

And then there are construction projects where the real action is taking place hundreds of miles away.

This is the case at North Middlesex University Hospital (NMUH) in north London. Its new Women & Children’s Centre, due to open in November 2013, was actually built in York and has been fast-tracked into existence through the most ambitious off-site prefabrication exercise in the UK health sector to date.

Covering 7800m2, the two-storey building and added plant room is the largest and most complex healthcare scheme ever undertaken by off-site specialist Yorkon.

Constructed under the ProCure 21+ framework for main contractor Kier, the L-shaped steel-framed structure contains a wide variety of facilities for expecting and new mothers, including operating theatres, delivery rooms and a neonatal unit, as well as birthing pool rooms and a postnatal ward.

Despite the complexity of the building, the entire project is scheduled to be completed in just one year.

“The biggest advantage of off-site construction on this project has been speed,” says Clive Watson, project manager at Kier Construction. “It has also brought quality benefits because it has allowed so much of the construction to take place offsite in a controlled factory environment that is not affected by poor weather conditions,” Yorkon operations manager Ken Smith estimates that prefabrication has reduced the construction schedule by around six months.

“Tasks have been carried out in parallel,” he says. “While Kier was installing the piles for the foundations, the modules for the superstructure were being simultaneously manufactured at our facilities in York.”

North Middlesex University Hospital is the first major project to use Yorkon’s new building system, which enables the construction of larger modules than was previously possible, offering more flexibility and choice to designers and clients, Yorkon says.

Flexibility has certainly been crucial to the design of this structure, which comprises 152 steel-framed modules in varying sizes and configurations. The modules are up to 18m long, and arrived on site already kitted out with doors, windows and high-performance concrete floor. The first fix for electrics and plumbing had also been completed.

Transported to site on low loaders, the modules undertook their 300km journey with relative ease, following a specially-designated police route.

“Sometimes we have to remove a fair bit of street furniture in order to get the modules to site. For this project it was only necessary to remove a few bollards near the hospital,” says Smith.

Once on site, the modules were immediately craned into position.

 

 

“We did this in one hit,” says Smith. “No storage was required on site.”

Even though the units weighed no more than 18 tonnes, the site team took the strategic decision to invest in a 500-tonne capacity mobile crane that could easily and quickly place all the loads without having to move around.

“Setting up, dismantling and moving smaller cranes could have added several extra days to the schedule,” says Smith. “Using a larger crane definitely made things faster for us.” All modules were craned into position in 28 days in the spring at the rate of five modules a day, when conditions were good. They were immediately bolted into place vertically and horizontally.

Despite the painstaking work at the factory, much work still needed to be done internally. Owing to the complex configurations and requirements of the building, it had been possible to fit only 50% of the partition walls to the modules in Yorkon’s production centre. The remaining partitions had to be installed in the traditional way once the modules had been bolted into their final resting place.

“Some amount of finishing is always necessary on site even for prefabrication projects,” Smith says.

Once again, careful planning enabled tasks to be carried out in parallel to keep the construction process lean and efficient. The first modules were craned into place at the farthest end of the site and were quickly built up into two storeys. Later modules followed in sequence, following the L-shape of the building.

Yorkon drew up a detailed fit-out programme so that internal work could begin at one end of the structure while later modules were still being craned into place further down the site. The work was carefully coordinated to reduce risks.

“We divided the building into seven blocks and ensured that activity could only start inside [each block] once the crane had stopped moving overhead,” says Smith.

The last units to be craned in were for the plant room, which sits on top of the structure. These modules already had air conditioning units pre-installed inside them.

Yorkon has also constructed a two-storey glazed atrium at the entrance to the building using more traditional methods.

“A lot of people don’t realise this, but we sometimes do traditional build as well,” says Smith.

The final fit out is now well underway, and the project is on track to open in time for the NMUH’s busy winter period.

“The off-site approach has radically reduced disruption to patient care and has reduced wastage. We typically find that off site prefabrication can reduce material wastage by up to 90% and vehicle movements to site by up to 90%,”

About the hospital

The new Women & Children’s Unit at North Middlesex University Hospital is being built by main contractor Kier Construction on a £17.9m contract procured under the ProCure 21+ scheme.

It has been designed by architect and project manager AHP.

The scheme is part of a major reorganisation of services in the London boroughs of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey to accommodate the rising birth rate in the area.

Designed to reflect and blend with the design of adjacent hospital buildings, the centre has a rendered façade, as well as large projecting window bays. The two-storey glazed atrium entrance is complemented by full-height glazing on the stair towers at each of the building’s wings.

Targeted to achieve an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating, the scheme boasts a number of sustainability features including a combined heat and power system. Photovoltaic panels have been installed above the plant room. There is also a sedum roof containing a variety of meadow flowers.

 

 

Constructing the modules

Modules for the North Middlesex University Hospital (NMUH) job were constructed at Yorkon’s prefabrication facility in York at an average rate of seven a day.

The steel-framed modules are built on jigs on a production line that moves slowly along rails set into the floor. “Our production facility works to very tight engineering tolerances of plus or minus 1mm,” says Smith.

The floor frames are assembled first, then columns are added, followed by the roof frame, the wall panels and finally the roof itself.

“We use the same equipment for handling roof sections that is used to handle aircraft wings, turning them over and lowering them onto the modules,” Smith says.

 

 

Each module is supported by its own internal steel frame. At NMUH, the frame is predominantly made up of 150mm square hollow section columns.

“For the NMUH modules, there is typically one column at each corner of the module with some intermediate smaller columns to suit particular loading arrangements,” comments Smith.

The columns sit within a 200mm cavity and the wall thickness of the external composite wall panel is 100mm.

Eight of the 152 modules have a particularly unusual shape. They are chamfered, to create a sharp angle at the end of the L-shaped building.

Yorkon has also supplied a modular section that links the new building to the existing hospital.

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Discovery of gas deposits could lead to drilling

August 28th, 2013 Comments off

Campaigners in Crowborough fear gas deposits found in the town may lead to the controversial practice of fracking in the future.

Gas exploration company Cuadrilla has a license which would allow it to carry out exploratory drilling at sites in Crowborough and Heathfield, where gas has been discovered.

Cuadrilla said it has no plans at present to carry out drilling at either site, but the controversy at the firm’s site in Balcombe in West Sussex, where a major protest against fracking has been ongoing for more than two weeks, has prompted fears of similar activity in the east of the county.

More than 30 arrests were made as protesters clashed with police at Balcombe.

Recently Wealden MP Charles Hendry voiced his support for the divisive technique.

He said: “My position as a local MP is that we cannot ignore a technology which is now the main economic driver in the United States. Gas prices in the USA are one-third of the level of those in the UK and this could therefore play a vital role in tackling fuel poverty.

“However, it should only be done with the highest levels of environmental protection, and we will certainly be implementing higher standards than have applied elsewhere.”

The process of fracking involves pumping liquid into the ground at high pressures to split shale rocks and release gas.

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Households cut energy use as prices soar

August 26th, 2013 Comments off

 144801160Average use in England and Wales falls to 19.7 mWh as people go without heating in face of stagnant incomes and price rises.

Households in England and Wales cut their energy use by a quarter between 2005 and 2011 as prices soared, government figures show.

The sharp fall was probably caused by a mix of efficiency measures and environmental awareness, as well as steep price rises, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Households have faced steep price increases in recent years as wages have remained frozen, squeezing budgets. Average bills have risen by 28% in the last three years, industry regulator Ofgem said.

The ONS figures showed that average energy consumption in England and Wales fell from 26.2 megawatt hours (mWh) in 2005 to 19.7 mWh in 2011.

Energy use varied widely between regions with the East Midlands the biggest consumer at 27.5 mWh a year. Regions with the biggest consumption also had the highest use of Economy 7 electricity which gives cheaper prices at night but the ONS said this only partly explained the disparity.

Wales and South West England were on average the lowest users of energy, each using just over 16 mWh a year. Regional differences fell by 35% in the period covered, possibly because the highest consumers had the biggest incentive to cut back, the ONS said.

In January the government launched its flagship Green Deal scheme, designed to encourage households to make energy improvements. The scheme lets homeowners borrow money for improvements such as a new boiler or wall insulation and pay the loan back as part of their fuel bills.

But the Green Deal has been beset by technical problems and takeup has been low. It also launched the Energy Company Obligation, a companion programme for low-income households requiring energy companies to help make homes more energy efficient

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Housing Market: Builder Plots Acceleration

August 23rd, 2013 Comments off

The boss of Bovis Homes has told Sky News the company is to step up its building of new houses as the market recovery gathers pace.

David Ritchie was speaking after the builder posted a 19% increase in first half pre-tax profit to £18.6m.

It said that while market house price increases were estimated at up to 2% over the year to date, its own average sale price had risen to £188,500 on average – a rise of 15%.

Bovis, like its competitors, has credited Government measures such as the Help to Buy shared equity scheme for improved activity in the market, benefiting first-time buyers especially.

Funding for Lending has aided borrowers in that it has brought down mortgage costs.

The company spoke of an acceleration in business, with trading in the 32 weeks to August 9 realising a 43% increase in private reservations to 1,712 homes.

Mr Ritchie said: “The group has performed strongly during the first half of 2013 and has delivered a 50% increase in housing operating profit.

“We have plan in place this year to increase our production by around 25% year over year and we expect to increase our production again in 2014.

“So we are stepping up and building significantly more homes because of the initiatives the Government have put in place and our strategy being deployed.”

Official data and other market surveys have all pointed to a recovery in activity, with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggesting there were signs of a recovery “round the corner” with every region of the country showing growth.

The speed of the market improvement in recent months has led ministers to dismiss fears that the Government’s intervention risks creating a market bubble.

The property website Rightmove’s latest report found the revival continued in August, despite the month seeing the first dip in sellers’ asking prices during 2013.

It said asking prices edged down by 1.8% month-on-month to £249,199 on average – but the string of price increases seen over the last seven months meant they were still £20,000 higher now than at the start of the year.

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Harness saves life

August 21st, 2013 Comments off

A man who received an electric shock while working from an aerial lift in Newfoundland was saved by his harness

The incident occurred over the weekend in Carbonear, while the man, 55, was painting the outside of a tyre store, he apparently backed into overhead power lines received a shock and was apparently ejected from the platform. Fortunately he was wearing a harness and lanyard which may well have saved his life.

The emergency services were able to bring him down and he was taken to hospital, so far no details have been given about his condition.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is working with Occupational Health and Safety to investigate the cause of the accident.

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Be Safe in the Sun

August 20th, 2013 Comments off

Even with the unreliable weather of the UK – workers in the Construction industry often spend a larger percentage of their working life outdoors than many other industries.

These means that construction workers have a greater exposure to ultra violet rays than those working inside, and as a result are six more likely to get skin cancer than in any other industry.

Plant hire company PJ Brown have put together the following advice leaflet for constructions workers to help them to stay safe in the sun and avoid harmful sun damage.

Be Safe in the Sun_Advice for Construction Workers

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Trade Skills 4U electrical courses awarded IET Centre of Excellence status

August 19th, 2013 Comments off

The electrical courses that Trade Skills 4U offers at its Gatwick Training Centres have been awarded Centre of Excellence status by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

In order to make the grade, Trade Skills 4U centres, teaching methods, course documentation and staff were subject to rigorous scrutiny by the IET.

Tony Hicks, IET learning development manager, commented, “It is a pleasure to work with Trade Skills 4U. Their commitment to delivering a wide range of high quality electrical courses is very impressive. It is also clear that their commitment to quality provision extends across the whole range of electrical qualifications. This is hard to find amongst training providers and serves to differentiate them from the crowd, enabling them to offer the one stop shop for quality provision.”

The majority of City & Guilds electrical courses offered by Trade Skills 4U will be accredited by the IET and accepted into its Centre of Excellence. This will include a full range of inspection and testing courses from the City & Guilds 2392, right up to the more difficult City & Guilds 2395. It will also include the popular City & Guilds 2382-12 17th edition course and the City & Guilds 2393 Part P course, as well as a number of accredited Solar PV Courses.

Managing director, Carl Bennett, said, “Again, our hard work has paid off. We always strive to be the best at what we do, so to be the first electrical training company to be recognised in this way is a great reward for the way in which we work here at Trade Skills 4U. Our reputation is key to our success and is something we continually strive to build on.”

There will also be further recognition for the foundation courses offered by Trade Skills 4U. These recently became the only courses of this type to be accredited by City & Guilds in the UK.

The City & Guilds 4141-01 Electrical Installation Work within a Domestic Dwelling and the City & Guilds 4141-02 Fundamental Electrical Science Technology for Installation Work courses are an excellent way for those new to the industry to get a grasp of the basics and enables them to take their first steps into the industry. These two courses will also be accepted into the Centre of Excellence. Trade Skills 4U has added a dedicated IET Centre of Excellence section to its website, listing all of the courses covered.

Recently, Trade Skills 4U announced the opening of a new training facility in Warrington, as well as plans for a national network of training centres.

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Building control

August 16th, 2013 Comments off

building_control_largeBuilding control surveyors ensure that that building regulations and other legislation are followed in the design and construction stages of new and altered buildings.

Building control surveying gives professionals the opportunity to work on a huge range of building types as part of a normal day.

Working in the public and private sector, building control surveyors work alongside architects, designers, builders and contractors from the conception of a design to its completion and use.

Building control surveyors check proposed plans to ensure they meet required standards, including areas such as fire safety, energy conservation, structural stability and disabled access. They also follow the project through and check it during construction.

Due to their depth of knowledge, building control surveyors are often called upon to give options when designs fail to meet standards or where unforeseen problems are found on site, and are approached for advice on ways to achieve cost-effectiveness in respect of materials used and energy conservation.

Projects worked on can range from relatively small housing extensions through to large city centre redevelopments.

Building control surveyors working for local authorities are also responsible for inspecting potentially dangerous structures that may have been damaged by situations such as fire or adverse weather conditions and advising on action to be taken.

Other responsibilities may include administering entertainment licences, addressing safety at sports grounds and other open-air events, and cinema and theatre inspections.

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Hope for economic recovery as exports take off

August 15th, 2013 Comments off
British PoundThe Office for National Statistics said the building industry grew by 1.4 per cent in the quarter to June 30.Overall, exports hit a record high of £78.4billion with growth of 3.2 per cent last month alone.

As a result, the trade deficit in goods fell to £8.1billion in June from May’s £8.7billion, but a £6.5billion service sector surplus cut the overall figure to £1.6billion.

Exports to China rose 20 per cent on last year and exports outside the EU rose by £1.3billion to £14.2billion in June. Manufacturing output was also up 1.9 per cent.

The growth was mostly driven by trade with non-EU countries – a positive sign that UK companies are seeking customers further afield

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Uno problemo… Construction firm builds 47-storey skyscraper in Benidorm but forget to fit a lift

August 13th, 2013 Comments off
  • Giant towers were supposed to be a symbol of Spain’s bright new future
  • Lift exists for first 20 floors – but developers doubled scale of building
  • Now there is no more space for more lifts and motor equipment
  • Architects have resigned after latest setback in beleaguered project

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The 200metre high InTempo towers in Benidorm were billed as ‘a vision of the future’ and a symbol of Spain’s reemergence from a crippling financial crisis.

With 47 floors of living space it was intended to be the tallest residential building in Europe.

But with only months until it is due for completion, contractors have hit upon a slight problem .

They forgot to build a lift.

The towers were originally designed to be only 20 floors high, but ambitious developers decided to double the scale of the project midway through.

A lift exists for the first 20 floors, but beyond that there is only the stairs. And reports seen by Spain’s El Pais newspaper suggest there is no more space for another lift or motor equipment.

It is only the latest in a series of setbacks which have beset the project.

InTempo was dreamed up in the decade-long building boom that saw new structures leap up across Spain in the late Nineties and early Noughties.

It was due to open in 2009, but now joins a series of white elephants that have been caused by the country’s deep recession.

Furore over the Benidorm towers has grown in recent weeks, after the team of architects left. El Pais was given access to documents which revealed the extent of the catastrophes that have beset the tourist town’s biggest project.

The newspaper reports that not only did construction workers go for four months without pay in 2010, but they were also forced to walk up and down the half-constructed towers for months as a service lift was not built until the first 23 storeys had been completed.

The lift that was eventually installed collapsed in July 2011, injuring 13 workers.

Ambulances reportedly struggled to reach them, because the area surrounding the construction site had not been cleared for vehicle access in an alleged bid to save money.

The architects have resigned, despite the last eight floors – which will unite the two neighbouring towers with communal gardens and pools – remaining incomplete.

And amid further financial problems, the building has now been taken over by Spain’s so-called ‘bad bank’ – the Sociedad de Gestión de Activos de la Reestructuración Bancaria – which was set up to consolidate the country’s most toxic assets.

In what has come to symbolise the madness of Spanish boom-time investment, the original bank investor Caixa Galicia asked the developer to raise just €3,100 in capital in return for it offering €93m towards to the project, according to The Guardian.

Despite plans to open the twin towers to great fanfare in 2009, the block remains only 94 per cent complete. Only 35 per cent of the 269 units have been sold. It is now expected to be finished in December of this year, and the remaining flats will go on sale at a lower price.

Benidorm likes to refer to itself as “the New York of the Mediterranean” thanks to its proliferation of skyscrapers.

It was one of the first resorts discovered by British package holidaymakers.

But although it continues to attract visitors in search of sun, sea and sand, it has not seen much of an increase in tourist spend in recent years.

The idea of building a dramatic new skyscraper with sweeping sea views was supposed to be part of a project to make Benidorm more upmarket. But the recession has slowed progression.

InTempo is not the only Spanish white elephant to have hit the headlines.

An airport constructed in Ciudad Real, near Madrid, cost €1billion before it was closed in 2012 due to a lack of business. It is now being sold off for just €100million

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