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Archive for July, 2014

Noise-cancelling fences in development

July 30th, 2014 Comments off

Scientists have come up with a way of using noise cancelling technology for acoustic barriers alongside roads and railway lines.

Sonobex Limited, a newly formed spin-out from Loughborough University, has funding from the Technology Strategy Board, to bring its SonoBarrier acoustic fences to market.

fenceThe first CE mark prototypes are expected to be produced by February 2015, the company says.

Sonobex uses a patented acoustic meta-material technology called sonic crystals, which are fabricated materials designed to control, direct and manipulate sound. Sonobex sonic crystal based noise reduction technology is a passive method that superimposes disturbing noise with scattered anti-acoustic noise to cancel out the disturbance. Designs are tuned to particular dominant frequencies to achieve significant reduction levels.

Sonobex has a £358,000 budget for its project, with an anticipated £161,000 from the Technology Strategy Board.

Sonobex chief executive Paul Gooch said: “Sonobex is delighted to have secured this funding. These next generation acoustic barriers will revolutionise the market, true performance measured in-situ under the new CE will differentiate these products from current market solutions and provide the protection required and expected.”

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Contractors now turning down London work

July 29th, 2014 Comments off

Construction industry capacity shortages have prompted Mace to increase its forecast for tender cost inflation in London.

The company’s cost consultancy division reports that contractors are now turning down work in the capital as they are able to pick and choose their jobs. With competition falling, margins are rising, it says.

The surge in demand has led Mace to increase its forecast for London tender cost inflation from 3.5% to 4.5% for both 2014 and 2015.

Outside of London, there is still enough capacity across the UK to meet demand, as well as steady competition. This continues to subdue price increases. Mace’s forecast for average inflation in tender prices has therefore remained unchanged at 2% for 2014, rising to 2.5% in 2015 and 3% in 2016, by which time it is expected that the general economic recovery will have increased demand for construction across the regions.

The performance of private commercial work is also increasing, with the London office market proving to be increasingly active. However, across the rest of the country, Mace Cost Consultancy has found that the supply of private commercial space is still sufficient to meet general demand, confirming that this sector has not yet recovered across all UK regions.

In what Mace’s tender cost update calls the ‘next stage of the UK economic recovery’, capital investment has increased consistently over recent quarters. Business investment, one of the main components of fixed capital, grew by 5% to £33.4bn in the last quarter and is the highest since 2008 following five quarters of consecutive growth.

Mace Cost Consultancy managing director Chris Goldthorpe said: “While it is still possible to obtain competitive tender returns in the regions, the London market has seen contractors unable to meet the rising demand, resulting in a selective response to tender invitations and an unwillingness to take on risk.  It is now a regular occurrence for contractors to turn down tender opportunities, particularly if they involve single stage tendering, incomplete design information or significant construction risks.  We are also seeing overheads and profit allowances increasing to levels that have not been seen for the last five years as competition is reduced.”

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Construction firm and roofing director prosecuted following worker fall

July 25th, 2014 Comments off

A London construction company and the director of a Hertfordshire roofing firm have been fined for safety failings after a worker was seriously injured when he plunged almost six metres through a void for a roof light.

The self-employed roofer, who does not want to be named, broke and fractured several bones in his back and bruised his diaphragm, lungs and thigh in the incident in Brent on 29 February 2012. He was unable to work for 14 months and still requires hospital treatment for back problems that have forced him to seek alternative employment.

The fall occurred while he was under the control of Rickmansworth-based John Donald, trading as John Donald Roofing. The director had in turn been sub-contracted to undertake some of the roof work by Golders Green-based Right Angle Ltd, the principal contractor for a project that involved refurbishing and extending three residential properties.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted both parties after identifying a number of safety failings across the site as well as those linked to the roof work.

Westminster Magistrates Court heard (on 16 July) that the injured worker, then aged 28, fell as he cleared materials from a flat roof. He picked up a piece of ply board that he assumed was debris without realising it concealed a roof light void beneath.

He fell feet first through the void and landed on the first floor some 5.6 metres below, fracturing his spine on impact.

HSE established that the measures taken to mark and protect this and other similar voids were totally unacceptable, and that any number of workers could have suffered a similar fate.

Further failings included fall risks in other locations at the site, such as the edges of the flat roofs where there was no edge protection, fall risks on the scaffold, open joists, and open staircases where there were no handrails.

Other issues were also identified across the site, including fire risks and inadequate fire prevention measures; numerous slip and trip hazards caused by excess rubbish and debris; and glazed window frames stored upright and unsecured that were liable to fall and cause injury.

The court was told the fall was entirely preventable had the void been clearly marked and better protected, which was the responsibility of both defendants, and that moreover Right Angle had failed to properly plan, manage and monitor the construction phase.

Right Angle Ltd, of Finchley Road, London, NW11, was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £5,375 after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

John Donald, of New Road, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, was fined £4,000 with £3,965 costs after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Danielle Coppell said:

“There were numerous failings on the part of Right Angle Ltd that exposed multiple operatives to a host of foreseeable risks, including falls, slips and trips.

“John Donald has to accept culpability as an experienced roofer who should have known better. He instructed the injured worker to work in an unsafe area where there were wholly insufficient measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall.

“The end result is that a young man has sustained life-changing spinal injuries from which he may never fully recover.”

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Construction Giant Challenged over Skyscraper Plans

July 23rd, 2014 Comments off

A CONSTRUCTION giant buying up large parts of London is lobbying Camden Council to a build skyscraper at the cost of the community, local residents warned yesterday.

Supporters of the Save Swiss Cottage campaign have urged Camden to repeal Essential Living’s proposal to demolish the former Reuters building on 100 Avenue Road to build “long-term private rental” accommodation.

The proposed area for redevelopment currently houses one of the few local green spaces, a community centre, Hampstead Theatre and the homes of local residents, including caring facilities for people with disabilities.

Save Swiss Cottage member Sarah Gottlieb spoke to the Star about her fears over the construction, including its impact on the community and the inescapable ramping up of housing prices in the area.

In her view the project “doesn’t provide the permanent affordable housing that local families need.”

The campaign said it had placed several complaints with the council, so far to no avail, after Essential Living failed to provide a comprehensive consultation.

Ms Gottlieb highlighted how a 24-storey building would severely affect people living in the area by blocking sun light and providing an “eyesore.” 

The tower, which a Essential Living spokesman confirmed would entail 148 privately rented units and 36 affordable homes for sale, would also be placed right in front of one of the capital’s main traffic arteries.

“It is an obscenity really to consider putting residential accommodation over one of the most polluted traffic junctions in London,” added Ms Gottlieb.

Essential Living made history last year by purchasing another large plot on land in South London with the backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Its redevelopment of Newington Butts in Elephant and Castle is also set to house young professionals with an income estimated to be far above the average local resident. 

In total, the company expects to “deliver 5,000 private rented homes over the next decade.”

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Exciting time’ for Horsham school as £13.5m building project reaches half-way stage

July 22nd, 2014 Comments off

Construction of a new £13.5m state of the art three-storey teaching block for Horsham’s Millais School has reached the half-way stage.

Funded through West Sussex County Council’s School Capital Building Programme, the works will see a new teaching block to house specialist facilities for art, music and technology and new suites for maths and modern languages.

Work started in October last year, and Willmott Dixon is currently on track to finish the second phase of works by November this year. Work is currently in the second of four phases and the team are working toward ultimate completion in November 2015.

Headteacher Leon Nettley, chair of governors Liz Barnes, Willmott Dixon’s local managing director John Waterman, and project manager Matt Dubber, attended the event with several Millais students to mark the construction milestone last week.

Mr Nettley said: “This is an exciting time for us as a school.

“We are delighted with the work that Willmott Dixon is undertaking and are looking forward to the new building opening later in the autumn term.

“This event has been a chance for us all to acknowledge what a vital addition the building will be to our school facilities.

“It’s fantastic to have the pupils here to celebrate what will be an important part of their lives.”

John Waterman, Willmott Dixon’s managing director for the local Cobham office, said: “We’re very pleased to have reached this significant milestone for such an important project in the local community.

“The new building will provide a significant upgrade to the school’s existing facilities and serve young people in the area for many years to come.”

This comes as the school received an ‘Outstanding’ rating from Ofsted in June 2014, just months after a blaze damaged part of the school’s premises.

It was graded Outstanding by Ofsted in all four categories – achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, behaviour, and safety of pupils and leadership and management.

Willmott Dixon Construction delivers award-winning projects across the education, health, leisure, workplace and retail sectors.

The company works on public and private sector developments on behalf of national Government frameworks, local authorities and private organisations.

Willmott Dixon Group is one of the UK’s largest privately-owned construction, regeneration and support services companies.

With 160 years of experience, the company provides services within the built environment to Government, registered social landlords, local authorities and private sector clients throughout the UK.

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Calls grow to scrap CIS tax scheme

July 18th, 2014 Comments off

Calls are growing to scrap the industry’s CIS tax scheme as HM Revenue & Customs launches consultation on reforms to the current system.

Chancellor George Osborne conceded that changes to CIS were needed in his latest budget.

The tax man is now calling on construction companies for their views on the scheme which is estimated to cost the industry £250m a year in administration.

But industry experts believe the Government should be looking at scrapping CIS rather than just tinkering with the way it operates.

Howard Royse, construction industry representative of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), said: “It is important that people working in the industry take this opportunity to tell HMRC exactly what they think of CIS.

“We at ICAEW are currently formulating our reply, but HMRC have drawn up a very narrow agenda.

“If industry members want the Scheme abolished, they should say so.”

One trade contractor said: “I’d love to see the back of CIS. It’s been a pain in all its different guises since the beginning.”

For full details of proposed changes to the scheme and to have your say on its future click here

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BBC to air three-part doco on Crossrail construction

July 16th, 2014 Comments off

The BBC will start showing a three-part documentary next week highlighting construction work on London’s Crossrail.

BBC 2’s Fifteen Billion Pound Railway starts on 16 July at 9pm and follows work on the new train tunnels and stations under London.

Crossrail provided exclusive access over two years to the BBC’s producers Windfall Films who spent time with tunnellers and engineers as construction of the new railway progressed.

They witnessed the engineering challenges and key milestones including the spectacular tunnel machine breakthroughs.

Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme said: “The documentary series provides a unique insight into the complexity and challenges of delivering Europe’s biggest construction project through the very heart of London.

“Every day people walk past our construction sites unaware of the maze of tunnels that are being constructed below London’s busy streets.”

One of the stars of the documentary is western tunnels and stations Project Manager Andy Alder.

He said:: “We think our work is pretty exciting. This documentary is a chance for the public to come into our subterranean world and see how we build big tunnels using massive machines, while preserving London’s archaeological history and making sure London keeps moving.”

The first episode, Urban Heart Surgery, follows the team of workers as they drive 1,000-tonne tunnel boring machine, Ada, through Tottenham Court Road station within 800mm of the operating Northern line.

It also looks at how Crossrail has ensured Bonhams auction house in Mayfair is able to receive its vintage cars for auction.

Episode two, Tunnels Under the Thames, sees the Bermingham father and son team follow in the tradition of tunneling greats, the Brunels, and build new train tunnels under the River Thames in southeast London.

Meanwhile, Project Manager Linda Miller is rebuilding the Victorian Connaught Tunnel under the Royal Docks.

The final episode, Platforms and Plague Pits, tracks the team as they construct the cathedral-sized new station at Canary Wharf.

The cameras join engineers as they carve out the underground caverns that will become the new stations at Liverpool Street and Whitechapel.

And, it follows archaeologists as they uncover a 14th Century emergency burial ground, established ahead of the plague.

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Keeping Safe & Comfortable During Home Renovations

July 15th, 2014 Comments off

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about undertaking a home renovation project:  timescale, budget, planning, logistics, the list is endless and can almost be enough to put off anyone.   But even when you’ve cleared your diary and scheduled everything down to the last second, you’ve got a water-tight plan of action and you have set up stall with everything you could possibly need to hand, there is one thing that many people forget or simply ignore – safety!

From the most basic of tasks to the creation of a second home escape at the end of the garden with electricity and running water, there are hazards all around, and it is hugely important to ensure you have the correct protection to avoid an unnecessary trip down to the emergency department at your local hospital.

Ventilate and Protect

When carrying out any renovations, you should make sure that your working space is well lit and ventilated.  Carrying out maintenance and repairs in the summer is a good idea as you can make use of your outside space to avoid creating a dusty or fume filled working environment.  Windows can be opened wide to create a good flow of air to blow away dust and fumes and to help the drying process.

It can be all too easy to disregard the hazards of built up dust from plastering jobs, paint and adhesive fumes but they can cause feelings of nausea and dizziness, irritate and enflame skin, trigger headaches and more extremely affect lung function.  Good ventilation is a simple way of reducing the build-up of any unwelcome threats it is not always possible.  In times of inclement weather it may be necessary to invest in a dust nuisance mask to work in that helps to filter out any unwanted hazards.

Wear Suitable Clothing

Whilst good ventilation helps with certain hazards, there is only so much fresh air can do.  You also need to protect your skin from inflammation, grazes, splinters, cuts and bruising, burns – this list goes on!  Good quality gloves will help protect those precious pinkies and there is a great variety of clothing available to aid protection of your extremities whilst still being comfortable to wear and work in; trousers with pockets for kneepads, to make floor work easier; lightweight coveralls for all over protection; ear defenders, safety glasses that look good enough to double up as sunglasses; headgear and a whole host of safety footwear to cover most situations that could also easily be worn out and about at the weekend without looking out of place.  So forget the image that wearing personal protection gear is for the construction site only, there is a huge range of great products out there that will prevent injury and satisfy the most fashion conscious amongst us.  Investing in good quality protective gear will help keep you safe and comfortable no matter what project you undertake and can be bought at discount prices from places such as www.ebrookes.co.uk.

Don’t Be Afraid To Leave It To The Professionals

Finally, if your renovations throw you some unexpected problems, such as encountering hazardous materials like asbestos, don’t be a hero, leave it to the professionals – after all, that’s what they are there for.  Don’t forget it’s better to be safe than sorry!

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ERP and CAD – the perfect pairing

July 15th, 2014 Comments off

ERP and CAD – the perfect pairing

Enterprise Resource Planning known as ERP, and Computer Aided Design (CAD) are perfect partners because they complement each other’s basic features and functions allowing for a fully integrated approach in industries such as construction, engineering and architecture.

What are CAD and ERP’s basic functions?

CAD programmes provide early-on solutions for the planning and execution phase of a project. The main industries using CAD include construction, engineering and architecture.

Enterprise Resource Planning is focused on the commercial and administrative needs of a company with some aspects addressing the planning and managerial sections. ERP provides an overview of the business as a whole, allowing for complete visibility across different functions and aspects of a business. It can successfully track the workflow of departments/sections, producing a single reporting system to analyse statistical information. In real-time, ERP brings together the various sections of a business from HR, Finance and Accounts, Marketing and Sales, Supply Chain, CRM and Project Management- all of which can be customised for individual client needs, tailoring solutions to companies.

By joining the design aspect with workflow and statistical data, companies and clients benefit from projects that are delivered on time and are more cost effective.

Integrated systems that benefit the whole process from start to finish

Once CAD has been used, ERP steps in to strengthen the relationship between the phases providing the company, whether they are for example a small-business bathroom supply and fit, to a large multi-national construction firm, with the overall picture in real time. This includes the consideration of supplying or buying more stock and ERP can report the impact on cash flow and staffing.

This clearly benefits the company by reducing costs and minimizing risk of error by identifying discrepancies in any size of project, no matter how complex. Benefits to the CAD user allows them to edit data and check the various requirements of any subsequent change which then automatically updates the CAD and ERP databases. The system integration ensures the end-customer receives an excellent service and outcome whilst keeping both the company and client abreast of any changes to lead time and cost implications.

A working example

The simple example that follows is from a medium sized construction firm and it highlights the need for CAD and ERP to become integral systems in the aforementioned industries where CAD is predominantly used.

CAD is used to design an office space; the client then requires further rooms and a change to the layout and an increase of toilet facilities. The CAD user provides the design solution and because the company’s systems are integrated with ERP, the CAD user is able to update the lead-time and expected costs that are then relayed in real time to the client, whilst simultaneously updating the databases from the various sections involved in the new design. The combination of CAD and ERP means that the project, although substantially altered, is delivered on time, with minimum disruption and the risk of error greatly reduced.

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Pickles gives final nod to £400m Spurs stadium plan

July 14th, 2014 Comments off

The Government has given Tottenham Hotspur planning permission to build a 58,000-capacity stadium after a public inquiry.

spurs tottenhamCommunities minister Eric Pickles has just approved a compulsory purchase order made by the London Borough of Haringey, which will enable the Northumberland Development Project to continue to proceed.

More than 95% of the 3 hectare site has been acquired by agreement and work has already begun on the first phase of the redevelopment plan.

The order was requested to allow the final phases to proceed and follows a public inquiry.

The redevelopment proposals have had far reaching support from local MPs, the London Mayor’s champion for Tottenham and the chairman of the Independent Tottenham Taskforce.

Spurs said the announcement “was a very significant step” and now hope to be able to open the new stadium, which will be built next to White Hart Lane, in 2017.

The club would not given precise details yet of the stadium development timeline, but is understood to be hoping to start the £400m tender race by the end of this year.

Phase one of the development project was completed earlier this year with McLaren Construction delivering a new 130,000 sq ft Sainsbury’s supermarket next to the proposed stadium site.

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