UK construction blog


Archive for August, 2014

The key to effective project management

August 29th, 2014 Comments off

In the construction business, the task of designing and completing a large construction project both on schedule and on budget depends on a solid and effective building project management strategy.

One of the most important elements of an effective project management strategy is the creation of a high degree of synchronization throughout the team. The team’s ability to collaborate effectively is, in fact, the only way to make sure that the construction will be successful and to the client’s specifications. A construction team that is not working together and communicating effectively could lead to the project hitting snags along the way, some quite serious. Unfiled paperwork, incorrect documentation and miscommunication between different work teams can result in costly delays and even the cancellation of the project altogether.

Today, many construction companies and architectural firms are actively and enthusiastically pursuing the latest in project management technologies, including ERP and cloud technology. These comprehensive technologies bring the entire team together on a single project and allow all involved to access the same information and pursue the same goals. By creating a neutral collaborative platform for everyone to work from, trust is increased and the construction project is able to move forward, quickly, efficiently, and smoothly.

Stages of a building project

Construction projects begin with the preparation and design stages, when the architect or building project manager determines just how feasible the client’s expectations are. The organizational structure of the project will also be defined and various elements of the project, including architectural and structural components, financial planning, cost estimation, legal compliance, and planning approval, will all be completed and integrated into the project.

During pre-construction, roles within the project will be defined, work schedules drawn up and deadlines identified. Once construction commences, all of these elements of preparation, design and pre-construction will come together as the teams begin construction on site and documentation and monitoring of the operation begin both on site and off.

Constructing in the cloud

Cloud computing allows construction companies and architectural firms to increase their ability to compete by reducing project costs and optimizing their use of resources. This valuable technological tool assists in testing and developing a project; the project manager can set up the project’s budget, physical assets, manpower, and schedule, analyzing whether it will be worth moving forward and providing a basis on which to evaluate the project as it progresses.

Cloud computing is also useful when it comes to maintaining important records, from design and blueprint materials to financial, legal, and technical information. The cloud’s usefulness lies in the fact that it gives everyone involved in the project access to the same information, ensuring that all are on the same page and collaborating effectively. Cloud computing also creates a secure and easily accessible platform that ensures that data is protected and retrievable in the event of technical or physical disaster, backing up all information quickly and accurately and updating frequently.

Managing building projects effectively

Managing a building project from beginning to end takes a great deal of skill, but technology and tools such as cloud computing have enabled building project managers to efficiently manage large projects, creating a positive collaborative platform that cuts costs and gets projects successfully to deadline.


Carillion calls it a day over Balfour merger

August 29th, 2014 Comments off

Carillion has given up on merger talks with Balfour Beatty.

Carillion’s decision came as Balfour rejected a third approach on Wednesday morning.

Balfour also said it would not be asking for an extension to Thursday’s takeover panel deadline.

Carillion confirmed in a Stock Exchange announcement: “The Board of Balfour Beatty has not agreed to Carillion’s proposal or to request an extension to the Put Up or Shut Up deadline which expires at 5pm 21 August 2014.

“Carillion therefore today announces that it is no longer pursuing such a merger.”

The move means Carillion cannot come back with another offer for Balfour for at least six months.


Brothers jailed after exposing refurb workers to asbestos

August 27th, 2014 Comments off

Two Stoke-on-Trent brothers with little experience of construction have been  jailed after they exposed workers to asbestos.

At least seven workers are known to have been exposed to asbestos – one aged just 17 at the time – by Akram Hussain, 52, of City Road, and Inam Hussain, 47, of Boughey Road, during refurbishment work at a former print works since February 2012.

Stafford Crown Court heard that neither was qualified or experienced in construction, demolition or refurbishment work; nor were they licensed to remove asbestos.

Akram Hussain is a snooker hall manager and Inam Hussain a taxi driver, although they have been carrying out the work on the building for around ten years.

Despite repeated visits from HSE inspectors and numerous enforcement notices warning them of their failings, the brothers continued to refurbish the building and disturb asbestos material – putting workers at risk.

A Prohibition Notice was issued on 17 February 2012 stopping all work with, or liable to disturb, asbestos.

A ‘Direction to Leave Undisturbed’ was also issued for the building until HSE had provided written confirmation that work could continue.

But several lorry-loads of waste contaminated with asbestos were removed from the site and taken to an unlicensed waste disposal site in Stoke-on-Trent.

Workers were also witnessed exiting the site covered in dust and not wearing the correct protective clothing.

A further Prohibition Notice and an Improvement Notice were served on Akram Hussain on 25 February 2012.

A separate Prohibition Notice was also served on Inam Hussain on 18 May 2012 for the non-licensed removal of the asbestos from the building.

An asbestos survey was later carried out, but work inside the building continued to disturb materials containing asbestos.

The court heard that HSE is aware of at least seven workers being exposed to asbestos in the building.

Many more could have been exposed during the course of the refurbishment project.

Akram Hussain and Inam Hussain both pleaded guilty to safety breaches.

Akram Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 22 months and ordered to pay costs of £43,000.

Inam Hussain was given a custodial sentence of 14 months.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said: “The Hussains have shown a willful disregard for the health and safety of workers and others.

“Our investigation uncovered a catalogue of serious errors, safety failings and a disregard of the laws around the safe and correct removal of asbestos.

“This was an appalling case of failing to properly plan, manage and resource this project, which led to workers being exposed to risks to their health from asbestos.”


Costain pulls out of bidding more waste contracts

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

Costain is well on course to see turnover top £1bn again after delivering strong growth at the infrastructure division in the first half of the year.

The firm lifted orders by 10% this year to a record £3.2bn, completing its transformation in to a major engineering services player.

But Costain also revealed it had decided to exit the waste sector after it suffered losses during the first half of the year at the natural resources division from extra costs on its Greater Manchester Waste PFI job.

This weighed down a positive overall operating performance at the water, oil & gas, and nuclear process arm.

David Allvey, Chairman, said: “The increasingly strategic nature of our long-term customer relationships has ensured that over 90% of the order book comprises target cost, cost reimbursable, collaborative forms of contract.

“Although the transition to this form of contract has altered the cash flow dynamics, it has substantially improved the risk profile of the group and provides increased visibility over long-term margins for the projects in our order book.”

Over £800m of revenue has been secured for 2015  and a further £1.8bn for 2016 and beyond.

He added that tendering activity was high across all Costain’s target markets as customers in transportation, energy and water resources continue to invest heavily and supplier consolidation continued.

Group turnover in the first half of the year jumped 14% to £529m, with pre-tax profit edging up to ££5.8m from £3.1m in the first  half last year.

Underlying operating margin slipped a little to around 2%.

The Infrastructure division had a strong first half of the year with increases in revenue to £359m, making a £17m profit and increasing its order book to £2.2bn.

But the Natural Resources division suffered a £5m loss due to provisions to complete the legacy Greater Manchester Waste PFI contract awarded in 2007. Turnover also slipped back to £169m from £199m in the first six months last year.

Of the forty-six waste facilities under the contract, thirty-six have reached final acceptance, three are seeking to obtain final acceptance, six are currently in the post-completion period and one remains to be completed.

Design faults have been identified at four sites, including the site that remains to be completed and remedial work and testing is on-going in respect of that site which is expected to be completed in the second half of 2014.

Costain said it was in discussions with relevant contract counterparties and the group’s insurers regarding the issues that have arisen.


MotoGP deal is major boost for £315m Circuit of Wales

August 22nd, 2014 Comments off

A construction start date for the £315m Circuit of Wales has moved a step closer after backers of the racetrack scheme signed a deal to host motorcycling’s British MotoGP.

Next year’s race will be staged at an alternative British venue before the 2016 event takes place at the newly built track near Ebbw Vale.

Spanish giant FCC and local civil engineer Alun Griffiths (Contractors) were due to start on site last year but the project has been delayed by planning wrangles.

Michael Carrick, Chief Executive of the Circuit of Wales, described the deal as a “significant landmark in the development” of the project.

He said: “MotoGP is the pinnacle of global motorcycle racing and expectations within the series and of its millions of fans worldwide are for a truly world class event at iconic and state-of-the art venues.

“We look forward to meeting those expectations when we welcome MotoGP to Wales from 2016.”

The Circuit of Wales will be a purpose-built hub for the British motorsport industry around a state-of-the art track.

The first phase of the development will be the construction of an international specification motor racing circuit and world championship facilities, hotel, commercial and retail complexes.

The facility is designed to host international motorsport events and will be a centre for motorsport-related industries.

Plans include a 3.5-mile track that takes advantage of the natural flow of the unique topography of the area, an indoor academy training facility, motocross, trials and enduro venues, an international kart circuit and driver training facilities as well as a variety of leisure and cultural amenities.


London Mayor to ban old construction plant

August 20th, 2014 Comments off

Construction plant that is more than 10 years old will be banned in London under Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to improve the capital’s air quality. 

diggerFresh planning rules will require all construction equipment to meet strict new standards for both particulates and nitrogen oxides, cutting emissions by  40%  by 2020.

They will also slap tighter controls on dust from construction and demolition, which is claimed to generate up to 15% of air pollutant emissions in London.

London’s borough councils will start implementing the tough new regulations through the planning system from September 2015.

Equipment over 10 years old will need to replaced or retrofitted on all developments in central London and major developments in outer London or more than 10 homes or 1,000 sq ft.

While other cities and countries have introduced emission requirements for construction machinery before, it is the first time any city has introduced rules for both particulate and NOx emissions.

The Mayor’s new mandatory Supplementary Planning Guidance, which was officially unveiled today, aims to slash emissions of dust, particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) and emissions of nitrogen oxides from plant.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: “By replacing the oldest and most polluting bulldozers and machinery on building sites we can greatly reduce harmful emissions and boost our air quality.

“We’ve all walked past construction sites and seen thick clouds of dust generated from equipment that simply hasn’t been updated or replaced in decades.

“This new guidance will reduce NOx and is part of a series of strong measures including the Ultra Low Emission Zone from 2020, that will greatly reduce London’s air pollution from all emission sources.”

The Supplementary Planning Guidance replaces The Control of Dust and Emissions from Demolition and Construction Best Practice Guidance published jointly by London Council’s and the Mayor back in 2006.


First wave of £1bn housing infrastructure fund unveiled

August 18th, 2014 Comments off

The first wave of projects to benefit from a £1bn scheme to kick-start building work on 200,000 new homes was confirmed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles today.

Building_site_of_housingPickles has published a shortlist of 36 large-scale housing projects in line to receive a share of £850m of funding to get work going onsite.

The £850m is part of the government’s £1 billion programme to build the infrastructure needed for large schemes containing more than 1,500 homes.

The money will go towards the building of road improvement, schools and parks to support the extra homes being planned.

The 36 projects will now go through a final rigorous due diligence process before receiving the funding.

The funding will be available between 2015 and 2020 and will be in the form of a long term loan.

Pickles said: “We are supporting locally-led development, and this £1 billion programme will help unlock or accelerate over 200,000 new homes across the country.

“This is part of our wider package of housing programmes to support home ownership, increase investment in the private rented sector and further increase house building.”

The projects lined up for funding are:

  • the continued development of the Greenwich Peninsula in South East London, to help provide nearly 10,000 homes
  • the redevelopment of the former Rugby Radio Station site, to help provide 6,200 homes
  • the Monkton Heathfield development outside Taunton, to help provide 4,500 homes
  • the DN7 initiative in Doncaster, to help provide over 3,000 new homes
  • the Bishop Stortford North development in East Hertfordshire, to help to provide 2,200 homes
  • the New Lubbesthorpe development in Leicester, to provide over 4,000 homes
  • the development of North Wellingborough, to help provide 3,000 new homes
  • the redevelopment of Arborfield Garrison in Wokingham, to help provide 2,000 homes
  • the Langarth development in Truro, to help provide 1,500 homes
  • the Cheeseman’s Green development in Ashford, to help provide 1,500 homes
  • the Dallington Grange development in Northampton, to help provide 3,400 homes
  • the development at Lawley Village in Telford, to help provide 2,500 homes
  • the Newcourt Urban Extension in Exeter, to help provide over 2,000 homes
  • the East Kettering development, to help provide 5,500 homes
  • the development at Hunts Grove in Gloucester, to help provide 1,750 homes
  • the Barwell development at Hinckley and Bosworth, to help provide 2,500 homes
  • the Branston Locks development in East Staffordshire, to help provide 2,500 homes
  • the development at the Festival Gardens site in Liverpool, to help provide over 1,500 homes
  • the Bath Riverside development, to help provide nearly 1,900 homes
  • the Colchester North Growth Area Urban Extension, to help provide 1,600 homes
  • the Weston Airfield development in North Somerset, to help provide over 2,500 homes
  • Ebbsfleet Valley, to help provide over 3,500 homes – this site forms 1 part of the larger area that the proposed Ebbsfleet Development Corporation would cover as part of the 15,000 home Ebbsfleet Garden City initiative
  • Overstone Leys development in Daventry, to help provide 2,000 homes
  • the North West Bicester development, to help provide over 5,500 homes
  • the Welborne development at Fareham, which will help provide 5,400 homes
  • the Middle Deepdale development at Scarborough, which will help provide 2,300 homes
  • the Thetford North development in Breckland, to help provide 5,000 homes
  • Acton Gardens in Ealing, to help provide over 2,500 homes
  • the Lincolnshire Lakes development in Scunthorpe, to help provide 3,500 homes
  • the Whitfield development in Dover, to help provide over 5,700 homes
  • the Beaulieu development in Chelmsford, to help provide 3,600 homes
  • the Bela Priors Hall development in Corby, to help provide nearly 3,000 homes
  • the Alphington development near Exeter, to help provide 1,500 homes
  • the Wood Wharf development in London, to help provide over 3,000 homes
  • the West Witney development in Oxfordshire, to help provide 1,500 homes

Speedy has placed an order with Skyjack for 1,060 new aerial work platforms.

August 15th, 2014 Comments off

The order includes DC electric scissor lifts, electric vertical masts and its first diesel-powered rough terrain scissor lifts. Deliveries have already begun and the full line-up of machines will arrive over the coming months.

skyjacks platformsSpeedy is updating and expanding its entire fleet of access equipment so that no machine at any of its depots will predate 2013.

“Skyjacks are industry-leading machines that are widely recognized as the easiest to work on, so I am delighted to welcome so many to our fleet and I’m confident they will serve our huge range of customers well,” said Speedy supply chain director Andy Connor. “With energy costs increasing on a daily basis, we want the latest products on the market, both in terms of sustainability and innovation. And these machines fit the bill.”

The majority of Speedy’s order is for enhanced 24v Skyjack DC electric scissors with working heights from 19 ft to 32 ft.

Also included in the order are 24v DC electric vertical mast lifts, offering either 12 ft or 16 ft working heights, which feature a 41cm traversing deck. Speedy also ordered some diesel-powered SJ 6832 RT scissor lifts with a working height of 32 ft, marking the first time Speedy has invested in diesel-powered access equipment.

“The diesel machines ensure we can answer every customer need and allow us to expand into larger construction job sites,” Mr Connor explained.


Contracts joy for North-East construction firms

August 13th, 2014 Comments off


TWO NORTH-EAST construction companies are reporting a surge in contracts, revenue and new jobs, amid signs that the beleaguered building trade is showing signs of recovery.

Newcastle-based Shepherd Engineering Services (SES), has landed a double deal worth a combined £13m.  and Newton Aycliffe firm Finley Structures is on target to smash its record turnover.

SES will provide full mechanical and electrical (M&E) services as part of the £200m transformation of Newcastle’s historic city-centre Stephenson Quarter.

The company, which has offices in Darlington and York, will also provide all of the M&E services on the new Consett Academy and Leisure Centre in County Durham which forms part of a £40m investment into the former steel town.

The deals come less than a year after SES was awarded the deal to build Hitachi’s £82m train factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Finley Structures, which is also playing a key role in the return of train manufacture to the North-East, is celebrating a string of multi-million pound contracts.

As well as providing the steel frameworks for the soon-to-open Hitachi plant, Finley recently completed work on an extension of the Nissan car factory in Sunderland, and is working on the new National Biologics Centre in Darlington.

In addition, Newton Aycliffe-based Finley has started work on Middlesbrough Council’s Sports Village,and has won a contract for Bam Construction at Teesside University, due to start next month.

It represents a strong first half year for the company, with orders in the financial year, beginning in April 2014, totalling £13.8m, meaning it’s on course to far surpass its record turnover of £13.1m.

The firm is looking to take on extra platers and welders in the coming weeks to help manage extra work.

SES has also been on a recruitment drive, employing both time-served and experienced local engineers, as well as appointing four apprentices from across the North-East.

The SES Newcastle team will work in partnership with Miller Construction on the Stephenson Quarter project to help create what developers say will be a vibrant living, working and cultural development.

The ten-acre site, adjacent to Newcastle Central Station, will feature a new 250-bed Crowne Plaza Hotel, office block, restaurants, an art gallery and a car park.

Steve Joyce, SES North-East regional director, said: “The selection of SES onto two of the North-East’s most high-profile engineering projects is testament to the work of our team of specialists who are able to deliver ground-breaking technical solutions for clients.

“More importantly, this has also allowed us to reinvest into the region, bringing local employees back to the North-East while increasing the number of apprenticeships we are able to offer to local young people.”

SES employs about 225 people across the North-East and North Yorkshire.

It is part of the York-based Shepherd building group that was founded by joiner Frederick Shepherd in 1890.


Abrupt halt to double digit house price rises in London

August 12th, 2014 Comments off

Estate agent Hamptons International says house price growth in greater London will cool to 3pc in 2015 from 15.5pc this year


uk_house_prices_valuationsDramatic double-digit increases in London house prices will come to an abrupt halt next year, as anxiety around the general election and rising interest rates puts a severe dampener on growth, according to a report from Hamptons International.

House price growth in greater London will cool from 15.5pc this year to just 3pc next year, according to the estate agent’s latest forecasts.

Even the most sought after areas such as Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster will not be immune from the softening market; Hamptons believes growth in prime central London will weaken to 3pc in 2015 from 10pc this year.

The research from Hamptons, which specialises in selling houses in London and the South of the UK, appears to confirm reports of panic selling this year as homeowners try to cash in at the top of the market before a significant cooling next year.

The estate agent says house prices so far this year have increased at a faster pace than expected. In particular, homeowners in London are selling up now to move to larger propertoes in the suburbs in order get the biggest bang for their buck before the tide turns in the housing market next year.