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Construction must say never again to another Grenfell

June 23rd, 2017 No comments

In the aftermath of the horrific fire that engulfed the Grenfell tower in London there is a feeling of frustration and anger emerging among those who work in construction.

Grenfell

The disaster has raised many questions.

How did the blaze defy accepted thinking, spreading so rapidly with such devastating effect and at such a terrible human cost?

Should building regulations be improved, were they ignored and was the management of the block also a key factor? There is also the question of who is to blame.

The concerns of hundreds of thousands of residents in tower blocks across the country need to be addressed with urgency.

Deeply concerned industry experts have responsibly driven a rapid first response from authorities, using media pictures and footage to speculate about what may have caused the disaster.

The police must now move this on releasing relevant findings as soon as they come to light in their investigation.

Government’s decision to call all tower cladding in for immediate testing is a proportionate response at a time when public confidence in the fabric of our tower blocks is rock bottom.

But our response must also focus on the root causes of what went wrong at Grenfell.

There will be few in the industry who won’t feel uncomfortable about the way the culture of construction has developed in recent decades.

They will know too often individuals and firms are put in compromised positions – obliged to conduct themselves in ways that are wrong and potentially dangerous.

Construction has made great strides forward in health and safety in recent years.

This shows that an inappropriate culture can be challenged when all parts of the industry unite with common cause.

It is now time to challenge lowest cost and the pernicious culture it fosters.

The fire was an inevitable consequence of what was dreaded by many who have seen the systematic degradation of the industry in the face of short-term commercial pressures.

These short-circuit long-term sustainability and the health and safety of the public.

Shocked and moved by the Grenfell disaster, many have stepped forward to offer their advice and expertise.

Now all clients, designers, contractors, inspectors and suppliers alike need to say it is time to change.

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BREEAM’S COLLABORATIVE, CROSS-CONTINENT APPROACH TO SUSTAINABILITY UNAFFECTED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP’S CLIMATE ACCORD DECISION

June 9th, 2017 No comments

US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has many layers of complexity, and seeing the debate unravel, it is not easy to understand if it driven by US politics surrounding employment opportunities, world politics – about making a stance on the global stage – or simply disbelief in the argument about climate change. But one thing is becoming clear since the President’s announcement in the rose garden of the White House on Thursday, the international response; regarded by political leaders and climate experts world-wide as a major error of judgement.

Making the argument about current domestic job security is perhaps missing the opportunity of long-term creation of jobs in the fields of green energy will give greater potential than the job cuts in the current industry. An argument that is clearly understood by many, including China.

The President’s announcement leaves the United States as one of just three countries, along with Nicaragua and Syria, to oppose the Paris Agreement, which is the world’s first legally-binding climate deal.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the UN chief had hoped to pressure Trump into respecting the US pledge to curb its carbon emissions.

In a rare joint statement, continental Europe’s three biggest countries said they were “firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated,” immediately cancelling any possibility of a new deal more favourable to the US being struck.

The advice went unheeded. The subsequent impacts on climate change are uncertain.

 

One thing is for sure, BREEAM will continue to research, and support the industry to be the best through its network of assessor, and the 70+ countries in which it operates to ensure we reduce the impacts of buildings to drive more sustainable solution. Allowing the industry to innovate, and improve.

Our work and passion in this space is not about a transfer of economic power from North to South, or West to East, It is very much about enabling free flow of knowledge between like mind institutes and corporates to support such growth and to release the potential of the market. Such an approach of collaboration will ensure that we also reduce our impact capacity by good design, and by sharing international best practise through BREEAM.

For more information on BREEAM visit: www.breeam.com

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Aarsleff encourage learning this summer with the launch of 4 new CPD’s

June 8th, 2017 No comments

Aarsleff Ground Engineering, one of the UK’s leading driven piling and geotechnical contractors, has launched 4 new CPD seminars enabling engineers, designers and graduates across the UK the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills on a variety of ground engineering based topics this summer.

The new seminars, respectively titled An Introduction to Geotechnical Solutions, An Introduction to Pile Design, An Introduction to the Precast Ground Beam System and An Introduction to Sheet Piling, form an addition to the well-regarded Leading the Way in Driven Piling seminar that was launched in January of last year.

The new seminars aim to develop understanding on a variety of topics including Geotechnical Techniques; such as Ground Anchors and Soil Nails and how these can be used in a variety of different scenarios, Pile design; with a focus on design considerations for pile types, Precast Ground Beam System; specifically, how the system can be installed and the benefits of offsite construction, and finally Sheet Piling; covering a variety of techniques to be used in the infrastructure, residential, commercial, rail and marine/port markets.

Kevin Doyle, Head of Pre-Construction at Aarsleff said: “These tailored CPD’s give our clients a real chance to understand how we as a specialist contractor approach each project, and the level of expertise we can bring to a project design team”.

All seminars discuss their topics both on a theoretical and practical level, employing case study based insights delivered by presenters with years of design and engineering experience. The 45-minute seminars are free of charge and can either be held in person, at your offices, or remotely as a virtual CPD. All materials, handouts and literature are provided with a 15-minute question and answer session held to encourage interactive learning.

Would you like to join the list of companies who have received the latest CPD’s from Aarsleff Ground Engineering and expand your learning?

For a detailed overview of the CPD’s please contact Aarsleff on 01636 611140 or email jessicabanham@aarsleff.co.uk
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SUSTAINABILITY – PRACTICING WHAT WE PREACH

June 6th, 2017 No comments

The importance of sustainability is recognised the world over but it means different things to different people. For many it is about low environmental impact, whether that is in terms of performance or delivery. However it is so much more than that and for a global business such as Sika, it is imperative that we fully embrace sustainability and practice what we preach.

As a business, sustainability is embedded into everything we do – it affects us economically, environmentally and socially. It is a fundamental part of our everyday business. As a leading manufacturer of products working across multiple industry sectors (see http://bit.ly/2o8Ca6Z) and as a responsible employer, sustainability affects our thoughts, behaviors and actions – everyday. For us, sustainability is a shared goal but one whose successes directly benefit all.

At Sika we strongly believe in the holistic approach to sustainability and as such have six sustainability target indicators which encompass the three traditional pillars of sustainability. These targets – economic performance; sustainable solutions; local communities/society; energy; water/waste; and occupational safety – define what we do on a day to day basis from a business strategy and culture perspective.

Transparency is the hallmark of an ethical company, therefore Sika has committed to using the GRIs (Global Reporting Initiative) sustainability reporting standards for our Annual Report, which details initiatives implemented and progress towards our six sustainability targets. GRI provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards – 92% of the world’s largest 250 corporations report on their sustainability performance and 74% of these companies use GRI’s standards.

Embracing GRI not only illustrates to Sika’s stakeholders the importance that we place on sustainability, but also demonstrates that we are not afraid of being open and honest – Building Trust with customers and local communities alike.

GRI compares Sika’s performance, year on year. This approach allows us to base our sustainability credentials on fact and not on green wash. This is exceptionally important for a company like Sika that produces hundreds of different products, in dozens of different countries, as customers need to have the confidence that what they are specifying or installing is not only fit-for-purpose but also meets their sustainability needs.

As a global company, a global approach to sustainability is required, as demonstrated by our membership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and our commitment to the UN Global Compact.

Further illustration of our commitment includes 150 tonnes of waste saved and reused at a plant in Germany; a 60% saving of lighting energy at a number of our European factories and warehouses and 6% saving in electricity using outside cooling for processing at a plant in the US.

Sika also work with the Global Nature Fund who have developed partnerships with over 100 organisations to address drinking water conservation globally. Additionally, in Thailand and Vietnam, Sika staff have volunteered over 3,600 hours to support Operation Smile International which is dedicated to providing free treatment to children and adults suffering from cleft lips and palates.

Sustainability is in everything we do, every day. It affects all of us and as a business we are proud to practice what we preach and play our part in delivering a more sustainable future.

To find out more about the impact Sika are making every day, visit http://gbr.sika.com/en/group/about-us/sika-everyday.html

 

By Dr Sarah Peake, Sustainability Manager at Sika UK
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CONCRETE CONDITION CHECK KEY TO STRUCTURAL WELLBEING

May 30th, 2017 No comments

In older reinforced concrete structures, particularly those in coastal locations with a prevalence of salty air, or ones exposed long-term to pollutants in towns and cities, some form of corrosion is inevitable. However, the visual signs of carbonisation and chlorides, such as cracks or spalling, can take months, possibly even years before appearing. By then, of course, serious damage could be done and repairs could prove costly.

To protect and prolong the life of a structure, early corrosion diagnosis is vital. But how is this achieved when the surface gives no indication of a problem? A concrete condition survey offers a reliable test as to how a building is reacting to its surrounding environment. BS EN 1504 Standards stipulate a survey and interpretation of results is a prerequisite prior to work starting on concrete repair projects. This will reveal the overall state of the concrete and determine the type of remedial action required.

Sika is in the process of launching an investigation service. In conjunction with our partner, Vector, the survey will identify the most appropriate corrosion management system to employ. This offering further demonstrates our all-round commitment to quality concrete refurbishment.

A survey could include the following depending on the structure and condition of the concrete:

Visual inspection: This offers a flexible and powerful form of testing. It can provide an immediate assessment of a concrete structure’s condition and identify causes of stress or other debilitating conditions. A visual inspection, however, is dependent on the competence and experience of the survey team carrying it out, therefore surveys of this kind should only be made by those qualified and experienced to do so.

Hammer testing: A hammer test identifies hollow or spalled areas of concrete by assessing the sound difference using either a hammer or chain.

Carbonation: A solution called Phenolphthalein is used to indicate levels of alkalinity which triggers the corrosion process. The substance, which is spray-applied, turns pink when it contacts alkaline in concrete.

Break out: Break out testing sees areas of concrete broken away to assess the condition of the steel. This test acts as a validation measure against the other tests such as carbonation, chloride and half-cell measurements.

Concrete cover: A cover meter survey identifies and records the minimum and average depths of concrete cover to the embedded steel to help determine the risk of corrosion. It is also used to identify where the steel is.

Chloride analysis: This involves collecting concrete dust samples to test for the presence of chlorides.

Half-cell potential mapping: Corrosion of reinforcing steel is an electro-chemical process and the deterioration of the steel can be assessed by measuring its half-cell potential. The greater the potential, the higher the risk that corrosion is taking place.

Corrosion rate measurement: An electrochemical test carried out on the surface of the corroding metal to assess the causes of corrosion and predict the rate it will occur.

Once a survey has taken place, results will determine the most suitable corrosion management system to employ. For example, where high levels of chlorides are detected within the concrete, the Sika® Galvashield® system, comprising embedded galvanic anodes, is recommended. The sacrificial anodes prevent the formation of new corrosion sites either adjacent to the refurbished concrete or to concrete which is visually sound but from the survey information identified as high risk.

This simple, innovative anode system involves a small, circular-shaped cementitious shell encasing a zinc core which is quickly and easily fastened to exposed steel reinforcement. Once installed, the anode’s zinc core corrodes sacrificially to the surrounding rebar to therefore protect it.

A concrete conditioning survey can help identify a potential problem before it takes hold, tying-in with the well-known saying, ‘prevention is better than cure’. The good news is, with the launch of our investigation service, alongside our existing Total Corrosion Management System, Sika has the means to provide both the prevention and a long-term cure.

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The Survey Association Bursary builds bright future for Geomatics students

May 22nd, 2017 Comments off

The Survey Association’s £2000 bursary award is set to boost the career prospects of two exceptional Geomatics students at Newcastle University.

The winners, Connor Foxall and Oliver Smith, received their cash prize at a TSA conference where they also had the opportunity to network with industry professionals and guest speakers.

These included Matt Shaw of ScanLAB Projects Ltd., whose laser scanning expertise was recently featured in the BBC series, Italy’s Invisible Cities.

Following the conference, Connor was offered a week-long work placement at ScanLAB’s London office and used some of the bursary money to fund his travel and accommodation costs.

Connor commented on his time at ScanLAB. ‘’Talking to the different members of the team, exploring new software and equipment and practising the industrial processes needed to produce a deliverable was invaluable experience.’’

‘’I intend to use most of the remaining money to fund a second work placement during the summer,’’ he added.

TSA has awarded a bursary to second year students at Newcastle since 2011. This year, applicants were invited to submit a paper on ‘Building for the Future,’ focussing on ideas of their choice, such as BIM, Smart Cities, and advances in mapping and measurement technology.

TSA President, Adam Bradley, said, ‘’The judging panel comprises three TSA Council members, the Secretary General and myself and we were all impressed by the quality of this year’s winning entries, the interpretation of the Building for the Future brief, and the relevance of the submissions to the geospatial context.’’

‘It is very encouraging to hear how the TSA Bursary helps graduate entrants to the profession access the right contacts and opportunities to help them develop and progress their careers.’’

A proportion of Oliver Smith’s award will be used to fund research tools needed to create new analytical techniques for his dissertation project.

Oliver Smith explains, ‘’My project uses telecom network data to map and analyse the influences on pedestrian movements in city centres. The TSA Bursary will be used to purchase data and subscribe to online software used to visualise the flows over time.’’

‘’I’m aiming to produce innovative research that will interest telecom providers, showing them how the analysis of big data can lead to profitable opportunities,’’ he added.

The TSA Bursary will also support Oliver’s attendance at the International Geodetic Student Meeting (IGSM), a major event offering networking and learning opportunities in geodesy, cartography, photogrammetry and GIS to students from 34 different countries.

For further information on The Survey Association visit

http://www.tsa-uk.org.uk/    Tel: 01636 642840 Email: office@tsa-uk.org.uk  

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UK Construction Week General Election Survey

May 19th, 2017 Comments off

 

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Sir Richard Branson tops poll in General Election survey

May 18th, 2017 Comments off

UK Construction Week, the UK’s largest gathering and community of construction professionals, has conducted a survey to uncover and tackle issues facing construction, housebuilding and skills in the run up to the General Election. With over 1,000 responses from a cross section of professionals working in the sector, key points from the survey include:

 

Sir Richard Branson is named as ‘the best person’ to head up new UK infrastructure projects

77% believe state intervention is needed for more housing

38% want Gavin Barwell to retain his position as Housing Minister

54% call for more housebuilding on brownfield sites

 

One of the most significant results from the survey was for Sir Richard Branson, who was voted as the best person to spearhead new UK infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Heathrow Airport, signalling a need for more entrepreneurial vision in tackling large scale projects.

 

On the result, Sir Richard Branson said: “I’m very flattered by the survey. The only danger is that if I oversaw these key infrastructure projects then by the time I’ve finished there would only be room for one airline and one train company, both beginning with the letter V! The key thing one needs to get right is to plan these major projects with the customer’s needs in mind. Too often these are planned by engineers for engineers and fail to meet the user’s demand. This means they are underused and fail to have the major impact they should do.”

 

Further results show a three way split on the government’s current housing policy with a third of those polled voting both for and against current policies, and a third not convinced either way.

 

Over half of those surveyed (54%) called for the next elected government to be more aggressive with planning permissions on brownfield sites to enable house building. Only 11% voted to loosen Green Belt restrictions, dispelling the myth that the construction industry wants to build on protected land.

 

Although the industry isn’t wholly satisfied with current housing policy, Gavin Barwell was voted overwhelmingly in favour as the best man for the job of Housing Minister, with the next name suggested, Boris Johnson, only receiving a quarter of the number of nominations. Labour’s John Healey, previous Housing Minister under the Labour government, was the third suggestion.

77% of those surveyed believe the only way to reach 1 million homes by 2020 is by state intervention, and for a council house building programme to begin.

 

For infrastructure, there was a two way split between Vince Cable and Sir Richard Branson who were both voted as the best people to lead UK infrastructure projects, followed by Sir Alan Sugar and Sir James Dyson. A clear indication the industry feels it needs entrepreneurial visionaries to successfully take projects forward to 2021.

 

In terms of major projects the industry is generally positive about these going ahead with a Conservative government, with HS2 and Heathrow seen as the safest projects followed by Hinkley point, Crossrail 2, Thames Tideway and the road renewal building programme.

 

However, there is a real concern that major projects will stall if the Conservative government is not re-elected, with a majority of those surveyed believing all projects will stall with HS2 coming out on top (44%) followed by Crossrail 2 (40%) followed by the road renewal building programme (40%), Hinkley Point (30%), Thames Tideway (30%) and Heathrow third runway (26%).

 

Nathan Garnett, Event Director at Media 10, which runs UKCW, said: “We have seen a great deal of talk around housing and infrastructure in this general election campaign so far, so I think that the main political parties should take note of this industry wide survey. It shows that there are still a lot more assurances and interventions needed to build the homes we need and the infrastructure we have been promised. We will be using these results to make sure the main political parties know what the industry wants, and one clear message is that innovation and entrepreneurial endeavour cannot happen without government assistance.”

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Liverpool names team for £50m cruise terminal

May 17th, 2017 Comments off

Liverpool City Council has appointed engineering consultancy Ramboll to lead the design team to develop a permanent cruise terminal on the River Mersey.

Liverpool cruise terminal

The multi-disciplinary design team includes architects Stride Treglown, cost managers Gardiner & Theobald, property consultants JLL, and landscape architects Hyland Edgar Driver.

The team will initially work up detailed designs for the proposed £50m passenger facility before submitting a planning application for the former Princes Jetty, off Princes Parade, later this year.

Further applications are likely to include associated projects like a new 200 room hotel and 1,100 space multi-storey car park to enhance the city’s capabilities in handling the next generation of turnaround cruises, which can carry up to 3,600 passengers.

Subject to planning approval the Ramboll team will project manage and assist monitoring of construction of the new facility, as well as assisting with contractor procurement.

 

Dave Grove, project director at Ramboll, said: “ Having personally worked in the quayside area throughout my 20 year career at Ramboll, I am confident that we can deliver a design that will meet the highest standards and needs of all who will use the facility.”

Liverpool City Council will now submit an outline business case for a £20m contribution to the facility from the Liverpool Combined Authority’s Strategic Investment Fund.

If that stage is successfully passed, the project will then progress to the final stage, a full business case.

Although the proposed multi-storey car park has been earmarked for the new cruise facility, the council is reviewing locations north of Leeds Street so it could also support initiatives around the Ten Streets district and North Docks areas, including Everton FC’s proposed stadium at the nearby Bramley Moore Dock.

The council recently approved a new £20m waterfront link road by extending Leeds Street, to support the new facility and a new Isle of Man Ferry terminal, with construction expected to begin by 2019.

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A CALL FOR QUALITY TO BE INCLUDED IN MANIFESTO PLEDGES

May 11th, 2017 Comments off

A CALL FOR QUALITY TO BE INCLUDED

IN MANIFESTO PLEDGES

By Martin Townsend, Director of Sustainability at BRE Global

When Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap General Election last month she made it clear that Brexit – and in particular her attempt to strengthen her hand ahead of potentially UK prosperity-defining trade negotiations with the European Union – was central to her decision. Brexit has dominated the early pre-election political exchanges and with less than five weeks to go until the electorate heads to the polls, we expect the issue to remain at the very top of the agenda for all the main parties. As such, we feel that housing and construction, as high-value commodities and significant contributors to UK export figures, should be given due consideration by all the main parties in their election manifestos. Furthermore, the debate should be extended beyond mere number-based targets to factor in wider issues such as quality and the sector’s post-Brexit significance.

The UK construction industry is currently seen as being at the leading edge of sustainable design and construction, as exemplified by the major roles played by UK companies in the success of a broad range of high-performance projects in both the UK and abroad.

As a result, the UK’s sustainable design and construction capabilities – including its knowledge and expertise as well as its focus on innovation, driven by standards such as BREEAM – have become significant contributors to UK exports.

Given that the campaign manifestos currently being finalised will span a period when UK prosperity will be heavily dependent on our position to negotiate favourable trade deals with Europe, ensuring we protect and nurture these assets is essential.

This requires active debate and investment on a level much deeper than just numbers – both in terms of targets and budgets.

By way of example, the Labour Party has recently pledged to build one million new homes during the next five years. All well and good, but there has been no commitment given to the quality of these homes and the viability of delivering quality homes and communities.

If we are not to create any “dead weight” (cost) to the treasury for UK PLC, one area that the political parties could give some thought to is evolving existing mechanisms to be more effective to new challenges. With increasing demands placed on Planning Authorities, and reduced funding to be as much of a mantra post-election as it is pre-election, it is essential that the parties give local authorities space and capacity to look at development and the wider context of what we need to achieve at a neighbourhood/community scale.

This should be focused on seeking positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people’s quality of life:

  • Making it easier for jobs to be created in cities, towns and villages;
  • Moving from a net loss of bio-diversity to achieving net gains for nature;
  • Replacing poor design with better design;
  • Improving the conditions in which people live, work, travel and take leisure; and
  • Widening the choice of high quality homes;

I therefore hope that the parties, as they look to an agenda of growth, ensure this wider perspective is taken. We have already heard much talk about the police and the NHS, but to ensure that we don’t put the pressure on these important services in time of crisis, we need to build better communities to reduce crime and promote healthier living.

With all the necessary elements already in place, there is just the need to take the long-term view on the viability of development – the avowed purpose of the planning system but sometimes only looked at as the viability of the individual site and not the wider community. I would therefore hope that the parties look to recast how we consider development.

A number of keen eyed readers will perhaps already noticed increased amount of column inches given to land value capture as a concept. But one thing is for sure we need to:

  • Take a long-term view, to ensure that issues such as inter-generational equity or climate change mitigation and adaptation are taken adequately into account
  • Address the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development “jointly and simultaneously”
  • Consider the likely success of any proposal in achieving positive improvements in the quality of the built, natural and historic environment, as well as in people’s quality of life

I hope the debate on quality as a base to demonstrate what the UK can achieve and to drive the quality of our buildings and communities is one that will not get passed by in the various manifestos that will land on our desk in the coming days.

To make BREXIT work, we need to show what we can achieve and make the UK a success. Quality is a key to much that we need to achieve to drive this success.

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