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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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Sellafield seeks four firms for £4.5bn spend

May 10th, 2017 Comments off

Sellafield has formally invited firms to bid for four key partner roles to deliver its £4.5bn construction programme.

Sellafield

The firm, which runs the Cumbria nuclear site, is rolling out a new collaborative procurement model that will change how major projects are delivered.

The four successful programme and project partners will work alongside Sellafield’s in-house engineers in integrated teams over the next 20 years.

This collaborative model will be used to deliver the huge works programme more safely, efficiently and cost effectively.

The selected firms will work together to deliver three initial major projects.  The SPRS Retreatment Plant, SIXEP Contingency Plant and Replacement Analytical Project, together estimated at £1bn – £1.7bn).

Further major projects in the pipeline still need more detailed project definition and are valued at £1.9bn-2.8bn.

Firms have until 7 June to submit bids and can find tender information on the Sellafield web portal.

Sellafield projects director Steve Livingstone, said: “This is a hugely important step for Sellafield Ltd – it is a game change for the way we deal with our supply chain.

“Instead of procuring supply chains for each major project, we’ll establish a new project delivery environment based upon long term relationships with selected partners, developing closer working practices on the way.”

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Hinkley builders could earn £60,000 each a year

April 26th, 2017 Comments off

Construction workers at the £18bn Hinkley Point construction site are on course to be the best paid builders in the industry.

We understand that pay talks have set the bar at nearly £60,000 a year for full-time builders on the site.

Talks are currently ongoing between main contractor joint venture Bouygues Travaux Publics/Laing O’Rourke and the construction unions.

And the industry’s ongoing skills shortage means the unions are in a strong position.

One source close to the talks said: “This is the biggest construction site in the country and everyone wants to get it built on time.

“The unions know that and any pay deal will be better than the one at Heathrow T5 where everyone made sure people were paid industry leading rates to get the job done.”

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BAM fined £260,000 after worker hits power line

April 20th, 2017 Comments off

BAM Construction Limited and its groundworks subcontractors have been fined after a man suffered multiple life changing injuries including severe burns to his neck.

Winchester Crown Court heard how BAM had been appointed by Network Rail to construct a new railway operating centre in Basingstoke.

BAM later appointed Shoreland Projects Ltd as the groundworks contractor for the project.

On 26 January 2015, when work began to install lampposts on the site entrance road, the fifth lamp post touched the 11kV overhead power lines when it was being lifted into position by an excavator, causing Mark Bradley to suffer his injuries.

A colleague rushed to Bradley’s aid, using a piece of timber to push him away from the lamp column.

An HSE investigation found a failure to properly identify the presence of the overhead power lines and appropriately plan this work activity.

No suitable control measures were in place to prevent contact with the overhead power lines putting a number of workers at risk.

BAM Construction Limited, of Hemel Hempstead, pleaded guilty to breaching Electricity at Work Regulations and was fined £260,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9415.13.

Shoreland Projects Limited of Botley also pleaded guilty to and was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8442.53.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector William Christie said: “While this entirely preventable incident has had a permanent and very substantial effect on Mark’s life, his very serious injuries could have been even worse had it not been for the quick thinking of his colleague.

“This case highlights the importance for all work to be planned properly by all duty holders. Overhead power lines pose a significant threat to the safety of workers.

“Construction work in the vicinity of live conductors must be properly planned, managed and monitored to ensure the risks are controlled.”

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New homes can now be built in just five days

April 13th, 2017 Comments off

Construction giants H+H UK Ltd and SIG Offsite have launched a new house building system which sees homes built in just five days.

The SIG I-House combines all the speed of offsite construction with the familiarity of a traditional build – from foundations to roof in just five days.

The system can encompass the inner leaves of external cavity walls, floors, lintel, cavity closers, insulation and roof trusses.

With the inclusion of soffit and fascia, the system delivers the internal skin of a property, fully wrapped and ready for follow-on trades.

The system is a one stop shop for clients – with a single contractor required to deliver the whole house shell.

It is intended for the construction of domestic houses of up to two storey height, replacing the structure of the inner leaf of external cavity walls, separating walls and internal partitions with storey height Celcon Elements.

Installed by the SIG Offsite team, Celcon Elements are craned into place and fixed using H+H element mortar.

Timber I-Joist cassette floors are used in conjunction with the system to maintain the speed of build and roofs are either standard truss construction or the ‘Roofspace I-Roof’ – panelised roof system.

All components are raised into position by crane.

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150 jobs lost as scaffolding group collapses

April 7th, 2017 Comments off

South Wales-based scaffolding and cladding specialist SHS Group has called in administrators with the loss of over 150 jobs.

Paul Smith SHS
Smith founded SHS nearly 20 years ago

The group, which operated mainly in the industrial sector from offices in Barry, Doncaster and Port Talbot, had been struggling with losses for several years.

This was mainly down to poorly performing contracts within its cladding and HVAC insulation divisions.

SHS’s management was winding down the insulation business to concentrate on scaffolding and cladding, but ran into severe cashflow problems.

Founding director Paul Smith had explored several options in order to secure the future of his group, either via a re-finance or a sale of the business but failed to secure a deal.

The group has now ceased trading while administrators from Deloitte hold talks with potential buyers for the contracts and assets.

Deloitte’s appointment covers SHS Integrated Services Ltd, SHS Cladding Ltd, SHS Integrated Services (Transmission) Ltd and SHS Insulation Ltd.

The firm, which was established in 1998, worked mainly across the utility, petrochemical and transmission sectors and was expanding into mainstream construction after working at Heathrow Airport and seeing opportunities at Hinkley Point.

SHS counted Balfour Beatty, Costain, McGee and Laing O’Rourke as clients.

The latest accounts for main group business SHS Integrated Services showed a £2.3m pre-tax loss from revenue of £16.5m in 2015.

 

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Further delays hit £335m Carillion hospital job in Liverpool

April 5th, 2017 Comments off

The opening of Carillion’s £335m Royal Liverpool University Hospital job has been delayed again following construction problems.

Work on the site was temporarily halted in January when cracks were found in two concrete transfer beams

Now Aidan Kehoe ,chief executive at Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, said they “are planning to move by Summer 2018.”

Carillion is expected to now hand the building over next February compared to an original handover date of March 2017.

A Carillion spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the opening of the new Royal Liverpool Hospital has been delayed.

“The construction of such a building on a brownfield city centre location is a very complex process and we have encountered some issues which have unfortunately led to a delay in the handover date to the Trust.

“We continue to work closely with the Trust to ensure that we handover the building as soon as possible in order for the transition into the new hospital to start.”

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O’Rourke fined £800,000 for Heathrow dumper truck death

March 31st, 2017 Comments off

Laing O’Rourke has been fined £800,000 after a worker was killed by a dumper truck driven by his brother at Heathrow Airport.

Southwark Crown Court heard how Philip Griffiths died in October 2014.

His brother Paul accidentally reversed into his 38-year-old sibling when the pair were trying to move a broken down scissor lift on a service road, while working for Laing O’Rourke.

Paul Griffiths tried to tow the scissor lift away using a dumper truck under the direction of managers.

During the attempt his foot got stuck between the brake and the accelerator and the truck reversed.

Philip, who was standing between the two vehicles, suffered crush injuries. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

An HSE investigation found that neither worker was authorised with the appropriate certificate to use the dumper truck, and that the operation was not properly overseen or managed.

Laing O’Rourke Construction Limited of Dartford pleaded guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and was fined £800,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

Speaking after sentence, HSE Inspector Jack Wilby said: “This incident was a tragedy for all concerned and, as revealed by our investigation, entirely avoidable.

“Laing O’Rourke did nothing to address the trend of these workers carrying out tasks they weren’t trained or authorised for.

“These dedicated staff, including Philip and his brother, needed appropriate supervision.

“Had there been appropriate supervision, then better segregation between Philip and these two vehicles could have been established and maintained.

“This case should act as a reminder of the dangers of using workplace transport without proper planning, management or monitoring of the risks involved.”

A Laing O’Rourke spokesperson said: “Laing O’Rourke fully accepts the findings of the court following the tragic events in October 2014.

“Our deepest sympathy and thoughts remain with Philip Griffiths’ family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.

“The company is committed to continually reviewing and improving its health and safety systems.”

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Redrow abandons Bovis merger talks

March 29th, 2017 Comments off

House builder Redrow has walked away from talks to merge with Bovis Homes after an initial approach was rejected by the southern house builder.

This morning Redrow said it would not be in its shareholders’ best interests to increase its proposal above the level which was rejected by the board of Bovis.

Its share and cash offer would have given Bovis a 32.4% stake in a merged house building business.

The move leaves Galliford Try as the last remaining bidder still in discussions although its initial approach was also rejected by the Bovis board.

Galliford Try’s current offer values Bovis at £1,191m and would make Galliford Try the 52.25% majority shareholder in the merged group.

Under City takeover rules the firm now has until April 9 to make a firm offer for Bovis.

In a statement this morning Redrow said: “We will instead continue to focus on its highly successful organic growth strategy that has delivered approximately 55% compound annual growth in pre-tax profits from financial years 2012 to 2016.

“Redrow’s strong land bank and disciplined approach to its operations means it is well-placed to both continue to grow its profits and progressively increase dividend payout rates to 33% in the medium term.”

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All-clear for first concrete on Hinkley nuclear station

March 28th, 2017 Comments off

Bouygues/Laing O’Rourke has got the go-ahead to start pouring concrete on the first key structures for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

Hinkley Point

The Office for Nuclear Regulation has approved first structural concrete for the ‘technical galleries’ of the power station.

These are a series of underground reinforced concrete structures to be located beneath the site and some above-ground structures, connecting services such as cooling water and electricity to the two reactor units and other structures.

Up to now the on-site construction activities have been limited to preparatory and enabling works, including the construction of several concrete batching plants and aggregate stores.

Hinkley Point

Following First Nuclear Safety Concrete, the site workforce will grow rapidly to several thousand.

Mike Finnerty, Director of ONR’s new reactors programme said: “Our consent for the first nuclear safety concrete at Hinkley Point C is a key regulatory milestone marking start of construction of the first nuclear power station since Sizewell B in Suffolk.

“We have carried out extensive assessment of EDF’s safety case and preparedness for this important step at Hinkley Point C.

“However, this does not give consent for all elements of construction. We will continue to regulate NNB Generation Company – a subsidiary created by EDF Energy -activities and have implemented a number of hold-points to ensure we have full regulatory control over the various construction and commissioning stages through to start of operation.”

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