UK construction blog


Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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.


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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2016 has been dubbed the ‘Year of Ransomware’…but why?

June 13th, 2017 No comments









The NHS was a high-profile victim of a WannaCry Ransomware attack that hit businesses in over 150 countries recently. Find out more about the attack and how you can prevent your business from becoming the next victim

What Can I Do?

If you haven’t been a victim of this particular Ransomware attack, this doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your systems against future attacks – not just Ransomware attacks, but exploits in your operating systems that could lead to additional attacks.

Always update your systems

We know, Windows updates are notoriously laborious. But it’s no longer something you can ignore. These updates might be cumbersome but they’re deployed to keep your systems and your business safe from exactly this type of exploit. It’s worth checking for updates right now (search ‘Windows Updates’ in your Windows search bar) and if there are any waiting, install them now. Microsoft has made it clear that if businesses had installed its MS17-010 security patch, they could have avoided the attack.

Be vigilant with emails

The method of distribution for this attack hasn’t been made public yet, but it’s very likely to be a malicious email link or attachment. Previously, spammy emails were easy to spot as they were plain text and littered with spelling errors. Hackers are more sophisticated than ever now, and emails containing Ransomware, malware or phishing links look more realistic thanks to email spoofing.  If in doubt, never click a link or open an attachment; speak directly to the supposed sender and alert your IT department.

Backup your critical systems and data

Because hackers are ever more sophisticated, zero-day attacks are now very common; these are attacks that exploit an as-yet-unknown vulnerability, meaning you could become the first victim of a new attack. Having a robust backup and disaster recovery solution in place means that, should your business fall victim, you’ll be able to restore not only your critical files but your systems too, and why it’s critical that your business has both in place.

Use a Ransomware-specific anti-virus

This attack exploited a security issue in Windows operating systems, which means the attack could have been something other than Ransomware. But this highlights the proliferation of Ransomware, which has seen a significant resurgence since last year. Ransomware attacks continue to hit and devastate thousands of businesses – don’t let your business be one of them. We recommend Sophos’ anti-Ransomware solution Intercept X, which prevents Ransomware viruses at the point of entry. What’s more, if your files have already been encrypted, Sophos Intercept X decrypts them. It’s an intelligent product that has protected many of our customers and ourselves from this global attack. We’re hosting emergency webinars on Sophos Intercept X this week

What next?

This is one of the most widespread Ransomware attacks ever. While the NHS and telecoms and car giants Telefonica are the headline victims, this attack has hit businesses of all sizes – some of which may never recover from it. IT security can no longer be ignored. This attack is expected to continue as the malware evolves, so if you haven’t been hit yet it doesn’t mean you’re protected.

Find out more

Read more here

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June 12th, 2017 No comments

It’s likely a building will undergo a number of changes in its lifetime. Commercial structures in particular are potentially subject to different loads, with the introduction of new, equipment, and new openings cut to take services. When this happens, the reinforced concrete structural elements are placed under new stress’s and therefore in need of strengthening to take the additional loadings This situation also happens when buildings change use and extra floors are added, and in fact can affect all sorts of building from healthcare to residential.

As a solution, rather than use steel reinforcement to strengthen columns, beams, slabs, and walls, specifiers, clients and contractors are turning to carbon fibre. Flexible and versatile with a superior strength-to-mass ratio than traditional reinforcing methods, carbon fibre allows for a significant increase in performance without adding additional significant dead load. This solution is less intrusive and quicker and easier to install compared to traditional methods.

Carbon fibre strengthening comes in many different forms, plates, rods, near surface mounted plates, fabrics and shear links and are fixed using a range of high performance structural adhesives. Its increasing popularity as a proven solution for not only for reinforced concrete but also steel, cast iron, wood and masonry structures  due to its strength, lightweight, easy-handling ability, durability, superb adhesion and rapid installation where downtime of a building is in short supply.

The range of solutions and flexibility makes it ideal for all types of buildings and structures where there is an increase or change of loading and enhanced bending, shear or axial enhancement required. For external and internal use, its performance helps safeguard a building against issues such as long-term fatigue, blast loading and general stability.

Carbon fibre strengthening, as well as offering greater weight resistance than traditional refurbishment processes, is also kinder to the environment. It requires fewer materials and less energy, labour and machinery to install than steel reinforcement. The prospect of future corrosion and costly, time-consuming refurbishment is also eliminated with the use of carbon fibre strengthening. Without heavy plant-based processes required to install it, fabric-based solutions are safer for onsite teams to apply.

Sika provides fully comprehensive solutions with complete systems for all kinds of structural strengthening and improvement. These include:


Sika CarboDur®: 

  • Most widely-recognised and established carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) strengthening solution available worldwide
  • Comprises Sika CarboDur® CFRP plates and rods, together with the structural epoxy resin based adhesives Sikadur®-30 and Sikadur®-30 LP
  • Highly durable, outstanding performance, curing times can be accelerated and down-time minimised, even at lower temperatures


SikaWrap® Fabric Strengthening:

  • Flexible solution for a range of demands and projects
  • Comprises SikaWrap® Fabrics, SikaWrap® FX fabric anchors, Sikadur®-330 epoxy-based four-in-one product (primer, filler, impregnating resin and adhesive)
  • Applications including confinement, shear, seismic upgrading and weak substrate strengthening


Sika CarboShear:

  • Unique L-shaped CFRP plates
  • Shear capacity of concrete beams can be increased by the externally-applied Sika CarboShear L-shaped profiles
  • Quick and easy installation; excellent anchorage; no drilling through top slab required


Sika CarboStress®:

  • Unique pre-stressed strengthening system
  • Withstands loads more efficiently or with less total deflection
  • CFRP plates and post-tensioning techniques form a unique active external strengthening solution


Flexible, cost and time-effective and a proven performer in helping strengthen weakening structures worldwide, carbon fibre is shaping-up as a long-standing alternative to steel-based structural refurbishment.

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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
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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 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


By Dr Sarah Peake, Sustainability Manager at Sika UK
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Graham bags £50m Kew Gardens revamp

June 5th, 2017 No comments

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has appointed Graham Construction as sole contractor to deliver a £50m programme of works.


The project is another major coup for the contractor in the south east as it seeks to expand its presence across the region.

Over a five-year programme valued at £5m to £10m per year, Graham will deliver projects including new builds, refurbishment of historic Grade I and Grade II listed buildings,  as well as the repair and replacement of M&E systems.

Key areas where the works will be delivered include The Herbarium, Palm and Water Lily Houses, Pavilion, Arboretum Nursey, and the Family Landscape Area.

Rob Joyce, Graham Construction’s London office director, said the firm would also deliver roof repairs at the Grade I listed Mansion at Kew’s sister estate, Wakehurst, in Sussex.

In addition to RBG Kew’s own staff and consultants, the team delivering the project also includes Donal Insall Architects (masterplanning), Ryder Architects (lead architect), and Mott MacDonald (M&E).

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How to prevent crowd disasters

June 2nd, 2017 No comments

Stadium concerts, football matches, or any kind of big celebration are all hot spots for crowds. When a large number of people gather in one place at one time, a crowd is formed and there are dangers to be aware of. When communication is lost, huge disasters can unravel. Thankfully, technology is at hand to help battle the causes of crowd catastrophes and accidents. In addition, technology such as pedestrian modelling software, is now available to help architects to design buildings that are safe for their users.

Architects can plan ahead with crowd management in mind. Many firms are investing in technologies that analyse, evaluate, and provide data regarding the safety of a crowd. By law, event organisers are obligated to keeping crowds safe – so these technologies can be utilised efficiently within this endeavour. Dangers that are listed by the government are as follows:

  • Crushing between people
  • Crushing against fixed structures such as barriers
  • Trampling
  • Surging, swaying or rushing
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Dangerous behaviour such as climbing on equipment or throwing objects

The dangers

Crushing tends to be the most common cause of disaster within crowds. Believe it or not, trampling does not cause it. It can be something as small as one person tripping or falling, and then that movement having a chain-reaction throughout the crowd and causing a huge crush against barriers or walls etc.

The movement of people can become a powerful force, and in some cases, it can be up to a force of over 4500 Newtons, or 1,000lbs. Objects that are supposed to protect a crowd can also become a potential hazard, as steel railing can be bent and cause injury to passers-by. These types of pressures can cause compressive asphyxia, a leading cause of suffocation within a crowd and the most common cause of death.

Event organisers and venue staff should be using pre-emptive technologies to spot dangers before they happen. This technology can be crucial for preventing a potential disaster and saving lives. For instance, in 2003 70 people were crushed while trying to escape from pepper spray that was being used to break up a fight. This may not have happened if technology could have established that this wasn’t enough space per square meter for people to leave the building safely.


There are several reasons why a disaster can emerge in a crowd. The most common examples are:

Lack of communication: In 1981, Greek football fans were killed when they tried to leave a match in Athens stadium, finding the gates locked. The rear of the crowd had no way of knowing this was the case and continued to press forward, causing 24 deaths.

Reaction to perceived threat: A riot by English and Italian fans in 1985 at a European Cup Final in Brussels led to a flight by spectators trying to escape the violence, which led to 38 deaths by asphyxia. Over 437 people were injured.

‘Craze’ behaviour: in 1989, 96 people were killed and more than 170 injured at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. A larger than expected fanbase was trying to enter the stadium, which caused police to open gates to relieve crowd pressure. Instead, the crowd surged into the stadium, crushing fans into enclosed terraces.

How to avoid crowd disasters

Technologies are changing attitudes towards crowd disasters and making it easier for event organisers to prevent potential disasters. It is important to set a limit of the number of guests that can attend the event to make sure there aren’t too many people trying to squeeze into on space that simply can’t hold everyone – however, bear in mind that this can often be an unrealistic method at larger events such as religious gatherings.

It can be difficult to implement good communication in a crowd. The use of stewards to help promote communication is a recommended measure as they can prevent the issue that comes from a communication breakdown between the head and body of a crowd.

It’s vital to ensure proper access and exits are in place. This is something that can be considered in the design and construction phases of building a new venue. With new technologies, architects can plan for safe crowd management before the building is built. A timed exit in a large event, where people from different levels exit at different slots of time, is another popular prevention method.


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Developer joins forces with Uber to ditch parking spaces

May 31st, 2017 No comments

Private rented sector specialist Moda is linking up with taxi app Uber to cut the number of car parking places in its city centre developments.

Residents will receive up to £100 in Uber credits each month if they agree not to have a car parking space.

Moda will swap the space previously used for car parking for greater amenities within the developments like fitness centres and media rooms.

Moda, backed by Apache Capital Partners, is delivering more than 6,000 apartments across the UK with major city centre developments in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Birmingham.

Its first scheme, Angel Gardens in Manchester’s NOMA neighbourhood, is currently under construction and will house close to 900 residents when it completes in 2019.

Moda’s buildings are created only for rent, and include shared areas that mimic a high-end hotel.

Jo Bertram, regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “Cars are one of the most expensive assets most people own, but they’re used just five per cent of the time.

“Our mission is for everybody to have a reliable ride at the touch of a button so they don’t need their own car.

“These plans for what will be a unique partnership with Moda Living is a big step forward in making that a reality.

“By getting more people to ditch their own vehicles we can put some of the space wasted on parking to much better use.”

Johnny Caddick, managing director of Moda Living, said: “Our apartments are for rent rather than for sale so we need to consider how our customers will live in cities in the future.

“Embracing future technology is vital from day one and these plans for a partnership with Uber would not only give our customers an affordable ride at the touch of a button – it would also enable us to design better buildings with more space for social interaction.”

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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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May 25th, 2017 Comments off

The importance and usefulness of evidence cannot be underestimated. Without it, we can have no confidence in the effectiveness of our past activities or future strategies. Used correctly, however, evidence can be used as a solid bedrock on which to build all our plans upon.

As a product of the BRE, it comes as no surprise that independent research and sound scientific evidence are fundamental ingredients of the BREEAM Standard. What’s possibly less commonly recognised is the ongoing role cutting-edge research plays in the continual development of BREEAM, keeping the Standard at the very forefront of the latest green building thinking and helping to drive excellence in sustainability across the globe.

Since its launch in 1990, BREEAM has expanded its reach to 78 countries with 2,626,873 registered buildings and 561,191 certificates issued worldwide to date. With an 80% market share, BREEAM dominates the European green building market. And with the recent launch of BREEAM USA, we’re hoping to replicate this success in North America.

We believe one of the main keys to the growth of BREEAM is in its flexibility and ongoing development. BREEAM has been adapted for individual markets across the globe to enable the assessment and certification of various built environment projects, including new builds, refurbishments, wider masterplanning projects, infrastructure and even the current operational sustainability of a functional building.

The methodology is constantly adapted to stay ahead of best practice within the industry, meaning those undertaking the Standard can always be sure their asset is certified against the most rigorous sustainability criteria. In-depth research – freely available through our website – is central to this endeavour.

The second factor driving BREEAM’s uptake both in the UK and overseas is the ever-deeper understanding of the business case for green buildings.

Earlier this month, in a report by, the Chief Executive of the US Green Building Council Mahesh Ramanujam urged European businesses to invest in certifications such as BREEAM stating “there is value in certification and it is important to pursue to generate validation from the external markets”.

A recent study found the global market will respond accordingly. The World Green Building Trends predicts a near 100% rise in the number of green buildings by 2018 – at which time it estimates that 37% of companies will have the majority of their estate certified sustainable, up from 18% when the report was published last year.

By generating the latest, leading thinking on all aspects of sustainable development and incorporating it into the Standard, BRE is focused on ensuring BREEAM is able to meet this demand. Using the latest research to continuously amend and adapt the BREEAM criteria, companies and communities utilising the Standard worldwide will be able achieve the very best green results possible.

We understand the importance of evidence and the effect it can have on a person or organisation’s thinking and the strategies they put in place. This is why we take such care with the evidence we publish in our research, such as included in our recent Value of BREEAM to Retail in the UK report.

Through the publication of such research, we hope to give companies across the globe the confidence to invest further in sustainable development and assurance that BREEAM can help them on their journey to a greener way of working.

For more information on BREEAM visit:


By Kerri-Emma Dobson, BREEAM Technical Consultant at BRE
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