In today’s news, we are looking unto the United Kingdom and Europe have joined forces to start the construction of the largest European Solar Telescope ever. Meanwhile, workers in the energy construction industry in the United Kingdom have received a 17% pay raise. Furthermore, as an additional point of interest, the number of construction enterprises that are in serious difficulties has increased by a third. Moreover, investing in real estate debt can also help increase construction and solve problems related to planning.
Construction of Biggest European Solar Telescope by UK and Europe
The University of Sheffield announced its support for the construction of Europe’s largest solar telescope, which will provide unique insight into space weather.
The 2008-launched European Solar Telescope (EST) project seeks to understand solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These events dictate ‘space weather’, which can cause geomagnetic storms (the northern lights) and affect our technological culture.
Sheffield University, leader of UKUC, signed the EST’s Canary Foundation deed in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, today. The deal commits six UK universities—Aberystwyth, Belfast, Durham, Exeter, and Glasgow—and six European countries to building the telescope at Spain’s world-famous El Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma.
UKUC project primary investigator is Sheffield University School of Mathematics and Statistics Professor Robertus von Fay-Siebenburgen. He said: “It’s great that so many UK partners have joined the EST Canary Foundation today. The EST will be Europe’s largest ground-based solar telescope and keep its European partners at the forefront of solar physics research.
“This unmatched research infrastructure will give European astronomers and plasma-astrophysicists a unique tool for observing the Sun and its space weather, paving the way for scientific advances in some of the world’s biggest and most pressing issues, such as green fusion energy.
“For the first time, we can examine the physical processes in the solar chromosphere in depth, which will help us understand plasma heating mechanisms. Discovering how nature achieves it will help us reproduce it for humans.”
The EST aims to better comprehend the Sun by examining its magnetic fields in unprecedented detail. Once operational, it will show signals concealed in noise and possible small magnetic structures.
The optical arrangement and instrumentation of EST have been carefully constructed to explore the magnetic and dynamic coupling of the solar atmosphere and capture interactions between its atmospheric layers.
Installing a complete set of sensors will allow simultaneous observations across several wavelengths. This unique capacity will make the EST more efficient than ground-based or space-borne telescopes.
Sheffield University will create the project’s ability to process the telescope’s massive data. It generates a petabyte of data per day, enough to hold 220,000 DVDs. Sheffield will manage and analyze some of this data, something few scientific projects worldwide can do. This requires new capacities for large-scale research.
European Commission Horizon 2020-funded telescope preliminary design is complete. The EST is scheduled to open in 2028–2029 after six years of construction.
The creation of the EST Foundation today is a major step toward project construction. The Foundation aims to establish a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) with national ministries from partner nations. The EST ERIC will legally manage the building and operation of this vast research infrastructure.
Glasgow University School of Physics and Astronomy Professor Lyndsay Fletcher helped define telescope specs. She said: “The University of Glasgow has a long history of world-leading solar physics research, and I welcome our investment in this exciting new facility.
The telescope’s novel design optimises it for studying the Sun’s magnetic field, which governs solar flares and prominences, which greatly benefits our research. Novel instrumentation recording the Sun’s structure and dynamics with four times the spatial detail of any European solar telescope will improve our understanding of intense events on our nearest star.
Professor Andrew Hillier of Exeter’s Mathematics and Statistics Department. According to him, Exeter solar research concentrates on theoretical aspects of fluid-magnetic field interaction. Participating in EST investing allows us to test our ideas in an exciting way. Our research ranges from prominence eruptions to energy transmission and dissipation to understand how mass and energy are moved in the solar environment. EST’s design allows us to examine very small spatial scales, providing important insights to explain transport and dissipation processes, while recording larger processes in great detail to understand them.
Aberystwyth University Head of Solar System Physics Professor Huw Morgan said: “We are proud to join the UK consortium for the European Solar Telescope. This continues our long tradition of participating in multinational missions and facilities to study the solar system. Our researchers have made important Sun discoveries using ground-based solar telescope data in recent years. Thus, we are thrilled to join the European network of organizations pushing for this new facility’s construction.”
Avoided Strike: UK Energy Construction Workers Get 17% Pay Raise
Original Source: Strike Averted: UK Energy Construction Workers Secure 17% Pay Raise
Professional construction workers celebrate after GMB Union negotiates a big salary raise.
After thousands of experienced construction workers in the UK unanimously accepted a substantial salary offer, a potentially crippling strike at energy sites nationwide was put off.
The GMB Union, representing these loyal workers, announced the successful conclusion on January 19, 2024, ending weeks of anxiety and uncertainty.
Over 3,000 workers at Stanlow, Fawley, Valero, Grangemouth, Mossmorran Oil Refineries, and Sellafield Nuclear Facility had voted for strike action to improve their pay.
Today’s historic announcement saw these workers accept a salary contract that was a major victory for them. The two-year pact raises salary by over 17%.
The National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry (NAECI) will enhance wages by 11.3% in 2024. Another 5.5% gain is expected in 2025. The arrangement also improves sick pay and other perks, giving these loyal workers financial security.
GMB National Officer Charlotte Brumpton-Childs was pleased, “These skilled workers have fought valiantly for the pay rise they so richly deserve. They gathered in unity and obtained this astonishing deal despite rising prices and pay losses. Their unflinching dedication to their cause should be admired.”
A Third More Construction Firms Are in Trouble
In the previous three months, 33% more UK construction enterprises have entered significant financial difficulties.
According to the latest Begbies Traynor Red Flag Alert report on corporate health, 7,849 construction companies are in ‘critical’ financial difficulties, up from 5,919 three months earlier.
The number of construction enterprises in ‘significant’ financial difficulties has increased 15% from 72,257 three months ago to 83,332 today.
Accountancy firm Begbies Traynor again ranks construction as the most distressed sector, followed by support services and real estate & property services.
Real estate & property services had a 25% increase in ‘critical’ financial difficulty, from 4,994 to 6,228, and a 21% increase in ‘significant’ distress, from 51,240 to 62,176.
The survey estimates more than 47,000 UK businesses open 2024 on the brink of failure, up 26% from the previous quarter. The fourth quarter of 2023 had the second consecutive critical distress increase of this size.
Begbies Traynor partner Julie Palmer said: “After a difficult year for British businesses with high interest rates, rampant inflation, weak consumer confidence, and rising and unpredictable input costs, we are now seeing this perfect storm impacting every corner of the economy.
“Now that cheap money is gone, hundreds of thousands of UK businesses that took out affordable debt during those halcyon days are facing the added financial burden.
For some, a better-than-expected Christmas may delay these concerns, but the rapid rise in serious financial hardship points to an economy waking up to the danger of debt-laden enterprises in a rising rate environment.
As we observed in the previous quarter, enterprises are under pressure beyond consumer-facing businesses, with over 15,000 businesses in construction and real estate at high risk of failure.
“Sadly, the debt storm that has been brewing for years looks like it is breaking across the country, threatening the survival of tens of thousands of British businesses who should be optimistic about 2024.”
Executive chairman Ric Traynor said: “As we start the new year, the UK economy is in a difficult position after a challenging 12 months for British businesses when they faced unrelenting macro-economic pressures that made business leaders’ lives difficult.
As a result, UK insolvency rates are rising, and our empirical evidence suggests they will accelerate in 2024 as the environment takes its toll on firms.
Companies may receive some relief later this year when inflation falls and interest rates fall.
Unfortunately, there is no easy remedy, and with geopolitical instability rising and a national wage boost coming, the background is scarcely encouraging for an economy still recovering from the pandemic.
I worry soldiering on in this atmosphere will be one step too far for many businesses, and I expect thousands of debt-laden businesses to fail this year.”
Real Estate Debt Investing Improves Planning and Construction
Boutique real estate finance company ASK Partners, led by CEO and co-founder Daniel Austin, offers flexible lending options across the capital structure.
Whilst buy-to-let investors profit from double-digit rent rises across the UK, higher interest rates and taxes will likely drive many private investors out of the sector. Many open and closed-ended property funds have closed due to liquidity mismatches. This will make real estate debt investing more appealing, allowing investors to diversify their portfolios and buy and sell investments as needed.
Which sectors will lenders back?
Despite increased borrowing costs, the UK’s housing infrastructure crisis will maintain house values. Widespread predictions of a major slump in residential prices linked to higher borrowing rates seem to have been overstated, and with many private investors exiting the market, we will see a further reduction in rental stock, which will fuel residential rent rises, currently running at 12% year-on-year. Build to Rent (BTR), Private Rented (PRS), Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), and Co-Living spaces still have possibility and liquidity due to rising demand that build rates can’t match.
We can help developers in those areas with flexible lending conditions including no interest coverage ratio, which has been a barrier for those with constructed stock wishing to leave or refinance.
The city’s economic strength and allure to international and rich UK purchasers should protect the prime London market from price decreases, but political uncertainty in an election year and increasing taxes will impact on prices.
Life sciences should also see more investment. The UK sector is still young, but ageing demographics, growing healthcare spending, robotics and AI developments, and an R&D revolution that is driving lab space demand from small start-ups rather than large pharma are extending its appeal.
Quality and location will trump sector.
Low interest rates promoted property investment for cash yield. We believe knowing the sector and supporting high-quality plans in the correct place is more important. Location and quality now matter more than loan yield or cost, and sponsors need long-term capital to survive the cycle. Opportunistic acquisitions for prime locations will occur when prices fall.
ASK has a pipeline of loans closing in Q1 2024 across multiple sectors. We predict more residential opportunities than others, but offices, retail, logistics, and leisure have great chances as market demands evolve and those who can meet them will have a legitimate offering.
2024 presents problems and chances
While the Autumn election may slow development, productivity should rise and interest rates decrease. The expectation is that any new government can address local planning difficulties to stimulate construction and help us recover from the downturn. Labour’s ambitious social housing plans may assist.
As a debt provider, we will back top sites in top locations with well-capitalized sponsors who know their product. With this formula, we can assist developers’ goals by being flexible in our underwriting and continue to offer opportunities to the growing number of private investors in property loans.
Summary of today’s construction news
Overall, we discussed about the move that will shed new light on space weather, the University of Sheffield has pledged its assistance for the building of the biggest solar telescope in Europe.
The goal of the European Solar Telescope (EST) project, which began in 2008, is to learn more about solar flares and CMEs. These phenomena determine what is known as “space weather,” which impacts our technological civilization and can trigger geomagnetic storms, which are often known as the northern lights. At the same time, professional construction workers are jubilant following GMB Union’s successful negotiation of a substantial wage increase. A nationwide walkout at energy projects was averted as hundreds of experienced UK construction workers accepted a large salary offer in unison. Along with that, 33 percent more UK construction businesses have experienced serious financial problems in the past three months.
The number of construction companies experiencing ‘serious’ financial issues has increased from 5,919 three months ago to 7,849 according to the most recent Begbies Traynor Red Flag Alert report on corporate health. On top of this, under the leadership of CEO and co-founder Daniel Austin, the boutique real estate financing firm ASK Partners provides adaptable loan solutions throughout the capital structure. Many private investors would undoubtedly leave the buy-to-let business due to increasing interest rates and taxes, even though they profit from double-digit rent growth across the UK. Because of insufficient capital, several real estate funds, both open and closed-ended, have gone out of business. Real estate debt investing will become more attractive as a result, giving investors more flexibility to acquire and sell investments as needed and diversify their portfolios.