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The skill shortage in the construction industry is well documented, but schemes are being introduced to change the perception of the industry, here we report on one of those schemes.
A new north-east scheme aims to showcase construction as a buoyant, exciting and potentially lucrative sector to work in.
The Build Your Future schools challenge is aimed at S2 secondary school pupils as they decide which subjects to take in third and fourth year.
Every secondary in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire will be invited to submit a team of 10 pupils, meaning there could be as many as 300.
It is being organised by Grampian Construction Training (GCT) and Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), with several key partners.
The scheme is part of a series of challenges designed to inspire young people to consider careers in the sector as well as tackling skills shortages.
GCT, CITB and the other project partners previously launched their Bridge Building construction challenge for primary school pupils.
The latest event involves initial half-day heats, which will take place in October and November at different locations, building towards a one-day final in January.
Several schools have already confirmed they will take part.
Aberdeen Association of Construction Professionals chairwoman Michelle Forth said: “For several years now, different groups have been working on a range of projects to engage with pupils at an early stage.
“Our hope is that this challenge offers one platform for each of these groups to come together.
“This will in turn allow us to demonstrate the diverse and exciting range of career opportunities available within construction.
“It can also familiarise students with different learning and working environments.”
Source: The Press and Journal
by Steve Hanley
The North Sea Wind Power Hub program — a consortium consisting of European energy companies TenneT, Energinet, and Gasunie together with the Port of Rotterdam — is seen as a way for the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Norway, Germany, and Denmark to meet their goals for decarbonizing their economies as agreed to in the Paris climate accords in 2015. After extensive studies and in consultation with all appropriate government stakeholders, NSWPH has announced that its plan for up to 10 offshore wind energy hubs is technically feasible
The consortium says its goal is to “generate energy from renewable sources while simultaneously realizing the same at the lowest possible environmental impact and cost.”
“In the future (after 2030), once large, far-offshore wind regions have been defined for development, it will be possible to develop several hubs that will act as central platforms for supporting the infrastructure required to transport the energy, e.g. for converting electricity into gas (including and in particular green hydrogen) instead of using the offshore converter platforms commonly used at the moment.
“The relevant wind power capacities in question range from 70 to 150 gigawatts by the year 2040 and up to 180 gigawatts by 2045 in the North Sea and are intended to be developed using a modular, gradual approach. Depending on the scope of the development, the NSWPH could lay the foundation for supplying hundreds of millions of Europeans with green energy.”
According to an article by Marine Executive, the three types of foundations that could be used for the hubs are:
While island-based foundations can reduce investment costs and enable larger scale interconnection hubs at lower costs, the smaller platforms can reduce environmental impact, planning risk, and construction timelines.
Getting Power To The Shore
The first hub and spoke project will likely be connected to the shore using undersea cables, but for larger hubs located further offshore in deeper water may use the electricity generated to create hydrogen gas which would then be shipped ashore.
For any given hub size, the total investment costs for the transmission assets were found to be similar for all-electric, all-hydrogen, and combined electricity and hydrogen configurations. Also, the spatial requirements are similar for the different configurations.
The fact that the plan is feasible does not guarantee it will become a reality, of course. But it does mean energy companies in Europe are thinking in terms of lowering carbon emissions in the electrical sector, a vital part of meeting the objectives of the Paris climate accords.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit could result in soaring material prices and lower workloads and enquiries, according to the latest research from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
When asked about the impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit: Key results from the research include:
When asked how best the new PM could prevent an economic downturn later this year, the top five interventions cited by construction SMEs were the following:
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said “As the Conservative leadership contest rumbles on, construction SMEs are worried about the potential impact of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, which would have immediate and potentially disastrous consequences for the construction industry. Material prices are the biggest cause for concern – widely-used building materials such as timber are largely imported and any disruption to that would lead to soaring prices and delays to construction projects. More broadly, a significant proportion of construction SMEs think that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would result in lower workloads and enquiries as confidence in the economy might wobble as people abandon plans for new projects until the UK is on a steadier footing.”
“However, the next PM has it in his gift to guard against any potential economic downturn by stimulating activity in construction and house building as soon as he gets the keys to No.10. Construction SMEs believe that the best way to do this would be to slash VAT on housing, renovation and repair work from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, which would help tempt homeowners to finally commission the home improvement projects they’ve been putting off due to Brexit-related uncertainty. This would give a much-needed boost to the construction sector and the wider economy. The next PM should also make more money available to SME house builders through government funding schemes and stimulate apprenticeship training through fundamental reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy. Once elected, the new PM has a responsibility to steady the economy. There’s no better way to do that than investing in construction and house building, which would boost economy.”
Two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, Shelter is warning the government must listen to the third of families with children in social housing who feel less safe in their homes and take urgent action to prevent further tragedies.
The government is proposing a new building safety regulator, but the housing charity fears this will not go far enough to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all tenants is protected. That is why Shelter is standing with Grenfell United to call on the government to introduce a tough, new consumer regulator that protects tenants and proactively inspects social landlords.
New figures released by Shelter show that over half (56%) of social renters in England – five million people – have experienced a problem with their home in the last three years, including electrical hazards, gas leaks and faulty lifts. Among those who had a problem, one in 10 had to report it more than 10 times, suggesting tenants are still being failed by poor regulation.
Worryingly, the survey carried out by YouGov shows that over the same period more than 400,000 people encountered an issue with fire safety, which also affected their neighbours in over two-fifths of cases.
Shelter is concerned that the current regulator of social housing exists mainly to oversee finances and is not exclusively focussed on addressing the concerns of residents or tackling problem landlords head-on. In fact, almost three-quarters (72%) of social tenants in England have never heard of the current regulator.
The research also reveals a deep mistrust in the government since the Grenfell Tower fire, with half saying they have less trust in the government to keep social tenants safe in their homes. Another third says the government’s response has made no difference. This is why Shelter and Grenfell United believe that only a new consumer regulator can protect tenants and rebuild trust.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said “Social tenants living in Grenfell Tower raised serious safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Two years on, social renters are still being failed by poor regulation and people are still fighting to be heard.
“In the wake of food scandals and financial scandals, the government responded with new regulators to protect consumers, and that’s exactly what we need for social housing. It cannot be right that scores of complaints and problems that affect whole blocks of flats, like faulty lifts or gas leaks, go unheard. We need a new regulator that’s firmly on the side of tenants.
“Tinkering with the current system just isn’t good enough when people have lost trust in it to keep them safe. That’s why we stand with Grenfell United in calling on the government to establish a new consumer regulator, which inspects social landlords and listens to groups of tenants when they say something isn’t right.”
Natasha Elcock, Chair of Grenfell United, the bereaved families and survivors’ group added “People were raising the alarm about fire safety in Grenfell before the fire, but they were ignored and belittled. The current housing regulator did nothing for us, it was entirely invisible. And two years later, despite all the promises, we still hear from people across the country who are not being listened to about their homes.
“If we want to stop another Grenfell fire, we need serious change – change that will genuinely make a difference to people living in social housing. We need a new system, not a rebrand of the current one. The government introduced a new regime for the banking industry after the financial crash, it should be doing the same for the housing sector. After all, what could be more important than people’s homes.”
New research from the National Housing Federation reveals that the Government must invest £12.8bn a year to finally end the housing crisis in England.
Over ten years, this investment would kick start a nationwide housebuilding programme of around 1.45 million social homes to rent and shared ownership properties to buy across the country. It would stimulate the economy and help more buyers to get on the housing ladder, all while ensuring that millions of people no longer get stuck in inappropriate homes or on the streets.
Now, a coalition of leading housing groups and charities is calling for the Government to make this significant investment in ending the housing crisis. This includes the National Housing Federation – which represents social landlords to six million people – Shelter, Crisis, CPRE, and the Chartered Institute of Housing.
By investing £12.8bn per year, in today’s prices, they argue that the Government would take spending levels back to those last seen under Churchill’s government in the early 1950s, when enough homes were being built to meet the country’s needs.
The coalition argues that a stimulus from the Government is the only way to solve the housing crisis, since the private market alone cannot build the quantities or types of homes the country needs.
Over the course of ten years, this Government investment would amount to £146bn, including inflation. This would cover about 44% of the total cost of this construction boom, unlocking the rest of the money which can then be raised from other sources.
The research also finds that investing in new homes would add £120bn to the economy each year, through the creation of local jobs in construction and other industries across the country. Effectively, every pound spent by the Government would generate at least £5, boosting the economy in a balanced and sustainable way.
It would also reduce the Government’s benefit bill over the course of the decade. Last year, the Government paid £22.3bn in housing benefit, a significant amount of which went into the pockets of private landlords to help cover rent for millions of low-income tenants. By moving many of these tenants into social housing, the Government would need to spend less on housing benefit over time, and so could save taxpayers tens of millions of pounds every year. This would also allow more people to build a solid foundation for their lives in social housing, aiding social mobility.
This new financial modelling is based on research, conducted by Heriot Watt University for the National Housing Federation and the homelessness charity Crisis, which showed that England needs to build 145,000 social homes every year for the next decade to both clear the current backlog of people who need a home and meet future demand.
Last year the Government spent £1.27bn on affordable housing, making housing one of the smallest government budgets, down 70% on 2010 levels. As a result, far fewer social rented homes are being built. In 2017/18, just 5,400 were built, compared to almost 36,000 in 2010/11 before funding was cut.
The chronic under-investment in housing has led to a 169% increase in rough sleeping, while the number of households in temporary accommodation is at a 10-year high. What’s more, 1.3 million children are currently living in poverty in expensive privately rented accommodation, while many young people are stuck at home with their parents, unable to build an independent life and start families of their own.
Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, said “The housing crisis is an economic, social and human catastrophe. But it can be solved. And now, for the first time, we know exactly how much it will cost. By investing £12.8bn in affordable housing every year for the next decade, the Government can ensure millions of people have a stable and affordable place to live, at the same time as strengthening the economy across the country.
“By investing this money in affordable housing at the upcoming spending review, the Government can help families all across the country to flourish. They can help children get out of poverty, give young voters a foot up on the housing ladder and help out private renters who have to empty their bank account every month.
“As well as being the right thing to do, investing to end the housing crisis also carries huge economic benefits. It will advance the country’s productivity, boost its economic growth and lower the benefit bill over time.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, added “The steep decline in social housing is at the core of the housing emergency that now effects so many. Social homes are what this country wants and what it needs – they are the best solution to the problems we face and an opportunity to unite the country.
“Successive governments have failed to build social housing – while homelessness spirals and half of young people will never be able to buy. Now is the time to act for the millions of people trapped in housing poverty, and invest real resources where it matters most.
“Charting a course to build a new generation of social homes must be a key test for whoever walks through the doors of Number 10. The race to eradicate homelessness and provide millions with a stable home, is a race that every politician should be trying to win.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, concluded “Right now, thousands of people across England are finding themselves on the brink of homelessness or are already experiencing it, in large part because of our huge shortage of social housing.
“The good news is we know it doesn’t have to be this way – and we know why this situation must change urgently. Homelessness has devastating effects on people’s mental and physical wellbeing that no one should have to experience. This can’t go on.
“Ultimately Government must invest in the number of social homes we need. Not only will this save the country millions of pounds in the long term, it will help us end homelessness once and for all – something we can’t afford to put off any longer.”
The Government needs to do more to remove the barriers to small to medium-sized (SME) house builders if its housing targets are to be met, according to industry experts the Federation of Master Builders, in response to the House of Commons Public Accounts Select Committee report, ‘Planning and the broken housing market’.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, (FMB) said “SME house builders are continuing to face numerous barriers to increasing their capacity to build the homes that are needed. The recommendations in the Public Accounts Committee’s report highlight that the planning system is delaying progress. It is completely unacceptable that sites are being stalled because planning departments are not dealing with applications quickly enough. Our members aren’t seeing any improvements in service since fees were increased in January last year – a policy the FMB supported.”
“The report finds that, as of December last year, only 42 per cent of local authorities had an up-to-date local plan which is truly disappointing. By allocating small sites for housing delivery in their local plan, local authorities will be reducing the burden of uncertainty for the nation’s small house builders, and therefore speeding up housing supply through better diversifying the sector. Furthermore, we must not forget the highly positive impact that these local businesses have on their areas, offering employment and training opportunities to local people.”
“Access to finance for SME house builders has undoubtedly improved over the last few years but the loan to cost ratio from most lenders is simply unviable for SMEs – especially the micro firms, building fewer than five units a year. The FMB House Builders’ Survey 2018 found respondents estimated that they could increase their out by 38 per cent if they could achieve a loan to value/cost ratio of 80 per cent. Government must work with the finance sector to understand how lending to small house builders can be increased and improved. The time is now for the Government to heed the warnings of the Public Accounts Committee.”
Two thirds (66%) of people aged 60 or over have never considered downsizing their property, according to a recent survey by BLP Insurance, a specialist residential warranty and commercial latent defects insurer.
Those from the West Midlands (82%) and London (71%) were the most resistant to the idea of downsizing, while respondents from Yorkshire and Humberside (45%) and the North East (44%) were the most open to such a shift in their living arrangements.
The main drawbacks identified by those surveyed to downsizing were the upheaval or stress of moving (45%) and reduced living space (35%), while loss of familiarity (30%), such as reliable neighbours, and the sentimental impact of leaving the family home also ranked highly (28%).
Unsurprisingly, the top two motivating factors for downsizing among people aged 60 or over were related to property size; the burden of maintaining a larger house and garden (43%) and that their current property is too large for their needs (32%). Other factors included a reduction of day-to-day living expenses (29%). The death of a spouse or partner was surprisingly only a reason to move to a smaller property for less than a fifth of people (19%).
The survey also revealed perceptions of those aged 60 or more to moving to purposely built retirement villages. Nearly half of those surveyed were worried about the cost (46%), a further 44% expressed reservations about hidden fees and a quarter (25%) saw complex contracts as a major pain point.
Phil Harris, Director at BLP Insurance, said “It is of critical importance that we incentivise older people living in large, former family homes to downsize. We are in the midst of a much publicised housing crisis and must seek solutions to free up properties to meet people’s needs.
“Constructing an adequate stock of purposely-built homes for last time buyers is the first step. This will free up housing stock for first and second time buyers, provide extra financial reassurance to those downsizing, while injecting much needed impetus into the whole market. Moving home, especially in elder years, can be an arduous and emotional experience. It is clear that the housing industry needs to do more to make the process of downsizing as seamless, stress-free and transparent as possible.”
Sparkies, chippies and painters might not be the first trades that come to mind when you think about the preservation of Britain’s historic buildings, but according research from the UK’s leading insurer of Grade I listed buildings, Ecclesiastical they are the most important.
Chippies (61%), painters (60%), roofers (58%) and plasterers (53%) were also seen as key trades while more traditional heritage skills such as stonemasonry, thatching and ironmongery were felt to be the most at risk.
According to the survey, 90% of heritage property owners believe that investing in skills is crucial for the future of Britain’s heritage with one in three property owners saying that they found it difficult to source skilled tradespeople to work on their properties. Almost half said they are concerned about increasing costs of hiring them.
Faith Parish, heritage director for Ecclesiastical commented “Many historic properties are having to find new income streams to help cover the costs associated with running and maintaining these properties. We have seen an increase in new activities such as exhibitions, festivals and coffee shops or restaurants, and these kinds of activities often require additional power sources or the installation of new equipment, so it’s not too surprising to see electricians at the top of the list.”
“Research from Historic England’s Heritage Counts showed a decade long decline in students signing up for heritage related construction courses and, with an estimated 10% of those currently working in the UK construction industry coming from Europe, the situation could worsen post Brexit.” Faith added.
The concern was reflected in Ecclesiastical’s own research which showed that, amongst heritage property owners, 42% were worried about the current shortage of skills in the UK, while 52% were concerned about the longer term impact and availability of skilled tradesmen in ten years’ time.
Property owners are so concerned that they are willing to actively support a campaign to invest in skills, in fact more than half (55%) would willingly make their property available for the training of skilled people and nearly two-third (59%) would help create opportunities for apprentices to work at their properties.
“When it comes to heritage properties regular maintenance is incredibly important, a small issue can cause immense damage if left unchecked. Leaking pipes can lead to whole ceilings collapsing, blocked guttering can cause water to seep in to the building and outdated or faulty wiring can be a fire risk.” Faith explained.
However, it’s not just the history and beauty of these buildings that needs preserving. According to Historic England’s Heritage Counts 2017 report the heritage sector employs 278,000 people and contributes £16.4 billion to the UK economy through domestic and international tourism plus a further £9.6 billion via the construction industry by means of repair and maintenance bills.
“Many historic properties have a long term maintenance schedule that stretches over many years, so jobs that are being done today will need to be redone in ten or twenty years’ time to preserve the integrity of the building. A shortfall in the supply of skilled tradespeople to implement this schedule could leave some properties vulnerable. It is therefore crucial that we invest in skills now to ensure that there are enough skilled tradespeople in the future to continue to care for these buildings.”
Whether you love or loath IKEA, there is no denying the thrill of picking out furniture and seeing it in your home on the same day. More and more house builders are now taking a leaf out of Ikea’s book with housing estates being constructed using modular build practices. Editor of buildingspecifier.com and MMC Magazine, Joe Bradbury hears the top three benefits of modular builds according to premium coil coated aluminium supplier Euromax:
While modular builds won’t mean new housing estates springing up in a matter of hours, it will considerably reduce the wait. However, that is just one of the benefits of a pre-fabricated approach, as Nick Cowley, managing director of uPVC windows and doors expert, Euramax, explains.
The flatpack phenomenon is still changing the way we live and work. In the last three decades, machinery and technology developments have meant that bigger, stronger and more efficient modular structures, including schools, business parks and medical facilities, are being built across the globe.
Modular buildings and homes are prefabricated away from the final building site in sections, or modules. These are then delivered to the intended site where installation occurs.
As modular buildings are able to be constructed in highly controlled environments, it means that the build process can be completed up to 50 per cent faster than by using traditional construction methods.
This ability to be built and installed quicker, means that the return on investment (ROI) is potentially far greater than traditional building projects, as the construction phase is significantly shortened.
The overall cost of the build can be reduced by up to 30 per cent by using modular practices. Shorter build time saves money on reduced labour costs and on-site equipment hire costs.
The overall cost of construction materials will also be reduced as it means that the pre-fabricator can buy materials required in larger quantities for multiple projects, rather than just on an ad-hoc basis. These materials will all be delivered to one location, rather than multiple construction sites, so transportation and delivery costs are lower too.
Modular construction also means that any installed elements, like windows and doors, or practical elements such as kitchens or light fixtures, can be delivered and installed all at once. Expert suppliers, like uPVC window and door manufacturer, Euramax, can deliver equipment and materials either to the pre-fabrication facility, or directly on site.
The process of constructing a modular build off site means that any errors or issues with construction can be eliminated before arriving on site. This means that staff are less likely to need to spend large amounts of time and effort fixing things once installation is complete.
Modular builds open up huge potential in terms of design aesthetic and innovation. Traditional building designs are often restricted by the amount of space and planning regulations of how much work can be done to the local area and land. However, modular builds can be designed to a set of specifications that adapt to any restrictions that may be in place.
As each modular build is tailored to the individual users needs, the construction can be designed and made to the exact space, budget and design requirements. Modular buildings are also commonly constructed out of more durable and environmentally sustainable materials, making the properties a better investment for both the construction company and the buyer.
So, while the cheap and cheerful, cookie-cutter style furniture you buy and build from IKEA can be cost effective and an instantaneous moment of gratification, modular builds open up a much wider range of opportunity to reduce costs, speed up projects and create a unique look.
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