Building News is an information portal for all professional building specifiers. Here you can find all of the latest construction news from around the UK and the rest of the world.

New construction activity contracted by 14% during the final quarter of 2015 on a year earlier, according to figures released today (14th January) by industry analysts Glenigan.

The value of new work starting on site fell across the residential, non-residential and civil engineering sectors of the industry. Over 2015 as a whole, starts were down 4%, with both non-residential and civil engineering sectors having declined. This is the first annual decline recorded by Glenigan since 2009, and follows growth of 10% in 2014.

In fact only a handful of sectors saw rises in project starts during 2015. These were the private housing, industrial, education and utilities sectors.

Glenigan’s monthly index of project starts had already fallen into negative territory during the three months to November, but the extreme weather conditions in December have brought a starker pace of decline.

Commenting on this month’s figures, Allan Wilén, Glenigan’s Economics Director, said: “The wettest December on record has added to the industry’s woes. Moreover sites will stay waterlogged for some time, hindering starts in the new year.”

“We expect the upcoming output figures to reveal another quarterly decline in construction activity. The lack of new projects starting in 2015 will cause a New Year hangover for growth in early 2016.”

Glenigan’s data suggests a lack of confidence among the construction industry’s clients. The value of work receiving detailed planning approval* increased by 15% in 2015, but this has failed to translate into workers on site.

Mr. Wilén concluded: “There is a significant pipeline in place to fuel construction growth in 2016. However clients are currently not pressing ahead with planned schemes at the same rate we witnessed during 2014.”

The Midlands and Northern regions of England fared best during 2015. The East Midlands, East of England and North East of England were the only three parts of the UK to record growth over the year, though declines across the other Northern and Midlands regions were modest. In London, Southern England and Scotland the decline in new work has been more stark. The value of starts fell by 11% in the Capital in 2015.

  • Over 38,000 visits in first year
  • 95% users would recommend Hub to rest of industry
  • Mental health, noise and occupational cancer most visited sections

The Best Practice Hub – a free online resource for the industry to share their considerate practice by showcasing examples, innovations and case studies – is proving to be a key resource for the construction world.

Launched by the Considerate Constructors Scheme just 12 months ago, at the request of Scheme registered sites, companies and suppliers, the Hub has already been visited over 38,000 times with over 1100 examples of best practice uploaded.

All data on the Hub is easily searchable using keywords or by filtering through the Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice or Monitors’ Checklist. Users can therefore search the Hub for best practice ideas in the areas of appearance, community, environment, safety and workforce.

To date, the issues of mental health, noise and protection from the sun are the most searched topics. During 2015, the Scheme produced a ‘Spotlight on…mental health’ and ‘Spotlight on…occupational cancers’ to help drive awareness of best practices in these critical areas, both of which have proved highly popular.

The majority of large contractors, a substantial number of SMEs and many suppliers have already submitted numerous examples of best practice, recognising the benefits of collaboration in helping to improve the industry’s image as a whole. Top contributing companies include: Bouygues UK, Jerram Falkus Construction Limited, Kier Group, Mace, Mick George Limited, Skanska, The Berkeley Group Holdings plc and Wates.

Kier Group’s Director of Group Corporate Responsibility Alan Smith said “We are pleased to be one of the top contributors to this brilliant hub. It is in every contractor’s best interest to share their innovative examples for improving the image and reputation of our industry among the public and customers alike. These don’t have to be either major or expensive examples; often the best ideas are the simplest. The best practice examples Kier project teams have loaded into the Hub to date clearly demonstrate the breadth and simplicity of being considerate – from green travel plans and bug hotels to health & well-being toolbox talks and restroom posters.”

Helle Dorrington, an Architect from Berkeley Homes West London commented “The Hub has provided an invaluable tool for our teams to use. We regularly use it to get inspiration and share best practice. There are lots of great ideas about how to work better with local communities, improve safety and look after the wellbeing of staff.”

Considerate Constructors Scheme Chief Executive Edward Hardy said “The industry is recognising how collaboration is fundamental to addressing key issues such as mental health, occupational cancer risks, improving community relations, tackling skills shortages and encouraging innovation. The Best Practice Hub is proving to be an essential way for the construction industry to achieve this greater collaboration and, by doing so, helps continue to raise standards across the industry as a whole”.

An astounding video has emerged on YouTube of a construction worker demonstrating an amazing ability to perform tricks with his hammer reminiscent of Bruce Lee with nunchucks!

The video begins with US construction worker Justin Fiddler throwing the tool around in the air whilst an offscreen commentary says “How’s it going folks, today we are doing a video for a stiletto hammer.”

He then proceeds to carry out an impressive series of tricks by throwing the hammer around in the air, making it spin, balance and even bounce with perfect accuracy and control.

Justin concludes the video with the quip “A well balanced tool, one of the best in the industry.”

Watch the video below:

Scottish transport minister has announced that one of the most important bridges in Scotland in terms of trade traffic will reopen to all vehicles except HGVs from 6am on Wednesday.

The bridge was closed earlier this month after a 20mm crack was found in the steelwork.

This is much earlier than the date of 4th Jan for reopening given last week, which would have been exactly a month after it was closed.

Amey’s Mark Arndt said last week that their engineers were “working around the clock to get the bridge reopened to that timetable,” but suggested that the opening date in January was entirely dependent on weather.

Heavy goods vehicles will not be allowed to use the bridge and will be required to continue to use alternative routes indefinitely.

The transport minister said that interim repair work has now been completed, which has allowed the bridge to be reopened ahead of schedule.

The sheer scale of the chaos and crisis caused by the closure of the Forth Road Bridge has undoubtedly had a negative impact on Scottish Economy, among other problems. Since the closure, the surrounding roads have regularly seen tailbacks of up to 11 miles on diversion routes. Some 70,000 vehicles cross the bridge each week day prior to closing.

The full economic impact on the economy has not yet been assessed, but just a few years ago bridge management estimated the closure of just one carriageway cost the Scottish economy a staggering £650,000 a day.

Young people from across the county have been given an insight into the wide range of career opportunities available in the construction industry.

A Highways England-led team delivering road improvements in the East of England met with teens at the Huntingdonshire Careers Fair, held at Wood Green animal shelter this week.

The event, part sponsored by Highways England, was aimed at 15-16 year olds who are at a critical point in making their career choice.

More than 600 young people attended and met a wide range of Highways England employees and contractors, to learn more about the opportunities and skills involved in developing and constructing road projects of all sizes.

Adam, a local student who attended the fair, said “I am looking into a career path in design or engineering and it was great to see the range of opportunities the A14 scheme offers. I am in my final year of A-Levels and I was particularly interested in the design portfolio and was able to discuss the possibility of gaining work experience with the possibility of an apprenticeship starting in August 2016.”

Barry Andrews, one of the Highways England project managers present at the fair, said “I was delighted to represent Highways England at the Huntingdonshire careers fair. This was a great opportunity to engage with the potential engineers, technical specialists, project managers, team executives and apprentices of tomorrow on behalf of Highways England.”

“I passionately believe that the young people within our community are the future in which we must invest now and I will continue to support such valuable and creditable endeavours.”

Kirstie Dawe, one of Highways England’s apprentices who also supported the event, continued “I am on the Business Administration Apprenticeship at Highways England. For me, going to the careers event at Wood Green was a great opportunity to encourage young people to consider a career at Highways England and make them aware of the variety of career paths available from apprenticeships to graduate schemes.”

Among the team present were also employees from Highways England’s supply chain and representatives from the £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon major project, which is due to start construction next year subject to statutory processes. The scheme is local to Huntingdon and is set to provide many career opportunities in the coming years.

Chris Taylor, Director of Complex Infrastructure at Highways England, who oversees the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon major project, said “Construction is a really dynamic industry to work in and offers a huge range of interesting career opportunities – from contract and commercial management, to archaeology and ecology, as well as the more obvious construction and engineering paths.”

“The Huntingdonshire Careers Fair gave us a great opportunity to meet young people and talk to them about some of the fantastic prospects on offer in their local area and across the country.”

“We are committed to using the local workforce and businesses as much as possible. As well as delivering much needed journey improvements, we hope to leave a lasting legacy by improving skills and employment opportunities in the communities we are working for.”

Transport Minister Lord Ahmad said “Having a skilled workforce is essential if we want to build a strategic road network fit for the future. That is why the government is committed to delivering on its ambition for 30,000 transport apprenticeships by 2020, by investing in our next generation.”

“We welcome this Highways England initiative which demonstrates the wide range of careers options available in transport for high calibre young people.”

The world’s population is ageing rapidly and with profound results. In response to these changes, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched a report exploring the effects of the ageing population on the construction industry and outlined how the sector can adapt to meet some of the challenges.

‘Exploring the impact of the ageing population on the workforce and built environment’ is the second report from the CIOB to study the effects of the ageing population. Six years on from the first study, the research highlights the crucial role the built environment has to play in terms of improving the lives of older people.

In a survey of nearly 1,000 CIOB members, responses indicate that despite legislative changes to improve recognition of the ageing population and combat workplace discrimination, awareness of the ageing population and its influence on the built environment has slumped – when compared with the findings from the CIOB’s first report.

The research finds that the built environment has a crucial role to play in terms of improving the lives of older people through measures designed to enhance the accessibility and liveability of buildings. Retaining ageing workers’ knowledge and skills is also crucial, and the report sends a clear message to policymakers and industry leaders: to be successful, construction needs to see far greater investment and recognition of ageing workers.

With 19% of the construction workforce set to retire in the next five to ten years, the report finds that employers need to overcome stereotypes and repurpose, where necessary, job descriptions to attract and, most importantly, retain older workers. However, the CIOB is clear that this not be considered a substitute for investing in training, and should work hand-in-hand to help alleviate the ongoing skills crisis.

Whilst 57% of respondents acknowledged that it was ‘very important’ to retain ageing workers, this was not reflected in the number of respondents who stated that their workplace had measures such as flexible working, succession planning, mid-life career reviews or retirement planning designed to encourage an extension to longer working lives.

The benefits of mentoring are well documented. However, despite the overwhelming majority of respondents acknowledging this, only 63% confirmed that this measure was a regular feature in the workplace. Respondents pointed towards the difficulties obtaining high-calibre staff to deliver and participate in such schemes. Crucially, the report suggests that more needs to be done to make better use of ageing workers’ expertise and skills, and use this to help upskill younger counterparts.

Bridget Bartlett, Deputy Chief Executive of the CIOB said “The findings from this report indicate that the impact of the ageing population and the role of the ageing workforce have slipped down the agenda.

“However, if construction is to meet the skills crisis it faces and fill the 224,000 vacancies needed by 2019, employers should look to take additional steps to overcome the skills shortages they incur by reaching out to older workers. There is a huge opportunity to showcase to both young and old members of the workforce that construction isn’t all hard hats and hi-vis and that off-site opportunities are aplenty. We demand technical skills as much as manual skills.

“Employers must also recognise the skills of their existing workers and put in measures such as flexible working, career reviews or even retirement planning to encourage longer working lives. As our own research tells us, skills shortages in construction are compounded by those entering the industry not being suitably qualified for the position. We should take this opportunity to use older workers to tap into their skills and knowledge and ensure they are passed onto the next generation.”

A full copy of the research can be accessed from www.ciob.org/population.

Environment Secretary announces work to identify additional flood protection measures in Cumbria.

Work to identify additional flood protection measures for Cumbrian communities affected by extreme weather events like the record rainfall seen last weekend was announced by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss today.

The new Cumbrian Floods Partnership group will consider what improvements to flood defences in the region may be needed, look at upstream options for slowing key rivers to reduce the intensity of water flows at peak times and build stronger links between local residents, community groups and flood defence planning.

The group, who will publish a Cumbria Action Plan next summer, will be chaired by Floods Minister Rory Stewart and made up of local authorities, the Environment Agency and community flood defence groups.

Elizabeth Truss said “After seeing first-hand the impact of the flooding in the north of England it is clear that the growing threat from more extreme weather events means we must reassure ourselves, and those communities at risk, that our defences, our modelling and our future plans are robust.”

The Environment Secretary also announced today a National Flood Resilience Review to better protect the country from future flooding and increasingly extreme weather events.

She outlined how her department would look afresh at how we calculate flood risk, in light of recent events, to be delivered by a new cross Government team. This will see Government updating ‘worst case scenario’ planning, considering the future impacts of climate change and carrying out a risk assessment of critical infrastructure, like electricity substations.

The review, also to be published next summer, will be led by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Letwin and include the Government’s Chief Scientist, Defra, DECC, DCLG, HMT and the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency.

Elizabeth Truss added “We are already spending £2.3 billion over the next six years to better protect 300,000 homes from flooding, but we need to be sure we have the very best possible plans in place for flood prevention and protection across the whole country.”

“We will take prompt action where we identify any gaps in our approach and where our defences and modelling need strengthening.”

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, commented “Our thoughts are with people who have experienced flooding this week. Our teams are on the ground providing support to these communities as part of a multi-agency response, checking and maintaining flood defences, pumping out flood water, clearing blockages in rivers, monitoring water levels and working with local flood wardens in the areas worst affected.”

“Whenever an exceptional event happens it’s important to review what happened and how to prepare for the future. With a £60 million fund to help with recovery in Cumbria, in addition to the £2.3 billion Government have committed to protect homes from floods across the country, we have the resources necessary to manage flood risk in England. The National Flood Resilience Review and the Cumbria Floods Partnership give Government, the Environment Agency and community groups the forums to review and ensure we are directing our resources to protect people most effectively.”

Rory Stewart will also be taking on a special Floods Envoy role across Cumbria and Lancashire coordinating the flood recovery operation across local agencies over the coming months.

To aid recovery efforts in the affected regions, the Chancellor has already announced an additional £51 million to support households and businesses affected by last weekend’s devastating floods in Cumbria and Lancashire. This takes the total support pledged by the Government to over £60 million.

This will be in addition to £2.3 billion of investment over the next six years to build 1,400 new flood defence schemes that will better protect 300,000 more homes.

Seventy-seven projects have been selected to receive £3 million coastal revival funding.

Blackpool’s iconic Winter Gardens is one of 77 projects whose future is looking much brighter thanks to £3 million government funding, Communities Minister Brandon Lewis said today (11 December 2015).

Mr Lewis said the coastal revival funding will help secure these key seaside attractions “for generations to come”.

Ranging from theatres to piers and lidos to lighthouses, the projects will each receive grants of up to £50,000 to kick-start restoration work.

They are also set to attract £30 million in private and public investment and could support up to 1,500 jobs.

Prime Minister David Cameron said “Britain’s coastline is part of what makes us one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Our coastal towns are cherished not just by the people who live within them but by the nation as a whole. The value of our tourism industry also means they are playing a crucial role in the UK’s continuing economic recovery.”

“That’s why I am proud to lead a government which is absolutely committed to supporting and reviving our coastal communities.”

“With a total £3 million pledged for coastal projects today, it is clear we have an optimistic and ambitious approach to Britain’s seaside towns. We are providing a catalyst for further investment and securing treasured community assets for generations to come.”

Communities Minister Brandon Lewis added “From Berwick to St Ives, our coastal communities boast some iconic attractions, with millions visiting them each year.”

“But some of our best-loved buildings are falling into a state of disrepair – the £3 million Coastal Revival Fund aims to restore them to their former glory.”

“This funding will now kick-start the restoration work for these 77 projects across the country, so they can continue to be enjoyed by local people and tourists alike for generations to come.”

Driving regeneration in seaside towns

The government is committed to reviving our seaside towns, so they can diversify their economy, attract investment and secure their long-term future.

Since 2012, over £120 million has been invested in coastal towns through the Coastal Communities Fund, which is helping local people regenerate cherished seaside areas.

Earlier this year, the government announced 118 Coastal Community Teams, to encourage local businesses, councils and voluntary groups to work together to create a long-term strategy for their community.

Today’s £3 million Coastal Revival Fund forms part of these wider efforts, and will help communities to start the work to bring back into use buildings which have suffered years of disrepair.

Projects set to benefit from the funding include:

  • restoring the walls of the Pavilion Theatre, Blackpool within the Grade II* Winter Gardens building
  • plans to revive Grange over sands Lido Renaissance the 1930s derelict Art Deco saltwater lido
  • regenerating Madeira Drive on Brighton seafront
  • plans to regenerate the unique Art Deco saltwater lido in Shoalstone Pool, Brixham so it can become a top class tourist destination
  • plans to restore Tynemouth Outdoor Pool and create a leisure facility on the beach restoring and reopening Paignton picture house – a Grade II listed cinema as an independent community led cinema
  • re-development of the Edwardian bathing facilities east of Tinside Lido including adding new ‘pop-up’ shops in alcoves
  • repairs to Marine Theatre in Lyme Regis to preserve this unique much-loved 19th Century seaside theatre from imminent collapse
  • restoration of the iconic lighthouse in Spurn, Kingston-upon-Hull so it can open to the public
  • the regeneration of Redoubt fortress in Eastbourne including repairs to the moat wall and gun carriage and the creation of a maze for visitors
  • the renovation of Whitby West Pier Lighthouse which will mean it can open for public access
  • conserving 2 of Gravesham’s coastal heritage assets – New Tavern Fort and the remains of the Henry VIII Blockhouse to support it becoming a visitor destination

A powered gate company has been fined £50,000 for corporate manslaughter following the horrific death of a child who was crushed to death outside her Moss Side, Manchester home in 2010, by an unsafe automatic gate. The sentence was passed at Manchester Crown Court on Monday 7th December.

Cheshire Gates and Automation Ltd had admitted corporate manslaughter over the death of six-year-old Semelia Campbell at an earlier court hearing and heard she had become caught between the heavy sliding gate and a wall outside her home. The moving gate had failed to detect her presence and she became trapped. She was crushed to death despite frantic attempts by her family to free her, the court heard.

In a statement released immediately following the court hearing, the Door & Hardware Federation, which represents the powered gate industry, explained that, tragically, this is not an isolated case.

Neil Sampson, chairman of the DHF Powered Gate Group said: “In the past ten years, there have been seven deaths in the UK and Ireland, at least nine serious injuries and countless near misses caused by dangerous powered gates. Shockingly, it is estimated that 70% of the 500,000 automated gates in service in the UK are unsafe to use.

“In this heart-breaking case, the court was told that when the gate had been originally installed it had been left in a completely unsafe and lethal state. Semelia’s death is a bleak reminder of the dangerous consequences if a powered gate is incorrectly specified, installed or inadequately maintained. The company did not even know how to set the gate up to a safe standard!

“As an industry we are determined to ensure that tragedies like this can NEVER happen again and in the five years since this appalling incident, we have made giant strides forward in raising awareness amongst all those responsible for powered gates regarding safety legislation and providing comprehensive advice and guidance. In the last two years alone, the DHF has trained more than 600 individuals on its two-day comprehensive Safety Assured training course. Owners and managers of any automated entrance systems need to be aware that the safety of their site is their responsibility.”

To gain comprehensive advice on powered gate safety, or to obtain a full list of DHF Safety Assured member companies visit www.dhfonline.org.uk.

In addition, the DHF is presently running a petition to raise awareness of the responsibilities of owners of powered gates visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/109917.

18 countries and over 60 organizations launch an unprecedented global alliance for buildings and construction to combat climate change.

Ministers from Cameroon, Finland, France, Morocco, Senegal and Sweden, international organizations, multinational CEOs and civil society leaders launch the alliance to speed up and scale up the potential of the sector for climate action.

18 countries (Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America), and over 60 organizations on Thursday launched an unprecedented Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to speed up and scale up the sector¹s huge potential to reduce its emissions and literally build greater climate resilience into future cities and infrastructure.

The Alliance, which gathers organizations from countries to cities, NGOs, public and private organizations, networks of professionals, of cities, of companies as well as financing institutions, announced the initiative at the Lima to Paris Action Agenda Focus on Buildings, in Paris. Among other members, the International Union of Architects (UIA) now represents, through national architecture organizations, close to 1,3 million architects worldwide; the World Green Building Council (WGBC) represents 27000 companies involved in green buildings business worldwide; the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) represents 180000 building surveyors globally; the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) represents the construction sector employers through 33 national federations in 29 countries.

The buildings and construction sector is responsible for 30 per cent of global CO2 emissions but it also has the potential to avoid about 3.2GtCO2 by 2050 through mainstreaming today’s available state-of-the-art policies and technologies. Reducing energy demand in the building sector is one of the most cost-effective strategies for achieving significant greenhouse gas reductions.

Real estate represents about 50% of global wealth. Creating this transformation requires investing around an additional US$220 billion by 2020 ­ an almost 50% increase on 2014 investment in energy efficient buildings ­ but less than 4% of the current total global annual investment in construction activity ($8.5 trillion/yr). Returns on this investment could be as high as 124% if investments in ambitious policy and technology actions are being made now.

As of today, 91 countries have included elements of commitments, national programs, or projects and plans relating to buildings in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), the declarations by countries of what they are prepared to commit to.

With support and greater awareness, many more may realize the potential for the building sector to contribute to realizing national targets. Yet, the building sector is very local and needs to align many different actors, which is a primary objective of the new alliance.

As cities keep on growing until more than 70% of the global population will call urban areas home, it becomes crucial for the sector to reduce its emissions and literally build in greater resilience against climate change.

Action will include:

  • minimizing energy demand
  • greening the construction value chain
  • integrating renewables through district energy
  • implementing integrated building design and urban planning
  • engaging financing institutions.