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The North West residential sector saw a significant boost in the number of new build properties commissioned in Q3 this year, leading all regions with 5,275 units.

According to the latest Market Insight report from construction data experts Barbour ABI, £621 million pounds worth of property development was commissioned in Q3, with £608 million from the private sector. This is a significant figure that will likely provide a boost in confidence across the industry and region, as investors are giving the go-ahead to a significant amount of residential projects.

Greater Manchester had the leading amount of residential investment in Q3 within the North West, with major projects commissioned including two city centre £40 million projects, the New Union Street and Axis Tower developments, constructing 302 & 172 apartments respectively.

Six of the top ten largest residential projects commissioned in the region in Q3 were private developments for flats, which has been a major area of residential growth within the region.

Commenting on the figures, Michael Dall, Lead Economist at Barbour ABI, said “With a lack of housing across the North West heavily publicised, it’s welcoming news that the region leads the UK for new build units in Q3.”

“With the mismatch between housing supply and demand, property prices have continued to rise at a significant pace in the region. Home movers, investors and housebuilders will welcome the news, as major residential investment has been poured into the North West in the last quarter, which will hopefully help to alleviate the housing shortage.”

“If there’s one concern coming from these latest figures it is from a social housing perspective. Only ten of the 87 projects came from the public sector in Q3, however it’s likely that affordable housing will be provided within many of the up-coming private residential developments.”

News that we are experiencing strong growth in constructing has been brought into disrepute by new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Markit/Cips Purchasing Managers’ Index for construction that was released last month clearly indicated a reassuring reading of 58.8; 50 being the point which separates expansion from contraction. Whilst down from 59.9 recorded in the previous month, the report still highlighted strong growth in construction, an industry that is accountable for around 6% of the UK’s GDP.

However, the latest GDP estimate made by the Office for National Statistics revealed quite the opposite to that being reported by Market/Cips, suggesting that construction output actually reduced by 2.2% in the three months to September.

So which report is right!?

Chief UK and European Economist for IHS Global Insight, Howard Archer commented the clear contradictions between the reports raised “considerable doubts” about the overall accuracy of the official construction data given by the ONS. He pointed out that other data compiled by Bank of England regional agents on construction also pointed towards growth within the sector, rather than reduction.

Vice President and Senior Economist of Markit, Tim Moore reaffirmed their own results, saying “The sector remains in rude health. Rather than acting as a drag on the economy, as suggested by recent GDP estimates, the sector is continuing to act as an important driving force behind the ongoing UK economic upturn.”

The ONS had been due to release a report comparing their own figures and those of Markit on 11 September, but this had to be cancelled for “operational reasons”.

Mark Robinson, the chief executive of the Scape Group warns that regardless of whether the industry has experienced growth or not this year, something must be done to attract new talent into construction if we are to sustain a healthy and vibrant industry long-term. He said “Much of the skilled workforce is due to retire in the next five to 10 years and if we can’t train enough new talent to replace them, the construction industry will struggle to deliver the new homes and infrastructure that both the community and the economy badly needs.”

Plans for a 16-storey residential and office development have been submitted by developer Corona Properties that intends to dramatically improve the Hemel Hempstead landscape.

Called ‘The Beacon,’ the mixed-use tower will house both residential property and office space and has been designed to be the first building of its kind to achieve an ECP A+ rating.

The tower plans also feature:

  • 208 apartments
  • Over 9,000 sq ft of office spacing
  • Gym and leisure facilities
  • Coffee shop
  • Roof garden
  • Internal arboretum
  • Projector room/party room
  • Underground parking for 228 cars.

The innovative building design is ultra-efficient, using 50-60% less energy than other similar projects and, coupled with on-site renewable energy generation, the building emission free.

Corona Properties suggest that the Beacon will improve the overall “character” of Hemel Hempstead town centre.

See the plans in the below video:

The Foreign Secretary attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Bahrain over the weekend to start the construction of a new Royal Navy facility.

Mina Salman Port will play a central role in the Royal Navy’s ability to operate in the region, and reaffirms the UK’s determination to work with Bahrain to maintain security and stability in the Gulf.

This facility will give the UK an enhanced and permanent presence in the region, allowing longer-term deployments in the Gulf.

The Foreign Secretary was joined at the ceremony by Royal Navy personnel, who watched the first spades go into the ground against a backdrop of HMS Bangor, a minehunter, and RFA Cardigan Bay.

Speaking at the ceremony, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said “the beginning of construction work at Mina Salman Port marks a watershed moment in the UK’s commitment to the region. The presence of the Royal Navy in Bahrain is guaranteed into the future, ensuring Britain’s sustained presence east of Suez. The new facility will enable Britain to work with our allies to reinforce stability in the Gulf and beyond.”

Commander Joint Forces Command, General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC, said “this is a reflection of the continued cooperation and engagement between the Bahrain Defence Forces and the UK Armed Forces. We welcome the continued support from Bahrain which enables the Royal Navy to operate in the Gulf region.”

The Royal Navy base was first announced late last year, at a time when accusations were being made that the base was a “reward” for Britain’s silence over on-going human rights violations in the Gulf state. Sunday’s announcement has now provoked fresh criticism following a telling report by Amnesty International that highlighted human rights abuses still underway in Bahrain.

The report, released earlier this year, documented several cases of detainees being beaten, sleep deprived, starved, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted and electrocuted.

Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said ”All the British government’s policies show is a commitment to military expansion at the cost of human rights. Bahrain continues to systemically arbitrarily arrest, torture and silence any critic of the government. This new base is totally inappropriate.”

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond responded that “Bahrain is not perfect by any means”, but said to BBC News that the ruling family of Bahrain were taking steps to improve their human rights record.

2016 update: Whilst the below video is undoubtedly impressive and a true demonstration of skilled handiwork, many of you quite rightly pointed out that the subject is not technically a brickie, as laying a brick pathway is totally different to building a brick wall using mortar. We decided to see if anybody else was worthy of the impressive title of “the World’s fastest brickie” and soon came across an amazing story about Paul Baker, an 85-year-old Wadalba man who has previously suffered a broken neck, a major hip replacement and carpel tunnel operations on both hands, who this year attempted to enter the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s fastest bricklayer.

In May last year Mr Baker attempted to lay 1,000 bricks in one hour, a target set to beat the current record of 914 bricks laid by Bob Boil in 1987 – an American man half his age. Paul got off to an amazing start, laying 400 bricks within the first half hour. However, shortly after tiredness began to take hold and once the hour was up the total number of bricks he had laid was 756, somewhat shy of the current record.

Whilst Paul fell short of entering the Guinness Book of World Records, he did surpass the American National record of 644 laid by Jerry Goodman. “I was very happy with that” said Mr. Baker following the attempt.

So perhaps not the “World’s Fastest Brickie”, but certainly worth a mention. Well done Paul! See a video of his attempt here.

Original story:

A viral video is currently doing the rounds in the construction industry, capturing what many are beginning to call the world’s fastest workman in action.

Captured on camera in Essex the bricklayer is recorded by a co-worker assembling a driveway in super quick fashion and dropping 154 bricks in the unbelievable time of just one minute 40 seconds – that’s a laying speed of more than 90 bricks a minute or 8 bricks every 3 seconds.

Is this the fastest workman in the world? Watch video below:

In a race against a robot, it’s difficult to say which one is the fastest.

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

The latest ONS figures, released this week, highlighted a decline in construction activity during Q3. Output in the construction industry was 2.2% lower than in Q2 and 0.1% lower than a year ago, and was 4.3% lower than the pre-recession peak.

Dr Noble Francis, Economics Director at the Construction Products Association, put the data into context: “The fall in construction output in Q3, compared to a year ago, was the first annual fall since 2013 Q1. Skills shortages have been a key issue recently in the industry and are hindering growth, especially in house building. Where skilled labour is available, wage inflation has also been a serious issue, hindering the viability of many sites.

“In the private commercial sector, the largest construction sector, there are still many projects in the pipeline due to contracts that were signed 18-24 months ago. However, sharp rises in costs since then, due to a lack of skilled labour, have adversely affected margins and meant that many projects are on hold for the moment whilst contractors go back to clients and renegotiate prices.”

“Overall, recovery is never a straight line and there are always a few bumps and scrapes along the way. Projects in the pipeline across most construction sectors suggest that activity in the industry will rise in 2016 and our forecasts anticipate 4.2% growth in total construction next year, driven by recovery in house building, commercial and infrastructure activity. Skills shortages, however, are proving to be a key issue constraining growth for the industry.”

The latest RICS UK Construction Survey shows that the country’s skills shortage has reached its highest levels since the survey was launched 18 years ago, with bricklayers and quantity surveyors in shortest supply. Over half of respondents (53%) reported difficulty sourcing labour, with 71% saying they had particular difficulty sourcing bricklayers and 64% highlighting a shortage of quantity surveyors.

During the same period in 2011, just 1% of respondents were struggling to find bricklayers and only 15% noted a shortage of quantity surveyors.

In addition to labour supply, 69% of firms said that financial constraints, such as access to credit, were among the biggest constraints to growth, while 60% said that regulatory and planning issues were potent constraints.

However, despite these challenges, the survey shows significant areas of growth, with the number of new construction projects increasing, particularly in private housing and commercial sectors. While official figures (which are often subject to revision) highlighted a slight contraction in output over the three months to August, a substantial proportion of respondents to the RICS reported an increase in their workloads (net balance +39%), with 29% of firms saying that they were operating at full capacity.

The private housing and commercial sectors continue to lead the growth in workloads with net balances of 47% and 46% respectively reporting an increase. However, momentum was least firm in the public sector with net balances of 12% and 21% reporting growth in workloads in the housing and non-housing segments respectively.

Meanwhile, in the infrastructure sector, growth accelerated somewhat with a balance of 34% seeing workloads rise, up from 25% last quarter.

RICS Chief Economist, Simon Rubinsohn commented on the survey “While it’s exciting to see that the UK is experiencing growth across the construction sectors, future growth will only be sustainable if the growing skills crisis is addressed. The availability of both blue collar and white collar construction workers is reaching crisis point. We haven’t witnessed a labour shortage of its kind in nearly 20 years. Without the relevant skills, we will not be able to grow many of the Government’s priority construction sectors such as infrastructure.”

“Currently, while we know that there is a serious shortage of skills, we don’t yet know why we have seen such a dramatic drop in the labour market over the past five years. Part of the problem is the legacy of the collapse in the sector following the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. Many professionals and other skilled workers chose to leave the industry and quite simply have not returned or been replaced. A real focus on attracting more young people into the industry is critical alongside an expansion of apprenticeship opportunities.”

Morgan Sindall – one of the UK’s leading construction, infrastructure and design businesses – has been recognised for its long-term commitment to improving the image of the construction industry.

The company, winner of over 300 Considerate Constructors Scheme National Site Awards, has become the third constructor to register 3000+ sites with the Scheme.

The 3000th milestone registration was for the £30m redevelopment of 55 Colmore Row – a prestigious landmark in central Birmingham. The redevelopment is expected to be completed by Autumn 2016 and will provide 160,000 square feet of Grade A office space, including three new floors added to the top of the building.

Morgan Sindall strives to care about its appearance, respect the community, protect the environment, secure everyone’s safety and value its workforce – the key principles of the Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice. The company was one of the first constructors to join the Scheme in 1997 and became an Associate in 2007. Associate Members are companies who have proved their commitment to the Code through a high number of consistently high performing registrations.

Considerate Constructors Scheme Chief Executive Edward Hardy commented: “Morgan Sindall’s milestone achievement acknowledges the long-standing commitment they have made towards improving the image of the industry.

“Through supporting the Scheme and its aims, they play a pivotal role in driving the industry forward and setting the standard for others to follow. The Scheme looks forward to recognising more milestone achievements with other contractors, as the industry and public continue to realise the benefits that being part of the Scheme brings.”

Pat Boyle, Managing Director for Construction at Morgan Sindall said: “I am very proud to accept this milestone award on behalf of all of our employees, which demonstrates our on-going commitment to being a considerate constructor.

“As an Associate Member, the Considerate Constructors Scheme is fundamental to the way we manage our construction projects and engage with communities. We strive to go above and beyond the Scheme’s Code of Considerate Practice and our ultimate aim is to leave a positive Morgan Sindall legacy long after project handover.”

Ben Cushway, Contracts Manager at Morgan Sindall added: “The Colmore Row project team is delighted to be the 3,000th Scheme site registration for Morgan Sindall. Given the city centre location of the project, being a considerate constructor is paramount to its successful delivery.

“The Scheme provides additional focus for us to consider the project’s wider impacts on the local community, our workforce and the environment. We take pride in working with the Considerate Constructors Scheme to continually improve and develop the benefits we provide to the local and wider community by offering a positive and safe experience to all.”

The year is 2045. The roads are full of driverless cars, artificial intelligence has reached superhuman levels and even buildings have an AI personality that runs them. What does the construction industry look like? Hewden answer that question in their latest report written by full time futurologist Ian Pearson.

Ian is a full time futurologist, tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of technology, business, society, politics and the environment. In the report, Ian talks of a thriving industrial Utopia, rife with technological advancements. He says “New materials and techniques will need new skills for construction workers, increasing both their salaries and personal job satisfaction. They will work alongside automated and robotic equipment and AI so will need new skills to manage them to get the best from them. Natural competitiveness will ensure that humans want to show off areas where their own skills are superior, but mostly, workers will come to think of their machines as colleagues rather than just machines. Instead of driving a large digger or crane, it will become more of a close working partnership, with the person in charge, but the machine doing a lot of the thinking for itself. This will allow faster and safer working as well as very precise operation and a wider range of tasks that can be completed.”

The report predicts several advancements within the sector, particularly within the area of automated machinery and robot workers. Augmented reality software will make life easy for specifiers, surveyors and architects, who will be able to walk onto a site and actually see the building they are designing digitally in situ rather than on a piece of paper or on a computer screen.

Pearson also touched on the topic of house building and the role construction will play in housing a growing population, saying that “there is already a shortage of housing, but strong expectations of significant population increase over the next 30 years thanks to aging, immigration and higher birth rates. We will therefore need a lot more construction of housing, plus all the other infrastructure needed for a growing population and associated business. Thankfully, we are coming out of recession now and will soon recover the normal 2% to 2.5% economic growth, and that will double the size of the economy by 2045. Construction investment is often pushed by government as a mechanism for economic growth, so it will benefit by at least that much, probably more.”

To read the full report, please click here:

Employers in the offsite construction sector have signalled the importance of working together to recognise and address skills gaps if they are to capitalise on the growth opportunities available to the sector.

The employers, including Skanska and Laing O’Rourke, have led five skills projects co-funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ (UKCES) Futures Programme. The projects piloted different approaches to improve sectoral collaboration and provide better training opportunities for both new and existing workers.

Today, UKCES publishes findings based on the delivery of these projects which demonstrates:

  • The clear need for industry leadership to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the industrialisation of the sector.
  • Employers can raise the bar on skills in sectors, regions and supply chains, by working with each other, their employees, universities and professional associations.
  • Collaboration has been shown to be vital to building the skills needed for growth and the topic of skills has brought competing businesses together to address their common need.
  • Competitors can become collaborators where there is a commonly experienced challenge which can be better tackled together, and where there is a foundation of strong individual or group relationships which can be built upon.
  • The breadth and depth of skill gaps were sometimes greater than projects first realised, but in recognising the gaps, corrective action could be taken. The report shows that it is crucial for employers in the sector to take responsibility and recognise these gaps otherwise they risk being left behind.
  • Educators and businesses must work more closely together to ensure educational institutions and professionals keep up with technological advancements and ensure innovation can be capitalised upon.

Rob Francis, Director of Innovation and Business Improvement at Skanska, commented on the value of collaboration: “This challenge allowed us to look at something in a completely different way, and to take it forward together.”

However, it is clear that change in the sector needs to be a long-term commitment, as Dr Bill McGinnis CBE, former chair of the McAvoy Group (offsite solutions) and former UKCES commissioner leading the offsite construction productivity challenge, said:

“Although the scale of the skills challenges is greater than can be addressed through 6 month projects, this challenge has catalysed the start of, in the words of one of our project leads, ‘a 10 year change programme’ to ensure it has the skilled people it needs to fulfil its potential.”

The evaluation report also indicates that these findings are applicable to wider sectors, as well as offsite construction. Carol Stanfield, Assistant Director at UKCES, explains “The Challenge has supported businesses in the offsite construction sector to tackle specific issues prompted by technological developments. However, much of the learning that we gathered from these projects, about collaboration and sharing best practice, is applicable to any sector facing similar technological change – something which is currently affecting almost the entire economy.”

Areas addressed through the five projects included management skills, operational skills and developing contextual understanding of the offsite construction sector. Specifically, these projects are:

– Created an employer-led Offsite Management School with over 200 unique member companies and almost 300 individual learners.

Laing O’Rourke
– Developed a live site scenario for training solutions allowing changes to be implemented in real time, cutting delays, improving ways of working and reducing waste.

Steel Construction Institute (SCI)
– Consulted with over 75 companies to develop and test online learning and training resources, with over 1000 requests for best practice tools from the sector.

Edinburgh Napier University
– Created an ‘Offsite Construction Hub’ to define and showcase skill requirements and encourage collaboration between professions, engaging with over 200 employers to gather a broader sector understanding.

– Expanded their online comparison tool to evaluate onsite and offsite solutions at the early development stage; encouraging employers, surveyors, architects and engineers to consider offsite alternatives before committing to design solutions.