A new team at materials supplier James Latham will connect architects, designers and specifiers with the most innovative and exciting products on the market today.

Bringing together expertise and insight from around the company, the Lathams Specification Team has been launched as a one-stop solution for materials specifiers.

There is a strong focus on products with unique benefits, including solid surfaces, hardwearing laminates, antimicrobial acrylics and robust exterior cladding.

Aesthetics are well catered for too, with the team able to recommend a range of surfaces, finishes, colours and styles suitable for any project. These include products that mimic other materials, such as decors that replicate the look and feel of various stones, woods and linens.

“There are many high-quality, advanced products being brought to market all of the time. It’s easy for specifiers to lose track of what’s available or just stick to what they know”, said Rob Goodman, who leads the team.

“What they are often unaware of is the broad range of options available to achieve that final finish that a customer has requested. By creating a single point of contact we can better support the A&D community and help them to find the right solution for their client’s brief.”




The team’s knowledge incorporates a broad product portfolio including solid surfaces such as HI-MACS and Avonite and decorative laminates and veneers from manufacturers including Egger, Xylocleaf, Kronospan and Decospan.  

While currently offering consultancy via video conferencing, the team will support customers throughout the UK, corresponding with the locations of Lathams various showrooms and depots.

The specification team comprises Debbie Northall (London), Joe Sepede (Yate, Thurrock and Hemel Hempstead), Natasha Smith (Dudley and Leicester), Mark Robinson (Leeds, Ireland and North West England) and David Schofield (Leeds, Gateshead and Scotland).

 To coincide with the announcement of the new team a solid surfaces website has also gone live, providing an additional detailed product resource for specifiers and customers.

Featuring product information, case studies, videos and inspirational images from HI-MACS, Avonite and Studio Collection brands, it offers guidance and support on the specification of solid surfaces for a range of architectural applications, both internally and externally.


To find out more visit


For more information about James Latham please visit


A commission to champion beautiful buildings as an integral part of the drive to build the homes communities need has been recently announced by the Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP.

The ‘Building Better, Building Beautiful’ Commission will develop a vision and practical measures to help ensure new developments meet the needs and expectations of communities, making them more likely to be welcomed rather than resisted.

This move follows the government recently rewriting the planning rulebook to strengthen expectations for design quality and community engagement when planning for development. The new rules also ensure more consideration can be given to the character of the local area.

This commission will take that work further by expanding on the ways in which the planning system can encourage and incentivise a greater emphasis on design, style and community consent. It will raise the level of debate regarding the importance of beauty in the built environment.

The commission has 3 aims:

  • To promote better design and style of homes, villages, towns and high streets, to reflect what communities want, building on the knowledge and tradition of what they know works for their area.
  • To explore how new settlements can be developed with greater community consent.
  • To make the planning system work in support of better design and style, not against it.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said “Most people agree we need to build more for future generations, but too many still feel that new homes in their local area just aren’t up to scratch.

“Part of making the housing market work for everyone is helping to ensure that what we build, is built to last. That it respects the integrity of our existing towns, villages and cities.

“This will become increasingly important as we look to create a number of new settlements across the country and invest in the infrastructure and technology they will need to be thriving and successful places.

“This commission will kick start a debate about the importance of design and style, helping develop practical ways of ensuring new developments gain the consent of communities, helping grow a sense of place, not undermine it. This will help deliver desperately needed homes – ultimately building better and beautiful will help us build more.”

A city covered in one million plants and 40,000 trees will soon be built in China to help tackle the long-standing air pollution problem that plagues the country at present.

Designed by Italian architect Stefano Boeri (who was also behind the ‘Vertical Forest’ tower in Milan) the entirely fabricated metropolis will contain over 40,000 trees and one million plants.
At its heart, the scheme is intended to subvert the notion that urban areas are more prone to poor air quality, by introducing natural measures to absorb tons of CO2 and pollutants.

China has long been swamped with poor air quality. Studies show that over a million premature deaths are attributed to pollution in the country each year. Chinese power plants emit as much nitrogen oxides (NOx) as all the cars in the world combined.

In 2016, China declared red alert for air quality in the capital city of Beijing, closing schools and factories and removing 50% of cars from the road for a temporary period. This seems to have served as a wakeup call for the government, who have since introduced a series of measures aimed at curbing their alarming emissions. As well as championing renewables as a form of energy, the authorities are now looking at more innovative solutions. Could the ‘forest city’ be part of the solution to a worsening crisis?

The ‘forest city’ is planned to be built in Liuzhou, Southern China by 2020.

Here’s what it will look like:

In this series of short articles, buildingspecifier will delve into the history of construction, considering how technologies and old schools of thought have helped shape the built environment we all live and work in today.

The picture above, found on, shows project engineers from 1887 demonstrating the cantilever principles of the world famous Forth Bridge in Scotland. The weight of the central section of a cantilever bridge is transmitted to the banks through diamond shaped supports. Representing the weight in the middle is engineer Kaichi Watanabe, one of the first Japanese engineers who came to study in the UK. The other two men, Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker, provide the supports. Fowler and Baker represent the cantilevers, with their arms in tension and the sticks under compression, and the bricks the cantilever end piers which are weighted with cast iron. The action of the outer foundations as anchors for the cantilever is visible in the placement of the counterweights. These are the men that designed the Forth Bridge, which still stands proud to this date.

The bridge itself was built in 1890 and boasts the impressive full length of 2,528.7m, with its longest span being 520m.

Cantilever bridges originated in the 19th century when people began to start thinking laterally about how they could ultimately build longer bridges. Engineers learned that by including many supports throughout the design, any load would be distributed evenly throughout the entire structure, allowing them to build longer and more structurally sound bridges.

Engineers such as Fowler, Baker and Watanabe (pictured above) helped to push the construction and engineering sectors forward, allowing them to flourish and become the amazing industries they are today.

Which methods of construction do you think should be in our next instalment of historical highlights? Let us know in the comments section below!
  • Wood panelling, avocado bathrooms and built in bars named as fixtures most likely to put UK homebuyers off
  • On average UK homebuyers would reduce their offer by a massive £5,000 if a property still had an avocado bathroom
  • 324,000 UK homes still have outdated avocado bathroom suites

Research into the nation’s most hated retro décor trends by has revealed the 10 interior design trends most likely to devalue your home are:

  1. Wood panelling (46% of UK homebuyers wouldn’t buy a property if it still had old fashioned wood panelling)
  2. Avocado bathrooms (44%)
  3. Built-in bars (41%)
  4. Woodchip (41%)
  5. Artex ceilings (40%)
  6. Heavily patterned carpet (35%)
  7. Textured wallpaper (34%)
  8. Crazy paving (33%)
  9. Brick fireplaces (33%)
  10. Built in wardrobes over the bed (30%)

According to the study, UK homebuyers would look to knock £4,877.46 off the purchase price of a property if it still had an outdated avocado bathroom suite. One in six of us (16%) would expect to pay at least £5,000 less and 6% of 25-34 year olds would seek a price reduction of at least £10,000.

New year – new bathroom?

It would seem despite the nation’s love for all things interior design, just over one per cent of the British public (1.2%) still have one of the infamous avocado suites lurking in their bathroom – this equates to a staggering 324,000 of the notorious green eyesores still at large in the UK.

The Avocado Amnesty

Following the results from the research, has launched an ‘Avocado Amnesty’ to help the nation upgrade their bathrooms. The bathroom retailer has pledged to help every avocado bathroom owner get a stylish new bathroom they can be proud of – from a complete bathroom makeover, to free baths and more.

If you are, or you know someone who is still living like it’s the 70s, head to the Avocado Amnesty here.

Almost three quarters of the UK (75%) think avocado bathroom suites are ugly and three out of four people (71%) say if they bought a new home and it had an avocado bathroom suite, it would be the first thing they’d rip out. But despite this, a fifth of UK homeowners (20%) confess they’ve never updated their bathroom, and around a quarter of the UK (23%) admit to being embarrassed by their outdated bathroom when their friends come over to visit.

Commercial Director at, Harshad Gorasia commented “Once upon a time, avocado bathroom suites were the height of fashion and a statement feature for homes up and down the UK, but now they tend to look tired, outdated and in need of recycling. Given that so many of us have never updated our bathrooms, it’s not surprising to see there are still over 300,000 in the country. More than half of the nation says a relaxing bath is their favourite way to unwind and de-stress, so we think everyone should have a bathroom they’re proud of, where they can relax, switch off and have a good soak at the end of a long day.”

Royal Mail have launched a Special Stamp set to celebrate 10 buildings that represent the renaissance of contemporary architecture in the UK of recent years.

The Landmark Buildings issue uses photography to capture the distinctive lines and shapes of these remarkable structures. The structures that feature in the set are: London Aquatics Centre; Library of Birmingham; SEC Armadillo, Glasgow; Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh; Giants’ Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland; National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff; Eden Project, St Austell; Everyman Theatre, Liverpool; IWM North, Manchester and the Blavatnik Building – formerly Switch House, Tate Modern, London.

All the buildings in the set have become famous landmarks for the local communities, regions and cities.

The new stamps are available at and 7,000 Post Offices across the UK.


The Scottish Parliament, which opened in 2004, is a building extraordinarily rich in ideas, materials and complex shapes. It was created in the aftermath of the 1997 referendum, in which the people of Scotland voted for their country’s first parliament in over 300 years. It was designed by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue (EMBT), who wanted to find a way of expressing national identity. Their design is based on the striking surrounding landscape and also draws inspiration from such things as the shapes of leaves, boats upturned on a seashore and the flower paintings of the great Glaswegian architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. EMBT’s wish was for a building “growing out of the land” that should “arise from the sloping base of Arthur’s Seat and arrive into the city almost surging out of the rock”.

Constructed using Scottish stones and timbers, the Scottish Parliament won many admirers for its daring and exuberance. At the official opening on 9 October 2004, Her Majesty The Queen described it as a “landmark for 21st-century democracy”. Sadly, Miralles died in 2000 aged 45, never to see his vision realised.

The design of theatres is a complex and subtle task for architects. Apart from meeting the technical challenges of acoustics and sightlines, they have to make spaces where a theatrical atmosphere can flourish to enable a rapport between performers and audience. They have to have character and a sense of occasion, but the architecture should not dominate the acting. The architects Haworth Tompkins are specialists in designing theatres that achieve these qualities. At the Everyman, a much-loved Liverpool institution rehoused in a new building in 2014, they used a rich and tactile palette of rough and smooth materials, including concrete, reused bricks, timber, cork, red leather, copper and plywood. The large stage, which projects into an auditorium of close-packed seating and was inspired by the Everyman’s former space, creates an intense relationship between actors and viewers. On the street façade, 105 life-size portraits of Liverpool residents by local photographer Dan Kenyon were etched onto moveable aluminium sunshades.

Winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize for Building of the Year (2014).

The Polish–American architect Daniel Libeskind made his name with the Jewish Museum in Berlin, a building that sought to represent the complexity and anguish of its subject through its jagged angles and complicated interlocking forms. Located on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and opened in 2002, the IWM North – a museum dedicated to telling the story of how war has changed lives from the First World War to the present day – was Libeskind’s first building in the UK. Its form was conceived as a series of fragments of a shattered globe that have been reassembled, with three interlocking shards signifying conflict on land, water and in the air. Achieved on a budget of £28.5 million and covering an area of 69,965ft² (6,500m²), its construction materials include steel frames and aluminium cladding. With its irregular angles and clashing shapes, IWM North has a deliberately unsettling feel, while also offering moments of peace within.
Winner of the British Construction Industry’s Building of the Year Award (2004).

Rare, beautiful and wild places present a special challenge for architects, because their very attractiveness and popularity can threaten to overwhelm their rarity, beauty and wildness. Giant’s Causeway in North Antrim, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its geometric geology of interlocking hexagonal pillars, is no exception. Its visitor centre had to meet the public’s requirements for coach and car parking, a café, information and toilets, while also ensuring minimum impact upon the sight people had come to see. The building was thus located 0.62 miles (1km) from the site itself and its architects Heneghan Peng designed a sloping grass-roofed building that is cut into the ground to minimise disruption to the line of the adjoining ridge. Within this discreet outline they then created a large structure, with substantial angled pillars that are human-built echoes of the nearby landscape. Constructed using dark basalt quarried from the same ancient lava flow that produced the Causeway and completed in 2012, the centre provides a unique and complementary gateway to the main attraction. Both are owned and managed by the National Trust.

Francine Houben, of the Dutch architectural practice Mecanoo, believes that libraries are “the cathedrals of nowadays” and “the most important public buildings”. She and her practice designed the Library of Birmingham to be a “people’s palace” – a grand structure that celebrates the importance of learning but which also “promotes the informal” and “seduces people into coming in”.
The exterior of the ten-storey building is wrapped in broad bands of gold and silver cladding, overlaid with a filigree pattern of interlocking circles in thin sections of aluminium. Inside, a large cylindrical void rises through the centre, criss-crossed by blue-lit escalators and giving access to many different uses, including adult and children’s libraries, a musical collection, a studio theatre, an exhibition gallery and the Shakespeare Memorial Room, whose ornate timber interior was originally created in 1882 and reinstalled at the top of the new building.

Dame Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016, was one of the most charismatic and influential British architects of all time. Her use of irregular angles or curves, and of gravity-defying structures, changed the course of architecture around the world. The London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, built for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and then modified for permanent use, is her most significant work in Britain and perhaps the most memorable building created for the Games. Inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion, it is dominated by a flowing steel roof clad with wood, undulating and curvaceous like a marine creature, which touches the ground at three points. This creates a huge, dramatic interior with glass walls filling its flanks. Other elements, such as the shapely diving boards, add to the sense of dynamism.

Winner of the British Construction Industry’s Major Building Project Award (2014)

The Senedd is the home of Wales’s parliament, the National Assembly for Wales. It represents a significant stage in the story of the nation’s devolution and, since its official opening in 2006, has become one of Wales’s most iconic buildings. Following the launch of an international design competition, it was the Richard Rogers Partnership (now Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners) that developed the winning architectural design for the new parliament in Cardiff Bay. At the heart of the concept was the need to generate a sense of open government and public accessibility. The extensive use of glass throughout the Senedd signifies clarity, openness and transparency, while members of the public have access to spaces outside and throughout the upper and centre levels of the interior. The building has also been designed to make a significant contribution to sustainable development: the funnel in the Siambr (Debating Chamber) acts as a giant air vent and forms part of a significant strategy for cooling and ventilating the Senedd using largely natural means.

When Tate Modern opened in 2000, in the converted shell of the former Bankside Power Station, the new architecture was self-effacing: the idea was to let the imposing industrial building speak for itself. The Switch House, its ten-storey extension that increased its area by 60 per cent and opened in 2016, is highly expressive, comprising a twisted brick pyramid on the outside with a magnificent interior staircase that changes form and direction from level to level. It responds to the huge numbers that pass through the world’s most visited modern and contemporary art gallery each year and to the ways in which individuals now visit museums. The stair, which was described as a “vertical boulevard” by Tate Modern’s Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, serves and celebrates the movement and interaction of the crowds.

In June 2017, Switch House was renamed the Blavatnik Building.

Formerly known as the Clyde Auditorium, the SEC Armadillo was designed by architects Foster + Partners. An international conference centre with seating for up to 3,000 delegates, the structure comprises striking interlocking shapes that echo the shipbuilding traditions of the River Clyde and the industrial heritage of its site on Queen’s Dock. A series of overlapping, aluminium-clad, framed ‘hulls’ wraps closely around the auditorium to minimise the building’s volume, while creating a distinctive profile on the Glasgow skyline. Floodlit by night and reflecting sunlight by day, the building provides a symbolic form that has come to represent Scotland’s largest city. Completed in 1997, and intended as a landmark for the regeneration of this once industrial site and for Glasgow as a whole, the SEC Armadillo helped to launch a new wave of more expressive, freeform designs.

Geodesic domes are structures of great lightness and strength that were originally developed in the mid-20th century by visionary US architect Richard Buckminster Fuller, with a view to providing shelter for humans. Led by Andrew Whalley, British architecture practice Grimshaw found a remarkable and creative use for such structures when bringing to life the Eden Project in Cornwall. Constructed on the site of an old china clay quarry, and inspired by the concept of soap bubbles being able to land on and adapt to all manner of different surfaces, the eight domes of varying sizes were designed to accommodate the quarry’s irregular cliffs and slopes. Energy-efficient and future-proof, they were made from responsibly sourced materials. The team added an especially notable innovation, roofing the domes with ethylenetetrafluoroethylene, a translucent material weighing less than one per cent of the equivalent area of glass. The entire structure comprises two ‘Biomes’ – the Mediterranean Biome and the Rainforest Biome – in which it has been possible to recreate climates from across the world and grow 5,000 different species of plants. Open to the public since March 2001, the Eden Project is an educational and environmental charity that connects people with each other and the living world.

One of London’s most prominent brutalist residential blocks, Trellick Tower, is set for a major £7.2m restoration programme with the appointment of leading social housing maintenance provider, Wates Living Space, to deliver extensive external works.

Carried out on behalf of Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the work marks a major investment in the preservation of the historic tower in Kensal New Town.

Following extensive planning and liaison, work on the programme is scheduled to commence immediately and will include the repair, renovation and replacement of the Grade II* listed building’s concrete, cladding and approximately 1,000 windows.

Trellick Tower was designed by Hungarian Modernist architect, Ernö Goldfinger, and was built in 1972 as part of the Brutalist architecture movement that arose from the 1950s to the mid 1970s. The tower became the inspiration for JG Ballard’s novel ‘High Rise’, which was made into a film starring Tom Hiddlestone in 2015.

Wates will first commence work on the six-storey Block B, which will be followed by the external refurbishment of the 31-storey Block A in June this year. Overall completion is expected by summer 2018.

As part of the mobilisation of its team, Wates is currently making arrangements for a range of community initiatives that will be delivered throughout the programme. This will include a series of training and employment opportunities for local people as well as engagement with local social enterprises.

The project follows from a framework agreement between KCTMO and Wates, which began in 2015, for Wates to carry out internal and external works in the north of the borough.

David Morgan, Managing Director of Wates Living Space, said “It is a huge honour to be entrusted with the refurbishment of such a historically significant London tower block. This project will involve a meticulous balance of ensuring we preserve the building’s iconic status while, most importantly, delivering the vital work with minimal disruption to Trellick Tower residents. We very much look forward to continuing our work with KCTMO and to getting under the skin of what is a landmark piece of post-war architecture.”

Robert Black, KCTMO Chief Executive, added “We’re very pleased to be working with Wates on such an important project. Both ourselves and Wates are working closely with residents to ensure that they’re fully informed and we’re committed to supporting them throughout the project. This iconic building is a favourite to many and this work will help ensure it stays that way.”

In addition to its importance as a Grade II listed residential building, Trellick Tower has featured heavily in popular culture since its construction. This includes its appearance in a series of music videos throughout the past two decades.

Standing at 98m high, the building’s unique shape and structure was also the inspiration for Channel 4’s famous reinforced concrete ‘4’ that is used to link between its programming.

The search for world-class architects, designers and developers to deliver four ambitious and iconic new HS2 stations has begun with the publication of contract opportunities for station designs and a development partner for London Euston.

The winning bidders will work with High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd to develop and refine the detailed plans for three brand new stations, at Birmingham Curzon Street, Birmingham Interchange and London’s Old Oak Common, as well as a major expansion of London Euston.

The stations will welcome tens of thousands of passengers every day from all over the UK, providing easy and accessible onward connections to local transport, airports and connecting rail services as well as step-free access from street to seat. In total more than 170,000 new jobs are expected to be created in the wider development areas surrounding the four stations.

A separate contest, will seek a Master Development Partner to advise on, and later take forward, development opportunities for new homes, offices and retail space above and around the revamped London Euston. The winner will work with HS2 Ltd, Network Rail, the station design contract winner and local authorities to deliver a unified plan to unlock the full potential of the area.

This comprehensive approach has the potential to deliver up to 21 hectares of development space as well as improving accessibility and creating new public and green spaces across the wider Euston site.

Welcoming the launch of the competition, Transport Minister Andrew Jones said “The search for design teams to produce plans for new stations and world-class amenities for London Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham Interchange and Birmingham Curzon Street stations is a major step towards making HS2 a catalyst for growth across the country. The winning bidders will need to ensure the stations provide the best possible customer experience. There are also huge opportunities for development near all the HS2 stations. HS2 Ltd is progressing its search for a partner to deliver new homes, shops and offices around Euston station once the core HS2 work is complete.

HS2 Ltd Commercial Director Beth West added “We’re looking for the brightest and the best from across the industry to help us deliver one of the most tangible legacies of the HS2 project – three brand new stations and a major expansion of London Euston.

“All four present unique challenges and opportunities for the winning bidders. Together we will deliver world-class designs that help unlock wider local regeneration opportunities and provide unparalleled levels of accessibility, ease and convenience for the travelling public.”

Nanjing Green Towers, promoted by Nanjing Yang Zi State-owned National Investment Group, will be the first Vertical Forest built in Asia.

Located in the Nanjing Pukou District (an area destined to lead the modernization of southern Jiangsu and the development of the Yangtze River economic area), the two towers are characterized by the interchange of green tanks and balconies, following the prototype of Milan’s Vertical Forest.

Along the facades, 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees (for a total amount of 1,100 trees from 23 local species) and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs will cover a 6,000 Sqm area. A real vertical forest, contributing to regenerate local biodiversity, that will provide a 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and will produce about 60 kg of Oxygen per day.

The taller tower, 200 metres high, crowned on the top by a green lantern, will host offices – from the 8th floor to the 35th – and it will include a museum, a green architecture school and a private club on the rooftop. The second tower, 108 metres high, will provide a Hyatt hotel with 247 room of different sizes (from 35 sqm to 150 sqm) and a swimming pool on the rooftop. The 20 metres high podium, will  host commercial, recreational and educative functions, including multi-brands shops,a food market, restaurants, conference hall and exhibition spaces.

Nanjiing Vertical Forest project, which is scheduled to be finished in 2018, is the third prototype, after Milan and Lausanne, of a project about urban forestation and demineralisation that Stefano Boeri Architects will develop all over the world and in particular in other Chinese cities such as Shijiazhuang, Liuzhou, Guizhou, Shanghai and Chongqing.