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In UK alone, 50 million tyres are discarded each year. With an ever increasing volume of vehicles in the world, the disposal of spent tyres is a serious issue. Often dumped in landfill, these tyres pose untold risk to health, safety and the wellbeing of our environment. However, used tyres do have their uses. For example, one such material that is made from discarded tyres could double the resilience of structures in disaster prone regions, ensuring safe and sturdy infrastructure whilst simultaneously reducing waste.

New research published in the Journal Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics has described a new method of protecting bridge infrastructure in disaster-prone regions using used tyres that may otherwise be sent to landfill.

Academics from the Universities of Surrey and Thessaloniki (Greece) looked at how bridges, in particular Integral Abutment Bridges (IABs) react to stress and how simple measures could be taken to protect this vital infrastructure from wear-and-tear, as well as in the event of extreme dynamic impacts such as earthquakes.

Lead author, Dr Stergios Mitoulis of the University of Surrey explained, “Bridges are important infrastructure assets, which are costly to construct and maintain. Their maintenance is a major challenge in most developing countries and significant investment is required to ensure they remain safe and usable, especially in disaster situations.”

“In developing countries especially, there is a need to build bridges using simple and inexpensive methods. This had led to a type of bridge known as an integral bridge becoming increasingly popular which is a simple frame structure with no extra parts such as bearings or expansion joints, it is maintenance-free but has limitations meaning that they can only be used over short lengths. Where the bridge meets the land the soil moves and shifts and in times of stress this can lead to extended damages or collapse. The longer the bridge, the greater the risk of collapse.”

The challenge for the researchers was to find an inexpensive and effective material to bolster bridges, providing support but also providing a buffer able to withstand the force of earthquake situations regardless of the length of the bridge. The team turned to conventional tyres, of which 50 million are discarded in the UK alone each year, and which were banned from the UK’s landfills in 2009. The waste tyres will be used to create a new product, called the isolator, namely a flexible and elastic layer of reused tyres. This flexible layer will be used to absorb movements, reducing costs of repair.

“As with many of the challenges we face in engineering, the answer came from an unexpectedly simple source,” explained Dr Mitoulis. “We were looking for a readily available, cheap and effective material that would keep its cool under pressure. That’s when we thought about the possibility of recycling common tyres and putting to good use a material destined for landfill. We use old tyres to create an aggregate that effectively provides double the performance of conventional designs when movements due to earthquakes or temperature changes are simulated.”

The new design will eventually allow for safer and sturdier bridges in areas that do not have the means to erect expensive structures that require extensive maintenance. The team will now look for new market opportunities in diverse infrastructure assets that are expected to be benefitted by these recycled isolators, including quay and retaining walls and building foundations.

£26.6 million investment to build micro robots that can help repair the UK’s vast underground pipe network preventing disruptive roadworks and using robotics in hazardous work environments to avoid workplace injury.

New micro robots will be built to repair the UK’s huge underground pipe network, significantly cutting the disruption caused by the 1.5 million road excavations that take place every year.

Scientists from 4 British universities will use £7 million government investment to develop 1 cm-long robotic devices that use sensors and navigation systems to find and mend cracks in pipes. The traffic closures and disruption to businesses of these roadworks is estimated to amount to more than £5 billion. A further 14 projects backed by £19.6 million government investment, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), will see robots sent to hazardous work places such as offshore wind-farms and nuclear decommissioning facilities. Researchers will test new technologies, such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software on satellites in orbit to detect when repairs are needed, and drones for oil pipeline monitoring.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said “while for now we can only dream of a world without roadworks disrupting our lives, these pipe-repairing robots herald the start of technology that could make that dream a reality in the future

“From deploying robots in our pipe network so cutting down traffic delays, to using robots in workplaces to keep people safer, this new technology could change the world we live in for the better. Experts in our top UK universities across the country are well-equipped to develop this innovative new technology.

“We have put research and development at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy, with the biggest boost to funding in UK history to create high skill jobs and boost productivity across the country.”

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport added “The projects demonstrate how robots and artificial intelligence will revolutionise the way we carry out complex and dangerous tasks, from maintaining offshore wind farms to decommissioning nuclear power facilities.

“They also illustrate the leading role that the UK’s innovators are playing in developing these new technologies which will improve safety and boost productivity and efficiency.”

The £26.6 million government funding boost is part of the modern Industrial Strategy, investing in the technologies of tomorrow and creating high skilled jobs across the country. The UK already develops world-leading robotics technologies, and these projects delivered by UKRI will help make this a sector for UK businesses to grow and dominate international markets.

Health and Safety Executive Chair Martin Temple concluded “The key purpose of the Health and Safety Executive is to save lives and prevent workplace injury and ill health. To achieve this, we need businesses to work with us and to be innovative in their thinking around managing risk in the workplace. New and emerging technologies are shaping our working environment.

“As a regulator we want to encourage industry to think about how technologies such as robotics and AI can be used to manage risk in the workplace, safeguarding workers both now and in the future world of work.”

In a report, Consultancy firm Arcadis suggest that around 400,000+ new workers will be needed each year up until 2021, in order to keep up with ambitious plans within the construction sector – that’s the equivalent of one new person every 77 seconds!

Housebuilding

Plans outlined in the recent Housing Whitepaper are extremely positive for house builders, who will have government support and reduced restrictions to help them deliver the sheer volume of housing needed in Britain today. However, could the lack of skilled people in the sector prove to be a hindrance if left unaddressed?

The report says “When it comes to the much maligned ‘housing crisis’, there is no doubt that the sheer lack of people to physically build the homes we need is evident.

“Between now and 2026 the UK needs to build an additional 110,000 homes per annum on top of those currently projected in order to keep pace with our growing and ageing population.

“Housebuilding is a particularly labour intensive industry and although new technologies and increased off-site production are being implemented to reduce costs and increase productivity, the supply of labour is still one of the binding constrictions on output.

“Existing evidence suggests that the relationship between labour and number of houses that can be built is close to being linear. Therefore, in order to increase the number of homes being built the labour force employed in housebuilding needs to increase by the same share.”

Infrastructure

The report also touches on infrastructure. Britain currently has one of the most ambitious national infrastructure programmes in Europe. With HS2 and Crossrail underway and much more planned, companies in the industry will draw heavily on the common talent pool.

“Despite the uncertain outlook for the UK economy following Brexit, the government under Theresa May seems committed to drive the largest projects forward.

“Moreover, it is expected that the government will set aside more money for road and rail works in order to support the UK economy over the coming years.

“According to figures from the Construction Products Association, the infrastructure sector is projected to grow only by 1.2 percent in 2016. However, for the years from 2017 to 2020 it predicts a pick-up in infrastructure output of 30 percent. Increased demand for people in the infrastructure industry is calculated by assuming that the workforce has to expand in line with this growth.”

To read the full report, click here.

According to the UK Space Agency, the government aims to enable Commercial Spaceflight from UK spaceports by 2020. As privatised commercial space travel moves closer towards becoming a reality, buildingspecifier takes a look at what role the construction industry will play in delivering spaceports throughout the country.

What is a spaceport?

A spaceport (or cosmodrome) is a site for launching and receiving spacecraft. The word spaceport, and even more so cosmodrome, has traditionally been used for sites that are capable of launching spacecraft into orbit around Earth or on interplanetary trajectories.

Major spaceports often include more than one launch complex, which can be rocket launch sites adapted for different types of launch vehicles. For launch vehicles with liquid propellant, suitable storage facilities and, in some cases, production facilities are necessary. On-site processing facilities for solid propellants are also common.

A spaceport may also include runways for takeoff and landing of aircraft to support spaceport operations, or to enable support of HTHL or HTVL winged launch vehicles.

Making UK spaceports a reality

So the UK has set its sights upon being the best place in Europe for space flight operations, now it is time to put its money where its mouth is. After all, sending humans and satellites into space requires effort, money, dedication and sacrifice.

The target to deliver commercial space flight from UK spaceports by 2020 is equally as dependent on the construction industry as it is on scientific and technological advancements. Without cutting edge sites being constructed or repurposed for the purpose of space travel, there will be no space travel. In order to tackle this issue, the UK Space Agency is offering grant funding of up to £10 million (possibly even more in exceptional cases) to encourage those wishing to develop spaceport operations. Proposals must be submitted by joint enterprises, consisting of at least one potential UK spaceport and one small-satellite launch or sub-orbital flight operator. Applicants need to propose a business plan on how they intend to launch small satellites or sub-orbital flights, including space tourism, microgravity flights or spaceplanes, from the UK by 2020. All applications for this funding must be submitted by 28 April 2017.

Once completed, the new Spaceflight Bill will expand further upon the regulatory framework for building and operating spaceports on British soil.

Mike Pocock is a planning law expert from Pinsent Masons, an international law firm which specialises in the energy, infrastructure, financial services, real estate and advanced manufacturing and technology sectors. He commented “The space industry represents a huge opportunity for the UK, with potentially significant economic benefits.
“The reality of spaceflight from the UK is closer than many think, and there is currently momentum to develop a number of ‘spaceports’ which will be critical infrastructure if the UK is to be able to send satellites as well as, potentially, space tourists into space.”

“Applications for grant funding by potential spaceports and operators were made earlier this year to UK Space, and the results of these are expected later this summer. The timing of the announcement in the Queen’s Speech therefore could not be better. These are exciting times for the UK space industry.”

In an interview with the BBC, Chairman of umbrella group UKSpace Richard Peckham, said “The UK Space Industry faces an incredibly challenging time as the country navigates its way out of the European Union.”

“For the UK industry to thrive in this new environment, it is essential that the whole sector: government, academia and industry, continue to work in partnership with a steady focus on innovation and growth, with government ready to procure and promote British products and services.”

Government and industry should build upon its pioneering work in digital engineering to improve the performance of UK infrastructure and unlock growth across the country, according to a report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Digital Transformation calls on Industry and Government to use the Modern Industrial Strategy to drive the uptake of digital technology and data in infrastructure design and delivery. This transformation could drive up productivity and unleash the full potential of the UK’s economy, while also creating a world leading industry.

According to the report, the UK cannot build its way out of pressures from population growth and climate change. Digital transformation would enable the UK to do more with existing assets and networks.

This includes the workforce, with the report calling for both industry and the Government to place greater emphasis on upskilling and reskilling mid-career professionals in addition to existing initiatives that target young people.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • The £23billion National Productivity Investment Fund should prioritise digital transformation of both construction methods and physical infrastructure which increases capacity and performance of existing assets and networks
  • The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy should put digital transformation at the heart of the Infrastructure Pillar of the Modern Industrial Strategy, realising the UK’s potential as a world-leader in this sector
  • Industry and Government must ensure that people at all points in their career have the right skills to adapt to advances in technology and information management. Major infrastructure projects should be used as incubators for skills and innovation

Dr Anne Kemp, Chair of the ICE State of the Nation Steering Group, said “The Government rightly recognises the link between improved connectivity and balanced national productivity. Our decision-making must put the user at the centre, delivering new infrastructure that enables people to get to work and enjoy their leisure time. However, much of our current infrastructure will still be here in 30 years’ time, so we must use technology to do things smarter and make more of what we already have. We must be more imaginative in what we mean by digital transformation and what it can achieve.

“Similarly, we cannot afford to wait for the next generation to arrive with the right skills. The current adult skills agenda must go beyond basic digital literacy initiatives but instead look at better training for our existing workforce.”

New plans set out by the Department for Transport will revolutionise British infrastructure and boost the construction sector’s productivity in a move that could generate savings of £15 billion a year.

The plans were revealed alongside the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, which sets out projects for the next 10 years.

This £600 billion pipeline includes both public and private investment. It will give certainty to industry that there is great appetite to develop infrastructure and will encourage the sector to invest in the right technology and skills to meet this demand.

The Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme sets out how the government will ensure these projects are delivered swiftly and efficiently. It contains ambitious plans to transform infrastructure delivery over the long-term, using the government’s influence to drive modern methods of construction so Britain can lead the world in high-tech building. The Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy sets out how these lessons will be applied to drive efficiency and productivity in transport.

Andrew Jones MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said “We are backing Britain with a record amount of infrastructure investment as we build an economy fit for the future. That’s why we’re working with the industry to skill up and scale up for the challenges ahead.

“Investing in infrastructure boosts productivity for the economy as a whole. The scale of the investment we are talking about here will deliver a step change for our country.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said added “We’re undertaking the most ambitious improvements in our transport network this country has seen for decades. But we must also drive forward plans to ensure these infrastructure projects are completed on time and on budget.

“World-leading projects such as Crossrail, the Ordsall Chord and the huge investment programme in our major roads show that Britain can deliver on time and on budget, boosting jobs and growth and creating new opportunities across the nation. But we want to do better. This strategy shows the way and sets out our standards for how we will do more and better in future.”

The government is a major player in construction and delivers many projects every year, such as transport, schools, prisons and hospitals. This accounts for a quarter of all construction projects, and using this purchasing power will enable ministers to drive innovation and encourage firms to invest in modern methods and technology.

Methods such as off-site manufacturing, where projects are part-constructed before being assembled on location, can boost productivity by reducing waste by 90% and speed up delivery times by more than half (60%). For example, a school that typically takes a year to build could be done in just over 4 months.

The announcements tackle this head on and give the sector the certainty to start investing in the right technology and skills.

Tony Meggs, Chief Executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), said “Publishing our Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) programme demonstrates our commitment to tackling the annual £15 billion productivity gap in construction. The IPA has a significant role to play in helping to create a more productive and innovative sector.

“We want to maintain confidence in the sector and will work alongside industry, using our purchasing power to drive the adoption of modern methods of construction in both new and existing infrastructure. The scale of ambition is great but by aligning our initiatives we can work with industry to deliver transformation for the sector.”

Andrew Wolstenholme, Co-Chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), said “The Transforming Infrastructure Performance programme presents a huge opportunity for the industry and government to reap the economic gains from improving productivity during the delivery of the UK’s £600 billion infrastructure pipeline. Transport is a huge part of that.

“I am delighted that the IPA, DfT and CLC are working closely to encourage construction clients to procure on the basis of whole life value, deliver more industry led innovation, develop the skills we need for the future and give the UK a competitive advantage in exporting new technologies and expertise. I am proud to chair the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Taskforce which will ensure these strategies are brought to life across the transport sector.

“It all adds up to better economic and social infrastructure, as well as more homes, delivered quicker, at better value and more sustainably than ever before, underpinning the UK’s growth and providing jobs all over the UK.”

 

 

More than half of people in the UK rank housing as the most important investment priority for the country, closely followed by renewable energy and major roads, according to a new report published today.

The report, published by Copper Consultancy in partnership with TLF Research, and launched at the Institution of Civil Engineers, found that the majority of people in the UK support infrastructure investment, but do not feel that they have enough information available on the future of infrastructure and housing.

Almost 60% of people stated they would be more interested in infrastructure and development projects if the benefits were clearly explained.

The research showed that almost everyone has a view on the condition of housing, roads and rail, but there is less understanding of infrastructure where the benefits are not explained.

Linda Taylor, managing director of Copper Consultancy, said “What’s clear from the research is that the public wants the opportunity to support infrastructure investment, but unless they understand the benefits, people do not feel equipped to get involved.

“The public wants support in linking projects to day to day life and experiences. We’re left with an investment-benefit disconnect.

“The government and industry have an opportunity to tell a coherent story about the real life benefits that investment in infrastructure and housing delivers. Our research shows that when the benefits are made clear, the public is supportive. If we achieve this, public support for infrastructure could lead to fewer delays to projects and the benefits of infrastructure will be realised sooner.”

President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Professor Lord Robert Mair CBE FREng FICE FRS, said “The report makes a major contribution to our understanding of the public’s aspirations for UK infrastructure. At a time when infrastructure is key to the future of the UK’s economy, the report’s findings are not only timely but also encouraging.

“The report shows the public can link positive change to infrastructure investment if they understand the benefits as outcomes and impacts to them. Engaging and educating the public – who are ultimately the customers and end users in infrastructure – is therefore crucial. To achieve this, we need to change the language around the subject and make the profession of civil engineering more accessible. It is up to us to take the findings of this report forward and to proactively tell our stories to the public.”

Nigel Hill, chairman, The Leadership Factor said “There is public support for investment in housing and infrastructure but also significant concern that the two are often not sufficiently linked. There is a strongly held view that planning permission should be more influenced by the adequacy of the surrounding infrastructure especially roads, other transport links and schools.”

Click here to view the full report.

Is it possible to develop around a quarter of a million new homes in London by building apartments above rail lines? The answer is yes, according to a new report published today.

The report, entitled ‘Out of Thin Air’, says there is the potential to provide all the new homes London needs if existing engineering techniques were used to construct apartment blocks directly above rail, Overground and Underground lines.

Research from the report identified all rail tracks in Transport for London’s (TfL) fare zones 1-6 where there were no breaks in the track made by tunnels, roads or bridges and where there was ten metres of available land on both sides. This would allow for the development of 100m² apartments in buildings rising to 12 storeys. If a conservative 10% of this total was delivered it would provide 250,969 new homes.

The London boroughs of Brent, Ealing and Croydon and TfL Zones 2, 3 and 4 provided the most ‘overbuild’ development potential.

Rail lines with development potential:

Available rail lines for development

Number of hectares available by borough:

Available land by borough

Bill Price, WSP director, said “We have to be more creative in using existing space in what remains a relatively low-rise city. The air rights above rail tracks present an unrealised but significant opportunity to build more new homes on brownfield land. It’s important to emphasise the engineering is absolutely possible and not new. We have been working on projects of this nature in New York for decades. Right now in London we are working on a variety of projects that rise above rail lines including a 50-storey residential tower, homes above a new Crossrail station and even a Premier League stadium.”

“There is a wider point about how we can better connect communities and unlock new homes not just above rail lines but adjacent to them as well. In some parts of London rail lines act as accidental segregators. By ‘decking’ over these lines, such as the proposed regeneration west of Earls Court underground station, we can join together sites to unlock an even higher number of new homes and create new vibrant communities.”

The thinking behind the report emerged after Network Rail appointed WSP in 2012 to study the feasibility of building above rail lines. The study’s conclusions, which focused on the type of decking and noise and vibration issues are detailed in the new report. CGI designs are also provided of what rail overbuild might look like if implemented near a major rail terminal in Central London, above a rail line in West London, and above a station in North London.

Out of Thin Air follows a previous WSP report, ‘Building Our Way Out of a Crisis’, which argued that up to 630,000 new homes in London could be found by building apartments above public buildings such as hospitals and schools.

A £2.5 million cash boost to speed up the delivery of over 155,000 new homes across England, has been announced by the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid this month.

Nine locally-led garden town developments, from Bicester to Taunton, will each receive new funding to fast track the build out of these large housing projects.

The new funding will support local authorities and communities in delivering ambitious proposals, speeding up the progress of developments through additional dedicated resources and expertise.

Garden towns being supported by government are committed to delivering high quality, well-planed and well-designed new communities that will stand out as exemplars of good development in years to come.

The funding will support the development of 9 new locally-led garden towns at Bicester, Didcot, Basingstoke, Otterpool Park in Kent, Aylesbury, Taunton, Harlow-Gilston, North Northamptonshire and North Essex.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said “Locally-led garden towns have enormous potential to deliver the homes that communities need. This new funding will help support the construction of more than 155,000 homes in 9 places across the country.

“New communities not only deliver homes, but also bring new jobs and facilities and a big boost to local economies.”

The government’s Housing White Paper sets out bold new plans to ensure the housing market works for everyone, so that more people can have the security of a decent place to live.

Across England, government is supporting the locally-led development of 10 garden towns and cities, as well as 14 garden villages – with the combined potential to deliver 220,000 new homes across England.

Highways England has today updated its £15 billion road improvement programme to reduce the impact of roadworks on motorists and minimise congestion while improvements take place.

Plans for twenty-six road upgrades have been revised to reduce roadworks taking place in the same area of the network or on popular journey routes at the same time. This will mean less congestion for motorists as Highways England embarks on the biggest road upgrade plan for a generation.

The Supplementary Delivery Plan published today will see Highways England rescheduling its programme for the schemes between three and 24 months – meaning a number of schemes will be completed earlier than planned. All are still set for delivery as part of the Government’s first road investment strategy.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive said “Our update today is a sensible and responsible way to deliver major national investment in road infrastructure. It will keep our roads moving, deliver a lasting legacy for the country and ensure best value for money for the taxpayer.”

Now, more than two years into delivery of a £15 billion Government investment in motorways and major A roads, Highways England has already completed 18 major schemes, adding more than 190 lane miles of much-needed capacity to the nation’s roads.

The 10 schemes being brought forward are:

  • A19 Testos
  • A19 Downhill Lane
  • M56 junctions 6-8 smart motorway
  • M6 junctions 21a – 26 smart motorway
  • M6 junction 22 upgrade
  • A500 Etruria
  • M6 junction 10
  • M4 Heathrow Slips
  • A47 Acle Straight -small scale improvement
  • A47 and A12 junction enhancement

The 16 schemes being re-scheduled to smooth the timing and frequency of roadworks are:

  • A5 Dodwells to Longshoot widening
  • M3 junction 9 improvement
  • A31 Ringwood
  • M27 junctions 4-11
  • A47 North Tuddenham to Easton
  • A47 Blofield to North Burlingham dualling
  • M25 junction 25 improvement
  • M25 junction 28 improvement
  • A1 Birtley to Coal House
  • M60 junctions 24-27 and junction 1-4 smart motorway
  • A47/A11 Thickthorn
  • A47 Wansford to Sutton
  • A47 Guyhirn Junction
  • A12 Chelmsford to A120 widening
  • M25 junction 10/A3 Wisley interchange
  • M25 junctions 10-16

Highways England is obliged to ensure that investment in the road network delivers good value for money. Following a full review the Road Investment Strategy (RIS) programme some schemes require further development to achieve an acceptable return on investment. As a result, in addition to the 26 schemes above, 6 schemes have been paused for further review and consideration as part of future RIS planning process.

These schemes are:

  • A1 & A19 Technology enhancements
  • M11 junctions 8 to 14 technology upgrade
  • A12 whole-route technology upgrade
  • M53 junctions 5-11 smart motorway
  • A14 Junction 10a
  • M62/ M606 Chain Bar

Two further schemes required rework to achieve value for money; however, changes in local development plans mean that these schemes can be progressed, albeit in the early stages of Road Period 2. These are:

  • M5 Bridgwater junction improvements
  • A50 Uttoxeter Project B growth corridor project