Britain’s best innovators and researchers are being invited to pitch their ideas to help tackle the effects of climate change on towns, cities and the countryside as part of modern Industrial Strategy.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark recently announced 4 new research programmes to boost the UK’s resilience to climate change, develop digital environments, promote clean air and investigate how to use our land to boost health outcomes.

The £60 million funding pot was announced during the first ever Green GB Week – a government-led week of campaigning to encourage businesses, communities, funders and academics to renew their efforts to confront the global challenge of climate change.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said “Companies are capitalising on the UK’s world leading position in the greener economy as we transition to a greener, cleaner economy and is one of the greatest industrial opportunities of our time.

“The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change, cutting our emissions more than 40% since 1990 while growing our economy. When you combine Britain’s leadership, innovation and determination it is an unbeatable combination – exactly what our Industrial Strategy and Green GB Week are supporting and encouraging.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said “The recent IPCC report is a timely reminder of the challenges we face in tackling climate change. Storm Callum has highlighted the impact that extreme weather events can have on our communities.

“It is vital that the evidence generated by research is used effectively to navigate and mitigate the effects of climate change, and new technologies are developed to support a move to a low carbon economy.

“The Strategic Priorities Fund is important in supporting UKRI’s mission, allowing us to bring collective expertise from a wide range of disciplines and sectors to bear on addressing important matters affecting all of society.”

The programmes, administered by UKRI, will bring together a broad range of research disciplines, ranging from mathematics and biology to climate science and technology development to:

  • produce better data on climate risks to the UK
  • build a digital picture of our natural environment for greater monitoring and analysis of the impact of climate change
  • cut air pollution and protect vulnerable groups from its effects
  • use our land better, for the benefit of the environment and communities
  • develop ways for the UK to adapt to climate change

Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Professor Stephen Belcher, said “These programmes will allow the Met Office and our partners to make real progress in two areas of significant environmental impact: air pollution and climate change.

“Working together with other world-leading scientists from the UK’s academic community, we will be able to deliver tools and services which will benefit the lives and livelihoods of people across the UK.”

Competitions for the programmes will open in the coming weeks. Researchers and innovators can visit the UKRI website for updates.

The funding comes as part of the Strategic Priorities Fund, delivered by UKRI to drive an increase in high quality multi- and interdisciplinary research and innovation. It will ensure that UKRI’s investment links up effectively with government research priorities and opportunities. Further programmes will be announced in the coming months.

On Monday 21 August at noon, Big Ben’s famous bongs will sound for the last time before major conservation works are carried out. The Elizabeth Tower, home to the Great Clock and Big Ben, is currently undergoing a complex programme of renovation work that will safeguard it for future generations. While this vital work takes place, the Great Bell’s world famous striking will be paused until 2021 to ensure the safety of those working in the Tower.

Steve Jaggs, Keeper of the Great Clock, said “Big Ben falling silent is a significant milestone in this crucial conservation project. As Keeper of the Great Clock I have the great honour of ensuring this beautiful piece of Victorian engineering is in top condition on a daily basis. This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home – the Elizabeth Tower. Members of the public are welcome to mark this important moment by gathering in Parliament Square to hear Big Ben’s final bongs until they return in 2021.”

The Great Bell, popularly called Big Ben, weighs 13.7 tonnes and strikes every hour to the note of E. It is accompanied by four quarter bells, which chime every 15 minutes. Big Ben has marked the hour with almost unbroken service for the past 157 years. The bongs last fell silent for maintenance in 2007, and prior to that between 1983-5 as part of a previous large scale refurbishment programme.

The Great Clock is operated by a custom built Victorian clockwork mechanism, which relies on gravity to trigger the renowned bongs. To stop the bells the striking hammers will be locked and the bell disconnected from the clock mechanism, allowing the Great Clock to continue telling the time silently. Parliament’s specialist clock makers will ensure that Big Ben can still bong for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The bells will resume their regular time keeping duties in the course of 2021.

Conservation works

Standing at 96 metres tall, the Elizabeth Tower is a focal point of the Grade I listed Palace of Westminster, which forms a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Not only is it a world famous landmark, it is also the most photographed building in the UK. Conservation is required to:

  • Repair problems identified with the Elizabeth Tower and the Great Clock, which cannot be rectified whilst the clock is in action
  • Conserve significant elements of the Tower, as designed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Welby Pugin
  • Repair and redecorate the interior, renew the building services and make improvements to health and safety and fire protection systems
  • Improve energy efficiency to reduce the Tower’s environmental impact

The project started earlier this year, with the start of scaffolding works. Once this scaffolding reaches the necessary height, work will begin at the very top of the Tower with the renovation of the Ayrton Light (which shines to show that Parliament is sitting) and the refurbishment of the cast iron roofing.

The team will then work their way down the building, removing scaffolding as they go, and tackling a wide range of the complex issues created by the height and heritage of this unique landmark.

The Great Clock

As part of this intricate series of works, the Great Clock itself will be dismantled piece by piece with each cog examined and restored. The four dials will be carefully cleaned, the glass repaired, the cast iron framework renewed, and the hands will be removed and refurbished. Whilst the Great Clock and the dials are undergoing conservation, it will be necessary to cover the faces for some time. However, to ensure that the public are still able to set their watches by this most important of time pieces, one working clock face will remain visible at all times throughout the works. As the clock mechanism itself will be temporarily out of action, a modern electric motor will drive the clock hands until the Great Clock is reinstated.

Last week, the Treasury announced the ‘essential’ £369m renovation plans for Buckingham Palace. To fund this 10 year endeavour, the Queen has been given a 66% pay rise which will last for the entirety of the project. However, this news has caused a backlash from the general public and has left the UK questioning who should be paying for this refit. Consequently, a petition asking the Queen to pay for this refurbishment herself reached its target in a matter of days, attracting over 140,000 signatures. Now, leading home services marketplace,, has found that 2 out of 3 UK taxpayers feel unhappy with the costs.

Ultimately, 68% of UK taxpayers feel unhappy with the £369m price tag. As the home of Buckingham Palace, Londoners appear more supportive of the final price with only 61% feeling unhappy with the costs. This may be due to Londoners being more aware and accepting of higher costs in the capital, making them less surprised by the level of funding needed for the renovations.

Similar to the referendum and Brexit, Scotland has taken a distinctly negative stance and has proven to be the most unsupportive country in the UK, with 81% of respondents claiming they are unhappy with the costs. 82% of respondents in Edinburgh disapprove of the costs, whilst Glasgow appears to be the slightly more sympathetic with 77% feeling unsatisfied.

With only 54% feeling unhappy with the 369m investment, Bristol shows the highest level of support for the price tag in the country. Brighton, too, shows more understanding for the costs with 59% feeling unhappy.

The results also show that Liverpool (73%), Leeds (70%), Nottingham (78%) and Sheffield (72%) are the least happy of all locations in England.

Spokesperson for Plentific, Stephen Jury, said “Whilst the price for upgrading seems steep, these refurbishments are essential to the safety of the building and will allow Buckingham Palace to continue to attract tourism and generate revenue. For the average UK taxpayer, the cost obviously comes across as a shock, which is highlighted by our research with the majority not being happy with the bill.”

Whitehall is currently abuzz with panicked chatter, deep anguish and parliamentarian discomfort. With general consensus now being that the palace of Westminster is in dire need of a retrofit, the taxpayer will ultimately be footing the bill. Seeing as we voters currently have the choice of who goes in and out of Parliament, shouldn’t we also have a say on its refurbishment? Building Specifier editor Joe Bradbury discusses.

A brief history

Completed in the 1860s, the Palace of Westminster is an iconic building that currently houses the British Parliament. It is a world famous and instantly recognisable structure and stands as a celebrated international symbol of our parliamentary democracy. Just as UK Parliament is constantly in a state of flux, so too has the building; adapting accordingly to suit its primary and functional purpose. Taking massive damage during the WWII blitz, the Houses of Parliament were repaired as a matter of utmost national priority post-1945. The project was seen as a real opportunity to create some much-needed new facilities that would be consistent with the original design.

From the 1960s onwards the requirement for individual Members of Parliament to have offices, coupled with the expansion of other parliamentary services led to the acquisition of additional buildings and the Palace became the core of a much larger Parliamentary Estate. In 1992 responsibility for maintaining the Palace ‘on behalf of the nation’ transferred from the Government to Parliament itself. How did this work out?

Fighting a losing battle

It appears that since 1992, every effort has been made to maintain what is ultimately an outdated and increasingly unsuitable infrastructure. Services such as heating, cooling, water, sewage, electricity and cabling have been kept semi-functioning, but have not been modernised. Astoundingly, there has been no real general renovation of the building and its services since the partial rebuild of 1945-50 – some of the services even predate the war. The original basements and vertical shafts that litter the building are now completely filled with pipes and cables, making further work difficult to carry out – which results in further expense.

Reports illustrate that asbestos features heavily throughout the palace and although asbestos remains safe if treated with great care in compliance with safety regulations, it makes any intervention so much more difficult. Another issue is that most of the work undertaken over the last 50 years is largely undocumented and since many areas are inaccessible, the state of dilapidation and subsequent risk is mostly uncharted. The building is completely at the mercy of fire, with little modern safety practices in place and fire compartmentation considered almost impossible.

The original roofs are no longer watertight and there are many areas plagued with penetrating damp, damaged by interior leaks and flooding.

Today, an influential committee is expected to recommend that MPs and peers should abandon the crumbling Houses of Parliament for six years so that drastic refit works can be carried out.

The cost

So now at the crux of the issue, how much does it cost to renovate a 150 year old Grade I listed building which is partly sinking, contains asbestos and has outdated cabling? The short answer is ‘a lot.’ The sheer amount of work and the sensitive nature of refurbishing a World Heritage Site results in a sky-high estimate of between £3.5bn and £5.7bn, with some suggesting the sum could rise to as much as £7.1bn.

A 2012 report warned that “major, irreversible damage” may be done to the building unless significant restoration work is carried out soon, making the refurbishment one of the most urgent and arguably important renovation projects in the UK today. Some feel that the whole thing is a needless expense to the taxpayer and a vanity project for British Parliament. Another previous report concluded that the maintenance costs alone are so astronomically high that if the Palace of Westminster was a commercial structure of no historical significance, it would be far more cost-effective and efficient to demolish it and rebuild using modern methods of construction, such as modular offsite building.

Whatever you stance, the Houses of Parliament are of national, historical and cultural importance and refurbishment will happen. It should therefore be imperative that efforts are made to soften the bludgeoning blow to the taxpayer’s pocket, shouldn’t it?

“Should I stay or should I go?” The parliament predicament

Assuming renovation does take place, the big decision to make will be whether Parliamentarians stay put throughout restoration works or whether there will be a need for them to temporarily relocate. Estimates predict that if the palace was vacated for just 6 years, the cost of works would total around £3bn. If MPs decide they want to stay whilst work is undertaken, the figure is doubled and renovation is expected to take up to 32 years. Needless to say, vacation of the building for six years is the cheapest, quickest and viable solution. One option would be to set up temporarily over the road, by moving to either the Methodist Central Hall or the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Some have suggested MPs could relocate as far away as Birmingham – or perhaps even hold a touring parliament. This option is unsurprisingly unpopular with many parliamentarians.

There are some interesting and difficult challenges ahead, some difficult decisions to take, but I would say to the House that instinctively I think it is important that this building remains consistently at the heart of our democracy and that we don’t end up being forced to move somewhere else. – Leader of the Commons Chris Grayling

Others feel that something must be done quickly and efficiently.

Doing nothing or muddling on are not options. – Lichfield Conservative MP Michael Fabricant

Who makes the decision?

A select committee of both the House of Commons and House of Lords is expected to be formed to consider the findings of the Independent Options Appraisal and make recommendations to members of both houses. In the meantime a joint committee of Commons and Lords will be set up with the task of recommending a way forward. A decision on which option to adopt is expected to be taken by MPs next year, with work to begin after the next election in 2020. However, is it really their decision to make?

Affectionately nicknamed the “Mother of Parliaments,” the British parliament is respected as the most ancient parliament in today’s world. Apart from a few brief interruptions, it has carried out its business on the same spot, the Palace of Westminster, since the year 1265.

The longevity and overwhelming presence of this building is a physical testament to our very democracy. Parliament was originally formed by the people, for the people. Therefore, under the very democracy that the building stands for, shouldn’t we have ultimate say over how our tax money is spent and renovation is undertaken? Meanwhile parliament continues to crumble around our legislature.

Will you see the light?

Since the late 1950’s GRP has been a feature of many commercial, industrial and agricultural buildings across the UK, bringing the free resource of natural daylight into the workplace.
GRP is a strong thermoset material with good impact resistance and consists of, among other components, polyester resin which is reinforced by a glass strand mat.

The success of Filon rooflights resulted in several UK based manufacturers continuously producing GRP. Eventually, this involved the use of alternative plastic materials such as PVC. As a brittle material, this was at times subject to damage due to storms, foot traffic on the roof and UV degradation.

This didn’t stop the efforts of thermoplastic manufacturers to try to compete with ‘Filons’ and other GRP rooflights though and polycarbonate in-plane rooflights were born and have since steadily encroached on the GRP rooflight market. There are many positive attributes to polycarbonate such as it providing high levels of light transmission, being very strong and having a good fire rating. There are however, many aspects that should be considered in rooflight material choice for profiled roof applications and we shall discuss them now.

Thermal movement

A thermoplastic material such as polycarbonate has much greater thermal movement than GRP and over 5 times more than the surrounding steel sheets.

If no allowance has been made for this movement such as oversized fixing holes, it could create some problems particularly around the fasteners such as the sheet cracking and at the end laps with seals potentially failing. It is also possible for rooflights with an insulating box detail, such as those used in composite panel roofs, for the rooflight to expand but find resistance. The material will have no room to move as it will be constrained by the surrounding metal roof panels and so could belly out – bulge out of shape between the purlins.

Light Distribution

Another significant consideration is the type of illumination required in the building. GRP has high levels of light transmission and is also a naturally diffusing product. It will provide an even distribution of natural daylight across the area to create a balanced illumination reducing bright spots, shadows and hot spots.

Thermoplastics like polycarbonate, when used as in-plane rooflights however, tend to be clear or colour tinted. They are much less diffusing and allow more light to pass directly through the rooflight. This can create localised bright spots with solar glare and also hotspots due to the nature of direct sunlight.

The first images show two very similarly constructed equestrian centres but one is fitted with polycarbonate rooflights and the other with Filon GRP rooflights. The images clearly show a very different lighting pattern: the polycarbonate rooflights allow light to pass directly through so that their position is clearly replicated on the floor – even the purlins are casting shadows on the ground; the GRP rooflights in comparison provide a very even light distribution, so much so that there are not even any shadows visible around the horse and rider – the perfect conditions for easily spooked horses.

The second pair of photographs show a supermarket distribution centre, firstly with polycarbonate rooflights and secondly after the rooflights have been replaced with Filon GRP. Again, in the first picture, the position of the rooflights is clearly visible by the bright spots on the floor. The picture with new GRP rooflights has eliminated all of the bright spots and reduced localised internal temperatures without compromising lux levels – much more suitable conditions for storing some supermarket goods and foodstuffs.

The example projects highlight the importance of selecting the appropriate rooflight material. For your next industrial, commercial or agricultural building, please give careful consideration about the type of light distribution required. If an even spread of diffused light, without shafts of light, hotspots or dark corners is preferred, then GRP is likely to be the most appropriate choice.

Written by Mark Wilcox, Sales Director, Filon Products Ltd

When Fife Council consulted its residents at Broomhead flats in Dunfermline about the future of their homes, the options were pretty clear cut. The three 50-year old blocks of flats had reached the point where they either needed significant investment to bring them up to the current Scottish Housing Quality Standard, or needed to be demolished and replaced with new build properties.

The result of the residents’ consultation favoured refurbishment and, in May 2014, Fife Council’s Housing and Communities Committee gave the go-ahead for this project to begin. A key requirement was to deliver refurbished homes which offer a higher level of protection against fuel poverty.

The multimillion pound project has transformed 216 properties, housed within the three 12-storey blocks. The building fabric has been brought up to a higher thermal standard, utilising product technology which was simply not available in the 1960s. And that primarily involved the £5.1m contract with CMS Window Systems for the replacement of windows, doors and curtain walling, application of external wall insulation (EWI) and replacing balconies.

CMS was appointed as the main envelope contractor after winning the competitive cost and quality based tender. For Fife Council, this helped simplify the procurement process and supply chain from the outset. CMS was able to help develop a specification for the windows, and their appointment ensured consistent quality, trouble free interface integration and clear communication channels – all proving important to the success of this extensive refurbishment project.

Every flat benefits from A-rated, highly insulating windows which are manufactured with Sheerframe lead-free PVCu profiles and feature thermally superior low-e softcoat double glazed sealed units. With a low U-value, the energy rating (WER) of these fully UK-made windows represents a huge improvement in thermal performance.

CMS also manufactured and installed aluminium curtain walling which spans up to eleven floors on each block, enclosing all communal walkways – equating to more than 2,000m2 of curtain walling. This replaced existing steel balustrades and steel screens in communal areas to raise the quality and visual appeal, internally and externally.

A third component to the structural elements was the replacement of balcony enclosures. CMS installed more than 1,700m2 of enclosures created using Windoor System 1000 featuring ‘Light’ glazing systems. Their design gives tenants the freedom to use their balconies all year round.

Completing the transformation of the building fabric, CMS also over-clad the external walls with a mix of insulated render and render only, as required, using mast climbers for safe access and to ensure speedy delivery with minimum disruption. With total wall coverage of more than 11,000m2, this extensive over-cladding work has improved the insulation level of all walls to complement the performance of the windows, doors and curtain walling.

John Rodigan, Senior Manager of Building Services at Fife Council said: “The Housing and Neighbourhood Service of the Council demonstrated great foresight in their decision to invest in the energy efficient measures at Broomhead.

“It’s also no coincidence that one of our most environmentally committed companies won the contract, it’s been the perfect partnership with all stakeholders sharing the same objectives. The result for the Broomhead tenants will be significant in terms of reduced energy costs and increased comfort. These works have made a substantial contribution to Fife’s green agenda as well as supporting local employment and trade apprenticeships – the delivery of this project has been a real triumph for the Council.”

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