Wednesday, 26 October 2016

How to minimise the impact of rodents during construction

Anyone who’s ever had a rodent infestation at home will understand the headache it causes – but if you thought that was bad enough, imagine facing an invasion from rats at your construction site.

It’s a nightmare situation all too familiar to the Belgian officials responsible for opening new road tunnels in Brussels. Earlier this year, they claimed progress had been halted after rats ate construction plans.

Whilst this does sound like a very extreme and public use of the classic ‘sorry, the dog ate my homework’ excuse, it also accurately points out one of the biggest issues that arises from pest control problems on a building site – namely, delays.

As rats and mice struggle to find shelter and food, they’ll happily gnaw their way through woodwork or burrow between joints, leaving heaps of expensive damage in their wake, as well as completely disrupting your schedule.

And, as Belgian officials discovered, it’s a complication investors aren’t likely to be sympathetic towards, particularly because it can be easily avoided with a few simple actions.

Here’s our top advice for minimising the impact of pests on your construction site.

#1: Deal with any current problems

If you’re working on a brownfield or a greenfield site, you may have already disturbed a population of rats or mice. In that case, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of an infestation. Chewed electrical cables – in fact, chewed anything – will be one of the most obvious indicators.

If you’re too late and they’ve already got a stronghold at your site, your only sure-fire tactic of getting rid of them is to hire an established rodent control company – they’ll also keep you on the right side of the law when it comes to dealing with protected species like bats.

#2: Protect your staff

Everyone knows that rats spread diseases, but did you also know that their germs can linger even after the pests have been eradicated? That means your employees could still be at risk of contracting potentially lethal infections, especially if stagnant water is nearby.

Limit the possible health and safety consequences by providing protective gloves to all construction workers, and promote good hand hygiene with adequate washing facilities.

#3: Stop future complications

Prevention is far easier and more effective than curing an infestation. Protect your building from future invasions from pests and rodents by incorporating preventative measures into initial construction stages.

Your biggest task will be blocking all conceivable points of entry, including gaps around drain pipes and air vents. A fine mesh should do the trick, and future human inhabitants will be forever thankful for your efforts.

So you never have to utter the shaming words ‘Rats ate my construction plans’ like those hapless Belgian officials, stick to these three steps for stopping rodent problems from disrupting your building site.

from The UK Construction Blog

Monday, 17 October 2016

Clients could face tax bills for choosing cheap contractors

Clients could face a tax of 0.5% of construction costs if they choose contractors who don’t invest in research and development or skills training.

That is one of the ideas in a radical review of the construction industry currently being pored over by Government ministers who commissioned it.

The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model warns the industry faces “inexorable decline” unless major changes are made.

It highlights construction’s “dysfunctional training model”, lack of innovation and collaboration and “non-existent research and development culture.”

Author and consultant Mark Farmer said the needs of construction firms and the clients who hire them are out of step.

He said: “If you buy a new car, you expect it to have been built in a factory to exacting standards, to be delivered on time, to an agreed price and to a predetermined quality.

“This needs to happen more in construction, so that the investors, developers or building owners hiring construction firms increasingly dictate the use of modern methods of delivery and invest appropriately in the skills agenda to grow this part of the industry.

“There are more similarities between manufacturing and construction than many people are led to believe and this perception needs to change, starting in the housing market”

One recommendation set out for the medium term is a “carrier bag charge” style behavioural deterrent scheme.

This would levy a tax on businesses who buy construction work in a way that doesn’t support industry innovation or skills development.

Clients could face paying a suggested levy equal to 0.5% of a scheme’s construction cost but would avoid paying this tax completely by commissioning construction in a more responsible way.

Farmer said: “The construction industry is in dire need of change.

“What is clear to me following the nine months spent conducting this review is that carrying on as we are is simply not an option.

“With digital technology advancements pushing ahead in almost every other industry and with the construction labour pool coming under serious pressure, the time has come for action.

“Unless we find some way of promoting innovation in construction and making the work less labour intensive and more attractive to new entrants, there’s a very real danger of the construction sector going into an inexorable decline over the next few years.

“I hope this review generates some debate in the sector and all involved can consider their role in safeguarding the industry’s long term health.”

Ray O’Rourke, chairman and chief executive at Laing O’Rourke, said: “Laing O’Rourke has invested heavily in innovation and continuous improvement, and therefore I welcome many of the findings and recommendations of the Farmer review.

“The report shines a light on the serious and systemic issues in UK house building and the wider construction industry, and we cannot afford to ignore them any longer.”

“There is significant scope for radical transformation through the adoption of new technologies and advanced manufacturing approaches.

“This will deliver the quality housing stock the UK urgently requires and directly address the acute skills gap that threatens our very future.

“Government, developers and deliverers need to invest collectively to achieve these shared goals and future-proof the industry.”

Ten main recommendations of the Farmer Review

1.    Construction Leadership Council should have strategic oversight of the implementation of these recommendations and evolve itself appropriately to coordinate and drive the process of delivering the required industry change programme set out in this review.

2.    CITB should be comprehensively reviewed and a reform programme instituted.

3.    Industry, clients and government should work together leveraging CLC’s Business Modelsworking party activity, to improve relationships and increase levels of investment in R&D and innovation in construction by changing commissioning trends from traditional to pre-manufactured approaches. The housing sector (spanning all tenures) should be used as a scalable pilot programme for this more integrated approach.

4.    Industry, government and clients, supported by academic expertise and leveraging CLC’s current Innovation work stream activity, should organise to deliver a comprehensive innovation programme. This should be fully aligned to market, benefits case led and generate a new shape of demand across industry, with a priority on residential construction. It should quickly define key measures of progress and report regularly against these as a check on the possible need for more radical measures. It should in turn also help shape CITB reform proposals in relation to technology and innovation grant funding initiatives.

5.    A reformed CITB should look to reorganise its grant-funding model for skills and training aligned to what a future modernised industry will need. Industry bodies and professional institutions should also take a more active role in ensuring that training courses are producing talent which is appropriate for a digitally enabled world, ensuring that the right business models are evolved with appropriate contractual frameworks.

6.    The government has recently reaffirmed its commitment to having a strong industrial strategy. The government should recognise the value of the construction sector and be willing to intervene by way of appropriate further education, planning and tax / employment policies to help establish and maintain appropriate skills capacity.

7.    A reformed CITB or stand-alone body should be challenged and empowered to deliver a more powerful public facing story and image for the holistic ‘built environment’ process, of which construction forms part. This responsibility should include an outreach programme to schools and should position industry exemplars and the target future state rather than just ‘business as usual’.

8.    Government should act to provide an ‘initiation’ stimulus to innovation in the housing sector by promoting the use of pre-manufactured solutions through policy measures. This should be prioritised either through the conditional incentivisation of institutional development and investment in the private rented sector; the promotion of more pre-manufactured social house building through registered providers; direct commissioning of pre-manufactured housing; or a combination of any of the above. It should also consider planning breaks for pre-manufactured approaches.

9.    Government, as part of its housing policy planning, should work with industry to assemble and publish a comprehensive pipeline of demand in the new build housing sector, on the same lines as the National Infrastructure Pipeline, seeking to bring private developers and investors into this as far as possible to assist with longer term innovation and skills investment planning.

10. In the medium to longer term, and in particular if a voluntary approach does not achieve the step change necessary, government should consider introducing a charge on business clients of the construction industry to further influence commissioning behaviour and to supplement funding for skills and innovation at a level commensurate with the size of the industry. If such a charge is introduced, it should be set at no more than 0.5% of construction value, with a clear implementation timetable. Clients should be able to offset their contribution by demonstrating how they are contributing to industry capacity building and modernisation by directly or indirectly investing in skills development, pre-manufacturing facilities, or other forms of innovation and R&D.

from The UK Construction Blog

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Robertson says project bank accounts will force margin rises

Stirling-based Robertson Group is predicting main contractors will have to rebalance margins as project bank accounts become commonplace on public sector work in Scotland.

Chairman Bill Robertson predicted a fundamental business model shift as he unveiled another year of strong profit growth to March 2016.

He predicted further upward pressure for healthier main contractor margins would result from greater involvement of private sector funders in the industry.

Robertson said: “Due to the changing source of funders in our market the group board believes that healthier margins in our sector will be a requirement of participation by funders to major projects and businesses.

“Our group companies therefore will continually focus on a growing return on capital and improving risk profile in our projects in preference to growth in volume.

“Indeed, in construction, if the intended project bank account process promoted by the public sector is pursued across the industry, the additional profit element required to operate such a scheme will require a rebalancing of margins within the industry.”

Over the year Robertson nearly doubled pre-tax profits to £21m on record turnover of £453m, while building its strongest ever forward order book at £2bn.

The group is now planning to double turnover over the next five years.

More than £100m of revenue is presently generated in England where the diversified Robertson Group has been steadily building its presence with a new Yorkshire and East Midlands office in Sheffield.

Robertson said the group had seen continued and sustainable growth across its 19 diverse infrastructure-based businesses, most notably in its construction, house building and partnership homes businesses.

Over the last 18 months the fast expanding group has taken on over 600 staff taking total headcount to nearly 2,000.

This year it aims to recruit a further 100 staff as it maintains a focus on using direct labour to maintain competitive advantage in the current skills crisis.

Partnership homes grew strongly and has now secured contracts to deliver over 2,500 homes over the next five years in Scotland. The firm also formed a partnership homes business in the North of England.

The group also expanded its offering in building services, civil engineering and rendering and roofing over the last 12 months.

Robertson Capital Projects, the group’s investment business, has successfully utilised its strong group working approach by involving its sister businesses in construction and facilities management to secure preferred bidder status for the delivery of a new £62m hospital in Kirkwall for NHS Orkney.

The investment will be run on 30-year concession commencing on financial close, which is anticipated in February 2017.

The homes business is operating on eight sites in Scotland including new developments in Dunbar, Strathaven and Mid Calder in Central Scotland. Robertson Homes also plans to develop quality family homes in the North of England, with four sites identified. 

from The UK Construction Blog

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Government unveils £5bn boost to speed up house building

The Government is pledging £5bn of public money to accelerate building of tens of thousands of homes.

House-BuildingUnder the latest plan to galvanise the house building industry, ministers will set aside £2bn of new public borrowing to fund an Accelerated Construction Scheme to make public land with planning permission available to builders.

A further £3bn home building fund using previously-announced cash will provide loans to stimulate new building projects where finances are tight.

Builders will be encouraged through these funding pots to use more modern building techniques in the hope of delivering homes twice as quickly.

Also new rules will be introduced to make it easier for developers to demolish offices and replace them with residential housing on a like-for-like basis.

Local planning authorities will be able to grant permission in principle on sites identified in new brownfield registers, to take the risk out of developing a potential 140,000 homes a year.

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will set out details of the funds at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham today.

“We’ll use all the tools at our disposal to accelerate housebuilding and ensure that over time, housing becomes more affordable,” Hammond said in a statement before his speech to the conference.

The home building fund will release £1bn of short-term loans for small builders, custom builders and innovative developers to deliver 25,500 homes by 2020, while a further £2bn of long-term funding for infrastructure will unlock up to 200,000 homes over the longer term, they said.

from The UK Construction Blog

Monday, 3 October 2016

New UK construction industry mascot launched by Considerate Constructors Scheme

The UK construction industry now has a female mascot called Honor Goodsite – created by the Considerate Constructors Scheme – the national organisation established to improve the image of the industry.

press-release_honor-goodsite-launch_photograph_smallHonor Goodsite will promote all that is great about the industry, helping to raise awareness and inspire young children to consider a career in construction when they grow up, as well as delivering important messages about children’s safety around construction sites.

Honor Goodsite is a structural engineer – a key profession within construction – but one which is still very much underrepresented by women. Only six percent of parents surveyed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology said an engineering career would be attractive to their daughters; the challenge is to help change these perceptions among parents as well as children.

She joins the hugely successful industry mascot Ivor Goodsite, a site manager who was introduced by the Scheme in 2003 and has since then visited hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across the UK.

Honor Goodsite’s first outing was at the Victoria Station Upgrade project – a £700 million project transforming one of the capital’s busiest stations. The Taylor Woodrow BAM Nuttall Joint Venture delivering this project hosted the launch of Honor Goodsite, with the help of 19 children.

Considerate Constructors Scheme Chief Executive Edward Hardy said: “The Scheme is delighted to be launching the UK construction industry’s new mascot, Honor Goodsite.  Honor has a hugely important role to improve the construction industry’s image with future generations. As a role model for promoting gender diversity and equality in construction, Honor will encourage schoolchildren to understand the wide range of careers available, while helping to change perceptions of the sector as male-orientated.”

Considerate Constructors Scheme Director Caroline Barker added: “I am delighted that the industry now has a female mascot. As the first female engineer to be recruited at a leading construction organisation in the 1980’s, I know first-hand how exciting an industry it is for everyone”.

Taylor Woodrow Bam Nuttall’s Environmental Manager Caroline O’Connor commented: “It is excellent that the Considerate Constructors Scheme has introduced Honor Goodsite. As a woman working in construction, I can thoroughly recommend it as a great industry to work in. The variety of careers and opportunities in the construction industry is vast, and I am sure Honor Goodsite will help young children and their parents to see that construction is an exciting, rewarding industry, which is open to everyone”.

Women’s Engineering Society’s Chief Executive Dawn Bonfield MBE commented: “The Women’s Engineering Society praises the Considerate Constructors Scheme in creating Honor Goodsite. We are delighted that Honor Goodsite’s profession is as an engineer, and we are sure that her role will inspire and educate future generations of schoolchildren into the construction sector, and promote greater gender diversity and equality in the workplace.”

All Scheme-registered sites, companies, suppliers and clients are eligible to hire Honor Goodsite for any community, school related, or other educational/charitable events. For more information about Honor and Ivor Goodsite click here.

from The UK Construction Blog