Thursday, 29 June 2017


The Government recently announced plans to support the creation of 14 new Garden Villages. Universally seen as a good idea, there is however an underlying concern. This is around the historical slow growth which can be attributed to the existing ones failing to be the Utopia they promised to be. However, this discouraging outcome is rooted in lack of a mechanism that considers all social and technical impacts of a new development in its context in a wholesome manner. So what do we need to do to make sure our planned 14 Garden Villages are a success?

The concept of Garden Towns or Garden Villages was first introduced in the UK in 1898 and has continued to modestly grow ever since. They are defined as ‘a free standing, self-sustaining, high quality urban space that can address the housing issues, and is led by the local authority and supported by the community’.

To ensure the new 14 new Garden Villages are a success, there are a number of common problems that need to be addressed. BREEAM Communities is one solution that can help to ensure we don’t fall in to the same old traps.

Loss of Character

Garden Villages/Towns have been often criticised for not respecting or retaining the original characters of the locale they are developed in.

Every region and community holds its own unique characteristics and vernacular. Continuity between architectural style and building design within the development and the surrounding area will create coalition between the existing and new residents which in turn adds value to the quality of life within that community.

Injecting a new neighbourhood with its own facilities and potentially brand new occupants into the countryside requires a great deal of scrutiny into the existing and local features through studying the surroundings and consultation with stakeholders and community representatives. To illustrate the importance of this, BREEAM Communities scheme has an assessment issue worth of 2 credits dedicated to the subject of local vernacular to confirm that the development relates to the local character whilst reinforcing its own identity through a few practical steps.


Concentrating new homes in purpose-built new towns or villages, has a two-fold effect on infrastructure:

  1. Services and infrastructure (such as new drainage systems and gas and electricity services etc.) are built as part of the development which upsets people who live nearby in numerous ways if not done properly. Power loss, road closures, interruptions to customer supply or unnecessary expenses are some of the unwelcome outcomes of the inefficient structure for the existing/surrounding communities.

This is addressed under BREEAM Communities’ Utilities assessment issue where 3 credits are awarded for providing ducting and access points for services and for service providers’ coordination to ensure that installation and maintenance would not interrupt consumers’ supply.

  1. It puts pressure on the existing infrastructure and services where no extra infrastructure or services to support the new homes has been provided.

The notion of considering communities needs and requirements in terms of services and facilities and also delivery of these is visited in a few assessment issues within BREEAM Communities at the very early stages of development.


Milton Keynes, as one of the first new age Garden Towns, has over the years been criticised for its grid of broad roads that steers the residents towards driving their cars rather than using public transport. The grid also frustrates developers by taking up more space than a traditional city street despite the fact that it distributes traffic.

Other Garden Villages, on the other hand, seem to have been unable to cope with the traffic load due to poor or no evaluation of the infrastructural needs of a newly built community.

Both of the above cases have led to unhappy stakeholders, whether that’s the community or the local authority. Whereas, an early consultation with the stakeholders alongside an assessment of the transportation situation in the area followed by a design review in line with the results, can prevent either of the above issues.

To achieve this, BREEAM Communities provides step-by-step guidance to:

  • Ensure the needs, ideas and knowledge of the community are used to improve the quality of the design, planning and construction process. (Consultation)
  • Ensure that the masterplan’s design is reviewed by the community and other key stakeholders, ensuring that it supports a vibrant, healthy, functional and inclusive development. (Governance) and;
  • Ensure transport and movement strategies reduce the impact of the development upon the existing transport infrastructure and improve environmental and social sustainability through transport. (Transport and Movement)

Other issues

Overloaded schools and surgeries and lack of essential facilities such as shops, post office, banks etc. and absence of green infrastructure are some of the other issues that have made Garden Cities movement unsustainable. These are all as a result of a lack of consideration to demographic needs in general which is the core of BREEAM Communities methodology.

Undeniably there are other types of hurdles to building a practical Garden Village/Town. However, with the Government’s financial backing, lessons learned from the previous projects and the sciences within the Communities assessment methodology, now is the right time to create Garden Villages that are, more than ever, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

The most commonly accepted number of homes the UK needs to be building each year, in order to meet future housing need, is 240,000. Despite the small increase (6%), against the number of the newly built homes in the past year, we are far from achieving the above, hence the Government backing of the garden villages.

However, the housing crisis is not about how many homes we can build each year. It is about how many of these homes are affordable, habitable and practical for the people, the community. This is where the politically sponsored, sustainably created and socially approved Garden Villages/Towns come into play.

For more information on BREEAM visit:

from The UK Construction Blog

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Gilbert-Ash Completes British Embassy Fit Out in Kathmandu, Nepal

Gilbert-Ash Completes British Embassy Fit Out in Kathmandu, Nepal

UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office project assists with local rebuilding efforts

Award-winning UK construction, refurbishment and fit out contractor, Gilbert-Ash, has put the finishing touches to a £1m fit out project on the British Embassy compound in Nepal.   In the wake of the Gorkha earthquake, the project included design, fit-out and seismic reinforcement.

Within the British Embassy compound in Kathmandu, the project builds on Gilbert-Ash’s international expertise with work completed for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office in a total of 41 countries to date.

Nepal has been rebuilding since the devastating Gorkha earthquake which took place two years ago killing 9,000 people and causing widespread structural damage.  The fit out team at Gilbert-Ash worked closely with Nepalese construction companies to assist in sourcing local materials and labour to support the refurbishment.   Having had little exposure of working in earthquake zones, they worked closely with local structural engineers for whom earthquakes are a common occurrence and have excellent knowledge of seismic projects.

In contrast to the UK, Nepal has seen an increasing number of females taking up more prominent roles in the building trade since the earthquake due to a local labour shortage that has seen many male construction workers leave for work in the Middle East.

Ian Fisher, Contracts Manager, Gilbert-Ash Fit Out said: “This was a humbling project as our team saw first-hand the impact of the 2015 earthquake on the everyday lives of the people in Nepal. The local response to the earthquake to rebuild their country has been inspiring and we are pleased to have supported the recovery efforts.”

“The refurbishment of the British Embassy in Nepal for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office included retrofitting to increase the safety of the buildings and our team worked closely with local structural engineers to meet earthquake building regulations. This project was complex due to its location but having worked in so many countries, our fit-out team are now highly skilled in undertaking projects in a wide range of culturally diverse and environmentally challenging locations.”

He continued: “We travel with an open mind and are constantly learning and adapting to local cultures. Everywhere we work we take away something new. It was particularly inspiring to see the construction skills, knowledge and standards of craftsmanship practiced by the local industry in Nepal; with the advances in modern technology, many of these traditional skills have been lost in the UK.  Also while we are one of many actively involved in encouraging more women to join the construction industry in the UK, it was really incredible to see so many in the workforce in Nepal who are playing such a key role in rebuilding the country.”

To help the Kathmandu construction companies involved in the project, the Gilbert-Ash team donated building tools and materials alongside the transfer of new health and safety skills.

Highly detailed design, advanced logistical planning and development goes into every Gilbert-Ash fit out project, with the team skilled in delivering the finest quality projects on a global scale. To meet exacting specification standards befitting the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the company ships many of its fit out materials around the world.

The leading construction company has specialist fit out expertise in a range of sectors including workplace, retail, leisure and restoration.

For more information on Gilbert-Ash visit


from The UK Construction Blog

Monday, 26 June 2017

Trade body awards celebrate top flight acoustic performance

The skills and ingenuity of UK-based acoustic professionals working on national and international projects across a variety of environments were celebrated at a trade body awards.

ANC, the Association of Noise Consultants, unveiled the winners of its acclaimed Acoustic Awards programme at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.

Promoting and recognising excellence among UK acoustic consultants, the awards showcased the skills of members across five categories.

Hoare Lea secured the winning project in the award for ‘Architectural Acoustics: Commercial Buildings,’ sponsored by H & H Acoustic Technologies, with Sandy Brown Associates highly commended and SRL Technical Services commended in this category.

‘Architectural Acoustics: Education Buildings,’ sponsored by Ecophon, was secured by Sandy Brown Associates, with Adrian James Acoustics receiving the highly commended accolade and a commended award for Pace Consult.

‘Environmental Noise,’ sponsored by ANV Measurement Systems, was won by Apex Acoustics, with Southdowns Environmental Consultants taking highly commended and a commended title for AECOM in this category.

It was another successful outcome for Apex Acoustics, the winners in the ‘Smaller Projects’ award sponsored by Bruel & Kjaer, with AECOM taking the highly commended award and Red Twin the commended title.

The final award, ‘Vibration,’ sponsored by Pliteq, was won by Cole Jarman. WSP were highly commended and RBA Acoustics commended in this category.

Full details about the winning entries, with a link to a brochure featuring case study information on each project, can be viewed at

The awards were presented by James Woudhuysen, forecasting and innovation specialist and visiting professor at London South Bank University, with a distinguished panel of judges comprising of academics and professionals, as well as representatives from the sponsor companies, scrutinising the national and international entries.

Robert Osborne of ANC, said: “Now in their fifth year, the ANC awards continue to gain ground as a major opportunity to highlight world-leading expertise in the industry, and to inspire the next generation of acoustic consultants.

“Once again this year, the judges were hugely impressed with the scope and scale of the entries.

“The projects illustrate the unique skills of our UK-based acoustic and noise professionals and their innovative approach across the built environment, transportation and entertainment sectors.”

from The UK Construction Blog

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

2016 has been dubbed the ‘Year of Ransomware’…but why?









The NHS was a high-profile victim of a WannaCry Ransomware attack that hit businesses in over 150 countries recently. Find out more about the attack and how you can prevent your business from becoming the next victim

What Can I Do?

If you haven’t been a victim of this particular Ransomware attack, this doesn’t mean you won’t be in the future. There are a number of steps you can take to protect your systems against future attacks – not just Ransomware attacks, but exploits in your operating systems that could lead to additional attacks.

Always update your systems

We know, Windows updates are notoriously laborious. But it’s no longer something you can ignore. These updates might be cumbersome but they’re deployed to keep your systems and your business safe from exactly this type of exploit. It’s worth checking for updates right now (search ‘Windows Updates’ in your Windows search bar) and if there are any waiting, install them now. Microsoft has made it clear that if businesses had installed its MS17-010 security patch, they could have avoided the attack.

Be vigilant with emails

The method of distribution for this attack hasn’t been made public yet, but it’s very likely to be a malicious email link or attachment. Previously, spammy emails were easy to spot as they were plain text and littered with spelling errors. Hackers are more sophisticated than ever now, and emails containing Ransomware, malware or phishing links look more realistic thanks to email spoofing.  If in doubt, never click a link or open an attachment; speak directly to the supposed sender and alert your IT department.

Backup your critical systems and data

Because hackers are ever more sophisticated, zero-day attacks are now very common; these are attacks that exploit an as-yet-unknown vulnerability, meaning you could become the first victim of a new attack. Having a robust backup and disaster recovery solution in place means that, should your business fall victim, you’ll be able to restore not only your critical files but your systems too, and why it’s critical that your business has both in place.

Use a Ransomware-specific anti-virus

This attack exploited a security issue in Windows operating systems, which means the attack could have been something other than Ransomware. But this highlights the proliferation of Ransomware, which has seen a significant resurgence since last year. Ransomware attacks continue to hit and devastate thousands of businesses – don’t let your business be one of them. We recommend Sophos’ anti-Ransomware solution Intercept X, which prevents Ransomware viruses at the point of entry. What’s more, if your files have already been encrypted, Sophos Intercept X decrypts them. It’s an intelligent product that has protected many of our customers and ourselves from this global attack. We’re hosting emergency webinars on Sophos Intercept X this week

What next?

This is one of the most widespread Ransomware attacks ever. While the NHS and telecoms and car giants Telefonica are the headline victims, this attack has hit businesses of all sizes – some of which may never recover from it. IT security can no longer be ignored. This attack is expected to continue as the malware evolves, so if you haven’t been hit yet it doesn’t mean you’re protected.

Find out more

Read more here

from The UK Construction Blog

Monday, 12 June 2017


It’s likely a building will undergo a number of changes in its lifetime. Commercial structures in particular are potentially subject to different loads, with the introduction of new, equipment, and new openings cut to take services. When this happens, the reinforced concrete structural elements are placed under new stress’s and therefore in need of strengthening to take the additional loadings This situation also happens when buildings change use and extra floors are added, and in fact can affect all sorts of building from healthcare to residential.

As a solution, rather than use steel reinforcement to strengthen columns, beams, slabs, and walls, specifiers, clients and contractors are turning to carbon fibre. Flexible and versatile with a superior strength-to-mass ratio than traditional reinforcing methods, carbon fibre allows for a significant increase in performance without adding additional significant dead load. This solution is less intrusive and quicker and easier to install compared to traditional methods.

Carbon fibre strengthening comes in many different forms, plates, rods, near surface mounted plates, fabrics and shear links and are fixed using a range of high performance structural adhesives. Its increasing popularity as a proven solution for not only for reinforced concrete but also steel, cast iron, wood and masonry structures  due to its strength, lightweight, easy-handling ability, durability, superb adhesion and rapid installation where downtime of a building is in short supply.

The range of solutions and flexibility makes it ideal for all types of buildings and structures where there is an increase or change of loading and enhanced bending, shear or axial enhancement required. For external and internal use, its performance helps safeguard a building against issues such as long-term fatigue, blast loading and general stability.

Carbon fibre strengthening, as well as offering greater weight resistance than traditional refurbishment processes, is also kinder to the environment. It requires fewer materials and less energy, labour and machinery to install than steel reinforcement. The prospect of future corrosion and costly, time-consuming refurbishment is also eliminated with the use of carbon fibre strengthening. Without heavy plant-based processes required to install it, fabric-based solutions are safer for onsite teams to apply.

Sika provides fully comprehensive solutions with complete systems for all kinds of structural strengthening and improvement. These include:


Sika CarboDur®: 

  • Most widely-recognised and established carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) strengthening solution available worldwide
  • Comprises Sika CarboDur® CFRP plates and rods, together with the structural epoxy resin based adhesives Sikadur®-30 and Sikadur®-30 LP
  • Highly durable, outstanding performance, curing times can be accelerated and down-time minimised, even at lower temperatures


SikaWrap® Fabric Strengthening:

  • Flexible solution for a range of demands and projects
  • Comprises SikaWrap® Fabrics, SikaWrap® FX fabric anchors, Sikadur®-330 epoxy-based four-in-one product (primer, filler, impregnating resin and adhesive)
  • Applications including confinement, shear, seismic upgrading and weak substrate strengthening


Sika CarboShear:

  • Unique L-shaped CFRP plates
  • Shear capacity of concrete beams can be increased by the externally-applied Sika CarboShear L-shaped profiles
  • Quick and easy installation; excellent anchorage; no drilling through top slab required


Sika CarboStress®:

  • Unique pre-stressed strengthening system
  • Withstands loads more efficiently or with less total deflection
  • CFRP plates and post-tensioning techniques form a unique active external strengthening solution


Flexible, cost and time-effective and a proven performer in helping strengthen weakening structures worldwide, carbon fibre is shaping-up as a long-standing alternative to steel-based structural refurbishment.

from The UK Construction Blog

Friday, 9 June 2017


US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord has many layers of complexity, and seeing the debate unravel, it is not easy to understand if it driven by US politics surrounding employment opportunities, world politics – about making a stance on the global stage – or simply disbelief in the argument about climate change. But one thing is becoming clear since the President’s announcement in the rose garden of the White House on Thursday, the international response; regarded by political leaders and climate experts world-wide as a major error of judgement.

Making the argument about current domestic job security is perhaps missing the opportunity of long-term creation of jobs in the fields of green energy will give greater potential than the job cuts in the current industry. An argument that is clearly understood by many, including China.

The President’s announcement leaves the United States as one of just three countries, along with Nicaragua and Syria, to oppose the Paris Agreement, which is the world’s first legally-binding climate deal.

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan as well as the UN chief had hoped to pressure Trump into respecting the US pledge to curb its carbon emissions.

In a rare joint statement, continental Europe’s three biggest countries said they were “firmly convinced that the agreement cannot be renegotiated,” immediately cancelling any possibility of a new deal more favourable to the US being struck.

The advice went unheeded. The subsequent impacts on climate change are uncertain.


One thing is for sure, BREEAM will continue to research, and support the industry to be the best through its network of assessor, and the 70+ countries in which it operates to ensure we reduce the impacts of buildings to drive more sustainable solution. Allowing the industry to innovate, and improve.

Our work and passion in this space is not about a transfer of economic power from North to South, or West to East, It is very much about enabling free flow of knowledge between like mind institutes and corporates to support such growth and to release the potential of the market. Such an approach of collaboration will ensure that we also reduce our impact capacity by good design, and by sharing international best practise through BREEAM.

For more information on BREEAM visit:

from The UK Construction Blog

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Aarsleff encourage learning this summer with the launch of 4 new CPD’s

Aarsleff Ground Engineering, one of the UK’s leading driven piling and geotechnical contractors, has launched 4 new CPD seminars enabling engineers, designers and graduates across the UK the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and skills on a variety of ground engineering based topics this summer.

The new seminars, respectively titled An Introduction to Geotechnical Solutions, An Introduction to Pile Design, An Introduction to the Precast Ground Beam System and An Introduction to Sheet Piling, form an addition to the well-regarded Leading the Way in Driven Piling seminar that was launched in January of last year.

The new seminars aim to develop understanding on a variety of topics including Geotechnical Techniques; such as Ground Anchors and Soil Nails and how these can be used in a variety of different scenarios, Pile design; with a focus on design considerations for pile types, Precast Ground Beam System; specifically, how the system can be installed and the benefits of offsite construction, and finally Sheet Piling; covering a variety of techniques to be used in the infrastructure, residential, commercial, rail and marine/port markets.

Kevin Doyle, Head of Pre-Construction at Aarsleff said: “These tailored CPD’s give our clients a real chance to understand how we as a specialist contractor approach each project, and the level of expertise we can bring to a project design team”.

All seminars discuss their topics both on a theoretical and practical level, employing case study based insights delivered by presenters with years of design and engineering experience. The 45-minute seminars are free of charge and can either be held in person, at your offices, or remotely as a virtual CPD. All materials, handouts and literature are provided with a 15-minute question and answer session held to encourage interactive learning.

Would you like to join the list of companies who have received the latest CPD’s from Aarsleff Ground Engineering and expand your learning?

For a detailed overview of the CPD’s please contact Aarsleff on 01636 611140 or email

from The UK Construction Blog

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


The importance of sustainability is recognised the world over but it means different things to different people. For many it is about low environmental impact, whether that is in terms of performance or delivery. However it is so much more than that and for a global business such as Sika, it is imperative that we fully embrace sustainability and practice what we preach.

As a business, sustainability is embedded into everything we do – it affects us economically, environmentally and socially. It is a fundamental part of our everyday business. As a leading manufacturer of products working across multiple industry sectors (see and as a responsible employer, sustainability affects our thoughts, behaviors and actions – everyday. For us, sustainability is a shared goal but one whose successes directly benefit all.

At Sika we strongly believe in the holistic approach to sustainability and as such have six sustainability target indicators which encompass the three traditional pillars of sustainability. These targets – economic performance; sustainable solutions; local communities/society; energy; water/waste; and occupational safety – define what we do on a day to day basis from a business strategy and culture perspective.

Transparency is the hallmark of an ethical company, therefore Sika has committed to using the GRIs (Global Reporting Initiative) sustainability reporting standards for our Annual Report, which details initiatives implemented and progress towards our six sustainability targets. GRI provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards – 92% of the world’s largest 250 corporations report on their sustainability performance and 74% of these companies use GRI’s standards.

Embracing GRI not only illustrates to Sika’s stakeholders the importance that we place on sustainability, but also demonstrates that we are not afraid of being open and honest – Building Trust with customers and local communities alike.

GRI compares Sika’s performance, year on year. This approach allows us to base our sustainability credentials on fact and not on green wash. This is exceptionally important for a company like Sika that produces hundreds of different products, in dozens of different countries, as customers need to have the confidence that what they are specifying or installing is not only fit-for-purpose but also meets their sustainability needs.

As a global company, a global approach to sustainability is required, as demonstrated by our membership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and our commitment to the UN Global Compact.

Further illustration of our commitment includes 150 tonnes of waste saved and reused at a plant in Germany; a 60% saving of lighting energy at a number of our European factories and warehouses and 6% saving in electricity using outside cooling for processing at a plant in the US.

Sika also work with the Global Nature Fund who have developed partnerships with over 100 organisations to address drinking water conservation globally. Additionally, in Thailand and Vietnam, Sika staff have volunteered over 3,600 hours to support Operation Smile International which is dedicated to providing free treatment to children and adults suffering from cleft lips and palates.

Sustainability is in everything we do, every day. It affects all of us and as a business we are proud to practice what we preach and play our part in delivering a more sustainable future.

To find out more about the impact Sika are making every day, visit


By Dr Sarah Peake, Sustainability Manager at Sika UK

from The UK Construction Blog

Friday, 2 June 2017

How to prevent crowd disasters

Stadium concerts, football matches, or any kind of big celebration are all hot spots for crowds. When a large number of people gather in one place at one time, a crowd is formed and there are dangers to be aware of. When communication is lost, huge disasters can unravel. Thankfully, technology is at hand to help battle the causes of crowd catastrophes and accidents. In addition, technology such as pedestrian modelling software, is now available to help architects to design buildings that are safe for their users.

Architects can plan ahead with crowd management in mind. Many firms are investing in technologies that analyse, evaluate, and provide data regarding the safety of a crowd. By law, event organisers are obligated to keeping crowds safe – so these technologies can be utilised efficiently within this endeavour. Dangers that are listed by the government are as follows:

  • Crushing between people
  • Crushing against fixed structures such as barriers
  • Trampling
  • Surging, swaying or rushing
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Dangerous behaviour such as climbing on equipment or throwing objects

The dangers

Crushing tends to be the most common cause of disaster within crowds. Believe it or not, trampling does not cause it. It can be something as small as one person tripping or falling, and then that movement having a chain-reaction throughout the crowd and causing a huge crush against barriers or walls etc.

The movement of people can become a powerful force, and in some cases, it can be up to a force of over 4500 Newtons, or 1,000lbs. Objects that are supposed to protect a crowd can also become a potential hazard, as steel railing can be bent and cause injury to passers-by. These types of pressures can cause compressive asphyxia, a leading cause of suffocation within a crowd and the most common cause of death.

Event organisers and venue staff should be using pre-emptive technologies to spot dangers before they happen. This technology can be crucial for preventing a potential disaster and saving lives. For instance, in 2003 70 people were crushed while trying to escape from pepper spray that was being used to break up a fight. This may not have happened if technology could have established that this wasn’t enough space per square meter for people to leave the building safely.


There are several reasons why a disaster can emerge in a crowd. The most common examples are:

Lack of communication: In 1981, Greek football fans were killed when they tried to leave a match in Athens stadium, finding the gates locked. The rear of the crowd had no way of knowing this was the case and continued to press forward, causing 24 deaths.

Reaction to perceived threat: A riot by English and Italian fans in 1985 at a European Cup Final in Brussels led to a flight by spectators trying to escape the violence, which led to 38 deaths by asphyxia. Over 437 people were injured.

‘Craze’ behaviour: in 1989, 96 people were killed and more than 170 injured at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. A larger than expected fanbase was trying to enter the stadium, which caused police to open gates to relieve crowd pressure. Instead, the crowd surged into the stadium, crushing fans into enclosed terraces.

How to avoid crowd disasters

Technologies are changing attitudes towards crowd disasters and making it easier for event organisers to prevent potential disasters. It is important to set a limit of the number of guests that can attend the event to make sure there aren’t too many people trying to squeeze into on space that simply can’t hold everyone – however, bear in mind that this can often be an unrealistic method at larger events such as religious gatherings.

It can be difficult to implement good communication in a crowd. The use of stewards to help promote communication is a recommended measure as they can prevent the issue that comes from a communication breakdown between the head and body of a crowd.

It’s vital to ensure proper access and exits are in place. This is something that can be considered in the design and construction phases of building a new venue. With new technologies, architects can plan for safe crowd management before the building is built. A timed exit in a large event, where people from different levels exit at different slots of time, is another popular prevention method.



from The UK Construction Blog