What does a ban on timber cladding for high rise buildings mean?

The government is banning combustible materials on new high-rise homes and giving support to local authorities to carry out emergency work to remove and replace unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding.

Regulations have been laid in Parliament which will give legal effect to the combustible materials ban announced in the summer. The ban means combustible materials will not be permitted on the external walls of new buildings over 18 metres containing flats, as well as new hospitals, residential care premises, dormitories in boarding schools and student accommodation over 18 metres.

Schools over 18 metres which are built as part of the government’s centrally delivered build programmes will also not use combustible materials, in line with the terms of the ban, in the external wall.

The Communities Secretary is also taking action to speed up the replacement of unsafe ACM cladding, like the type used on Grenfell Tower.

Local authorities will get the government’s full backing, including financial support if necessary, to enable them to carry out emergency work on affected private residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. They will recover the costs from building owners. This will allow buildings to be made permanently safe without delay.

The government is already fully funding the replacement of unsafe ACMcladding on social sector buildings above 18 metres.

Secretary of State for Communities, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:

Everyone has a right to feel safe in their homes and I have repeatedly made clear that building owners and developers must replace dangerous ACMcladding. And the costs must not be passed on to leaseholders.

My message is clear – private building owners must pay for this work now or they should expect to pay more later.

So what does this mean for Timber?

The past five years has seen engineered timber take hold in the UK where, thanks in part to falling prices and the rise of the sustainability agenda, it has been used to deliver over 500 buildings to date.

A proven solution for low and medium-rise residential buildings and schools, CLT is now being applied to swimming pools, gymnasiums, light industrial buildings and office blocks.

Innovative new products and design methods have allowed timber to compete structurally at scale with concrete or steel, which among other things has resulted in development of the world’s first nine-storey timber residential building, Murray Grove in the London Borough of Hackney, and the world’s largest cross-laminated timber (CLT) building, in terms of volume of wood, Dalston Works in east London.

Constructing with timber, versus traditional materials with high embodied carbon, helps cut emissions and may be critical to keep global warming below 1.5 deg C, needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change. CLT, which is relatively light and quick to erect, has even been held up as a potential solution to the housing crisis.

Its use by Sky, on the Believe in Better building – the tallest commercial timber building in the UK – and more recently Google, for the new European HQ currently on site at King’s Cross, are evidence of CLT’s increasing popularity. Key benefits include rapid installation, reduced waste, lighter weight compared to concrete, meaning fewer foundations, and much lower embodied carbon.

Innovations are driving the development of new engineered timber products and design methods. Hybrid structures that use CLT in combination with glulam, laminated veneer lumber (LVL) or steel beams make it possible to achieve the bigger spans required for commercial offices and industrial buildings. For example, the recently completed factory headquarters for Vitsoe in Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, was able to achieve 25m column-free spans using a newly developed beech LVL.

New parametric modelling systems are also making it possible to develop panels that are bespoke to specific purposes using different types and thicknesses of timber and different laminates.

Adrian Campbell, director at engineering consultant Changebuilding, says: “There is a tremendous drive for offsite right now, fuelled by the digitisation of the industry, and a significant number of timber modular systems appearing, including volumetric CLT systems by Swan Housing. There are numerous ways engineered timber can be used to supplement or replace traditional building elements.”

The Grenfell tragedy sent out shockwaves that will be felt for many years to come. Where previously, insurance to construct tall buildings was relatively straightforward, albeit with slightly fluctuating premiums, post-Grenfell they have increased significantly. And although much of the media focus was on the tower’s cladding, a knock-on effect has been that insurers today perceive any tall building as an insurance risk.

“In the past the industry took it for granted that you could get insurance to build things, but the market is becoming tighter and tighter – it’s a rapidly changing landscape we have to operate in,” says Tim Carey, national product director at Willmott Dixon. “Certain products and systems that were previously acceptable, including engineered timber, are now very difficult to get insurance on. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see exclusion clauses relating to CLT appearing in insurance documents.”

He is part of an early adopters group set up by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to trial ways of working in line with the recommendations of the Hackitt Review.

According to Carey, things came to a head recently when the main contractor was unable to get insurance cover to build a circa 15-storey tower block out of CLT. The material was a requirement for the customer’s architect so Willmott Dixon was forced to decline the opportunity.

This prompted it to develop a new set of internal policies for fire safety and compliance to help futureproof the business and its customers and projects in the shorter term. In a move that pre-empted the latest government ruling, the company banned the use of any combustible materials in external wall build-ups, including structural elements, cladding and insulation, for any buildings over 18m tall.

“This is about taking a pragmatic position on what we think is reasonable. Our view is that in the wider industry, too many buildings are being built with inappropriate materials without sufficient duty of care or auditing to know what goes into a building to make it safe,” says Carey.

The decision by government to impose its own ban on combustibles was welcomed by many, but strongly criticised by architects, manufacturers and others working with CLT (currently the only viable structural timber solution for high-rise) who believe its inclusion within the regulation was arbitrary and unjustified.

The law applies to all new housing, student accommodation, registered care homes, hospitals and boarding school dormitories over 18m tall and states that only materials with European fire rating of Class A1 or A2 may be used in external walls, which excludes all wood products.

Some critics pointed to the fact that Grenfell was a concrete-framed tower and the spread of the flames is thought to have been accelerated by combustible aluminium-composite cladding, not by wood.

Also notable is the fact that the final Hackitt report itself does not recommend a ban; instead it states that too much focus has been placed on the faults of the Grenfell cladding rather than on reviewing the system as a whole.

One of its eight key recommendations is to develop a clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products, including products as they are put together as part of a system. It states that this should include clear statements on what systems products can and cannot be used for, with their use made essential.

Mark Stevenson, chairman of the Structural Timber Association, says: “Given the way that clients are looking at their buildings and wanting to better understand performance and how things get delivered, we need to be looking at overall systems. This isn’t about individual products, it is more about how they come together to provide safety for occupants.

You could imagine a situation where a collection of non-combustible materials still act like a chimney to spread fire, so wouldn’t it be better to design a system that prevents something like that from happening?”

Connecting timber with elevated fire risk might seem like common sense, but one of the major advantages of CLT is its inherent fire resistance. As a panelised system with a thick cross-section, it is designed to char slowly and maintain its structural integrity.

In addition, the emphasis on upfront design and offsite manufacture makes it possible to create super-airtight spaces that prevent the spread of fire. In practice, a combination of timber charring and fire-resistant boards are commonly used to achieve the fire rating.

However, CLT remains a relatively new material with limited in-use fire testing, and codes are still being adapted to accommodate it.

Given the global drive to build increasingly taller “ply-scrapers” (see below), there are concerns that the recent ban will compromise Britain’s position at the forefront of innovation in engineered timber.

The ban is likely to result in changes to specifications and approaches but is unlikely to prevent the general use of engineered timber frames. The reality could be some form of hybrid structural solution, which may have an impact on sequencing, speed of delivery and the amount of onsite labour.

Architect Waugh Thistleton, a prominent CLT advocate, is amending design proposals to take into account the need for some form of steel frame system for external walls, alongside internal CLT floor slabs, walls, core and stairs.

“It’s not the best way to build; part of the advantage of building in CLT is that the frame for each floor goes up simultaneously and from a single source of delivery, which ensures that the site is fully accessible and safe for use by follow-on trades on every floor below the one being built,” says founding partner Anthony Thistleton.

“We expect the speed of CLT erection to be compromised by this regulation in the short term. We are currently working to see if we can tie up with manufacturers of offsite panel systems so we can synchronise installation with CLT.”

Meanwhile, the CLT Hub, a collection of all key UK stakeholders, continues to lobby the government and local authorities to overturn the ban. Evidence from global fire performance testing is being compiled to present the case.

Connecting timber with elevated fire risk might seem like common sense, but one of the major advantages of CLT is its inherent fire resistance. As a panelised system with a thick cross-section, it is designed to char slowly and maintain its structural integrity.

In addition, the emphasis on upfront design and offsite manufacture makes it possible to create super-airtight spaces that prevent the spread of fire. In practice, a combination of timber charring and fire-resistant boards are commonly used to achieve the fire rating.

However, CLT remains a relatively new material with limited in-use fire testing, and codes are still being adapted to accommodate it.

Given the global drive to build increasingly taller “ply-scrapers” (see below), there are concerns that the recent ban will compromise Britain’s position at the forefront of innovation in engineered timber.

The ban is likely to result in changes to specifications and approaches but is unlikely to prevent the general use of engineered timber frames. The reality could be some form of hybrid structural solution, which may have an impact on sequencing, speed of delivery and the amount of onsite labour.

Architect Waugh Thistleton, a prominent CLT advocate, is amending design proposals to take into account the need for some form of steel frame system for external walls, alongside internal CLT floor slabs, walls, core and stairs.

“It’s not the best way to build; part of the advantage of building in CLT is that the frame for each floor goes up simultaneously and from a single source of delivery, which ensures that the site is fully accessible and safe for use by follow-on trades on every floor below the one being built,” says founding partner Anthony Thistleton.

“We expect the speed of CLT erection to be compromised by this regulation in the short term. We are currently working to see if we can tie up with manufacturers of offsite panel systems so we can synchronise installation with CLT.”

Meanwhile, the CLT Hub, a collection of all key UK stakeholders, continues to lobby the government and local authorities to overturn the ban. Evidence from global fire performance testing is being compiled to present the case.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, its proponents argue engineered timber remains one of the quickest and most sustainable methods of construction and believe the current situation may constitute a bump in the road.

“We often draw a parallel with the growth of concrete and reinforced concrete in the 20th century. When you look at the trajectory of innovation and architecture that emerged in the concrete age, we are only just at the beginning of the timber age and there is still a huge amount to achieve,” Thistleton concludes.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, its proponents argue engineered timber remains one of the quickest and most sustainable methods of construction and believe the current situation may constitute a bump in the road.

“We often draw a parallel with the growth of concrete and reinforced concrete in the 20th century. When you look at the trajectory of innovation and architecture that emerged in the concrete age, we are only just at the beginning of the timber age and there is still a huge amount to achieve,” Thistleton concludes.

Away from the UK, the rest of the world continues to build higher and higher with timber.

Last month, the US-based International Code Council (ICC) gave the go-ahead for 14 tall mass timber code change proposals that will allow mass timber buildings to reach up to 18 storeys. The changes will be included in the 2021 International Building Code.

The world’s highest mass timber tower, at 53m, is currently the 18-storey high Brock Commons in Vancouver, which is supported on a timber frame but enclosed by a skin of drywall and concrete.

Australia’s tallest timber building is a 45m-high office in Brisbane, which uses an offsite manufactured structure of glulam and cross-laminated timber (CLT). It was completed last year after a build of just 15 months.

The 10-storey building, known as 25 King, was designed by architect Bates Smart for Lendlease.

Meanwhile, the world’s tallest timber tower is under construction in the Norwegian town of Brumunddal: the Mjøstårnet tower at 80m high will dwarf its closest rival by 27m.

The 18-storey structure is based around a perimeter frame of glulam columns, beams and diagonals that brace the external walls and carry vertical and horizontal loads.

A CLT core holds three elevators and two staircases. There are about 400 giant glulam elements in total, the biggest of which has a cross section of 1.5m x 0.6m.

The Mjøstårnet tower is due to open next month.

Sources: gov.uk  / Construction Magazine

wind turbines

The cheapest form of UK energy could soon be offshore wind

Unless the government makes changes to planning regulations affecting turbines on land, offshore wind will overtake onshore wind as the least expensive source of renewable power in the UK, a leading analyst argues.

Currently, onshore wind is one of the cheapest sources of renewable power. However, without changes to planning restrictions, Cornwall Insight has estimated offshore wind is likely to surpass onshore wind power as the new source of cheap renewable energy. It believes that process will occur in less than 10 years.

Offshore wind has seen significant innovations, such as larger turbines with longer blades, allowing it to capture more wind. The graph reproduced here shows its levelised cost of energy (LCOE) falling below onshore wind by 2028.

The projections are based on capital costs by technology, fixed and variable operational costs, expected hurdle rates and locational factors such as transmission losses and connection fees, using current load factors for offshore wind at 58.4% and onshore wind at 38%.

Cornwall Insight senior modeller Tom Edwards said, “The renewable energy market is undergoing transition with onshore wind facing the real prospect of being usurped by its offshore cousin as the cheapest source of clean power in the not so distant future.

“Improvements in offshore technology are occurring all the time and for offshore wind the increasing the size of turbines is having a significant impact. With 8-MW models currently being deployed and larger 10-MW and 12-MW models under development, economies of scale will inevitably see costs fall.

“However, the playing field is not level in Great Britain when it comes to these comparisons. Analysis by the Onshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce found that LCOE energy savings of between £4MWh (US$5MWh) and £7MWh were possible with tip height and rotor diameter optimisation for onshore wind. The latest turbine specifications claim to improve load factors by as much as 26%.

“While restrictions on onshore wind turbine height are maintained, projects will be unable to take advantage of these improvements to reduce costs. For onshore wind to keep pace with its offshore counterpart, planning decisions will need to be relaxed.

“This will not only to benefit consumers with cheaper cleaner energy but help the government towards its decarbonisation targets, not only in terms of facilitating the best conditions for newbuild onshore wind but also allowing existing sites to be repowered optimally.”

Source: owjonline.com

Amsterdam garage

Underwater garage in Amsterdam wins prize

Albert Cuyp parking garage scooped the European Standard Parking Award (ESPA) Gold Award for its design, which accommodates hundreds of cars.

Designed by ZJA Zwarts & Jansma Architects, the garage is unique in being the first parking garage built under an Amsterdam canal. The designers took this approach to maximise use of limited space in the neighbourhood.

The award is a recognition for parking garages that excel in design, quality and customer service and is awarded by Vexpan, the platform for parking in the Netherlands. The Albert Cuyp parking garage is the 13th parking garage in the Netherlands to win an ESPA Gold Award.

ZJA designed the underground parking garage for 600 cars and 60 bicycles under the water of the Boerenwetering canal. Max Bögl Netherlands is responsible for the construction of the Albert Cuyp parking garage, commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam.

With a large number of parking places disappearing at street level, more space becomes available for pedestrians, cyclists and planting. The idea behind the design is to blend the garage into the existing urban landscape. All elements are installed out of sight while ramps are integrated into the existing quays without any conspicuous elevations.

The motto is: ‘simple and safe, visually unobtrusive’ to keep the quality of the public space for pedestrians and cyclists optimal. Entrances and elevators are therefore modest in size. Walls are made of glass, allowing daylight into the garage and allowing visitors to easily orient themselves.

Because the parking system remembers which license plate is parked in which slot, it qualifies as a smart garage. However, the real intelligence is that not a square foot of city has been sacrificed to house 600 cars so residents and visitors can enjoy more spacious, greener and quieter streets.

The new Albert Cuyp parking garage could be an example for other cities that have a limited space above ground, according its designers. Furthermore, underwater construction in cities can be used for multiple applications.

In the past ZJA, together with Strukton, designed a plan for a possible urban expansion under the canals of Amsterdam; AMFORA. In addition to underground parking spaces, the concept also offers spaces for sports facilities, shops, cinemas and other recreational areas. In this way, the urban space under the city of Amsterdam is better utilized.

Source: worldarchitecturenews.com

What can we expect in 2019?

Building.co.uk have published their thoughts on what there is to look forward to this year in construction – and they believe that there is a lot!

The construction industry could be forgiven for not looking forward to 2019 with any great relish. After all, the year begins with the economy in a moribund state, housing market confidence dropping and the very existence of some of the UK’s biggest construction firms under threat. And with Brexit looming in the next three months, there are still few signs of the “sunlit uplands” promised by Boris Johnson before the 2016 referendum.

Of course Brexit – whenever, how and even whether it happens in 2019 – will surely set the political and economic weather that the industry operates in this year. After all, both crashing out of the EU with no deal and a Corbyn-led Labour government are both still conceivable outcomes from breaking the current political impasse, which must happen by 29 March.

But predicting how the party and parliamentary wrangling and finagling over Brexit will pan out is a tall order. So, setting Brexit to one side, what can we expect from 2019?

At the top level, the forecast of the Construction Products Association, which assumes an orderly EU exit moving the UK into the “business as usual” transition period in March, is for minimal – 0.6% – growth in construction output for the year, supported by modest growth in housebuilding and infrastructure and 1.4% overall growth in UK GDP. The overall picture hides huge geographical variations, with markets outside of London likely to show more growth than the capital. So, not strong, perhaps, but stable at least.

Last year began with the dreadful shock of Carillion’s collapse, and the big concern for many in the industry will be the spectre of history repeating itself, with sickly patient Interserve very much on the operating table. Interserve is not alone in having its balance sheet put under the microscope, and many contractors will be much more focused on cash flow and debt levels than overall workload.

There are positives, or course, with many hoping 2019 will be the year when efforts will take off to reform the industry through adoption of digital and advanced manufacturing technology. For those of a less utopian bent, the first few months of the year will be significant – Brexit or otherwise – because of the planned government spending review, which will set the parameters for departmental spending for the years ahead. Simon Rawlinson, head of strategic insight at consultant Arcadis, says: “It’s a really big one. The government’s presumption in favour of offsite manufacturing means that the spending envelope set by the chancellor will be critical. These programmes will create the initial demand to drive uptake of modern methods forward.”

There’s no question about what will be the big contractor story of 2019, whichever way it pans out: Interserve. The £3.2bn-turnover firm has said it will announce its refinancing in “early 2019”. With the company valued at just £20m and analysts estimating it will need to raise anything up to £500m to put it on a sustainable footing, this means its lenders will have to be persuaded to swap loans for control of the business.

For listed construction firms, much is likely to depend on whether Interserve can pull this deal off. Cenkos analyst Kevin Cammack says its future is in the balance. He adds: “If the refinancing happens, it’ll happen in January, and it’ll take the short-term pressure off the sector. If the company falls the consequences will be worse than Carillion, I think. It will spook all lenders immensely.”

The attitude of contractors’ banks is an issue likely to concern all the big firms, with Kier’s late 2018 rights issue being prompted, it said, by the decision of a number of major lenders to reduce their exposure to contracting businesses. If lenders do pull in loans elsewhere, this could threaten other firms or reduce their ability to invest. Another much anticipated event will be the release of overdue accounts for under-pressure contractor Laing O’Rourke, which has reported more than £300m of losses in the last few years.

More positively for specialist contractors, moves to ban retention payments are progressing, with the so-called “Aldous Bill” due for a second reading in the Commons on 25 January.

Big infrastructure 

The industry will be hoping that 2019 contains much better news on big infrastructure schemes than 2018. With the first of Crossrail’s phased openings already pushed into this year, all eyes will be on whether the £15bn rail project manages to get over the finish line in 2019. The omens don’t look good, with new chief executive Mark Wild admitting in December that an autumn 2019 opening “could no longer be committed to at this stage.” Costs have already risen by £2bn on the project, and fears remain they could rise further.

But Crossrail is not the only project under pressure. Construction work had been due to start in earnest on HS2 this spring, but the government admitted last year that it had put the start back until the summer. It has also delayed the legislation needed for the next phase of the HS2 project by a year. Don’t be surprised to hear of further delays as the government tries to control costs on the project. Noble Francis, economics director at the Construction Products Association, says: “We’re now anticipating that the delays may push work on HS2 into 2020.”

Arcadis’ Rawlinson says the problems with these big infrastructure projects will provide a “wake-up call” to the industry in 2019. “There’ll be a real call for genuinely aligned ways of working by clients and suppliers to get these problems addressed.”

In the utilities sector, the response expected this month by water regulator Ofwat to investment plans by the privatised water companies will set the agenda for work in that sector. Matt Cannon, incoming chief executive at the Clancy Group, says: “The regulator’s price review gives our sector an opportunity to set out a clear plan to tackle challenges around affordability, innovation, customer service and resilience across the network.”

The government is also scheduled to respond formally to last year’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment, conducted by the National Infrastructure Commission  (NIC) – one of 2018’s few bright spots for the construction industry. David Whysall, managing director of infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, says: “The current political situation is resulting in a reduction in business confidence that is now starting to materially affect the construction industry. We therefore must see the government back the NIC and implement the investment programmes it sets out.”

The Construction Products Association now expects infrastructure output to grow by 8.7% in 2019, in contrast with its previous forecast of 13.2%.


Last year’s construction sector deal and the creation in December of the Transforming Construction Alliance, alongside growing interest in modern construction methods, gives some cause for optimism that 2019 could see attempts to modernise the industry gain pace. The government has provided £72m to set up what it has called the “Core Innovation Hub” to drive improvements, and what form that takes will be a large part of the discussion in the year ahead. We should also see the first winners of a competition to receive a share of £12.5m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to support construction innovation, announced in the coming weeks.

Arcadis’ Rawlinson says: “This year is when we should start to see the fruits of the Transforming Construction investment. Early 2019 should tell us some really interesting things about where innovation thinking is at in the industry.”

Whatever happens with this government push, many are also predicting a ramping up of private sector efforts to digitise the construction process, such as by integrating design with offsite manufacturing.

Sarah Prichard, UK managing director at BuroHappold Engineering, says: “This will be the year when engineers really start to capitalise on recent developments in automation in design. The time has come to make building design and construction leaner and more efficient.” Steven Charlton, managing director of architect Perkins+Will, says: “I expect to see an open debate about data and how to share it. There’s now a realisation we need to tackle this.”


Brexit will undoubtedly shape housing market sentiment in 2019 one way or another, but even without the drag effect of political uncertainty, there are other reasons to be cautious on housing output. The Construction Products Association forecasts private housing output to grow 2% this year, with Help to Buy sustaining building in the face of deepening market weakness. Achieving this number may depend on further growth from institutional investors and housing associations, given the number of volume housebuilders, such as Crest Nicholson and Berkeley Group, that are forecasting stable or reduced volume this year.

The RICS forecasted before Christmas that overall house sales would weaken by 5% in 2019, with housebuilding growth “uncertain” at best. The most recent government new orders data, to the second quarter of last year, also suggests that housebuilding volume has peaked. Cenkos analyst Cammack says: “We’re likely to see a relative slowing in private sector starts and a relative quickening in the pace from institutions and housing associations, which will shift the dynamic in the sector.”

Market sentiment aside, the issue of Grenfell will continue to dominate, with the industry still digesting the government’s formal response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, which last year called for a new regulator to sign off tall buildings consents and big process changes.

Nigel Morrey, technical director at Etex Building Performance, says: “The government has now endorsed the Hackitt review’s recommendations to address what the review identified as an industry-wide lack of evidence of performance, compliance and recording of information. Yet it is still not clear exactly what format regulatory changes will take nor when they will be introduced, with no official timetable attached to the government’s response. In particular, we need to see progress on the creation of the Joint Competent Authority to assess building safety. Uncertainty is likely to remain the watchword in 2019.”


The outlook for commercial building is subdued in 2019. The Construction Products Association forecasts a 5.4% decline in commercial buildings output in the year, a consequence of the political uncertainty we’ve already seen holding back investment. Its forecast says the sharp fall in new orders for large office buildings seen in 2018 followed on from “concerns from investors over long-term economic prospects and returns on investment” in the wake of the 2016 referendum on leaving the EU.

The retail sector is also likely to be hard hit, with poor sales over the Christmas period deepening concerns over the long-term sustainability of high streets and shopping centres. This calls into question major retail schemes, such as the £1.4bn Brent Cross scheme – already on hold – as well as the similar sized Croydon Partnership development. Perkins+Will’s Charlton says this will mean businesses involved in retail will have to adapt quickly in 2019. “Retail’s going to take an absolute hammering. This will present a huge opportunity to repurpose existing retail developments, and potentially resolve the housing crisis at the same time. There’ll need to be a radical rethink of plans.”

10 projects to watch in 2019

Construction News have created a list of the 10 projects worth keeping an eye on this year.
1) Crossrail and HS2

Crossrail should never have made this list given its December 2018 open date, but a nine-month delay (which may now be even longer), plus a potential £2bn overspend make it impossible to leave out.

Pressures on the scheme have also cost Crossrail and HS2 chairman Sir Terry Morgan his chairmanship on both projects, while Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has come in for substantial criticism too.

Meanwhile, HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston has admitted the scheme is facing “cost pressures” as it gears up to start civils work in June 2019.

The work was scheduled to start in November 2018 before being pushed back to March 2019 and then to June.

hs2 crossrail

2) Stonehenge Tunnel and Lower Thames Crossing

Highways England had its funding model for the £1.6bn A303 Stonehenge Tunnel and the £6bn Lower Thames Crossing pulled from under it by the chancellor in October, when PFI and PF2 were scrapped.

CEO Jim O’Sullivan has since said government has confirmed both projects “will be appropriately and adequately funded”, but there has been no word on what shape this funding will take.

Enabling works on both projects is already under way but this has not come to a halt as this phase of the works is being funded by public money. Mr O’Sullivan has also said the funding model change would “absolutely not” delay either project.

stonehenge lower thames

3) 101 George Street

The London Borough of Croydon will be home to the world’s tallest modular built structures when Tide Construction and Vision Modular complete 101 George Street in 2019.

The 550-apartment residential development will feature a 38-storey and 44-storey structure, which (barring the concrete core) will be built using modular construction.

Global real estate investors Greystar Real Estate and Henderson Park acquired the private rented sector scheme from Tide Construction in January 2018 (image credit: HTA Design).

101 george street

4) Everton FC stadium

Everton Football Club’s ambitions of building a new 55,000-seater stadium moved a step closer in November, as the club launched the first-stage public consultation for the project.

In November 2017, Everton signed a deal with Peel Ports to lease land at Liverpool’s Bramley Moore Dock area for the project.

Peels hope the stadium will be one of the centrepiece schemes in its £5.5bn Liverpool Waters regeneration plan, which will see new developments stretch along Liverpool’s waterfront.

Given that the stadium project is still at a seminal stage, there have not been any cost estimates or times frames announced yet.

Liverpool Waters Aerial Day

5) Midland Metropolitan and Royal Liverpool hospitals

Two major projects that were among several others that were singled out as having contributed to the demise of Carillion, both the Midland Metropolitan and Royal Liverpool hospital projects have had a turbulent year.

Originally funded by a PFI scheme, the £335m Royal Liverpool Hospital project has been taken over by government and will delivered by the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen NHS Trust.

Laing O’Rourke has been confirmed as the new contractor on the project and been given a completion target date of 2020.

Birmingham’s Midland Metropolitan Hospital was also originally funded by a PFI scheme, but government confirmed in August that it would fund completion of the project.

In November, Balfour Beatty won the £10m early works contract to carry out remedial work and weatherproof the structure.

The contractor for the main works is scheduled to be announced in early 2019 and completion of the project is slated for 2022.

hospitals 2

6) 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham 

Birmingham will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with contractors for two major Games-associated developments already selected.

Mace landed the £70m project manager role for the revamp of the city’s Alexander Stadium, which will act as the centrepiece venue for the Games.

Lendlease secured the £350m contract in November to act as principal contractor for the athletes’ village, which will accommodate around 6,500 athletes and officials.

Following the Games, the site will provide 1,400 new homes.

Alexander Stadium Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games bid phase image

7) Spire London

Chinese state-owned developer Greenland Group’s Spire London development will become the tallest residential building in western Europe when it is completed in 2020.

Standing 771 ft tall, the £800m project will be made up 67-storeys that will house 861 apartments as well penthouses.

Aecom beat Multiplex and Balfour Beatty to the £420m job in 2017, which is based near Canary Wharf in West India Quay in London’s Docklands.

Work stopped on the project in May 2018 after the existing building on the site (Hertsmere House) was demolished and ground works was completed.

Greenland has cited “significant changes” in London’s residential sector for the pause, adding that it wants to ensure the “development reflects those changes and remains at the forefront of the market”.

spire london cropped

8) Leeds city centre redevelopment

Leeds City Council rubber-stamped CEG’s proposed redevelopment of the city centre in April 2018.

The £350m scheme is spread across a 3.5 ha site in the centre’s South Bank (pictured), and will feature two mixed-use office, retail and leisure developments totalling up to 26,100 sq m.

CEG also requested outline planning permission to build 750 homes on the site, and a further mixed-use development of up to 103,900 sq m for office, retail, leisure, hotel, health, education and community uses.

CEG South Bank Leeds 1

9) The Tulip

Architect Foster + Partners submitted plans for a 305 m tall tower branded ‘The Tulip’ in November to a mixed public reception.

J Safra Group, which is owned by Brazilian Billionaire Joseph Safra, is behind the scheme. The company also owns the iconic 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin), which was also designed by Foster + Partners.

Primarily an office building, designs for the Tulip also feature viewing galleries, sky bridges, internal glass slides and gondola pod rides across the building’s façade.

If the project receives all of its approvals and there are no unforeseen setbacks, construction could start in 2020 and complete in 2025.

Foster and Partners The Tulip Cluster Dusk

10) Elizabeth House redevelopment

HB Reavis acquired the Elizabeth House development from London & Regional and Chelsfield in May 2017, which sits adjacent to London’s Waterloo station.

The real estate developer intends to demolish the existing 1960s built Elizabeth House, and use the 945,000 sq ft site for mixed use development.

The proposed scheme will feature a 10 and 29 storey tower, that will deliver 753,000 sq ft of office space and 142 homes.

HB Reavis selected architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for the project in December 2017 and in June 2018, the developer brought in Argent’s head of construction Joe Martin to work on the scheme.

U I development Woking Elizabeth House

 Source:  constructions.co.uk
worlds tallest buildings

World’s tallest buildings of 2018 as skyscraper construction soars

China completed a staggering 88 buildings 200 metres or higher in 2018.

Research by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) found 143 buildings of 200 metres or more were erected around the world in 2018, down by four from the all-time record of 147 in 2017.

The tally included 18 “supertalls” (buildings at least 300 metres tall), the largest number ever built in a year.

The total number of 200-metre-and-higher buildings in the world is now 1478, an increase of 141 per cent on the 614 that existed in 2010.

The 88 skyscrapers completed by China this year is a record for the country, vaulting over the 80 it constructed in 2017.

The US came in a distant second place, with 13 tall buildings erected in 2018, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 10, Malaysia with seven, Indonesia with five, and Thailand and South Korea with three each.

China’s tally represents 61.5 per cent of the global total of tall buildings completed this year.

The south-eastern city of Shenzhen, which boasts a population of more than 12 million and connects mainland China to Hong Kong, saw 14 skyscrapers erected.

It was the largest number of 200-metre plus completions for any city for the third year in a row.

The tallest building completed in 2018 was, for the fourth year in a row, also built in China: the 528-metre Citic Tower in Beijing took out the top gong.

The soaring skyscraper didn’t come close to snatching the crown of the world’s tallest building, however, which belongs to Dubai’s 828-metre tall Burj Khalifa, built in 2010.

The extraordinary growth of tall buildings in China can be attributed to three key factors, according to Dave Platter, communications director of Chinese property website Juwai.

They are: pride, easy money, and agglomeration.

“The easiest one to explain is pride. As a nation, China is very proud of what it’s accomplished. A big beautiful building is one way of celebrating that,” Mr Platter said.

Similarly, for tenants, an address in a prestigious skyscraper is a status symbol and a way to mark personal success.

China’s tall buildings are built on “a foundation of cheap cash”, fuelled by easy credit, cheap debt, and banks’ willingness to lend to developers, Mr Platter said.

“The government wants banks to lend to spur the economy, and building stimulates the economy,” he said.

“When you’re building supertalls you’re not just employing builders, but steel workers, furniture creators, and more. It’s effective.”

Skyscrapers are also on the rise in China thanks to an “agglomeration effect” created by the country’s role as the world’s largest manufacturer and biggest exporter combined with huge, and growing, population and powerhouse economy.

“Businesses in places like that prefer to cluster together,” Mr Platter said.

“One business’ customers are another business’ employees. Everything works better when you have a denser city.”

Source: thenewdaily.com.au


dame judith

Tougher regulatory framework for developers after Hackitt recommendations

The government has set out plans to create a tougher regulatory framework for developers and vowed to change the culture of the building industry, in a 62 page response published to the Hackitt review. 

The government confirmed it is taking forward every recommendation made by Dame Judith Hackitt (pictured) in her review, published in May, of building regulations and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy last year.

As a result, existing regulators are to set to work with firms and tenants to trial more rigorous ways of monitoring developers, contractors and landlords – with an emphasis on public safety.

Successful approaches will then feed into fresh legislation to tighten-up building regulation; the government says this will include more punitive sanctions for those who disregard regulations.

James Brokenshire, housing secretary, said: “My plan for stronger, tougher rules will make sure there is no hiding place for those who flout building safety rules.”

One key recommendation from Hackitt was to create a Joint Competent Authority, formed of other public bodies, to oversee the safety of buildings throughout their life cycle.

The government confirmed it wants to build on the expertise of existing bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, the fire and rescue authorities, and local authorities – but it has not said which body will be responsible for enforcing the stringent new regulatory regime.

In his foreword to the government’s response, Brokenshire said he is pushing for a ‘culture change’ towards a more safety-orientated construction industry.

This means government will challenge unsatisfactory firms, including through support of local authority enforcement action. It could also mean the government legislates to ensure the competence of those carrying out building work.

The government’s response to Hackitt also said a Standards Committee will be esatblished to advise on construction product and system standards, and that the government has issued a ‘call for evidence’ as part of a review into fire safety guidance in the building regulations.

Brokenshire added: “By making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes.”

Brokenshire identified four areas where he will implement change:

1. Creation of a stronger regulatory and accountability framework

2. Clearer standards and guidance to help a) builders and b) product manufacturers better understand what is required to keep a building safe

3. A stronger voice for residents, including more effective routes for escalation and swift redress when things go wrong

4. Fostering a ‘culture change’ in the building industry – by taking on incompetent firms through enforcement action and possibly legislation

Source: Building.co.uk

Contractors pay

Are developers and local authorities now in competition?

Theresa May’s removal of the local authority borrowing cap during this year’s party conference was a cause for concern among property developers.

In many ways it was a pragmatic step – one many described as long overdue. In theory it serves to diversify the housing market, stimulate industry capacity and help councils meet their affordable home requirements.

However, it also put local authorities into direct competition with small and regional developers, potentially causing a profound restructuring of the construction industry.

Councils are now able to potentially bid for development sites at the expense of local developers.

Authority advantage

Many authorities have already set up their own development companies. These are either standalones or joint ventures with recognised developers, who bring to the table a wealth of experience in marketing, styling and quality. These partnerships are important – local authorities won’t chase large-scale projects until they have gained the confidence and manpower to deliver.

In approaching development work, local authorities have a number of advantages over small and regional developers. They enjoy access to cheaper funding, as they are able to borrow from the government at very low rates. And because they can also borrow for longer periods of time, they can adopt longer-term building strategies.

Historically, funds had to be used by a specific date (often not very far in the future), which tended to prohibit financing larger developments this way, given the time it usually takes to see a large development through to completion.

However, the revised funding available to local authorities can now be drawn down over a much longer period of time. In fact, local authorities have been buying up investment property using government funding, extended at these low rates, to secure an investment yield to provide surplus income. It’s these same funding conditions that are available for development.

In addition, local authorities are better able to meet affordable housing targets, whether on the same site or on another site, as changes in the rules over compulsory purchase will speed up delivery timelines and improve viability. As council-run development companies are not profit-driven, they are able to maintain a greater focus on delivering both the housing types and numbers required.

The advantages council-run businesses have may allow them to experiment with new techniques, such as modular construction. This approach removes weather from consideration, and brings factory-style efficiency and better quality control into the production process.

Many larger construction firms already use modular production, but the industry would benefit from more development firms employing it.

What now for SMEs

Overall, local authorities have a better hand to play with following the borrowing cap’s removal.

The larger developers, with their enormous technical resources, manpower and brand value, will undoubtedly look to cover their positions by working with local authorities. Smaller builders, however, cannot always offer the same advantages.

All is by no means lost for the smaller players. One option is to move away from generic housing to more specialist markets such as retirement living, student accommodation, buy-to-rent and micro-accommodation.

In the future we could see a more diversified construction trade with a much more prominent role for the local authorities, while smaller firms place bets on specialised methods of construction and manufacture.

Source: Construction News

New build

Industry unites for largest-ever poll on skills shortages to gauge Brexit impact

Companies from across the UK construction sector are being invited to take part in the largest-ever research project on skills shortages. As the UK prepares for the departure from the EU next year, construction’s leading trade and professional bodies have joined forces to build a picture of those occupations that are in greatest demand. 

The survey, which will go out to more than 20,000 companies nationwide, will ask respondents to indicate which roles they are finding it difficult to recruit now and which they expect to be challenging post-Brexit.

The survey is supported by the following industry groups.

  • Association for Consultancy & Engineering
  • Build UK and member trade bodies
  • Chartered Institute of Building
  • Civil Engineering Contractors Association
  • Construction Plant-hire Association
  • Construction Products Association and member trade bodies
  • Federation of Master Builders
  • Highways Term Maintenance Association
  • National Federation of Builders

To ensure that the survey has as wide reach as possible, companies that are not members of the above organisations are also invited to take part in the survey. Evidence uncovered from the survey will be used to identify where the industry should be focussing its efforts to recruit new workers.

It will also be used to engage with the government and Migration Advisory Committee to support decision-making on appropriate migration for workers from the EU and rest of the world.

Mark Reynolds, Mace chief executive and skills lead for the Construction Leadership Council, said: “We know that our sector will need to recruit hundreds of thousands of new workers over the coming years. We want to ensure that this recruitment is supported with targeted actions by industry and government. The first step in achieving this is the development of a detailed picture of those occupations where we face the biggest challenge. I welcome the fact that the industry is unifying to develop this research and encourage all companies from across the industry to take part in the survey.”

Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, said: “With all the uncertainty around Brexit and its impact on skills, we need to make sure that our industry has a sound evidence base from which to argue, which is why I will be asking all our members to participate in the survey. We will need to come together in one voice and collectively make the case for construction to government, ensuring that any post-Brexit agreement secures the skills our sector needs now and into the future.”

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: “Our members tell us that recruitment is probably their single biggest challenge. We can only overcome this by working together, targeting significant interventions based on high-quality industry data to ensure that we can recruit and train the next generation of construction workers”

Please click here if you would like to take part in the survey.

Source: Infrastructure Intelligence


Government urged to consider the environmental cost to timber over the new ban on combustible cladding

Engineered timber products such as cross laminated timber must be exempt from the UK government’s ban on combustible cladding materials, as they are essential in the global battle against climate change, say architects.

Waugh Thistleton – co-founders Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton and dRMM founding director Alex de Rijke have all urged the Government to review its legislation, which prohibits the use of timber products on the external walls of residential buildings taller than 18 metres.

Waugh and Thistleton said the new policy “demonstrates a misunderstanding of the fire performance of engineered timber”.

“We are clear that mass timber construction is not a valid target for this change and will continue to advocate for its exemption,” said the pair.

CLT safer than steel in a fire

De Rijke, who has completed many buildings using cross-laminated timber (CLT), said the material is safer than steel in a fire.

“The government is mistaken to consider engineered structural timber materials, like CLT, as highly combustible thin cladding material,” said De Rijke.

“Mass timber is slow-burning, self-charring – even self-extinguishing, structurally predictable, and does not produce deadly toxic fumes in a fire,” he continued.

De Rijke gives Kingsdale School, the UK’s first CLT building as an example.

“dRMM were the UK’s first architects for a CLT public building in 2004 – the government-funded Kingsdale School – and accordingly had to present the European material to central government, local authority and fire brigade. All were convinced then and now by the evidence that, when properly sized and detailed, CLT is not only safe in a fire, but safer than many other standard industry materials such as steel – ironically the default material for buildings over 18 metres.

“Political knee-jerk reaction is uninformed”

The new legislation, titled Final Impact Assessment: Ban on combustible materials and external wall systems,  states that only materials with a European fire rating of Class A1 or A2 may be used on the external walls of tall residential buildings, and states explicitly that wood products do not come under this classification.

This is “likely to slow down the use of engineered timber in future development in the medium to long term” it claims.

The policy was introduced in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, after it was confirmed that combustible cladding contributed to the fast spread of the fire.

Architects have largely welcomed the ruling, but insist that CLT should be exempt.

“This political knee-jerk reaction is uninformed and counter-productive. Banning safe timber construction prevents the creation of healthy and safe cities, and worsens the global environmental crisis of carbon emissions due to use of materials like concrete and steel,” said De Rijke.

“The Grenfell Tower fire was a tragedy and we fully support a ban on designing or building using combustible, volatile and toxic materials. But engineered mass timber is not one of them.”

UK is world leader in engineered timber construction

Engineered timber, also known as mass timber, is increasingly being championed in architecture as a sustainable alternative to steel and concrete structural frameworks.

Waugh and Thistleton claim that, even if the ban is maintained, the material is still crucial to the future of sustainable and fire-safe construction, as it is mainly a structural material not a surface material.

The pair have worked on numerous CLT projects, including the “world’s largest cross laminated timer building”.

“The new legislation does not propose a ban on engineered timber or CLT structures; it will simply change the way we build tall timber residential buildings,” they said.

“The UK is a world leader in the development of engineered timber construction with over 500 buildings completed. As the government acknowledges, this change in regulations will have an impact on the continued innovation and development of low carbon construction, and hence on the rate at which the construction industry can tackle climate change,” they said.

“It is imperative that architects recognise the impact of their work on the environment. Waugh Thistleton Architects will continue to research, design and build using low carbon technologies and reducing our reliance on concrete and steel.”

Source: Dezeen