steel building

FIS And SCI To Launch Steel Framing System Guide With Consortium Of Industry Partners

FIS, representative body for the £10 billion finishes and interiors sector in the UK and the Steel Construction Institute (SCI), will launch the much-awaited Technical Report ED017 – Design and Installation of Light Steel External Wall Systems guide with a consortium of industry partners.

FIS and the Steel Construction Institute have been working with the FIS Steel Framing Systems (SFS) working group and industry to update guidance for the sector.

“SFS is the lightweight steel frame used to create the inner leaf of an external wall, it’s been around for over 20 years but its benefits are just being realised, which is why so many projects are using it, but there are problems being created because of a lack of planning and knowledge. It’s the first thing you see, but often the last thing that’s designed in a building, and that’s the issue. This development of this guide is a great example of how the supply chain can work together to share knowledge, support training and deliver quality, we are grateful to all involved.” Joe Cilia, Technical Director at FIS.

SFS is seen as non-load bearing, not holding the structure up but it is supporting cladding, internal linings insulation and perhaps even services. There are significant implications should it fail, which could lead to the external cladding falling off.

The report on the collapse of the brick cladding at Oxgangs Primary School Edinburgh on 29th January 2016 highlighted that there was a failure in the correct installation of a simple element -wall ties- and although there are no direct examples of this happening where SFS has been installed, it highlights the danger of ignoring the correct installation process. , this guide will help to ensure that everybody from designers to installers are clear about what is required.

Olton Bridge, 245 Warwick Road
Solihull, West Midlands B92 7AH
Telephone 0121 707 0077
Email info@thefis.org
Website www.thefis.org

The guide will spread best practice, help raise standards and educate clients and installers, and because the sector is new there are still a lot of client’s, designers and installers who will benefit from an education process driven by the document.

The guide will help avoid the issues caused by last minute changes.

The guide is for anyone who designs and installs SFS infill walls, and anyone checking that the products are being correctly installed, such as a ‘Clerk of Works.’ It will help to raise standards, show clients what SFS is and how it works. It will get people thinking about what is expected of them, the design and the final installation. It will give installers the confidence to question designs and provide guidance to ensure the installation is as good as it can be. The document includes check lists as well as guidance that makes people stop and check that all the information that should be provided, is provided.

As the landscape post-Grenfell develops, we envisage that it will be very different from the way in which buildings are being designed and constructed now, this guide will become the go to reference for all involved.

The SFS working group meeting will be held at Plaisterers’ Hall Offices, London on 16 May from 14:00–16:30. This will be followed by the launch of the much-awaited Technical Report ED017 – Design and Installation of Light Steel External Wall Systems guide. The launch event will run from 16:30-18:00. Spaces are limited and will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

To register please follow this link: https://www.thefis.org/events/sfs-working-group-meeting/

gas heating

Low-carbon heating to replace gas in new UK homes after 2025

Gas boilers will be replaced by low-carbon heating systems in all new homes built after 2025 in an attempt to tackle the escalating climate crisis, Philip Hammond has said.

In his spring statement, the chancellor said new properties would use alternative systems, such as heat pumps, to help the UK reduce its carbon emissions.

However, Hammond appeared to row back on implementing the full recommendations from the government’s advisory committee on climate change last month, which called for new homes to have no gas for cooking or heating from 2025.

The move away from gas heating in new homes was given a cautious welcome by environmental groups, although they said the chancellor had to be more ambitious, systemic and radical if the government was to get to grips with the climate emergency.

domus

New energy efficient Domus Ventilation MVHR wall units launched

Domus Ventilation, part of the Polypipe group, has launched the HRXE range of high performance Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) units for small to medium size residential properties.

MVHR systems combine supply and extract ventilation in one system.  They efficiently recover the heat typically lost in waste, stale air and use it to temper the fresh air drawn into the building via a heat exchanger.  The filtered, pre-warmed air is distributed to areas of the home such as living rooms and bedrooms, effectively meeting part of the heating load in energy efficient dwellings.

Building on its success in MVHR, Domus has developed the HRXE units to provide even greater efficiency through advanced heat exchange proficiency and low Specific Fan Power (SFP).  When used with a kitchen and one wet room, at typical installation, the HRXE provides a 90% heat exchange performance and boasts a very low SFP down to 0.57W/(l/s).

The new HRXE range is not only efficient, but also exceptionally quiet, with background (normal) ventilation at 24dB(A) (typically whisper quiet).  Noise reduction can be further reduced through the use of an Anti-Vibration tray, which isolates the unit from the wall to reduce any low levels of vibration induced noise which can be distracting to residents.

There are four models in the HRXE range, all with a two year warranty and all featuring 100% thermal (summer) bypass which automatically activates when the air temperature reaches a pre-set level, allowing in cooler, fresh, filtered air without warming it through the heat exchanger.The smart design of the HRXE means there is no reduction in airflow when operating in bypass mode.

Within the range, models are available with integral humidity sensors, which is much in demand.By accurately measuring air humidity, the HRXE’s extract speed automatically changes from background to boost as the level of humidity increases, thereby providing optimal ventilation performance.

When it comes to installation, Domus Ventilation has designed the HRXE units to be even smaller than their predecessors making them ideal for wall-mounted cupboard installation, with opposite handed models available to meet different on-site requirements. Spigots on the top of the HRXE are 125mm, but with Domus Ventilation’s extensive duct portfolio, adaptors are available to enable direct connection to the most common ducting size – 204x600mm flat channel duct –for quicker and more cost-effective installation.  Furthermore, integrated controls are accessed via a front panel for easy commissioning.

The HRXE range has been designed to work most efficiently when used with Domus duct systems, including its Flow Control Plenum and High Efficiency Green Line Bends, which reduce duct bend resistance by up to 60%.  Domus duct systems offer improved system performance through the exacting tolerances and engineered fit of the system, whereby pressure drops are minimised and air leakage virtually eliminated.

Domus Ventilation has a well-deserved reputation for quality, supported by excellent technical support, from a market leading manufacturer and designer.  It is well placed to offer immediate, practical solutions to Building Regulations Parts F & L.

Source: UK construction week

uk construction

168,500 new jobs to be created

CITB experts are predicting an extra 168,500 new construction jobs will be created over the next five years despite the uncertainty of Brexit.

The training body’s annual Construction Skills Network (CSN) report anticipates average annual industry growth of 1.3% until 2023.

That is down a third of a percent on last year’s forecast and is based on the scenario that the UK agrees an exit deal with the EU, rather than a ‘No Deal’ Brexit.

Despite the wider economic uncertainty approximately 168,500 construction jobs are to be created in Great Britain over the next five years – 10,000 more than in last year’s forecast.

Construction employment is expected to reach 2.79m in 2023 – just 2% lower than its peak in 2008.

Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, said: “Assuming that a deal is agreed, we expect low but positive growth for construction.

“Even as infrastructure slows, sectors like public housing and R&M are strengthening.

“This will see the number of construction jobs increase over the next five years, creating growing opportunities for careers in construction and increasing the importance of tackling the skills pressures we face.”

The CITB and industry trade bodies have published a plan to help brace the sector for tighter migration controls after Brexit.

Building After Brexit: An Action Plan for Industry identifies the need for construction to adopt a twin-track strategy: growing investment in the domestic workforce and driving up productivity, while working with Government to agree how to maintain access to migrant workers to give it the breathing space to adapt.

Recommendations include:

  • Attract talent by raising apprenticeship starts and completions, creating pathways into construction for under-represented groups and providing better work experience opportunities.
  • Retain the workforce by supporting older workers to stay in the industry, upskilling the existing workforce and offering improved mental health support.
  • Be productive by developing a Future Skills Strategy to identify the skills required to modernise the industry, drive digitalisation forward and boost investment in modern methods of construction.

Steve Radley, Policy Director at CITB, sayid: ‘Construction needs a twin-track strategy, increasing investment in the domestic workforce and working with Government to agree how we can maintain access to migrant workers to give it the breathing space to adapt to changing rules.

‘The latest forecast has revealed over 168,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and with a likely post-Brexit reduction to the availability of foreign workers, the industry must act now to avoid widening the skills gaps.

‘We must do more to attract new talent to the sector and get better at retaining and upskilling the current workforce. Finally, the sector must fully embrace digital skills in order to become more productive and mitigate the widening skills gap.’

Alasdair Reisner, Chief Executive at CECA, said: “The date for leaving the European Union is rapidly approaching and employers are finding it harder and harder to recruit the right people for their business.

“Recruitment is already very difficult for some key roles and this will be exacerbated once migration from the EU is reduced post-Brexit.

“We must work together, as an industry and with Government to target these gaps; boosting UK-based recruitment and training while looking to sensible migration from the rest of the world to meet demand.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said:The single biggest issue keeping construction employers awake at night is the skills shortage.

“If we’re going to address this skills gap post-Brexit, the whole industry needs to step up and expand their training initiatives. Even Sole Traders can offer short term work experience placements and large companies should be aiming to ensure at least 5 per cent of their workforce are trainees or apprentices.

“But realistically speaking, the UK construction sector can’t satisfy its thirst for skilled labour via domestic workers alone.

“With record low levels of unemployment, we’ll always need a significant number of migrant workers too – particularly in London and the south east.

“The Government needs to work with construction to amend its Immigration White Paper and rethink the current definition of low-skilled workers.

“Level 2 tradespeople play a vital role in the sector and would currently be excluded, which is wrong. We urge Ministers to engage with the construction industry to help improve these proposals.”

Source: Construction Enquirer.com

uk construction

Brexit will have no impact on the construction industry

A detailed analysis of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, with or without a deal, has shown that it will have little or no impact on UK construction, according to Laing O’Rourke group finance director Stewart McIntyre.

He has lead an analysis of Brexit implications and  explained his findings in the company’s 2018 financial review.

He said that: “Laing O’Rourke has analysed its current order book and pipeline and this review supports an assessment that, to date, a ‘no-deal Brexit’ would present minimal, if any, risk to current projects and liquidity forecasts. The business has also considered implications for the sector and, to date, has not identified any negative impact on the UK construction market either in the traditional built environment or infrastructure sectors. We are concluding that, based on evidence to date and assuming the sector’s clients continue with their projects, there are minimal risks to liquidity forecasts arising from any deterioration in revenue.”

He continues: “The business has conducted a detailed review of its staff and workforce with a full analysis across primary job families. Based on the most recent data, 16.1% of the total UK headcount are EU citizens and 23% of that total are Irish citizens who have the full ongoing right to work in the UK. This risk assessment has highlighted a dependency on EU nationals in certain job families and the business is monitoring developments in these areas, however, it is clear that earnings and rewards are such that it does not present a significant risk to staff retention, staff recruitment or the ability to comply with the minimum earnings threshold for securing visas.”

Mr McIntyre also finds little to fear should the UK have to revert to trading under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. “The UK business buys assets such as tower cranes as part of its core business and has conducted a detailed analysis on potential tariffs based on the past 12-month record of direct imports from the EU and possible registration procedures available to mitigate import supply difficulties,” he writes. “No tariffs apply under WTO rules to the import of tower cranes and it is assumed that additional customs procedures will create delays of no more than seven days. Apart from construction capital assets, the level of direct EU imports is low and the estimated additional costs arising from a ‘no deal Brexit’ are deemed to be immaterial.”

He concludes with a caveat that continued vigilance is required. “In summary, there has been no change to the group’s workwinning methodologies, or material negative impact on current live projects or staff recruitment and attrition. However, with the political environment continuing to develop, few companies can declare themselves immune to the risks of withdrawal from the EU. The board will continue to monitor developments in the UK business and political environment, and remains vigilant to the need to respond to changes in market conditions such as freedom of movement, finance and tariff implications, disruption to supply of plant and equipment and key construction components, logistics, exchange rates and primary commodity prices as we approach 29th March 2019, and for the period immediately after any other withdrawal date.”

Laing O’Rourke’s phlegmatism in the face of political uncertainty is in contrast to concerns that the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has aired to government. CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell has written to construction minister Richard Harrington, copying in the chief executive of the civil service, warning that “it will not be possible to mitigate all of the potential impacts of ‘no deal’”.  These include employment issues, trade in construction products, the future regulatory regime for construction products and potential impact delaying projects and adding costs.

Source: The Construction Index

plastics

Spotlight on plastics and packaging

The Considerate Constructors Scheme has launched its industry-wide campaign ‘Spotlight on…plastics and packaging’ to raise awareness and showcase best practice in how the construction industry can reduce, reuse and recycle plastics and packaging.

Plastics and packaging are unavoidable in modern society, with the global market driven by consumerism and convenience, the demand for plastic is only increasing. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, and around 60% of that plastic has ended up in either landfill or the natural environment.

For decades, society has ignored the environmental risks associated with plastics and packaging. However, recent scientific studies and documentary exposés such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet have revealed just how detrimental plastics and packaging are to the environment and to human health.

The following statistics illustrate the severity of this environmental issue:

  • The UK uses over 5 million tonnes of plastic every year.
  • The UK exports around 450,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year.
  • Plastic packaging accounts for around 70% of all plastic waste produced in the UK.
  • Less than one third of plastic waste is recycled in the UK.
  • Globally, only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled.
  • Up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year.
  • An estimated 480 billion plastic bottles are sold across the world each year – this is around 20,000 plastic bottles every second.

Plastics and packaging

Packaging is defined as any material used to hold, protect, handle, deliver and present goods. Such materials might include cardboard, paper, timber and most notably, plastic.

Despite the environmental risks associated with plastic, the construction industry is reliant on plastic in its working practices. This is because plastic is cheap, lightweight, water-resistant and chemically inert, making it an ideal resource for the industry to use.

In fact, the construction industry is the second largest consumer of plastic in the UK:

  • The construction industry consumes 23% of all plastic produced in the UK.
  • In the construction industry, 60% of all skipped material by weight is packaging waste.
  • Around 25% of construction packaging waste by weight is plastic.
  • Piping and conduit are the largest uses of polymers in construction, and consume around 35% of production.
  • The construction industry produces three times more packaging waste than all UK households combined.

The scheme encourages businesses to create a comprehensive site waste management plan to be incorporated into every site’s waste management and logistics plan to reduce waste being disposed of to landfill.

A Site Waste Management Plan can be developed before construction commences. The plan describes how materials, including plastics and packaging, will be managed and disposed of and explains how the reuse and recycling of waste will be maximised.

Although the Scheme’s survey results found that 91% of construction industry professionals have a Site Waste Management Plan in place, over 50% said the plan is inefficient for managing waste produced on site. To build an effective Site Waste Management Plan, the following should be considered:

  • Liaise with suppliers to prevent unnecessary plastic and packaging waste and to maximise the volume of sustainable packaging used.
  • Quantify the volume of materials that will be used to avoid excess waste, particularly packaging waste.
  • Estimate how much of each type of waste will be produced, and the proportion of which will be recycled and reused. Only dispose of waste to landfill as a last resort.
  • Update the plan as construction progresses to monitor how waste is being reused and recycled.
  • Regularly communicate with your waste management supplier to ensure materials are separated and segregated to maximise recycling rates.

Using a Site Waste Management Plan not only protects the environment, but can significantly reduce financial costs. Sites could even consider implementing a Site Waste Management Plan solely for the purpose of plastic waste.

This campaign has shown that the construction industry is making considerable progress and is working hard towards reducing its consumption of plastics and packaging. However, the industry must now continue to make long term commitment to tackling plastic pollution as an entire sector.

For more information and to read the full report please go here:  https://ccsbestpractice.org.uk/spotlight-on/spotlight-on-plastics-and-packaging/#what_can_you_do

Housing

House-building boosts construction activity

Surging mortar sales reached a record high in 2018, indicating that house-building in Great Britain remained buoyant in 2018. However,  faltering concrete sales suggest an industry in limbo, waiting for planned infrastructure projects to get going.

Latest data from the Mineral Products Association (MPA) show volumes of mortar sales at their highest level since records began in 2004.

The majority of mortar sales take place within six months of house-building projects starting, so increased volumes indicate that new starts also grew during 2018.

Year-on-year mortar volumes increased by 14.3%, despite dropping by 1% in the fourth quarter. This trend suggests more cause for optimism than other market indicators such as Office for National Statistics data on brick deliveries, which show just a 1.6% increase in the 12 months to Q3 2018.

Beyond house-building, the wider picture of construction demand for construction mineral products is more muted, reflecting an industry still waiting for major projects to get going.

Ready mixed concrete sales volumes fell 1.6% nationally in 2018, weighed down by reduced demand in London, where sales declined by 4.8%.

The MPA’s analysis shows that the southern regions of England and Wales led asphalt sales in 2018, indicative of roadbuilding and maintenance activity, contributing to a 0.7% growth nationally and offsetting declines in most other regions.  Many Highways England projects appear to have been pushed to the back end of the current spending periods.

Aurelie Delannoy, director of economic affairs at the MPA, said: “Like many sectors, construction is awaiting the outcome of Brexit negotiations, but our data shows that Great Britain is still building despite the uncertainty. In particular, strong mortar sales indicate continuing new house-building projects in 2018.  Our analysis, based on actual sales and on-the-ground activity rather than sentiment, suggests this has been higher than forecasted by other metrics.

“Elsewhere, the picture for the industry is more muted as we wait for several major infrastructure schemes to make the leap from the planning phase to the construction site.  Policymakers and clients need to be mindful that the critical mineral resources that underpin our built environment don’t flow from a tap, and preparations to ensure a ready supply need to begin early in a project’s lifecycle.”

The MPA represents more than 520 companies across the £20bn sector.  Its sales data is seasonally adjusted and drawn from the MPA membership which covers 100% of GB cement production, 90% of aggregates, 95% of asphalt and more than 70% of ready mixed and precast concrete production.

Source: The Construction Index

timber

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