Fire door safety week

Three in five care home workers ‘concerned’ about fire safety

Care homes, where some of the most vulnerable people in society live, are believed to be at an increased risk of fire, with three in five care home workers admitting to serious concerns.

The new research released today marks the launch of Fire Door Safety Week (23-29th September).

The study, which was conducted among 1,000 current and former care-home employees, found three quarters believe more could be done to prevent or manage a fire, with three in five workers having reported fire safety concerns.

Over half of those surveyed say that unsatisfactory action was taken as a result of reporting their concerns.

A “worrying lack of clarity” is also identified, with nearly half (47%) saying they did not understand the role a fire door plays in keeping a fire contained for a specified time, while over eight in 10 (82%) admitted to deliberately keeping a fire door open.

Almost three quarters (72%) said they had witnessed or were aware of fire doors being tampered with, including removing the door closer to make doors easier to open.

According to the report, not only does this make the door closer redundant, when combined with other adjustments it could leave the fire door not fit for purpose in the event of a fire.

Fire doors placed on the market should withstand fire for 30 minutes and have test evidence to validate this.

However, respondents said that on average it would take 25 minutes to evacuate the care home where they worked, with a quarter saying it would take longer than 30 minutes.

Today’s research marks the start of Fire Door Safety Week, which this year focusses on the role that fire doors play in protecting people while asleep and at their most vulnerable – principally in specialised housing such as care homes, children’s homes and sheltered housing as well as houses in multiple occupation and communal properties.

Numerous events and campaign activities are being held throughout to help landlords, tenants, and anyone with an interest in or responsibility for fire safety at a property.

Helen Hewitt, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation, which organises Fire Door Safety Week, said: “These highly concerning findings underline how crucial fire safety is, and the fundamental role that fire doors play – especially so in light of recent instances of damaging care home fires which have threatened the lives of residents.

“Evacuation strategies in care homes are very specialised, accounting for the fact that many residents will need assistance.

“These strategies rely on the ability of fire doors to perform their function in holding back fire and smoke to allow adequate time for rescue.”

She added: “We all need to feel protected inside buildings, and especially so when we are asleep. Care homes and other specialised housing provide a living place for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“The companies and other operators that run and maintain them have a responsibility to ensure their residents’ safety – and as an industry we need to continue to provide our expert support to ensure the correct specification, installation, and ongoing maintenance of fire doors.

“We hope that through raising awareness during Fire Door Safety Week, lives will be saved through a reappraisal of fire doors and safety arrangements in multiple occupancy buildings.”

Source: 24 housing

Fire door safety week

Fire Door Safety Week

Fire Door Safety week 2019 launches next week.  

Running from the 23rd-29th September, the objectives of the week are:

  • To raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance;
  • To engage and educate people, helping the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors;
  • To encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory;
  • To link together the initiatives of many organisations with common interests in the fire door and passive fire protection industries.

Fire Door Safety Week is the brainchild of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and the Fire Door Alliance (an evolution of the BWF CERTIFIRE Scheme) and was supported at conception by the Government’s Fire Kills campaign. All stakeholders invest in the campaign to promote and educate on the critical importance of properly specified, installed and maintained fire doors and associated products.

Fire Door Safety Week was launched in 2013 in response to a legacy of fire door neglect. It is a ‘mass market’ awareness campaign to increase public understanding of the role that fire doors play in protecting life and property.

For more information please go here





Construction wins one-year delay to reverse charge VAT

The government has agreed to delay the implementation of domestic reverse charge VAT for construction services by a year, until October 2020.

The move follows intense lobbying by the construction industry, which had warned that companies were not ready for what will be a significant change to the management of their business finances as the necessary information had not filtered through in time.

Last month a coalition of construction associations wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer asking for a six-month delay to the planned 1st October 2019 introduction of reverse charge VAT. They warned that customers paying VAT directly to HM Revenue & Customs instead of to the service supplier would have a disruptive impact on contractors’ cashflow, for which they needed to prepare.

It also coincided with the disruption of Brexit, and no one knowing what is going on there or what preparations might be required.

The chancellor has now given an additional 12 months for the construction industry to prepare – double what was asked for.

In a briefing note, HM Revenue & Customs said: “Industry representatives have raised concerns that some businesses in the construction sector are not ready to implement the VAT domestic reverse charge for building and construction on 1st October 2019.

“To help these businesses and give them more time to prepare, the introduction of the reverse charge has been delayed for a period of 12 months until 1st October 2020. This will also avoid the changes coinciding with Brexit.

“HMRC remains committed to the introduction of the reverse charge and has already increased compliance resource. It has put in place a robust compliance strategy for tackling fraud in the construction sector using tried and tested compliance tools.

“In the intervening year, HMRC will focus additional resource on identifying and tackling existing perpetrators of the fraud. It will also work closely with the sector to raise awareness and provide additional guidance and support to make sure all businesses will be ready for the new implementation date.

“HRMC recognises that some businesses will have already changed their invoices to meet the needs of the reverse charge and cannot easily change them back in time. Where genuine errors have occurred, HMRC will take into account the fact that the implementation date has changed.

“Some businesses may have opted for monthly VAT returns ahead of the 1 October 2019 implementation date which they can reverse by using the appropriate stagger option on the HMRC website.”

The news has received a warm welcome from industry associations.

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry, who took a leading role in the lobbying campaign, said: “I’m pleased that the government has made this sensible and pragmatic decision to delay reverse charge VAT until a time when it will have less of a negative impact on the tens of thousands of construction companies across the UK. To plough on with the October 2019 implementation could have been disastrous given that the changes were due to be made just before the UK is expected to leave the EU, quite possibly on ‘no-deal’ terms. The situation hasn’t been helped by the poor communication and guidance produced by HMRC. Despite the best efforts of construction trade associations to communicate the changes to their members, it’s concerning that so few employers have even heard of reverse charge VAT. Indeed, according to research by the FMB published in July, more than two-thirds had not heard of the VAT changes and of those who had, around the same number hadn’t prepared.”

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) was another signatory to the letter sent last month to chancellor Sajid Javid seeking an extension.

BESA chief executive David Frise said: “This is a big win for our members. Thanks to the concerted advocacy efforts of the FMB, BESA, and other trade bodies, common sense has prevailed. If the government had not delayed the changes, many SMEs would have been caught off guard, facing increased burden and restricted cash flows while simultaneously bracing for the serious disruptions caused by the UK’s planned withdrawal from the European Union on 31st October.

“This gives us plenty of time to help businesses plan a smooth transition in the way VAT is charged by October 2020.”

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) was another signatory to the letter. Its chief executive, Richard Beresford, said: “Contractors and subcontractors weren’t ready for reverse charge VAT and we are delighted that the government has listened to our industry campaign to seek a delay.”

The FMB’s Brian Berry concluded: “It is reassuring that the government has listened to the construction industry, which has come together to make clear to the government that sticking to the October 2019 timetable could lead to a loss of productivity, reduced cashflow and in the worst cases, lead to a hit on jobs, tipping some companies over the edge. What’s required now is for the government and industry to work together to deliver a sector-wide communications campaign, which must include plain English guidance on the changes. We also want to work with the government to deliver workshops aimed at construction employers, held in locations across the country, to explain what’s happening and why.”

Source: Construction News

SPS Envirowall

Why use SPS Envirowall’s Cavity System wall insulation?

SPS Envirowall’s Cavity System is the latest fully tested and accredited addition to its expanding range of innovative external wall insulation systems.

Extensively used on lightweight structures, cavity systems create a drainage void between the cladding and the sheathed framed structure. SPS Envirowall Cavity Systems 1 & 2 are the next generation of this solution.

This modern method of construction has proven extremely popular over recent years and dominates the build method used for mid to high rise structures, which is an ideal scenario to specify and install the new SPSenvirowall Cavity Systems.

The SPS Envirowall Cavity Systems consist of EuroClass A1 components, which are mechanically fixed back to the inner sheathing board to create the designed cavity width, with either the insulation board fitted directly to the A1 fillets (CS1 system) or a secondary A1 sheathing board and insulation (CS2 system).

Features & Benefits

• Compliant with Approved Document B and Technical Handbook section 2
• Minimum EuroClass Reaction to Fire classification of A2 – s1, d0
• EuroClass A1 support system
• Takes cladding out of the critical path by quickly weatherproofing the building
• Low-cost cladding solution
• Fast application
• Tried and tested
• Wide range of colours and finishes including brick slips
• Easily achieves high levels of thermal performance
• Highly durable and weather resistant
• Crack resistant

Façade Finishes

•Textured: FlexiSil (Acrylic), EnviroSil (Silicone), Enviromin (Mineral)
• Brick: SpeedySlip (Flexible Slip), BrickStick (Clay Slip),

Suitable for the following construction types

• Lightweight Framed Structures (LSF)
For more information and brochure download:

Source: The Loadstar


Recession fears as EU workers leave the UK

There are clear signs that the construction sector is bracing itself for a downturn.

According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), an independent, non-profit trade association that represents 8,000 small- to medium-sized building firms, companies are already reducing their headcount of direct employees in favour of subcontractors who are easily removed if the work dries up.

The FMB’s most recent State of Trade survey showed that employment among construction SMEs had dropped for the first time in more than five years.

“Their thinking is that if the worst happens and a recession hits later this year, they need the size of their workforce to be flexible in order for their firm to survive,” said Arthur McArdle, the FMB’s national president. “However, this strategy is not without risk, as if construction bosses are employing more subbies, they might not always be certain of their quality. Rebalancing the workforce may seem like a good idea at the time, but it could lead to reputation-damaging mistakes.”

Another body, the Home Builders Federation (HBF). meanwhile. said however that delays in the planning process and a lack of available land were of more concern at the moment to its members, who account for 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales.

Buyer confidence was cited in March as a major constraint by only 7% of members of the Home Builders Federation (HBF), well down on the 48% who said it was a challenge of a similar scale at the end of last year.

Stockpiling, which has been taking place in other sectors ahead of Brexit, is meanwhile less of an indicator in the building trade. Smaller and medium-sized companies do not have the necessary storage space in the first instance. When shortages have occurred, such as problems in relation to bricks last year, they have been rectified relatively quickly.

Results from a survey of over 10,500 construction workers carried out by recruiter Randstad has revealed that one in three EU nationals have considered leaving the UK because of the Brexit referendum.

The truth is that it’s the potential drop in construction projects, subsequent funding, and availability of jobs that’s the biggest driving force influencing the 39% who are expressing concern. This is followed by uncertainty over trade deals with the EU (19%), new findings suggest.

A no-deal Brexit raises the prospect of delays and cost increases, as employers face difficulties to get vital EU workers to UK building sites, threatening timing of projects. With 7% of construction workers in the UK and over a quarter of London’s construction workforce coming from other EU countries (ONS), plus the £10bn (15%) of building materials coming from the EU, it’s clear that action needs to be taken. The good news is that there is still time to make a difference and retain highly-skilled workers.

As the country gets closer to withdrawing from the EU, it is becoming clearer that employers and employees are sceptical of what the industry will look like later this year in terms of workforce and materials supply. Of all of those surveyed, one fifth admitted that they have considered leaving the country amid Brexit uncertainties.


Source: The Guardian /

septic tank

New Septic Tank Regulations in England & Wales deadline approaching

From January 1, 2020, the new septic tank regulations will be in place for England and Wales.

All septic tank types that discharge to surface water will require either upgrading or replacement with a sewage treatment plant.

Under the new code of practice by the Environment Agency, homeowners are responsible for the installation and required maintenance of the sewage treatment system on their property, and to limit its impact on the local environment.

Septic tanks can no longer discharge directly into a watercourse must upgrade their sewage treatment system by January 1, 2020, or sooner if the property is going up for sale before this deadline. The tank will also require replacement if the Environmental Agency (EA) finds that it is causing pollution.

In accordance with these regulations, a septic tank or wastewater treatment plant has to meet British Standards BS EN 12566, while any drainage field is required to meet BS EN 6297:2007 standards. The new rules aim to reduce the level of pollution present in national waterways by better controlling and regulating discharge requirements to a watercourse.

The goal is to significantly reduce the level of pollution currently present in national waterways through better control and regulation of discharge requirements to a watercourse. This upgrade to your sewage treatment system must be in place by January 1, 2020, or when you sell the property (if selling before this date).

If buying or selling a property before the 2020 deadline, you are legally required to inform any potential buyers in writing if the property has a septic tank as well as provide all information regarding maintenance requirements and the location of the system.

The Environmental Agency will carry out inspections to enforce the adoption of the new rules. If found to be currently polluting surface water due to discharge from a septic tank, you will be required to install a new system before the deadline.

Any system installed before 1983, prior and the establishment of current standards will most likely need replacement. An existing unit requires the following to be compliant;

  • CE certificate
  • Compliance with BS standards
  • Unit and soakaway system to have been installed correctly
  • Regular maintenance and emptying

For additional information about the 2020 changes to the septic tank regulations, visit

Source: The Loadstar /

hm revenue

How will the October VAT change affect the construction industry?

Construction workers are calling upon chancellor Sajid Javid to delay VAT changes which many say will cripple firms’ cashflows this autumn.

In June, the government published guidance about the so-called reverse charge on the way VAT is collected in the building and construction industry.

It comes into effect on 1 October and will see the customer receiving the services having to pay the VAT due to HMRC instead of paying the supplier – meaning companies will no longer receive their 20% VAT payment when they submit their bills.

HMRC said it has introduced the change to crack down on companies charging and collecting VAT payments before disappearing and owing the taxman.

But critics say the new rules will hit firms’ cashflows and push many into the red as they struggle to keep up with payments to HMRC.

Last week 15 trade bodies, including the Federation of Master Builders, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), wrote to Javid asking him to push back the changes by at least six months.

The British Constructional Steelwork Association said firms with a turnover of £15m could be hit with a negative cashflow of £262,500 by month three of the charge.

“This could be the end for many subcontractors who are already experiencing late payment, difficulties in agreeing final payment amounts,” said the group’s director-general Sarah McCann-Bartlett.

CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “Civil engineering contractors are extremely worried about the impact of the forthcoming new rules on their immediate cashflow and the impact that this will have on business sustainability. Small contractors do not have the resources to manage the immediate impact of the legislation change.”

In its June guidance, HMRC admitted: “HMRC understands that implementing the reverse charge may cause some difficulties.”

But it told firms: “[We] will apply a light touch in dealing with any errors made in the first six months of the new legislation, as long as you are trying to comply with the new legislation and have acted in good faith.”

For information on the changes and what you need to know, please click here


house funding

Government needs to spend around £146bn over the next 10 years to deliver the homes the UK needs

It is a huge sum, but says head of Policy James Prestwich, social housing is a crucial infrastructure and investing in it will benefit the wider economy.

This year, we mark the centenary of a landmark piece of legislation, which has fundamentally shaped the housing system in this country – perhaps more than any other. The end of the First World War created huge demand for affordable homes across the country, which led to the passage of the Housing & Planning Act of 1919. Now better known as the Addison Act – after Dr Christopher Addison, the then-minister of health and the bill’s author – it set in motion the whole system of social housing we know today.

It made housing a public responsibility for the first time, establishing the principle that the government must ensure there are enough decent, affordable homes to go around. It’s a noble vision, and it’s vital that we don’t lose sight of it.

Now, 100 years on, what does our housing system – especially social housing – look like? For many of us, the cracks are clear to see: rough sleeping is up 165% on 2010 levels, while temporary accommodation is full to bursting. The amount of social housing has fallen, leaving expensive and insecure private renting as the only real alternative for millions of people. This is having dire consequences – 1.3m children are now growing up in poverty in the private rented sector.

Why has this happened, a century on from a landmark law that made the government responsible for ensuring everyone had a decent home? The answer is that, for decades, successive governments of all parties have failed to invest enough in affordable housing. In 1953, the government spent £11.3bn in today’s prices on building new social housing – by last year, this figure had fallen to just £1.27bn.

Ultimately, this is a problem that has been caused by lack of investment. It means that the solution lies in renewed investment, targeted to deliver the social housing the country desperately needs.

Now, for the first time, we can put a price on how much money is required. Over the next 10 years, the government should invest £146bn in building social housing. Per year, this works out at an average of around £12.8bn, in today’s prices.

Of course, this feels like a vast sum of money – and it is. The housing crisis is deeply entrenched, and can’t be solved easily. It will take political will and a significant long-term investment to finally bring it to an end.

However, it’s important to put this figure in perspective. The government already spends about £10bn every year just on roads. The logic is simple: they’re a vital part of our infrastructure and we need a functioning road system to keep the country moving, so the government invests in it. That same logic should also apply to housing.

As well as providing the social homes the country desperately needs, this investment would have wider benefits for everyone. By spending £12.8bn each year, the government could create an economic boom. It would add £120bn to the economy annually, supporting businesses and new jobs, and helping to boost the economy.

Meanwhile, this investment would also save the government money. By building new social housing, more and more people could move out of expensive temporary accommodation or privately rented homes, and into social housing where they can afford the rent and put down roots. This would, in turn, bring down the colossal housing benefit bill, which reached the dizzying heights of £22.3bn last year.

Of course, spending this money won’t fix the problem overnight – the housing crisis requires a long-term perspective and long-term certainty. This would allow the funding to be ramped up, with less money in initial years of the programme as new jobs are created. Then, when additional capacity is in place, more money can be spent in later years.

What’s important is that the government invests the desperately needed money that is required to end the housing crisis. Underfunding is the biggest cause of this crisis, so it must be part of the solution. For the first time, we know exactly what it will take to end this economic, social and human catastrophe. We can also reap the economic rewards of this spending programme, creating new jobs and supporting businesses across the country.

Now that we know what needs to be done, it’s up to the government to take the lead and make it happen.

Source: PBC today

uk construction

“Brexit fatigue” sees surveyors report construction output grow

The industry is getting on with life as its patience with Brexit related indecision wears thin according to the latest RICS Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey.

Quarter two results show output growth accelerating and workload and employment expectations gathering pace for the year ahead.

The quarter saw 16% more surveyors reporting an increase in construction workloads, up from a +9% net balance in Q1.

RICS Senior Economist, Jeffrey Matsu, said: “Three years on and the long, unrelenting shadow of Brexit uncertainty is testing the mettle of the construction industry.

“After a prolonged period of delays and underinvestment, businesses now appear to be fed up and are proceeding cautiously with new hiring and intentions to invest.

“While much of this is likely to be backfilling or maintaining existing capacity, the requirements of larger projects such as Hinkley Point C and HS2 are constraining growth opportunities elsewhere.

“With the range of possible outcomes related to Brexit as wide as ever, we expect to see continued volatility in the construction output data but in the meanwhile foresee workload activity stabilising.”

Following a dip in Q1, workloads in the infrastructure sector improved in Q2 and there was also modest growth in commercial and public non-housing activity.

Looking to the year ahead, workloads are expected to be most resilient in the private housing and infrastructure sectors with 27% and 25% more surveyors, respectively, anticipating activity to rise rather than fall.

The RICS market confidence indicator – a composite measure of workload, employment and profit margin expectations over the coming twelve months – rebounded to 21% (from 13% in Q1).

Investments related to equipment, software and worker training are expected to gather pace as well.

Source: Construction Enquirer

house funding

Theresa May calls for tougher design rules to prevent ‘tiny homes’

Theresa May has called for mandatory design standards for new houses, saying the number of “tiny homes” with little storage on the market is indefensible.

The prime minister said the lack of universal, enforceable rules on the amount of internal space is encouraging a “race to the bottom” among builders.

If all councils made those rules a pre-condition of planning, it would end the “postcode lottery”, she argued.

MPs, meanwhile, say residents should be compensated for design flaws.

The cross-party Commons Public Accounts Committee said there needed to be a clear definition of what was acceptable in terms of the quality of new housing.

In a new report, it said it was particularly concerned about offices and commercial buildings being converted into residential properties.

The government is reviewing its policy of allowing the conversion of offices into homes without planning permission.

What are the rules?

Guidelines specifying minimum bedroom size, floor areas for storage and floor to ceiling heights for new builds in England have been in place for several years and were last updated in 2016.

But the Nationally Described Space Standards are not compulsory, and are only applicable if councils adopt them as part of their local housing plan.

What does the PM want?

In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing in Manchester, Mrs May said there are different standards in different areas.

While the government remained committed to a massive expansion in house building over the next decade, hoping to reach a target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid 2020s, she said this cannot come at the expense of quality.

“I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage,” she said.

“Where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture. And where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom.”

The government wants to see design requirements incorporated into the planning process for the first time.

But MPs have expressed concerns that too many councils’ housing plans are out of date and some town halls do not have a blueprint at all due to its cost and complexity.

The Public Accounts Committee said ministers were reluctant to intervene and use their powers to develop a plan centrally because of concerns over localism.

Why is housing such a key issue?

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 300 councils in England and Wales, said there needed to be more leadership from government on the issue so councils, developers and home buyers knew where they stood.

“High-quality homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country now,” said Martin Tett, the organisation’s housing spokesman.

“These standards should future-proof all new homes ensuring they are accessible for all ages and all markets, meet the housing needs of our ageing population and are environmentally sustainable.”

Shelter said it applauded efforts to improve the quality of new homes but the reality was that most first-time buyers could simply not afford to get on the housing ladder.

It said ministers’ efforts should be focused on removing disincentives in the market to build social housing.

“What this country needs – and what it wants – is a commitment from the top, from any prime minister, to a renewal of social housing,” said its chief executive Polly Neate.