Industry News

Construction output suffers slight decline in 2015

According to the latest ONS report, construction output shows a modest decline of 1.0% month-on-month and 0.7% year-on-year. Orders, however, have remained positive, with growth of 1.9% year-on-year.

"While it was disappointing to see the first annual decline in construction output since May 2013, we believe the industry is still fundamentally on course for growth over the coming years", commented Rebecca Larkin, Economist at the Construction Products Association (CPA).

"The declines appear to be led by a weak public housing sector, which is no surprise given the government’s focus on austerity and the resulting decrease in starts.  In addition, growth in the private housing sector was slightly less than we would have expected, though it remains a strong sector overall."

“On the positive side, output for both the infrastructure and industrial sectors was notably robust, up 17.3% and 4.9% on the previous year, respectively.  These same sectors are also leading the rise in orders.”

Ms Larkin concluded:  “Our own surveys along with many from across the industry, however, support our view that the outlook for the industry is positive.  We forecast growth of 4.9% in 2015 and 4.2% in 2016, and 21.7% growth between 2015 and 2019.”

CYT's Budding Brunels projects on Greenwich Peninsula

The first of three Budding Brunels projects, organised by the Construction Youth Trust (CYT) in partnership with global construction consultancy AECOM, has taken place in Greenwich.

Students networked with a broad range of professional volunteers from AECOM and Wates gaining an insight into roles as diverse as Energy Engineer, Urban Designer, Transaction Advisor and Site Manager. What will be “The Waterman” residential tower on the Greenwich Peninsula regeneration set the scene for the live site visit on day one.

Day two saw the piloting of the new Budding Brunels course structure and supporting activities. The team has been developing an enhanced curriculum that is designed to be more interactive and challenging for students

Budding Brunels is a 3-day course which is aimed at those in Year 12 and 13 who are interested in finding out more about working in the construction professions. Find out more here.

Scrapping zero-carbon homes is a false economy

This blog post is by David Hopkins, Executive Director of Wood for Good.

The Government has announced that it will scrap the zero-carbon homes target in an effort to apparently “improve housebuilding productivity.”

The zero-carbon policy was originally introduced as a step to meeting the 2008 Climate Change Act’s mandate of an 80% reduction in CO2 from the 1990 levels, by 2050. The Government has claimed that by scrapping the target it aims to reduce regulations on housebuilding and increase productivity in the sector.

However, removing the policy will not only significantly hinder the UK in meeting wider climate change goals, it is also unlikely to lead to any marked improvement in productivity.

There’s a widely held misconception that creating sustainable homes takes longer and is more expensive. This doesn’t need to be the case. In fact, it’s still quicker and more efficient to manufacture, deliver and assemble a high-quality, low-carbon timber-frame building than build one on-site with lower thermal insulation built from materials which directly contribute to carbon emissions.

Scrapping zero-carbon is a false economy. In terms of future productivity, building significant quantities of homes without sustainability in mind now, sets the UK up for a need for continued and expensive maintenance and repair works for the future.

Take social housing – the growing problem of fuel poverty has driven a need for registered providers to retroactively build sustainability into their property portfolios. Many have implemented solar panels, biomass systems, and external and internal insulation funded by the Green Deal, ECO and vast quantities of their own capital.

If sustainability isn’t factored into new build developments now, it will prolong the need for retrospective action in the long term – creating an extra, ongoing financial burden on an important sector.

There is also obvious financial merit in continuing to create sustainable homes in private house building. Timber’s naturally high thermal insulation also acts as a selling point – lowering the need for future retro insulation measures and making homes more attractive to new owners or renters.

Off-site construction using timber can also reduce build times by weeks and even months, improving the efficiency of the build process, allowing new tenants or owners to move in more quickly, and thereby improving the productivity of the project.

Despite the change in plans, the opportunities to continue to improve sustainability are still very much within in the housebuilding sector’s grasp.

This short-sighted policy should therefore not provide cause for developers to ignore sustainability – especially when you consider the significant inroads the industry has made in improving efficiency in housing over the past decade and the continued market demand for this to be included in new homes.

The Government has only removed the targets at the top. This should not mean we have to accept a spiralling race to the bottom. 

Timber buildings cheaper to construct than traditional designs, TDA report says

According to a new study led by Andrew Dunn, chief executive of the Timber Development Association (TDA) in Australia, timber buildings can be up to 10-15% cheaper to construct than concrete-framed or steel-framed buildings.

The report “Commercial Building Costing Case Studies – Traditional Design versus Timber Project” shows that timber construction saves 12.4% for a commercial office building, 13.9% for an aged care facility, 2.2% for an apartment building and 9.4% for a portal-framed industrial shed. The study includes costs associated with heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, facade and acoustic insulation.

The University of Technology Sydney, alongside Arup, AECOM, Studio 505 and Fitzpatrick + Partners, co-developed the research method and collaborated on design, cost and site issues.

Further information on ArchDaily website.

New £100m biomass terminal announced for the port of Liverpool

Graham Construction will build a new £100m biomass terminal in the Port of Liverpool.

The facility will process up to 3m tonnes of wood pellets a year, shipped from North America to Liverpool, to be used as biomass fuel in the newly-decarbonised Drax power station in North Yorkshire. 

The new terminal is expected to generate 300 jobs in construction and across the supply chain, becoming fully operational in July 2016. 

“This project builds on the experience we have gained from building similar facilities on the east coast of England", said Leo Martin, executive director at Graham. “We will be designing and building a state of the art plant which will employ industry-leading technologies to ensure that the facility can be safely operated and maintained”, he added.

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