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11 November 2010

...reducing the danger faced by cyclists on roads?

It’s a sad fact that 2,710 cyclists either lost their lives or were seriously injured on UK roads in 2009, according to Department of Transport statistics. It’s a situation that has prompted highways maintenance specialist FM Conway to take a pioneering step: installing cameras on its LGV cabs to help drivers see cyclists in their blind spots.

Over the next two months, the roads maintenance and civil engineering contractor will mount the cameras onto 70 of its LGVs. Fitted to the near-side of the cab, the cameras link to the rear-view camera screen on the dashboard, and will enable drivers to spot cyclists or motorbikes as they turn left. The cameras also have an infra-red light for use in low-light conditions.

FM Conway will also qualify two of its drivers as cycle trainers to deliver specialist cyclist awareness sessions to all its drivers. Sounds like a great idea.

...challenging passivhaus standards?


Window manufacturer Velux has done just that, even giving its initiative the slightly barbed title of “Active House”. The Passivhaus approach is seen as relying on highly-sealed envelopes with fresh air supplied by mechanical ventilation, but “Active House” suggests ventilation should come by opening the windows (surprisingly enough!).


So when housing minister Grant Shapps used a Velux-sponsored fringe event at last month’s Conservative Party Conference to take a side-swipe at the Passivhaus concept, the company was understandably pleased. The smile on the face of Kevin Brennan, head of sustainability at Velux, says it all.

“The idea that we want to live in sealed boxes cannot be healthy, nor can it be right in terms of achieving our zero-carbon objectives,“ Shapps told the meeting. “It’s not practical, not the way people want to live and cannot be good for occupants’ health.”

...celebrating topping out with a balloon launch?


That’s how Tata Steel (formally Corus) chose to commemorate the re-launch of its Colorcoat Prisma range pre-finished steel roofing and rainscreen cladding earlier this year. 

The balloons were released from six locations in the UK, and the owner of the balloon that travelled the furthest — PE teacher Emma Houston from Maes Garmon School in Flintshire, whose pupils are pictured here — was awarded a free hot air balloon ride for her efforts. Her balloon travelled cross-country for 83km before landing at a farm in Buxton.


...studying german on your iphone during tea breaks?

We were intrigued to receive a press release in impeccable English from a German publisher, Gerhard Holzmann, announcing the launch of its technical construction dictionary iPhone or iPad app, priced at US$18.99. Not a bad idea — especially if you’re flummoxed when someone drops a technical or archaic term into a meeting, you could whip out your iPhone under the table and no one would be any the wiser.

The reference tool contains 20,000 terms, complete with tables and diagrams to explain concepts. We visited Holzmann’s website, but were disappointed to find the dictionary is only available in German! Still, if you’ve been inspired by our European construction feature (p42), you might want to take things to the next level...

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