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News Round-Up: April 2010

7 April 2010

CIOB heads East for AGM

The CIOB plans to use the forthcoming Shanghai Expo 2010 as an opportunity to build links between members in different countries through a series of meetings, site visits and its first ever overseas Annual General Meeting, writes Stephen Cousins.

A week of events is planned from 27 June to 2 July and will include the CIOB international conference, a members’ forum and board of trustees meeting. Members who travel to Shanghai will also visit local construction sites, Tongji University and witness the inauguration of a new CIOB conservation centre in the “garden city” of Suzhou.

The week will culminate with the AGM on Friday 2 July, when Professor Li Shirong will officially hand over the CIOB presidency to incoming James Wates. 

The AGM and wider programme are also seen as helping to establish a new global focus for the Institute, says CIOB deputy chief executive Michael Brown: “Shanghai is our first major drive to give a voice to the international membership. The week is designed to give UK delegates real exposure to things happening in China and to bring members together to debate what direction we take as a global organisation.”

The CIOB has more than 3,500 members across China and Hong Kong.

At the conference on 30 June, former deputy prime minister John Prescott will deliver a keynote speech on climate change and its impact on the conference theme of “building better cities”.

There will also be a lecture by former CIOB president Roger Flanagan who will discuss how the sustainability agenda is likely to affect international construction markets in the midst of urbanisation. Chinese speakers will include Yi Jun, president of the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the largest national and international contractor in China, and Lu Haiping president of Shanghai Green Building Council.

Three forums are planned, one of which will feature a women-only speaker list in an effort to draw attention to the role of women in building better cities.

The UK delegates will visit Tongji University, one of China’s key universities, which runs a construction management course and has an accreditation agreement with the CIOB.

Also planned are visits to local construction projects and a trip to the historic city of Suzhou, known for its classical gardens that date back more than 1,500 years. Here, the CIOB will sign an agreement to set up a conservation centre for heritage buildings.

“Members will be able to contact Chinese members involved in conservation and discuss training, innovations, or work towards continued professional development,” says Brown.

PV deal could go national

A pioneering new deal under which contractor Willmott Dixon will supply, own and operate roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels on a swimming pool it has just built for a public sector client could be offered to other council clients under the contractor’s £350m Scape National Contractors Framework.

Last month, Willmott Dixon secured its position as delivery partner to local authorities that procure contracts through Scape System Build, a local authority-controlled company that lets councils enter OJEU-compliant agreements for construction projects.

The contractor is proposing a deal to invest £60,000 in a photovoltaic array on the roof of a recently-completed  swimming pool. The client was keen to minimise the carbon footprint of the BREEAM Excellent building, but its budget could not cover the initial outlay and ongoing maintenance expense.

Instead, Willmott Dixon aims to come up with another solution. It will pay for the kit, and agree a profit-sharing arrangement on the income stream resulting from the government’s new Feed-in Tariff.

John Frankiewicz, chief executive officer of Willmott Dixon Capital Works, said that the deal was proving challenging to put together, but the lessons learned could flow into Scape contracts.

“It’s a learning curve for us. A swimming pool’s flat roof is ideal for PV, but the difficulty is agreeing a contract that can deal with the fact that we might have a glorious summer one year, and poorer weather and much less energy generated the next,” said Frankiewicz.

“We need to be sure that we’re happy with the level of return and the benefit to the client. It isn’t an exact science, and it may be that we have to review the details after a couple of years of operation.”

Under Scape, councils can procure a wide range of facilities, include buildings for schools and colleges, care homes, depots, and commercial facilities. Scape’s current shareholders are Derby City, Derbyshire County, Gateshead, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Warwickshire County Councils.

The move is seen as an example of contractors repositioning themselves to take a longer-term approach to completed buildings and client relationships. “It’s what Andrew Wolstenholme was talking about in Never Waste a Good Crisis – contractors need to have a stake in the long-game,” commented Don Ward, chief executive of Constructing Excellence.

Q&A: Tony Grayling

The head of climate change and sustainable development at the Environment Agency on the new CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which came into force on 1 April.  

Which organisations are in line for inclusion?

We’re talking about large organisations whose electricity consumption is above 6,000MW hours a year, which equates to a bill of over £500,000. That covers supermarkets, hotel chains, and large businesses in the public administration and service sector, such as local authorities, government departments and the Environment Agency itself.

Can you give us the edited highlights?

It’s a mandatory emissions cap and trade scheme with a three-year introductory phase. In 2010-2011 qualifying organisations will just be registering and reporting their energy use and related emissions. In April 2011 and 2012, companies will have to buy allowances to cover their expected emissions for the coming year. The money raised will be recycled back to participants – it’s not a tax.

That bit sounds promising.

If you do well in the scheme, you will get back more. If you take early action to reduce emissions, such as signing up to the Carbon Trust’s Carbon Standard Scheme, then you’ll be rewarded for that.

How will the carbon “market” work?

In the introductory phase, allowances will be sold at a fixed price of £12 a tonne, and there will be no limit on the number of allowances. But from 2013, the total number will be capped and the market will determine the price.

Will smaller organisations will be brought into the scheme later?

No, there are no plans for that. The threshold was chosen because it covers 10-12% of the UK’s CO2 emissions – lower the threshold and you don’t get a huge number more.

Will the scheme herald a major shake-up?

Yes, I hope so, the aim is to push the issue of energy management and emissions savings up the agenda. A typical organisation will have energy costs of 1-2% of turnover, so it hasn’t been a focus of attention so far. But this will bring it to the attention of the board and directors.

Inspection fees review

The fees contractors pay to local authority Building Control departments will now be more closely linked to the levels of work involved for officers, following the implementation of new regulations that liberalise the charging structure.

The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 2010, published in February and effective from 1 April, are part of the reforms introduced following the Future of Building Control review.

The regulations let councils in England and Wales fix their own charges, instead of charging according to a prescriptive price list based on construction value. Prices can now be set based on the number of office hours needed to review the application, the number of inspections needed, and office overheads such as IT and office accommodation.

But the overriding principle will be that local authorities should be able to recover their costs and balance the books, rather than make a profit.

Kevin Dawson, chair of the CIOB Faculty of Building Control and manager of Building Control at Peterborough City Council, predicts that costs will rise for domestic applications, but could come down for large-scale commercial projects.

“As it’s based on an hourly rate, householders’ fees for residential extensions are likely to go up by 10%. But depending on the local authority and the overheads, commercial building projects could go down by 10%.”

The new regulations are also intended to set local authorities on a level footing with private sector providers, who can often undercut the public sector price.

Also resulting from the Future of the Building Control review, the Construction Products Association has produced a guide to loft conversions, the first in a series designed to guide applicants through the Building Control system.

Site manager ‘guilty’ in manslaughter trial

A site manager has been ‘convicted’ of manslaughter by a jury of 235 construction professionals in Cardiff, in a mock trial organised by the HSE.

The case over the fatal accident of construction worker John Doe was brought as part of the HSE’s Working Well Together campaign, and is part of a series running across the country.

The jury heard the case against Kenton Construction’s site manager Bill Irwin, played by local construction professional Huw Llywelyn. At the time of the accident, he was contending with penalties for late completion and cash flow problems.

Irwin had tasked a three-man gang to excavate a trench and install a new pipe on the site of a block of flats.

But because the plant hire company hadn’t been paid, it wouldn’t supply a trench box. Despite reservations, Irwin issued a permit to dig. John Doe died of crush injuries when the trench collapsed.

The Judge, played by a partner in local law firm Morgan Cole, recommended that Irwin should serve 18 months in prison.

More information on local events under the campaign is at www.wwt.uk.com.

Month in numbers

5-8 The number of years Dubai’s government is proposing to take to pay back creditors of beleaguered Dubai World.

25 The percentage of recent graduates who said their degree did not give them the skills they needed in the workplace, says a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

10,000 The extra cost, in pounds, added to a new-build home by new combined standards on design quality and living space, according to the HCA. 

788,000 The amount, in pounds, Taylor Wimpey chief executive Peter Redfern was paid for finalising the housebuilder’s 10-month refinancing deal, even though it lost £604m.

15m The number of homes that could be powered by energy from the sea, according to a new action plan launched by the government.

800m The value, in pounds, of a deal struck by a Ferrovial Agroman/Laing O’Rourke joint venture to build Heathrow’s new Terminal 2.


Waterford wins student challenge

A group of students from Ireland’s Waterford Insitute of Technology has won the CIOB’s Student Challenge 2010.

After regional heats, the day-long final challenge, held at the CIOB’s Ascot HQ, asked participating student teams to act as consultants to a local authority on retrofitting its housing stock.

Advice had to include how they would improve thermal performance, comfort and living space in different house types, dating from pre-1920, the 1950s and 60s, and the 1980s and 90s.

Teams from 11 participating institutions had to complete a number of exercises, including a written report detailing the benefits and costs of different approaches.

Dr Sarah Peace, scholarship and research manager at the CIOB, said: “What impressed the judges the most was the passion and awareness all the student teams showed throughout the event. But for us Waterford gave the most complete and creative set of solutions
for all three types of house.”

The four team members each won £100. The second place team came from Anglia Ruskin University, and third place went to University College London.

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