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December 7, 2021

CONSTRUCTION 2021: A YEAR IN REVIEW

Simon Rowland, Partner and Head of Construction and Engineering and Michelle Essen, Managing Associate, at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, take a look at the events of 2021 and the potential challenges and opportunities that the sector could be presented with in 2022. There is no doubt that 2021 has

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First-look at new images for £96m Albion Square development

New images have been revealed of Hull’s exciting and transformative £96m Albion Square development. The large development in Hull city centre will feature a mixture of residential, office and retail space, as well as a large urban park. The proposals, designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects and landscape architects Gillespies, will also

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Grenfell Inquiry: Grenfell driven by “agenda of deregulation”

The Fire Brigades Union lawyer for the inquiry has placed central importance on the “agenda of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation” as causing the disaster. Martin Seaward said that an agenda “which encouraged companies to behave recklessly towards building safety” was “actively and, regrettably, deliberately created by central government”. The comments

Read More »
Derwent London to Drive Sustainable Buildings Forward

Derwent London to Drive Sustainable Buildings Forward

Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, has announced that its OpenBlue digital platform technologies will be rolled out across Derwent London portfolio. This rollout will drive the digital transformation of Derwent London’s estate, enabling new possibilities for operational efficiency, occupant experiences and sustainability in one

Read More »
Work begins on New Homes at Swinden Technology Centre

Work Begins on New Homes at Swinden Technology Centre

Construction has started on the transformational development of 170 new homes at the former Swinden Technology Centre in Rotherham. Housing developer, Keepmoat Homes is delivering the regeneration scheme in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The plans include the conversion of Lodge House, Swinden House, Sitwell House, and the former

Read More »

Frankfurt Business Tower Gets the Green Light

It’s launch time for the landmark in the Frankfurt financial district designed by KSP Enge for the “central business tower” on Neue Mainzer Strasse. This paves the way for construction of a new high-rise according to plans by the Frankfurt-based architects. According to the plans by KSP Engel, the 205-meter-high

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First Phase at Stanton Cross in Wellingborough Almost Completed

First Phase at Stanton Cross in Wellingborough Almost Completed

Construction is coming to an end at Bellway’s The Beeches at Stanton Cross development in Wellingborough, where just six homes now remain for sale. The 149-home scheme is delivering 142 properties for private sale and seven affordable homes available for local people through rent or shared ownership, as part of

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BDC 317 : Jun 2024

December 7, 2021

CONSTRUCTION 2021: A YEAR IN REVIEW

Simon Rowland, Partner and Head of Construction and Engineering and Michelle Essen, Managing Associate, at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, take a look at the events of 2021 and the potential challenges and opportunities that the sector could be presented with in 2022. There is no doubt that 2021 has been a tough year for the construction industry. Global disruption from the pandemic, Brexit and environmental disasters have left their mark on the sector. In the latest ONS figures, construction outputs fell for the third month in a row. Figures for July and August slumped back to their lowest point since February, hitting 58.7 on the UK index – a sharp reduction from the 24 years high of 66.3 in June. With the sector at an apparent impasse and sustainability increasingly high on the global agenda, Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) look more and more likely to be a key part in addressing the struggles faced by the construction industry. In the face of such a dramatic drop in productivity, industry heavyweights are putting their stakes on MMC. For example, volume housebuilder Barratt has reported that 25 per cent of the 12,243 homes built by the end of its most recent financial year used MMC. As 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to consider new construction solutions for a new world. Brexit and supply chain issues In January 2020, we saw the UK finally leave the European Union almost four years after the Brexit referendum. While the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement has protected trades from any further tariffs, additional red tape and border checks have inevitably slowed down the movement of construction supplies. Given that 80 per cent of timber used in the UK is imported, wildfires and insect damage in supplier countries such as Canada and Sweden have also had a detrimental impact on stock. The shortage of materials has resulted in a price hike that cannot be underestimated. The Timber Price Index hit 92.13 in May 21 Trade Federation (TTF) reported that timber prices surged by 50 per cent between January and May 2021. Add to that, the October 2021 data from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) showed that structural steel costs were 72.6 per cent higher than the year previous, and in November we saw steel prices increase for the seventh time in 2021. With these and other shortages across the board, it’s a perfect storm for disruption in an industry built on tight margins. While MMC is not the silver bullet to addressing the materials crisis and certainly not a short-term solution for everyone, MMC’s added benefits of less waste and less weather damage could clearly help the industry. Housing crisis The UK housing crisis is reaching fever pitch, with house prices rising faster than every other economic metric. The government itself has said that “a significant proportion of homes must be built using modern methods of construction (MMC) if we are to meet the target to deliver 300,000 homes annually”. Areas such as the South East of England in particular are in desperate need of housing, but lack the local skilled workforces required to carry out onsite construction. MMC presents an opportunity to tackle the housing crisis in key areas of the country, while at the same time supporting local communities in different areas of the country through investment in MMC manufacturing sites, thus aiding the “levelling up” agenda. Skills shortage In June 2021, the ONS reported that the number of EU workers seeking jobs in the UK has dropped by 17 per cent. But unlike the supply issues, the UK’s skills shortage began long before the UK’s departure from the EU. In 2018, the ONS reported that construction had fallen out of the list of top 10 jobs for people aged 22-29. MMC has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs for UK workers – it is estimated that if 75,000 modular homes are constructed per year it could create 50,000 new jobs. The challenge, however, lies in attracting new talent to the industry and keeping workers engaged. The solution to this may be to appeal to a younger, increasingly environmentally conscious workforce, who wants to make a positive contribution to society in a sustainable industry. MMC offers a route to greener buildings, and this could make the sector more attractive to younger workers. Move to sustainability 2021 has been the year of sustainability. As we strive for a green recovery, electric vehicles, plant-based industries, renewable energy technologies and more have been at the forefront of both government and industry objectives for the future. Momentum has grown throughout the year, gathering pace in the lead up to COP26. This represents a major global shift towards reducing CO2 emissions to protect the planet. As we embark on a decade of climate action, MMC has an opportunity to fill a gap in the housing market for homes that contribute to Net Zero targets. MMC enables geographical fluidity which then contributes to a reduction of on-site pollution levels and material waste. It bolsters the argument for focusing on a method of building with a lower environmental impact. Looking ahead to 2022 Michelle Essen, Managing Associate, PDL, Construction and Engineering, Womble Bond Dickinson What can we expect for the construction industry in 2022? 2022 for the construction industry is likely to bring the continued development of many of the themes mentioned above. MMC will remain high on the agenda, with continued investment and learnings by the industry. There will be further discussions around how to incentivise increased use of MMC, part of which will be driven also by the need to standardise MMC so it is more easily and more widely adoptable. Materials and labour and skills shortages are here to stay for the immediate future. It will take time for the dust to settle on materials shortages, for the industry to work out how to increase efficiencies and reduce waste, and to find new or alternative supply chains

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First-look at new images for £96m Albion Square development

New images have been revealed of Hull’s exciting and transformative £96m Albion Square development. The large development in Hull city centre will feature a mixture of residential, office and retail space, as well as a large urban park. The proposals, designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects and landscape architects Gillespies, will also use rewilding to create a new and natural green space, both for residents and the city. The project is being delivered by Hull City Council’s construction partner, VINCI Construction UK. Throughout the development, new buildings will complement the existing architecture, history and colour of this part of the city centre. Councillor Daren Hale, leader of Hull City Council and portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “This development, just like our Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project, has Hull’s history and heritage at its heart. “The iconic mural will be the face of what will transform the city centre, creating first-class housing, retail units and office space, along with a unique and stunning urban woodland. “This important development will compliment and add to the incredible investment and regeneration we have already seen on the Marina and in the Old Town. Albion Square is a vital part of our exciting vision for the city centre.” Alan Boyson’s Three Ships Mural will be incorporated and made a key component of the new development, alongside retail space facing Albion Square, adding to the retail offer of Jameson Street and King Edward Street. Modern apartments will also be created at this part of the development, which will have access to stepped rooftop gardens. The rear of the development will feature retail units, as well as housing sensitive and complimentary to the existing Georgian architecture on Albion Street. This will include family homes and apartments, some of which will have private gardens. At the centre of the site, a new urban woodland will reconnect communities with city centre green space, allowing nature back into our urban areas through rewilding. Adam Greatrix, associate partner at Gillespies, said: “The Urban park represents far more than just a new park, this water based, biodiverse space is a statement of Hull City Council’s commitment and response to the climate emergency, to create a more sustainable and climate resilient city for its community.” The urban park will be an example of how we can live with water, showcasing how rainwater can be stored, filtered, drained sustainably, and become an amenity, even play opportunity, for its inhabitants rather than relying on traditional underground drainage networks. The result will be a dynamic and ever-changing park where water levels can rise and fall depending on weather conditions, to create either parkland or urban wetland. Niall Durney, associate partner at FaulknerBrowns Architects, said: “Albion Square will bring new activity and life to Hull city centre and provide the type of green space that is essential to sustainable, post-covid cities. “Our design focuses on repairing the urban grain of this part of the city, by re-instating historic streetscapes and framing an important piece of public art. The new buildings are all centred around the urban park, allowing both residents and the wider city to enjoy accessible, natural green space.” The design of the park draws inspiration from Hull’s dramatic estuary landscape and the biodiverse and ecological-rich river banks. Bridges and decks will guide people through the park which will feature water, lush green spaces, seating areas and artistic elements. The plans for Albion Square also include a bike hub where cyclists will be able to store bikes. The development will also include solar panels, EV charging points and other sustainable features. The plans will go to Hull City Council’s planning committee for final approval in early 2022. Construction of the site is scheduled to begin in 2023.

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You’re hired: Balfour Beatty doubles down on its commitment to hiring Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees

For the second year in a row, Balfour Beatty has bolstered its commitment to young people, publicly declaring its intention to increase the number of Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees by c. 60% when compared to its 2021 intake. Today’s commitment will see nearly 600 new positions, on top of the 700 currently employed, made available to young people across its projects in the UK, doubling down on the company’s public declaration last year where it pledged to increase its intake of Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees by c. 30%. Balfour Beatty has long been at the forefront of the skills revolution, having joined The 5% Club in 2013, and exceeding its charter promise to dedicate 5% of its employee numbers to ‘earn & learn’ positions, since 2017. Today’s strengthened commitment represents another important stride in tackling the construction and infrastructure industry’s significant skills shortage. With 6% of its workforce in ‘Earn & Learn’ roles today, the company has been recognised by The 5% Club for its integral work in this area, securing a Club Gold Award through its Employer Audit Scheme which validates members’ activities, explores their future plans and commitments, and examines their approach to quality, social mobility and diversity and inclusion. Nadhim Zahawi, Secretary of State for Education, said, “As Education Secretary, I’m delighted to see Balfour Beatty doubling down on its commitment to hiring apprentices, graduates and trainees.  “Schools, skills and families are at the forefront of my mission as Secretary of State, and Balfour Beatty are at the heart of the skills revolution that is transforming the futures of young people across the country and boosting our economy. “Their commitment to upskilling the next generation is to be commended, and I wish all the best to those taking part in the schemes.” Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty Group Chief Executive and Founder of The 5% Club said, “At Balfour Beatty, we want to attract the next generation of talent – we want to inspire and educate people to consider the construction and infrastructure industry as an attractive long term career choice. “This latest commitment to an increase in our emerging talent is testament to how we go above and beyond, on a daily basis, to provide young people with the skills and experience they need to build strong, future careers. Careers that will enable us to continue to deliver vital national infrastructure, shape skylines, build communities and truly make a difference.” Commenting on The 5% Club’s Employer Audit Scheme, Mark Cameron OBE, Chief Executive at The 5% Club said, “We set out to create a scheme that recognises the efforts of all those Employers who invest in their workforce through a broad range of workplace learning schemes. “It is fantastic that in these challenging times so many are able to commit to the Employer Audit and to gain the credit for their efforts, and that the majority are striving to expand their schemes over the coming years. Their efforts and achievements are to be applauded.” To find out more about the opportunities on offer at Balfour Beatty for Apprentices, Graduates and Trainees, click here.

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Grenfell Inquiry: Grenfell driven by “agenda of deregulation”

The Fire Brigades Union lawyer for the inquiry has placed central importance on the “agenda of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation” as causing the disaster. Martin Seaward said that an agenda “which encouraged companies to behave recklessly towards building safety” was “actively and, regrettably, deliberately created by central government”. The comments were made as part of the opening statements for Module 6 of Phase 2 of the inquiry, which is set to focus on government. Seaward said that this agenda of deregulation, privatisation and marketisation had been in place for “more than four decades”, across multiple governments, and had “predictably… degraded public services such as building control and fire and rescue services, thereby [weakening] enforcement of these regimes, and led to the abolition of national bodies, ambiguity and confusion in the guidance which has been left unclarified, a culture of complacency created towards fire safety, both during and after building works, and private companies being enabled to put profit over people”. He stated that, in turn, these factors “contributed to the systemic failure of the building and fire safety regimes, thereby enabling the installation of cheap and dangerous rainscreen cladding systems all over the UK, including at Grenfell Tower”. Seaward specifically named the evolution of  building safety regulation “Approved Document B [ADB] with ever greater complexity and flexibility, bringing concomitant ambiguity and scope for manipulation” as an issue here, with confusion around the ADB being “ruthlessly exploited by manufacturing companies for their own commercial self-interest” according to Seaward. He also pointed to the introduction of the Building Regulations 1985, which “replaced the previously detailed technical and prescriptive regulations, covering at least 300 pages, with ‘functional requirements’ covering just 25 pages, supplemented by guidance in the ADB”. This introduction of “functional” requirements was described by Seaward as a “major change”, which brought with it “significant flexibility” that in turn “could be and was exploited by some in the construction industry”. Seaward also noted that after the Lakanal House fire, a 2009 fire in which six people died, none of the coroner’s “recommendations were implemented either effectively or at all either by Lord Pickles [Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the recommendations were made], his successors or anyone else in government” – which Seaward said was “the consequence of the government’s deregulatory agenda”. The recommendations included ones relating to “stay put” guidance, guidance on high-rise firefighting, and sprinklers. For more information, comment and interview contact Ben Duncan-Duggal on ben.duncan-duggal@fbu.org.uk and 07825 635224.

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Derwent London to Drive Sustainable Buildings Forward

Derwent London to Drive Sustainable Buildings Forward

Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, has announced that its OpenBlue digital platform technologies will be rolled out across Derwent London portfolio. This rollout will drive the digital transformation of Derwent London’s estate, enabling new possibilities for operational efficiency, occupant experiences and sustainability in one dynamic solution. After a successful pilot at its White Collar Factory building, Derwent London is adopting a suite of Johnson Controls OpenBlue technologies – including OpenBlue Enterprise Manager and OpenBlue Central Utility Plant optimisation – across 22 of its buildings in London. This represents approximately 55% of its total estate by area and includes Derwent London’s net zero carbon development The Featherstone Building. OpenBlue Enterprise Manager is a comprehensive suite of applications from Johnson Controls designed to monitor and improve energy efficiency, tenant satisfaction, asset performance, maintenance operations, space performance and ultimately the comfort of all occupants. Enterprise Manager delivers the next generation of intelligent building capabilities. The system uses cloud-based AI and advanced analytics to deliver a complete holistic view of energy consumption, energy efficiency improvements, equipment faults and resource breakdowns by building, floor and tenant. Overall, Johnson Controls OpenBlue solutions will enable Derwent London to deliver high value ROI-driven business cases. OpenBlue Central Utility Plant is responsible for the efficient and effective management of the biggest consumer of a building’s energy – the Central Plant. Using AI and Machine Learning, the software constantly adjusts and optimises thousands of variables every 15 minutes, significantly reducing baseline energy load, while keeping occupants comfortable. Johnson Controls OpenBlue digital platform and services for optimising buildings are capable of driving significant improvements in energy efficiency and corresponding carbon emissions. “We’re pleased to partner with Derwent London by implementing our OpenBlue solutions to deliver smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, all underpinned through cutting edge technology,” said Mike Ellis, chief customer & digital officer at Johnson Controls. “The challenges of COVID-19 and the drive to get ahead of climate change have made us all rethink both the spaces we occupy and the wider environment around us. Across our built environment digital solutions are rising to the fore as a tangible means of making our infrastructure more sustainable and future-fit while helping us get more from the spaces we interact with every day.” “Our OpenBlue solution represents an exciting technology ecosystem with huge potential to help map out new capabilities for both spaces and places as we look to build the world of tomorrow today. Now more than ever, as we lean into technology to take smart from a concept to reality, we have an incredible opportunity to set a new standard in buildings that puts power in the hands of those who occupy them.”

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Work begins on New Homes at Swinden Technology Centre

Work Begins on New Homes at Swinden Technology Centre

Construction has started on the transformational development of 170 new homes at the former Swinden Technology Centre in Rotherham. Housing developer, Keepmoat Homes is delivering the regeneration scheme in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The plans include the conversion of Lodge House, Swinden House, Sitwell House, and the former Stable Building at the Swinden Technology Centre into high quality apartments. Two – four-bedroom houses will also be delivered onto the site, and a proportion of the homes will be available for affordable housing with Auxesia Homes. The top 10 national homebuilder has also confirmed the development will preserve any mature trees at the site. As part of their commitment to the local community, Keepmoat Homes has pledged to support local people and help generate opportunities in training and employment through the use of sub-contractors, work placements and educational visits to the site, which will be delivered throughout the lifetime of the project. “We are very excited to have started work on our Moorgate Boulevard development in Rotherham, in partnership with Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and Auxesia Homes. We have a strong track record of delivering new houses across the country, particularly on brownfield land such as this and strive to ensure the heritage at the site is preserved,” said Daniel Crew, Regional Managing Director at Keepmoat Homes. “This development means more to us than just delivering quality homes to the area. Being our first site in Rotherham for over a decade, we’re driven to make a big impact to the local community and deliver real value to real people, whether that’s through training and career opportunities or supporting local community groups. We are confident that the development will benefit not only the area, but the lives of those who choose to live there.” Keepmoat Homes completed the purchase of the site from Tata Steel in October 2021 for an undisclosed sum. Harris Lamb acted as agents on their behalf. Work at the development is expected to take four years to complete, with the first homes becoming available to purchase late Summer 2022.

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Frankfurt Business Tower Gets the Green Light

It’s launch time for the landmark in the Frankfurt financial district designed by KSP Enge for the “central business tower” on Neue Mainzer Strasse. This paves the way for construction of a new high-rise according to plans by the Frankfurt-based architects. According to the plans by KSP Engel, the 205-meter-high new build create an appropriate counterpart to the Deutsche Bank towers opposite. At the same time, the high-rise denotes the northern end of the cluster of skyscrapers along the former city ramparts and creates the necessary counterweight to the future towers of FOUR, as well as for the Commerzbank Tower and the Main Tower, Helaba’s headquarters, both of them in the immediate vicinity. Following the approval of the preliminary building application, the signing of contracts is the next and initial milestone in the “central business tower” project in Frankfurt. It marks the next project phase for the high-rise, whose name alludes to its prime location in the Central Business District of Frankfurt, the financial metropolis. In the new-build on Neuer Mainzer Strasse, the architects are combining public and cultural uses with an office high-rise. With this unusual and at the same time very balanced concept, the tower will in future fulfil a key role as the interface between the green space of Frankfurt’s old ramparts and the high-rise group along Neue Mainzer Strasse. In terms of sustainability, KSP Engel again applies an innovative concept that has been the subject of lengthy prior research: With photovoltaic modules integrated into the façade, an unprecedented “solar power plant” the size of a high-rise is created, which supports power supplies to the building. The box-window façade also boasts an external solar shading system that is protected from wind and weather by the rear-ventilated impact pane and is therefore highly effective. The basis of KSP Engel’s high-rise design goes back to the winning competition entry from 2001 and has since been newly devised and advanced. Building permission will presumably be issued in 2022 and demolition of the existing buildings on the construction site on Neue Mainzer Strasse are scheduled to start in November 2021. The first tenants are set to move in in 2027 and completion of the overall project is scheduled for 2028.

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First Phase at Stanton Cross in Wellingborough Almost Completed

First Phase at Stanton Cross in Wellingborough Almost Completed

Construction is coming to an end at Bellway’s The Beeches at Stanton Cross development in Wellingborough, where just six homes now remain for sale. The 149-home scheme is delivering 142 properties for private sale and seven affordable homes available for local people through rent or shared ownership, as part of the wider Stanton Cross neighbourhood to the east of the town. More than 95 per cent of the private homes at The Beeches are now sold, with the six properties still available comprising a choice of three and four-bedroom homes, including a three-bedroom showhome, available to view. The Beeches is the first phase of Bellway’s work at Stanton Cross. Homes within phase two, a 135-home development called Hawthorn Place, are already for sale and construction is progressing well, while work is due to start soon on a third phase, Chestnut Vale, to provide a further 180 new homes. “Bellway is committed to supporting the supply of new housing at Stanton Cross in Wellingborough and will have provided around 500 of the new homes within this new community by the time our work on the project is complete. Construction is progressing well, with The Beeches in its final stages and work well underway at Hawthorn Place, while we are looking forward to launching Chestnut Vale next year,” said Sales Director of Bellway Northern Home Counties, Luke Southgate. “The final six homes for sale at The Beeches are the last chance to buy within this inaugural phase at Stanton Cross. There’s a choice of three-bedroom semi-detached houses, including the Irchester and Grendon showhomes, as well as three and four-bedroom detached properties still available, so there’s something for a range of buyers.” Stanton Cross is a major mixed-use development set to deliver a wide range of new homes, employment areas and shopping facilities, together with direct access to Wellingborough railway station. The development includes shops, schools, commercial space, a town park and community centre. Major improvements to roads and public transport will also take place. The final three and four-bedroom houses for sale at The Beeches at Stanton Cross are priced from £280,000 and £350,000 respectively.

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