The Construction Index Product News The Construction Index - Latest Product News http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/public/v2/img/logo.gif The Construction Index Product News http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/public/v2/img/logo.gif Mon, 21 Apr 2014 10:39:23 +0100 Zend_Feed_Writer 1.12.3 (http://framework.zend.com) http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news 2014 The Construction Index Polypipe rejoins London Stock Exchange Plastic piping manufacturer Polypipe Group has been admitted to full trading on the London Stock Exchange main market.]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:36:21 +0100 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-rejoins-london-stock-exchange http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-rejoins-london-stock-exchange

Plastic piping manufacturer Polypipe Group has been admitted to full trading on the London Stock Exchange main market.

Previously listed on the London Stock Exchange between 1986 and 1999, the Doncaster-based manufacturer signalled its intention last month to return to the market to support its growth plans. Turnover last year was £300m.

Private equity firm Cavendish Square Partners retains 23% of the ordinary shares, with directors and senior managers holding a further 9.8%.

The offer price of 245p put a market value on the company of £490m. The share price rose on the first day of trading to 250p.

Chief Executive David Hall said the flotation “demonstrates confidence in our business and gives us the financial firepower to continue our programme of investment”.

 

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Wolseley warehouse roof gets UK's largest solar installation The UK’s largest array of solar photovoltaic panels has been installed on the roof of building materials group Wolseley UK’s national distribution centre in Leamington Spa.]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 07:25:58 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/wolseley-warehouse-roof-gets-uks-largest-solar-installation http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/wolseley-warehouse-roof-gets-uks-largest-solar-installation

The UK’s largest array of solar photovoltaic panels has been installed on the roof of building materials group Wolseley UK’s national distribution centre in Leamington Spa.

A roof area of 13,113m² – roughly the size of two football pitches – has been covered in eight thousand JA Solar Polycrystalline panels, along with accompanying Fronius inverters, at Wolseley UK’s head office site.

The claim that this makes it the UK’s largest solar PV array comes from Mark Group, the company that installed it. The roof is now capable of generating enough electricity each year to supply around 450 homes.

The installation, carried out over a six-month period including preparation, is rated at just over 2MW and could generate £6.5m over 20 years under the government’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme for commercial buildings. Over a year the system should generate more energy than is consumed at Wolseley UK’s National Distribution Centre along with a surplus of around 10%, Mark Group said.

Chris Roberts, head of solar, Mark Group said: “The rise in energy prices and the levelling off of installation costs means that 2014 is a sweet spot for businesses installing solar PV.

“The government’s feed-in tariff continues to fall slowly, so now is the time to invest in solar to obtain the best payback.”

He added: “Wolseley’s investment in this installation should be completely repaid in around seven years, which means the [distribution centre] will receive free energy thereafter. Wolseley UK will also achieve carbon savings of around 1280 tonnes per year, helping to improve the Leamington Spa site’s environmental performance, which is already rated by BREEAM as ‘very good’”.

Wolseley UK managing director Steve Ashmore said: “As a business, we are committed to sustainable building. We opened the UK’s first commercial showcase for sustainable building products and construction methods, our Sustainable Building Center, in 2008. And we are continuing to lead the way by investing in the technology that we advocate.

“We are already seeing some fantastic environmental and cost savings from our PV installation and I hope that our success will inspire others to adopt green energy solutions, due to the significant results they can achieve.”

The installation incorporates several innovations, Mark Group said, including channelling some of the exhaust air from the inverters into the building’s heating systems to further reduce the building’s carbon emissions.

 

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Aurecon develops new seismic joint A new engineering technology designed to protect buildings during severe earthquakes is being used in the Terrace development in Christchurch, New Zealand.]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 09:18:07 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/aurecon-develops-new-type-of-seismic-joint http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/aurecon-develops-new-type-of-seismic-joint

A new engineering technology designed to protect buildings during severe earthquakes is being used in the Terrace development in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The two-way sliding hinge joint technology, devised by engineering consultancy Aurecon in association with the University of Canterbury, helps dissipate energy from an earthquake by the joints moving, thus protecting the building’s columns and beams.

Aurecon technical director Stephen Hogg said that one-way sliding hinge joint technology has been used in New Zealand for several years, but this building required a more complicated solution. “The design of the building is highlighted by large open floor spaces and retail tenancies around all sides of the buildings,” he said. “This meant we couldn’t rely on lots of bracing and walls as it would block off retail entries and cause compromise to the architecture.

“It would also put too much force on the foundations and there were just not enough columns in the design of the building to allow us to use one way sliding hinge joint technology, therefore we had to devise a two-way system.”

Aurecon engineers had several concept design sessions starting with blank sheets of paper and collected as many crazy and not so crazy ideas as they could.  Included in these initial sessions was Dr Hsen-Han Khoo, who had researched sliding hinge technology as part of his doctorate.

“Over a couple of weeks they put some calculations to the ideas, then 3D modelled the concept,” he said. “The crucial time came when we arranged a meeting with the University of Canterbury’s lead researcher in this technology, Dr Greg MacRae, to discuss our concept and see if he thought it would fly. The outcome was a resounding ‘yes, it’s a winner’. The concept we had proposed was exactly where the research into this technology was heading but they had not yet started on it.  We were ahead of the game and about to embark on a world-first design.” The Aurecon designers worked closely with MacRae throughout the development of the design.

The two-way sliding hinge joints, as well as helping dissipate energy during an earthquake, also act like a fuse in that they will fail first, thereby protecting the columns and beams. Failed hinges can be repaired simply by replacing the bolts following the earthquakes and the building quickly brought back to standard. The building will sway during an earthquake and research has shown it will gradually re-centre itself, back to a minimum of 90% of vertical, as the earthquake subsides, and not remain at an extreme angle as happened to several buildings in the 2011 earthquakes.

The steel columns are 12m long and weight about 4t each. They sit on top of the raft foundations and are bolted to these concrete foundations via the two-way sliding hinge. The plate thickness of the columns becomes progressively thinner the higher up the building to reflect the lighter seismic loading while also saving on steel weight, therefore cost. The columns also travel to the roof of the building rather than finishing on the top floor to make the top floor bracing simple by cantilevering the columns rather than change to a different structural system. This gives the building the same structural system throughout.

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Brick maker invests for recovery Supplying bricks to build Coronation Street was not enough to prevent restructuring costs pushing Michelmersh into a £1.5m pre-tax loss last year.]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:07:57 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/brick-maker-invests-for-recovery http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/brick-maker-invests-for-recovery

Supplying bricks to build Coronation Street was not enough to prevent restructuring costs pushing Michelmersh into a £1.5m pre-tax loss last year.

However, after a difficult first half to 2013, with slow sales and closure of its Dunton brickworks costing £2.2m, sales picked up in the second half.

Turnover for the full year was up 12.6% to £25.9m (2012: £23.0m), through the sale of an extra seven million bricks. Excluding restricting costs, operating profit was steady at £1.4m, the same as in 2012, although the operating marine was therefore down.

The company says that having closed Dunton and sold surplus land it is now a transformed business, preparing to increase capacity to meet rising demand.

Indeed the whole brick industry is having to gear up for expansion now and prices are starting to rise, having remained flat through 2013.

In January 2014 Michelmersh began work to increase production capacity at its Freshfield Lane brickworks by 20%. This £2.2m investment will increase the group's 2015 output by six million bricks.

Industry brick stocks have reduced from 1.1 billion in 2008 to 332 million at the end of January 2014.

Michelmersh chairman Eric Gadsden said that this demonstrated that “industry dynamics have been completely transformed from a position of overstocking to a threat of shortages when construction indicators are now positive”.

He said: “The rebalancing will take time to feed through into a stable market, however at this early part of the year prices have firmed up significantly with customers now focusing on securing supply for their projects.”

CEO Martin Warner added: "After five very difficult years for the business and the industry, 2014 has started positively.  With pricing and demand improving, increased production at our most efficient plant, and the other exciting initiatives for 2014, we believe that we will be able to more than hold our own in the future and the fruits of many years of hard work will start to become apparent."

 

 

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Marshalls sees profits grow Paving block producer Marshalls has reported a 40% jump in pre-tax profits for last year.]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 08:19:15 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/marshalls-sees-profits-grow http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/marshalls-sees-profits-grow

Paving block producer Marshalls has reported a 40% jump in pre-tax profits for last year.

Marshalls made £13.0m before tax in 2013 (2012: £9.3m) on revenue up 2% to £307.4m (2012: £300.9m).

The second half of the year was much better than the first. At the halfway mark, sales were down 4% on the previous year. The second half was up 9%.

Sales to international markets increased by £3m during the year to £16.5m.

Growth areas for the company include stone cladding – Marshalls is supplying stone for a major new office building in the City of London. Commercial work from rail and new house building is also increasing, albeit from low levels. Water management is also a focus area and in September 2013 Marshalls launched a new range of linear drainage products.

Chief executive Martyn Coffey said: "The action Marshalls has taken over recent years to reduce its cost base and debt whilst maintaining operational flexibility, combined with a range of growth initiatives, means the business is well positioned to take full advantage of the improving market conditions. In addition, there are further opportunities to refocus the business, establish rigorous targets and set a clear growth objective for the years ahead.

“Sales in January and February 2014 are up 18% against very weak weather affected comparatives.  Marshalls is increasing output to meet growing demand and deliver benefits from operational gearing. The medium term objective is for the group to return to the revenue and profit levels that were achieved by Marshalls before the recession."

 

 

 

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New concrete Readybrick from Cemex Cemex has launched a new concrete brick that uses recycled quarry dust.]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 06:23:15 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/new-concrete-readybrick-from-cemex http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/new-concrete-readybrick-from-cemex

Cemex has launched a new concrete brick that uses recycled quarry dust.

The claim is that as the quarry dust might otherwise go to landfill, the new Readybrick is an ‘environmentally friendly’ choice. Bypass dust is used at a rate of 10% by weight of cement.

The new bricks are being produced at three Cemex production sites: in West Calder, West Lothian; Buxton in Derbyshire; and Northfleet, Kent. They are made to two strengths,10N and 22N, in standard brick size.

This type of brick is a spacer or coursing brick, suitable for areas and surfaces where the brick will not be seen and requires plastering or rendering. They are used for infill above doors and windows, coursing at floor and ceiling level as well as making up between joists.

Readybrick is made from the same materials as Cemex’s Readyblock. The two products can also be delivered in mixed loads to reduce builders merchants’ stock footprint and tie up less yard space, Cemex says.

 

 

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Autodesk picked for Qatar Rail BIM Qatar Rail has awarded a building information modelling (BIM) services contract to Autodesk.]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 08:55:18 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/autodesk-picked-for-qatar-rail-bim http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/autodesk-picked-for-qatar-rail-bim

Qatar Rail has awarded a building information modelling (BIM) services contract to Autodesk.

The company will provide BIM implementation, consultancy and advisory services to Qatar Rail, which is responsible for the design, construction, commissioning, operation and maintenance of the entire rail network and systems within Qatar.

Autodesk’s consulting team will support Qatar Rail on the implementation of BIM technologies and practices. The aim is to help decrease the overall time and costs of railway projects by minimising rework and miscommunication, providing better insight into projects,and helping accelerate decision-making earlier.

Over the next three years, Qatar Rail will employ several services offered by Autodesk starting with the company’s input on BIM standards, quality control and integration across organisations. Autodesk will also implement a technology platform within Qatar Rail to train, support and collaborate with the company’s assigned staff for the railway project. Additionally, Autodesk will outline specific BIM standards and processes for the railway project that will serve as the foundation for BIM requirements.

“A rigorous BIM process implementation has the potential to deliver tremendous benefits to the owner/operators of national infrastructure projects like Qatar Rail, from the design phase, through construction, commissioning and ongoing operations,” said Callan Carpenter, vice president, global services.

 

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Making light work of it Producers of lightweight secondary aggregates are looking forward to increased sales]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:06:49 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/making-light-work-of-it http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/making-light-work-of-it

Producers of lightweight secondary aggregates are looking forward to increased sales

Last year was a time of recovery for the construction industry and as we enter 2014, things are looking brighter still. But with increased economic activity, new challenges have come to the fore in the shape of challenging project timescales and strict sustainability requirements.  Designers and specifiers want affordable materials that are readily available and have a good environmental profile. And as a result, demand for lightweight secondary aggregate (LWA) has been growing steadily over the past year according to the UK’s largest producer, Lytag.

Lytag’s LWA is made from fly-ash, the waste generated by coal-fired power stations, and takes the form of low-density pebble-shaped pellets with a honeycomb internal structure. Besides concrete, the material is also in demand as a horticultural drainage medium and is widely used in green roofs. “Contractors and engineers are making use of [LWA’s] sustainability credentials and the reduced dead-load it offers when used in structural concrete,” explains Gareth Moores, managing director of Lytag.  Lytag can produce a structural material 35% lighter than concrete made with traditional-weight aggregate, says Moores, and this can have significant knock-on benefits in terms of cost, time and resources. “Lower weight reduces the scope of piling and foundation works and requires lighter structural reinforcement with consequent savings in materials costs and project timescales,” he says. As a secondary material, Lytag also has a positive impact on BREEAM environmental assessment ratings.

Encouraged by the increase in demand for its product, Lytag has recently opened a new plant on the site of Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire. The new plant increases the availability of Lytag to projects across the UK with the option to deliver to site more simply and quickly than was previously possible.  Drax itself is an ideal location for a new plant, despite its conversion to co-generation (see feature, page 32 in the March issue of The Construction index magazine) because there are large quantities of fly ash already stockpiled at the power station. Moores says these stockpiles alone are enough to keep the plant producing for several years.  A typical recent project using Lytag LWA is 6 Bevis Marks, a new commercial development in the City of London.  This new 16-storey building is built on the site of a previous seven-storey 1980s office block and is claimed to be some 80% more energy efficient than the one it replaces. The design has been awarded a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.  One of the key requirements for this project was that the design should re-use as much of the existing materials and structure as possible. The building – now substantially complete - was therefore constructed using over 50% of the original structure, including re-use of the original piling. Consulting engineer Waterman Structures needed to ensure that any new superstructure was within the structural capacity of the existing piles; hence the mass of the new 16-storey building needed to be kept to a minimum.  The structural frame of the new building is therefore of a lightweight steel design and the floors were designed as composite ‘holorib’ slabs with a layer of ready-mixed concrete laid on top. To keep the weight down, Waterman Structures used Lytag LWA in the concrete mix instead of traditional quarried stone aggregate.  This resulted in a 20% reduction in the weight of the floors - roughly 1,800kg/m3 compared with around 2,400 kg/m3 for a traditional mix.  In total, some 2,872m3 of Lytag LWA was used in the floor structures.

“Given the inherent sustainability of Lytag LWA, we not only helped to realise a more sustainable design but also delivered the added benefits of diverting a material from landfill and reducing reliance on quarried aggregates,” declares Moores.  He believes that while construction teams strive to ensure projects are completed on time, to budget, and according to strict sustainability criteria, the demand for alternative materials will continue to grow.  “With sustainable, lightweight aggregate now more readily available in the UK, engineers and contractors can take full advantage of the benefits it offers,” he says

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Excuse my dust Silica dust may be slowly rising up the industry’s agenda, but for many construction professionals awareness of the dangers posed by these airborne particles remains limited, says Tom Gunston. ]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:50:39 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/excuse-my-dust-1 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/excuse-my-dust-1

Silica dust may be slowly rising up the industry’s agenda, but for many construction professionals awareness of the dangers posed by these airborne particles remains limited, says Tom Gunston.

The threat posed by silica dust to construction workers is as old as masonry itself. But although it is known to be harmful to health, this risk has been largely hidden in the shadow of more virulent and alarming health hazards – asbestos being the obvious example.  Many health & safety professionals believe the seriousness of silica dust has been underplayed for too long. Some have even said it is only a matter of time before silica dust becomes the next big issue in the construction workplace. 

The Health and Safety Executive has been pushing the industry to adopt solutions for many years and in some instances the advice has been taken on board. Most construction equipment manufacturers have responded to the calls and developed dust-capture systems for construction tools.  But this response has been patchy and the uptake disappointing on site. On many construction sites, particularly smaller ones,  dust is still not viewed with the same fear and respect afforded to asbestos. In short, for a long time no one seemed interested.  In recent years the dangers of silica dust exposure have become better understood and there has been an increase in interest from the industry.

Over the past three years measurement equipment suppliers have reported an increased interest in their products from contractors – something that was not present in earlier years. However there is still some way to go. Construction workers as well as health and safety professionals need to be aware of the dangers and know what steps to take to mitigate them.  Concrete, brick, stone and similar materials can contain between 20% and 70% crystalline silica. Construction processes involving such materials can release respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust into the air – sharp crystalline particles which can damage tissue in the gas-exchange region of the lungs causing scar tissue to develop.  Exposure can lead to a number of serious health problems including silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema and lung cancer.  The construction industry is the largest volume consumer of silica-containing materials and anyone working with these materials is likely to be exposed to RCS to some extent. A recent review of literature by the Health & Safety Laboratory suggests there are roughly half a million construction workers with the potential for silica dust exposure.

The same review suggests that silica dust exposure leading to lung cancer is responsible for over 800 deaths a ear.  As a hazardous substance RCS is covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). The daily Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) for RCS is currently 0.1mg of dust per cubic metre of air.  This is a very small amount – a pile of dust smaller than your thumbnail.  Even this tiny amount is not safe. The exact link between dust exposure and the instance of health effects is complicated and the subject of ongoing research, but essentially more exposure means more risk; so exposures should be as low as practically possible.  To mitigate the risks posed by silica dust, construction firms first need to understand the different factors that impact upon exposure levels.  Duration of exposure has a big effect. Where a worker is positioned while using a tool also affects exposure, for example a user standing in the dust plume from a diamond blade chasing into concrete will be exposed to high levels of RCS.  The working environment can also play a major role in determining the level of silicadust exposure experienced by workers.  Working in enclosed areas can significantly increase exposure while working in the open will often lead to lower exposure levels (although that does not mean the dust will not pose any health risks or be a nuisance to the worker).

In terms of the task, any abrasive work involving concrete, stone or masonry will cause silica dust to become airborne.  If it is possible to carry out works without creating excess dust, then that should be the first option. When this is not possible contractors need to have systems in place to protect their workers against the threat of high levels of RCS dust exposure.  If a ‘dusty’ task is necessary the first line of defence is control at source.  Water suppression is very effective for tools and processes that will not be affected by moisture and is a common method used on site. But this is not a silver bullet and there are a number of disadvantages with water suppression, such as the creation of a water and dust slurry (a particular problem on high-rise projects where the slurry can be tricky to constrain), and the requirement of a constant supply of water to the suppression equipment. On-tool extraction can also be effective.  The dust is captured by a vacuum hood attached to the tool or the substrate. Site vacs and dust extractors are rated L (low), M (medium) or H (high). The European Power Tools Association has suggested that an M-rated vac is the minimum acceptable for use with RCS dust, and recommends the higher protection afforded by an H-rated vac – a conclusion corroborated by HSE research.

At our laboratory at VJ Technology we have tested many different dust hoods, some of which work well. However there are a number of sub-standard products on the market which experience significant issues including poor clamping to the machine, clogging up, wearing out, or simply being too flimsy for use on a construction site.

Area ventilation is useful for limiting the concentration of dust especially where work is entirely enclosed, for example in tunnelling projects or with ‘live’ refurbishment work, where the rest of the building is still in use. This approach should be employed in conjunction with the use of on-tool extraction to ensure minimum exposure to RCS dust.  Respiratory protection equipment (RPE) is the last line of defence against dust exposure.  Every effort must be made to capture the dust at source but RPE can still prove invaluable in dealing with any residual dust that might escape. Even if the dust capture or suppression is effective a dust mask with an “Assigned Protection Factor” of at least 20 (FFP3 or P3) would be advisable.  Dust mask selection is a big topic and there is guidance available from suppliers, manufacturers and the HSE on choosing RPE.  One key issue is that once a suitable mask is identified, it must be fit tested. The Fit2Fit website (www.fit2fit.org) provides guidance on fit testing and fit test providers.  The construction industry has made some good progress over the past few years.  Awareness is increasing and dust control measures are now in place on many sites.  Water suppression is widely used and the demand for M- and H-rated vacs, fit testing and other dust control equipment has seen a marked increase recently. However a lot of equipment in use on sites is still not up to the job – either because the equipment itself is not of a good enough quality or because it is being deployed in a way that increases the exposure of the user to dust.  We have made progress but the diverse nature of construction work and its workforce means that a coherent solution to dust control within the industry remains a challenge 

About the author: Dr Tom Gunston is test laboratory manager with VJ Technology, a leading supplier of fixings, anchors, consumables and power tools to the construction industry

 

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What is it about cement? The Competition Commission is opening the way for a new cement producer to increase competition in the market. But what have the cement firms done to warrant such drastic state interventions? Phil Bishop reports.]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:49:37 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/what-is-it-about-cement http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/what-is-it-about-cement

The Competition Commission is opening the way for a new cement producer to increase competition in the market. But what have the cement firms done to warrant such drastic state interventions? Phil Bishop reports.

Aggregates and cement are perhaps the most basic components of construction. There is little in the industry that is more low tech and less sophisticated. While there is much research into improved alternatives, they remain the foundation - both literally and figuratively - of the construction industry.

Producers of these materials also attract farmore than their fair share of attention from the competition authorities, not just in the UK, but wherever there are governments with such watchdogs ready to intervene in otherwise free markets. In 2003 the German competition authorities imposed fines on cement producers after busting open cartel agreements. In 2007 the French competition authority took similar action against anti-competitive practices in the cement market. In 2009 it was Poland’s turn.  Last year India’s 11 top cement producers were hit with fines of up to £100m by regulators there after a complaint filed by the Builders’ Association of India was followed up and allegations of a cartel confirmed.

Clearly there is something about cement that makes free and open competition problematic.  The most recent intervention in the UK market dates from September 2010 when the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) launched an investigation into the supply of aggregates, ready-mix concrete and cement.  Given that 40% of construction expenditure is in the public sector, thus taxpayer funded, cement prices affect us all, whether in the construction industry or not. There is politics at play here.  The OFT published its market study in August 2011 and in January 2012 referred the aggregates, cement and ready-mix concrete markets in Great Britain to the Competition Commission (formerly the Monopolies & Mergers Commission), setting out its concerns.  The OFT had found that despite the low tech nature of the products, barriers to entry in aggregates and cement were high because of the difficulty getting planning permission and the level of investment required (cement kilns are expensive). As a result, the supply side was concentrated in the hands of a few multi-national corporations. At that stage there were five major materials producers accounting for more than 90% of the cement market, 75% of aggregates sales and 68% of ready-mix production. They were: Cemex of Mexico; Hanson, owned by Heidelberg Cement of Germany; Lafarge of France; Anglo American subsidiary Tarmac; and Aggregate Industries, owned by Holcim of Switzerland, although not producing cement in the UK.  The OFT said that it had received complaints about vertically integrated firms refusing to supply or discriminating against non-integrated competitors through their pricing.  It said that there was also an issue with contacts between competitors and information exchanges across the markets, with major firms supplying each other with both aggregates and cement, and engaging in joint ventures and asset swap.

This was the time – 2011 – when Anglo American and Lafarge struck a deal to combine their cement, aggregates, ready-mixed concrete, asphalt and contracting businesses in the UK. The businesses comprised Tarmac UK, Lafarge Cement UK (formerly Blue Circle), Lafarge Aggregates and Concrete UK.  The deal was referred to the Competition Commission (CC), which ruled that it could not go ahead without a substantial sale of assets.  This paved the way for Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal to pay £285m for Tarmac and Lafarge assets including five quarries, a cement plant, 172 ready-mix (RMX) concrete plants, two asphalt plants, one marine aggregates wharf, one rail-linked aggregates depot and Tarmac’s 50% stake in Midland Quarry Products. Thus in January 2013 Hope Construction Materials was born, maintaining the pool of major players at five. Consideration of the Lafarge/Tarmac merger was a totally different process at the CC to the wider market investigation, however, with a different team handling the study. Their investigation considered only England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain) not the entire United Kingdom as Northern Ireland was considered to be a separate market with its own players and issues, not necessarily excluding competition frailties. The CC published its provisional findings in May 2013. It found no problems with the GB markets for aggregates or ready-mix concrete and gave these markets a clean bill of health.  Cement, on the other hand, was adifferent matter.  The CC made no accusations of collusion between the cement producers, but said that because there are so few of them “they have an unusually high level of understanding of each other’s businesses”. In the view of the CC, “this has created conditions that allow them to coordinate their behaviour, thereby softening competition and resulting in higher prices for consumers”.  Professor Martin Cave, deputy chairman ofthe commission and chairman of the inquiry group, said at the time: “In a highly concentrated market where the product doesn’t vary, the established producers know too much about each other’s businesses and have concentrated on retaining their respective market shares rather than competing to the full. Strikingly, despite low demand for cement over recent years, prices and profitability for the GB producers have still increased.”

The cost to GB consumers was estimated at £180m over the period 2007 to 2011.

The CC published its final report last month, January 2014, setting out in detail its findings, the proposed remedies and the justification for them.

The key outcomes are that Lafarge Tarmac is required to sell another cement plant (and some accompanying RMX plants if necessary) to facilitate the entry of another new producer into the market. The CC is also introducing measures to limit the flow of information and data concerning cement production and price announcements. (See below.)

The CC also identified competition problems resulting from there being only one domestic producer of ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS), namely Hanson, with exclusive rights to use the output of Lafarge Tarmac, the single domestic producer of granulated blast furnace slag (GBS), which is the main raw material input into GGBS. The CC is therefore requiring Hanson to sell one of its GGBS production facilities.

The final report is a heavyweight tome coming in at 468 pages. Significantly, it is clear that the investigation has failed to find any evidence of any wrong-doing on the part of any individual or corporation. Therefore wading in and telling companies like Hanson and Lafarge Tarmac that they are no longer entitled to what is legally theirs seems
pretty draconian.

So what is the justification?

Evidence on market outcomes indicated that competition in the GB cement markets was not working effectively. This evidence included: (a) Profitability assessed on a comprehensive basis after impairment losses (the measure we consider to most closely reflect the firms’ economic profitability) exceeded the cost of capital averaged over the six-year period of review, despite the demand slump during this period and the fact that this period did not cover the whole of a business cycle.

(b) Variable profit margins (and, for three out of four producers, EBITDA margins) remained stable, or even in some cases increased, between 2007 and 2011, despite a 36% drop in the demand for cement between 2007 and 2009 and increasing costs. Although 2012 variable profit and EBITDA margins fell on 2011 levels, they had returned to, or were higher than, their respective levels in 2008, before the before the full impact of the market downturn was felt. In real terms, cement prices peaked in 2009, to then reduce between 2009 and 2012, but there was an overall increase in prices over the period 2007 to 2012.

(c) There had only been small changes in annual shares of sales (the most for any Major was four percentage points) over the period.

In other words, there cannot be healthy competition because the cement producers continued to make profits after the downturn in demand post-2008 and did not reduce their prices by as much as they had put them up in the previous boom. The stability of market shares is also taken to be a bad thing and must mean the producers are not really trying.

However, it also says that the creation of Hope Construction Materials has had an impact on the market, with HCM taking market share from other suppliers and having an impact on pricing.

This seems to be a contradiction that the investigators find easy to ignore, saying that this evidence was “not representative of the longer-term state of the market”.

CC deputy chairman Professor Martin Cave, who led the inquiry group, said: “We believe that the entry of a new, independent cement producer is the only way to disturb the established structure and behaviour in this market which has persisted for a number of years and led to higher prices for customers.

“Despite falling demand and increasing costs during the last few years, profitability among GB producers has been sustained and their respective markets shares have changed little. This is not what you would expect to see in a well-functioning market, under these circumstances.”

The CC estimates that higher prices resulting from this lack of competition cost customers at least £30m a year for cement, and probably more in the future without action, plus a further £15m-£20m a year for GGBS. The CC said that without its intervention, this situation would persist for many years to come.

The clear implication is that cement production is a cushy business from which it is too easy to make immorally large profits. Naturally, the producers dispute this. They have had it as tough as any sector of the construction industry, with production falling 46% between 2007 and 2012. Plants have been mothballed and people laid off, yet their input costs have continued to spiral.

Cemex, for one, has been loss-making in the UK according to country president Jesus Gonzalez, who has complained publicly and privately to ministers that their environmental policies are pushing up cement production costs and threatening the viability of Cemex’s presence in the UK.

Cemex suspended production at its Barrington cement plant in Cambridgeshire in 2008, after 80 years of operations, and began its demolition in 2012. This was directly attributed to “the very challenging economic environment”. Gonzalez said that increases in manufacturing costs due to electricity market reforms and carbon taxes had meant there was “no sound business case” for the plant.

With regard to the publication of market information, cement companies currently only publish the market data that they are required to by the government in the promotion of transparency. If the government authorities now want less transparency, the producers will doubtless be equally ready to comply.

In response to the CC’s final report, Cemex issued its corporate response: “In Cemex’s view the conclusion that there is insufficient competition in the cement market is incorrect and therefore the remedies are disproportionate to the alleged harm which is itself unproven. The allegation of excessive profit is based on a highly theoretical model that is fundamentally flawed which we do
not recognise in our day-to-day dealings with the market.

“A domestic cement industry is critical to the UK economy if the government’s plans for growth are to be underpinned by increased house building and infrastructure development. Unless the domestic cement industry is profitable then the UK risks a lack of investment in this vital sector; an increasing risk of offshoring of cement manufacturing capacity and, as a consequence, an excessive reliance on imports to supply this planned growth in construction. Cement manufacturing is a capital intensive business and Cemex UK needs to make a fair return on its investments.”

Lafarge Tarmac CEO Cyrille Ragoucy was equally unhappy: “We are disappointed that the Competition Commission has asked Lafarge Tarmac to divest another cement plant only a year after it allowed the creation of the JV. This is not reasonable or proportionate and we have not been given a fair opportunity to defend our position.

“The Commission has based its remedies on a partial and historic picture of the market. Its analysis of industry profitability, which is central to its conclusion of Adverse Effect on Competition, is flawed, grossly overestimating the returns made. It has also failed to take into account the new business environment that has been established by our divestments - only 12 months ago – to create a new competitor, and the entry of new importers into the market. Regrettably, the biggest loser in this process would be the customer.”

Among the candidates to buy the cement plant that Lafarge Tarmac must sell is CRH of Ireland, which has been buying up cement operations in Spain, China, India and Ukraine in recent months and already imports cement into the UK from Ireland. CRH has already advised the CC on what sort of UK cement plant it would be interesting in buying – a nice modern one, centrally located, preferably with a ready-mix plant to go with it.

Even this may not be the end of it, however. A totally separate investigation into the cement market is being carried out by the European Commission. In November 2008 EC officials raided several cement producers across Europe. In December 2010 it launched anti-trust proceedings against a number of cement manufacturers in Austria, Belgium,
the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and
the UK.

The Commission said that it would “investigate indications that the companies acted to restrict trade flows in the European Economic Area (EEA), including restrictions of imports into the EEA from countries outside the EEA, market sharing, price coordination and connected anticompetitive practices in the markets for cement and related products.”

It added: “The initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has conclusive proof of an infringement. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.”

We have been here before, of course. Back in the 1990s Brussels imposed heavy fines on Blue Circle, Rugby and Castle Cement for anti-competitive behaviour. Within a few years the entire industry was in foreign ownership. Blue Circle went to Lafarge, Rugby to Cemex and Castle to Hanson/Heidelberg.

A spokesperson for the European Commission has confirmed that the investigation is still live but, as there is no deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct, there is no way of knowing what and when the next stage will be.

Caroline Wallace, inquiry director for the Competition Commission’s cement market investigation, says that the UK team has taken steps to keep Brussels informed of UK developments. “We’ve liaised with them and kept channels of communication open,” she says. “But where the European Commission goes next is a matter for them.”

 

What the Competition Commission demands

• Lafarge Tarmac is required to choose between divesting either its Cauldon cement plant in Staffordshire or its Tunstead plant in Derbyshire. The purchaser of the divested cement plant will be able to acquire a limited number of RMX plants from Lafarge Tarmac subject to the purchaser’s total internal cementitious requirement being capped at 15% of the acquired cement production capacity. The buyer would have to be approved by the CC and cannot be an existing GB cement producer.
• Publication of data on cement production will be required to be delayed by at least three months from the time period to which it refers.

• Cement suppliers will be prohibited from sending generic price announcement letters to their customers. Instead, any future price announcement letters will have to be specific and relevant to the customers receiving them.

• Hanson will be required to divest one of its ground granulated blast furnace slag (GGBS) production facilities and Lafarge Tarmac will be required to enter into a long-term agreement to supply GBS to the new owner. This buyer will also have to be approved by the CC and cannot be a GB cement producer.

 

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Cant see the wood for the trees Government climate change policy is putting up the price of your OSB " and could be harming the environment. What's going on? David Taylor reports]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:10:32 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/cant-see-the-wood-for-the-trees http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/cant-see-the-wood-for-the-trees

Government climate change policy is putting up the price of your OSB " and could be harming the environment. What's going on? David Taylor reports

Have you wondered why your site hoarding, wall sheathing and floor decking materials have rocketed in price over the past few years? Why, it’s global warming, of course.  Measures introduced to combat the effects of climate change inevitably add to the cost of a building project. Part L of the Building Regulations, governing the conservation of fuel and power, has been through numerous revisions over the past decade, each one tightening up the requirements and piling on the cost every time.  The Part L revisions are tied into government policy with its strict carbon reduction targets enshrined in law and enforced by regulation. And so conditioned are we by the climate change orthodoxy that we accept these added costs as the price we must pay to save the planet for future generations.

But not all sustainability targets are realistic. The UK has already missed its 2010 target to reduce emissions by 20% from 1990 levels and in October 2013 the government’s advisor, Cambridge Econometrics, warned the government that it will narrowly miss carbon targets up to 2017, and by bigger margins after that.  These targets were set by the government’s scientific advisors but not all of the scientific advice was realistic – nor even grounded in common sense – as manufacturers of wood-based panel products will be happy to tell you.

Products such as oriented strand board (OSB), medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and particleboard – commonly known as chipboard – are staple materials in the construction industry. OSB in particular is one of the most ubiquitous materials; you’d be hard-pressed to find a site where it’s not used as hoarding, flooring, roof decking or in walls. Timber frame construction is almost unthinkable without it.  These products are all made out of wood fibre, a renewable resource. And because it’s renewable, wood fibre is currently in high demand as a ‘green’ alternative to fossil fuels in energy generation.  Over the past decade or more, government policy has encouraged a shift to renewable electricity generation with grants and incentives designed to make sure it’s worth the energy companies’ trouble.  The main tool has been the Renewables Obligation (RO), which places an obligation on energy suppliers to source an increasing proportion of electricity from renewable sources. This has effectively created an artificial market for renewable energy, making it worth while for electricity generators to invest in ‘green’ electricity schemes, including biomass.  Other schemes include feed-in tariffs which pay power generators a bonus for feeding renewable energy into the grid.  The wood panel products industry is not happy about this for the simple reason that it is their raw material that the new biomass plants are being encouraged to burn.  Concern reached a climax a couple of years ago when the government changed its policy on subsidies for biomass energy production to favour plant conversions over new-build plant. Converting an old coal- fired power station to biomass is much cheaper than building a new biomass plant from scratch.

RWE Npower had already converted its Tilbury power station to biomass, with a planned output of 750MW. It closed after a devastating fire in February 2012.  Nevertheless other energy companies have followed suit, notably Drax in Yorkshire - notorious as the UK’s biggest single producer of CO2 emissions - which started biomass generation last year and aims to convert the whole site to biomass.  “Renewable energy policy has been driven by new demand and the main driver is subsidies,” declares Alastair Kerr, director general of trade body the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF). “We’ve never argued against generators burning wood for energy. Our problem is with the subsidies.” As Kerr points out, increased demand forces prices up. But the power generators can afford to pay because they are in receipt of government subsidies whereas the wood panel products industry receives no financial help and has to pay the going rate.

The result is that the price of OSB, MDF and particleboard has rocketed, says Karl Morris, managing director of the UK’s largest panel products manufacturers, Norbord Europe: “Our costs have risen by 50% in the past five years,” says Morris. “We are a big manufacturer – we have driven a lot of cost out of our business and so the consumer hasn’t felt the full effect in the form of price rises. But we would have made these cost reductions anyway, so this has affected our bottom line.”  The cost pressure on the industry is significant, and potentially very damaging. “The danger is that we are priced out by one of two things: product substitution, where our customers switch to cheaper alternatives, or geographical substitution, where foreign manufacturers can afford to ship panels half way around the world and sell them cheaply in the UK,” says Morris.  Norbord, like most of its rivals, uses only home-grown timber in its manufacturing processes. OSB is made from forest thinnings, the spindly, immature trees thinned out of the forest to give better specimens space to mature. MDF is made largely from sawmill residues – sawdust in other words – while particleboard is at least 75% recycled softwood, such as old pallets.  In each case, the wood fibre is coated with a resin binder and pressed into thin sheets under high pressure and temperature to produce the panels. The largest biomass plants in the UK cannot rely upon home-grown fuel because their demand far exceeds the supply. “The demand of these companies is massive,” says Morris. “Drax alone would burn 6m tonnes of wood a year at full capacity – that’s 60% of the UK forestry harvest,” he says. So these plants have to import wood from as far afield as Canada or even Australia to feed their generators.  The wood panel industry is not alone in speaking out against such large-scale biomass developments. Just over a year ago Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB got together and published a report entitled: “Dirtier than Coal? Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet”.

The report claimed, amongst other things, that the government’s “flawed” emissions calculations meant that plans to invest in biomass conversion would actually increase carbon emissions by at least 49% over the next 40 years.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. A typical conifer from a sustainably-managed European forest takes at least 30 years to mature. Cut it down and make panels for building or furniture and that carbon stays locked away in the fibre until maybe years later when it reaches the end of its life. Then it can be burned to generate energy; but by then another tree will have had time to mature.

But cut it down and burn it in a biomass plant and you release that carbon back into the atmosphere in hours or even minutes.  Burning wood for electricity generation is immensely inefficient too, says Morris. “Only 20% of the embedded energy is converted into electricity; 75% of it goes straight up the chimney as heat.” The government, partly in response to the outcry by WPIF and others, has now stopped its subsidies to electricity-only plants and to all biomass plants above 400MW.  Because biomass is more efficient at producing heat energy, the focus now is on combined heat and power plants (CHP) below 50MW. And while that’s better for the environment, it’s not good news for the panel products industry. “There’s been a big take-up in this sector and there are quite a few projects in the pipeline. They are more likely to take domestic wood than the big plants like Drax,” says Kerr.

The ultimate irony is that the wood panel products industry has itself been an enthusiastic user of biomass for many years.  The manufacturing process uses huge amounts of heat energy for which biomass is ideal and each one of Norbord’s four European plants (two in Scotland, one in Devon and one in Belgium) has its own biomass plant. In fact until recently, Norbord could claim to be the UK’s largest producer and consumer of renewable heat energy. “Because we process a vast amount of wood, we have large amounts of residue such as bark. Many years ago we decided to use this as fuel, less for environmental reasons than for economic ones,” says Morris. “We are accidentally environmentally green.”  Of course Norbord and its fellow panel producers (Egger, Medite, Kronospan and Smartply) get nothing from the government for generating renewable heat, despite the roll-out of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) two years ago. Industrial biomass plants commissioned before July 2009 are not eligible for subsidy.  The wood panel products industry is not large and Alastair Kerr ruefully admits that, in the face of a massive climate change lobby, backed by legally-binding government carbon reduction targets, WPIF struggles to be heard.  But the folly of paying people to burn trees in the name of sustainable, renewable energy and in the process penalising a small industry that really does make good, sustainable use of the material cannot go unchallenged, says Kerr.  “While we can’t stop a policy like this, we would like to think we could modify it and avoid a catastrophe,” he says. Kerr believes that WPIF lobbying has got through to ministers and he is hopeful for the future. But there is much at stake: “All wood panel product manufacturers in this country are foreign-owned. They will always look at the bottom line and if it’s not economical to operate in the UK, they’ll go somewhere else,” he says.  That would damage the UK economy, it would cost hundreds of British jobs and it would open the door to substandard and unsustainable foreign imports – a constant threat that the industry has so far fought successfully to prevent.  But it would also be bad for the environment – and an embarrassing own-goal for government environmental policies. 

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Upgrade for Adoddle Software developer Asite has upgraded its cloud-based platform that is used by several construction companies.]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 07:16:56 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/upgrade-for-adoddle http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/upgrade-for-adoddle

Software developer Asite has upgraded its cloud-based platform that is used by several construction companies.

Adoddle, now in Version 17, allows users to create, store and share knowledge in a secure environment. It was used by Laing O’Rourke on the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5 and Dubai International Airport. Other users include Crossrail, the Environment Agency and Balfour Beatty.

Asite says that the latest upgrade offers improved mobile support and enhanced whole life management.  Features include:

  • Enables automation of workflows throughout a building’s lifecycle – from concept to completion and management of the asset.
  • Integrates information into one process in the cloud.
  • Hosts all project information and details in a central repository.
  • Includes planned preventative maintenance and asset registers through facilities management tool, Adoddle FM.

The system’s cBIM (Collaborative BIM) platform also helps the user to connect commercial information with design detail, enhancing their BIM coordination processes, the developer claims.

 

 

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Polypipe to float Plastic pipe producer Polypipe is planning to float on the London stock exchange.]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 08:11:44 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-to-float http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-to-float

Plastic pipe producer Polypipe is planning to float on the London stock exchange.

The £300m-turnover company, whose headquarters are in Doncaster, is owned by banks and venture capitalists who see now as a good time to cash in.

Founded in 1980, Polypipe among the top 10 European manufacturers of plastic piping systems for the residential, commercial, civils and infrastructure sectors.

House-builders accounted for 51% of 2013 sales and commercial, civils and infrastructure projects accounted for 49%.

Operating from 16 facilities, its primary operations are in the UK, French and the Irish building and construction markets, with a presence in Italy and the Middle East and sales to specific niches in the rest of the world.

Chief executive David Hall said: "I am delighted to be leading Polypipe's return to the public markets after an important phase of structural improvements under the current owners.

"Our business has emerged strongly from the construction downturn and is now well-invested and well positioned to take advantage of new market opportunities.

"The structural trends in our market - the substitution of legacy piping materials for modern plastic systems and regulatory support for carbon efficiency and water management solutions - provide a strong basis for continued growth in the coming years."

 

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The Construction Index magazine app now in Android version... free! More than 1,500 people have already downloaded the new Android version app for reading The Construction Index magazine.]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 07:25:10 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/the-construction-index-magazine-app-now-in-android--free http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/the-construction-index-magazine-app-now-in-android--free

More than 1,500 people have already downloaded the new Android version app for reading The Construction Index magazine.

The Android version of our monthly magazine was launched last month. Just like the well-established iPad version of the magazine, this is another great free service from The Construction Index, where we have no paywalls, all the industry news every day and – in the monthly magazine – loads of great feature articles, including site reports, the monthly Contracts League in association with the Builders Conference and exclusive Company Watch financial analysis.

This is all brought to you by UK publishing’s most experienced team of construction journalists.

The Android version of the magazine app can be download from Google Play here:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tablish.mgname.tci1&hl=en

The March is issue is out now and free to view online here:  http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/magazine

 

 

 

 

 

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New-look company pages at The Construction Index Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:39:12 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/new-look-company-pages-at-the-construction-index http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/new-look-company-pages-at-the-construction-index The Construction Index has introduced a new FREE social media service to promote information sharing across the industry.

As our Twitter following continues to grow, now past 45,000 followers, we want to help our users promote themselves to their customers, and grow their own Twitter following on the back of ours.

The new update, absolutely free to all users, allows the sharing of both video and the latest Tweets within your own company profile page.  Once logged into your free account, users can set up a password, add their own company information, instantly add a video from YouTube or Vimeo and connect to their own social media content on Twitter.

Publisher Paul Buist said: “We hope that by linking Twitter to your company profile page, we can work together to expand your social audience and attract new followers from @TCindex."

He added: "Our users publish company and product news, video and general company updates on their own websites every day. Our new free service provides an opportunity to share this information with more than four million users of The Construction Index, who between them read some two million pages of our site every month.

We are currently working to enable sharing with LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook as well as news headlines imported from your website or blog (RSS feed), to mention just a few of the channels."

If you don't have a free account you can get one by clicking on: http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/login/

If you have lost your login details please email enquires@theconstructionindex.co.uk with your company name and the email address you used to create the account and a new temporary password will be issued.

Below is an example of a new look profile page, with both video and Twitter content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Salford Energy House retrofit claims 63% savings Energy savings of 63% are being claimed for a project to retrofit a typical century-old terraced house.]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 07:04:58 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/salford-energy-house-retrofit-claims-63-savings http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/salford-energy-house-retrofit-claims-63-savings

Energy savings of 63% are being claimed for a project to retrofit a typical century-old terraced house.

Researchers from Salford University and Leeds Metropolitan University worked with building materials producer Saint-Gobain on the Energy House project.

The aim was to prove that whole-house, fabric first retrofitting can deliver significantly reduced energy costs, lower CO2 emissions and remove 50% of air leakage.

The project included Saint-Gobain systems from British Gypsum, Glassolutions, Isover and Weber to bring high levels of thermal efficiency to the building fabric.

The solid walls were insulated internally on one wall and externally on two walls (a so-called hybrid approach), the suspended timber floor was insulated and incorporated an airtightness membrane, the loft was topped-up to current standards and the glazing units upgraded to ‘A’ standard.

According to Saint-Gobain, the results clearly indicate that payback on projects using a Green Deal Assessment could be significantly shorter than currently predicted if whole-house solutions were installed in typical retrofit properties.

The Energy House at Salford University is a typical 1919 terraced house that has been reconstructed in an environmentally controllable chamber, in which climatic conditions can be maintained, varied, repeated and patterns monitored. Unlike test houses built outdoors, conditions in the Energy House can be replicated time and time again whatever the weather is like outdoors. The building represents 21% of UK housing stock and is classed as a hard-to-treat property due to its poor energy efficiency derived from solid wall construction.

 

 

Richard Fitton, technical manager at the University of Salford Energy House test facility, said: “The University of Salford recognises this project as the largest and most comprehensive piece of research carried out into the performance of a domestic retrofit solution in the world to date.  This is vital data, as the construction industry at large is currently experiencing issues with how to deal with the gap between solution design and the as-built performance. This research has direct impact on those vulnerable families currently living in fuel poverty.”

Professor Chris Gorse of Leeds Metropolitan University said: “The results are impressive, considering that the baseline building had double-glazing and roof insulation and would not be considered a poor example of this type of dwelling.”

Saint-Gobain director for retrofit Mark Weaver said: “Saint-Gobain is delighted with the results from the Energy House project, proving that the use of these systems, tackled with a systematic approach focussed upon whole-house and fabric-first, delivers not only huge energy savings but a more comfortable environment in which to live. We look forward to further analysis of results in the coming months.”

 

 

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Evans Concrete for Cheltenham grandstand Derbyshire based Evans Concrete Products has picked up a £1.6m contract from Kier to design, supply and install bespoke precast concrete structures for the new grandstand at Cheltenham Racecourse.]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:07:24 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/evans-concrete-for-cheltenham-grandstand http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/evans-concrete-for-cheltenham-grandstand

Derbyshire based Evans Concrete Products has picked up a £1.6m contract from Kier to design, supply and install bespoke precast concrete structures for the new grandstand at Cheltenham Racecourse.

As previously reported, Kier starts work on the £45m project next week, as soon as this week’s festival is over.

Evans will produce and install a special steel and precast concrete hybrid, which will be used to build the crescent walkway and horse walk bridge, creating a parade ring viewing area, along with precast concrete balcony walkways and grandstand terracing.

Each deck slab on the crescent walkway and horse walk bridge will weigh 21 tonnes. These are in addition to the balcony walkway units which measure 8x2m long, 325mm thick and weigh 12.7 tonnes.

“We are delighted to be working with Kier, and proud to be able to showcase our skills at one of the most visited locations in the country,” said Evans managing director Chris Foster. “Although it is a very challenging design, using bespoke, architectural  precast concrete and combining it with traditional steel structures, we are eager to get going and really make the project our own.”

The project is expected to take roughly 22 months, with the first design aspects to be ready for June 2014, and the installation to begin in July 2014.

 

 

 

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Polypipe doubles Loughborough manufacturing capacity Plastic pipe producer Polypipe has more than doubled production capacity at its Loughborough factory to meet demand for its Ridgistorm-XL large diameter pipe system.]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:03:35 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-doubles-loughborough-manufacturing-capacity http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/polypipe-doubles-loughborough-manufacturing-capacity

Plastic pipe producer Polypipe has more than doubled production capacity at its Loughborough factory to meet demand for its Ridgistorm-XL large diameter pipe system.

The multi-million pound investment expands the facility to 55,000 sq feet, giving it not just  more production space but also room to expand its offsite fabrication service.

Ridgistorm-XL, a plastic pipe with diameters up to three metres, is used on applications as diverse as flood alleviation, air ventilation, renewable energy and rainwater harvesting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Walsh taps source for china clay stent London building materials supplier S Walsh has signed a long-term supply deal enabling it to provide construction companies with recycled aggregate.]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 08:18:17 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/s-walsh-taps-source-for-china-clay-stent http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/s-walsh-taps-source-for-china-clay-stent

London building materials supplier S Walsh has signed a long-term supply deal enabling it to provide construction companies with recycled aggregate.

The deal is with Imerys Minerals Ltd (IML), a china clay producer in Cornwall that generates millions of tonnes of by-product annually, much of which can be processed into secondary aggregates, also known as stent. 

“It has always been our long term vision to secure a sustainable resource to build a greener London,” said S Walsh commercial director Westley Pickup.  “We have undertaken extensive research and know that these products can be used more widely for infrastructure, residential, commercial, education and health construction projects.

“Secondary aggregate from china clay waste meets the requirements of sustainable building in the UK.  There is a huge lack of understanding of availability and potential for this ‘secondary’ resource and we expect that through our commercial relationships we can share what the possibilities are.”

Plans have been drawn up for both rail and sea terminals to reduce lorry movements. S Walsh also plans new manufacturing facilities for sustainable construction products. 

“This will represent a major investment in state of the art low carbon production plants which will be the most advanced in Europe whilst providing a new major sustainable employer in manufacturing within the in the region,” Mr Pickup said.

 

 

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Bison supplies Glasgow campus projects Bison Manufacturing has booked an order to supply precast concrete components for the construction of two new campuses at the £228m City of Glasgow College.]]> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 06:59:43 +0000 http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/bison-supplies-glasgow-campus-projects http://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/bison-supplies-glasgow-campus-projects

Bison Manufacturing has booked an order to supply precast concrete components for the construction of two new campuses at the £228m City of Glasgow College.

Working with structural engineer Arup and main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, Bison will design, manufacture and deliver more than 58,000m2 of its precast hollowcore flooring, as well numerous precast stair units, to the college’s new Riverside and City Campus developments.

Bison’s concrete units, manufactured at the company’s Uddingston plant in Scotland, will be supplied with mechanically inserted lifting hooks, for ease of installation.

The construction of Riverside Campus is expected to be completed in August 2015, with City Campus to follow in August 2016.

 

 

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