Saturday, February 28, 2009

Nearly half of construction firms lose overdraft facilities

Banks have stripped overdraft facilities from almost half (44%) of the UK’s largest property and construction firms, according to new research.

The study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, which interviewed the finance managers at the UK's top 1000 companies by turnover, found that on average a third (34%) of unused credit lines have been withdrawn from affected property and construction firms.

It found that banks’ withdrawal of unused overdraft facilities had a negative impact on construction firms. Without access to these credit lines, 70% of firms have been plagued by poor liquidity and 30% have suffered downgraded credit ratings.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of construction firms earmarked unused credit lines as a safety buffer against a worsening economy. ADVERTISEMENT

Nearly half of construction firms lose overdraft facilities

Klaus Kremers, restructuring and turnaround partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, commented: “The tightening credit situation within property and construction is well documented, but these findings reveal the severity of the shortage at the highest levels of the sector.
“Credit can be the vital lifeblood of a firm’s operations, but is being progressively eroded as the credit crisis persists.
“Construction companies are being deserted by banks on the one hand and by customers on the other. This is diverting the focus of many perfectly viable firms away from improving sales and profits, and onto avoiding insolvency.”

Birse Civils wins £5.5m key infrastructure scheme

Birse Civils has scooped a ВЈ5.5m highways infrastructure deal to help deliver Bristol's biggest-ever regeneration scheme.

The project includes road-widening and upgrading a roundabout to service phase 1 of the Hengrove Park revamp which will provide new helath facilities, homes, training and lesure centres on a 76ha former airfield site.

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Top 5 construction tenders of the week

This week's top five construction tenders include road resurfacing works in Newport, a hospital refurbishment framework and highway improvement packages in Essex. The details are only a brief outline of the work available so click on the link for the full OJEU.

Newport: resurfacing works

Value: ВЈ20m Client: Newport City Council Details: Newport City Council is looking for four contractors to deliver road maintenance over a three year agreement. The framework is divided into four lots which include path reconstruction, carriageway surface dressing, resurfacing and streetwide improvements. Tenders should be submitted for one or more lots by 6th March.

Basingstoke: Hospital refurbishment

Value: ВЈ15m Client: Basingstoke & North Hants NHS Foundation Trust Details: Basingstoke & North Hants NHS Foundation Trust is looking to establish a framework for construction and m&e work. The three year agreement will consist of five lots varying from minor works to major construction works. Tenders or requests to participate should be in by 19th March.ADVERTISEMENT

Top 5 construction tenders of the week


Selby: Hospital development

Value: ВЈ15m Client: Selby District Council Details: Selby District Council is seeking a contractor to provide a new civic centre and community hospital on the site of the existing Selby War Remorial Hospital. It wants to split the work into two phases so that the existing hospital remains operational throughout the work. Phase one will be the construction of the new hospital and civic centre and phase two will be the demolition of the existing hospital. Tenders are to be in by 30th March.

Stockport: Education building

Value: ВЈ14.8m Client: Stockport College Details: The contract is phase 3a of the Stockport College redevelopment. It includes the construction of a central 'hub' building and the refurbishment and recladding of George Wood Tower, which connects to the new build. The project will be administered under either a single stage design and build or traditional contract.

Chelmsford: Highway improvement

Value: ВЈ10m Client: Essex County Council Details: The project consists of three highway improvement packages around the Basildon Enterprise Corridor. It features a variety of highways work including widening slip lanes, the installation of warning signals, central reservation creation and capacity enhancement. Tenders should be in by 27th March.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Olympic park contract up for grabs

The tender race for co-main contractors to work alongside Bam Nuttall creating the Olympic Park will start by the end of this year.

Nuttall is managing the delivery of the northern section of the 2012 site to transform it into an urban parkland.

A similar role for the southern section will be advertised later this year with both main contractors set to use the same supply chain of subcontractors.

Nuttall is currently assembling a team of landscaping and groundwork specialists which will be used across both sections of the site when work starts this spring.

Creation of the 100 hectare park moved a step closer this week when designs were approved by the Olympic Delivery Authority Planning Committee.ADVERTISEMENT

Olympic park contract up for grabs

Visitors to the park during the Games will enjoy broad sweeping lawns and footpaths leading down to riverbanks, ample seating and public spaces throughout the park with live screens showing the sporting action.

In legacy the Olympic Park will be a new green space for people and wildlife and will host the London 2012 legacy sports facilities.

ODA Project Sponsor for Parklands and Public Realm John Hopkins said: “This gives the green light to a great new park that will be both a fantastic backdrop for the Games and the heart of the regeneration of east London. We have almost finished cleaning the Olympic Park site, much of it contaminated through decades of industrial use, and this spring we will start the process of transforming the area into a new green space for people and wildlife.”

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O'Rourke launches apprentice drive

Laing O'Rourke is revamping its apprenticeship programme with plans to take-on an extra 1,000 trainees across its supply chain.

O'Rourke has linked up with ConstructionSkills to enlist another 200 appprentices by later this year followed by a further 800 through initiatives with its supply chain partners.

Chairman and chief excutive Ray O’Rourke said: "As a group, we have a clear vision to challenge and change the image of construction.

“We see the current economic backdrop as a time to identify opportunities – and there is no better time and opportunity than now to invest in the future, and bring about long-term transformation of skills capability in this industry”.

Recruits to Laing O’Rourke’s Apprenticeship Plus – a full-time skills and learning programme – will learn through a mix of practical skills training and formal industry education in all aspects of modern engineering, manufacturing and constructing. This will be an accredited programme lasting four years.ADVERTISEMENT

ORourke launches apprentice drive


ConstructionSkills’ Chief Executive, Mark Farrar, said: “In our role as a leading Sector Skills Council, we are looking strategically at the long-term future of apprenticeships to ensure they support the industry’s future skills needs. This joint venture with Laing O’Rourke is one of the first tangible outcomes of this work, and we anticipate it will deliver tailor-made new recruits which meet their requirements.

“Laing O’Rourke has a long track record of delivering on its commitments to skills in this industry and this announcement is a welcome and timely boost to this important agenda”.

Paddy O’Rourke, Laing O’Rourke’s Director of Education, said it was “vitally important” Laing O’Rourke kept its focus on developing talent for the future. He said: “The aim is to build both capability and capacity in construction, training people in the crafts for the construction industry of the future.

“We value our relationships with our supply chain partners and others, particularly those who have adopted our strategic partnership approach вЂBuilding Constructive Relationships’.

 вЂњWe have been collaborating with the team at ConstructionSkills for some time, and all of us are driving forward to ensure we deliver on our commitments to the talent of tomorrow. There is no wiser investment”.

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Dalkeith Demolition fined £11,000 after asbestos case

Scottish demolition contractor Dalkeith Demolition has been fined ВЈ11,333 after workers on a school refurbishment job were exposed to airborne asbestos fibres.

The City of Edinburgh Council was also fined ВЈ17,600 following the incident at Castlebrae High School in Edinburgh in July 2007.

Both pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.

Dalkeith Demolition was contracted to remove asbestos-containing material disturbed by another contractor undertaking refurbishment work at the school.

But it was not licensed by the HSE to do such work. Its workers had not been trained so did not take established control measures to minimise the exposure to themselves.


Dalkeith Demolition fined £11,000 after asbestos case


HSE principal inspector Jim Skilling commented after the case:

"The City of Edinburgh Council failed to keep an understandable register of asbestos and failed to ensure that a full survey for asbestos was carried out prior to any work starting so the information available was not sufficient to alert persons to the immediate danger from the asbestos.

"In view of the Council's previous experience of managing asbestos, this was a very disappointing incident. Over 4,000 people are dying every year in Great Britain due to the unrecognised exposure to asbestos earlier in their working lives. Legislation came into force in May 2004 which requires the organisation in control of any non domestic premises to identify and assess asbestos in those premises.

"The Council initially failed to identify that asbestos was present and then when it was established that asbestos had been disturbed, they did not ensure that a competent, licensed contractor undertook the work in a satisfactory manner."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Contractors threaten legal action over foreign worker demos

Engineering construction contractors are threatening to take out High Court injunctions against trade unions following demonstrations against the use of foreign labour.

Leaders of the Engineering Construction Industry Association believe union officials are behind a series of power-station protests despite the action being officially repudiated by Unite.

The association has also pulled out of the 2010 pay talks because of the ongoing dispute. has seen a copy of the letter sent by association managing director Michael Hockey to leaders of Unite.

It states: "We believe there is evidence that despite formal repudiations by Unite, this unlawful action was supported and organised by some union officials.


Contractors threaten legal action over foreign worker demos


"I now reiterate our requirement that there is an immediate and full and unconditional return to normal working. My members are prepared to take legal action against your union in the High Court if the unlawful action continues.

"Companies concerened have suffered very substantial losses and are considering their remedies both under EU and domestic law to recover these sums.

"Disciplinary action may be also taken against your members. Further, ECIA will not take part in the Naeci Wage and Conditions Review 2010 under such duress."

The letter was sent on February 18. Since then further protests were held at the Staythorpe and Grain power stations on Tuesday


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Enabling works on Commonwealth sites halted after asbestos find

Construction workers have been forced to stop work at two major sites for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, following the discovery of asbestos.

Contractors doing enabling works at the site of the new National Indoor Sports Arena and the Velodrome had to down tools over a week ago, according to the Daily Record.

It is thought that it will take another two weeks before the work can resume.

A Glasgow Council spokesman said: "During this preconstruction phase to prepare the land on the site of the National Indoor Sports Arena, minute traces of asbestos were found buried in the ground in two locations.

"Work on the site has stopped as a precautionary measure.

"An investigation is currently taking place to establish what further remediation work will be necessary to allow work to restart.


Enabling works on Commonwealth sites halted after asbestos find


"It is hoped the preparatory work will begin again in around a fortnight, with some chance this could start before.

"The National Sports Arena and Velodrome is being delivered in two phases.

"The first is an enabling works contract to prepare the site in advance of the main works contract to ensure any contamination from past uses can be dealt with."

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Kingspan calls for more spending on 'greening' existing buildings

A green 'new deal' which would see the refurbishment of existing non-domestic buildings could see the creation or safeguarding of 50,000 jobs, as well saving hundreds of millions of pounds a year, according to a report commissioned by Kingspan Insulated Panels.

The report, based on research conducted by Caleb Management Services, claims that a 7% increased spend on refurbishment could save jobs, boost the economy, and achieve annual savings of ВЈ700m.

It recommends:

An upgrade of all existing non-domestic buildings to a minimum level C Engery Performance Certificate rating in a phased programme over 2010-22;Funding through up-front government-supported loans, paid back through savings - resulting in no net cost to the taxpayer;Investment from business and government of ВЈ1.18bn per year to improve fabric insulation of non-domestic buildings.ADVERTISEMENT

Kingspan calls for more spending on greening existing buildings


The report will be launched today at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Kingspan's local MP David Hanson, with Energy & Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband addressing the event.

Kingspan Insulated Panels managing director Louis Eperjesi said: "Kingspan has been a strong advocate of tackling businesses' emissions and energy bills through refurbishment, and we hope the government follows this lead in promoting measures which would help secure a 'triple-benefit' of more jobs, fewer carbon emissions and lower energy bills for hard-pressed businesses."


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

PFI needs £4bn of help from government funds

The government is expected to provide bridging loans running to a total of ВЈ4bn to keep planned PFI projects on track.

The Financial Times reports on a PFI tally of 800 deals having been signed off to date already, with a capital value of ВЈ68bn but with public sector commitments to pay a total that will rise to ВЈ215bn over the years through to 2032 as a result of capital, maintenance and service provision.

But of late the flow has dried up as a result of funding issues.

“Today the party might not be over for the private finance initiative,” says the FT. “But it is far less champagne-fuelled than it was.

“By the end of last year, the bond market to finance PFI deals had vanished; bank funding, likewise had dried up. Since December, some banks have returned to the market but there are fewer than there used to be.”


PFI needs £4bn of help from government funds


Hence the pressure on the government to step in.

Philip Hammond, treasury spokesman for the Conservatives says it is “ridiculous to take the “private finance” out of PFI as “you haven’t got much left”.

Convolutions in the finance market have already had the effect of transferring the private sector’s risk back onto taxpayers as the biggest lenders to PFI in recent times have been the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB – and all three have crawled to government to be saved by taxpayers taking a large stake-holding in them.

John Tizard, director of the centre for public service partnerships at Birmingham University, thinks the outlook for public infrastructure is grim no matter which way the coin falls – be the call for either private or public funding.

A source in the road sector said that politically the M25 widening PFI project has jumped up the agenda and will be kept moving at all costs.

“The financial model is already dramatically different to what was bid by the three final bidders because of the strong desire to get it going,” he said. “The delay has become a political embarrassment.

“Not only that, but the scope has changed, the work package is very different – some widening is no longer required as they have switched to ATM as the alternative answer.”

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Bilfinger Berger in Edinburgh Tram cost overruns row

Bilfinger Berger is locked in a dispute with Edinburgh council over cost overruns on the ВЈ512m Edinburgh Tram Project.

The scheme could face major delays if the two sides cannot reach agreement. Bilfinger Berger claims that delays caused by utility companies failing to lay cables in time have pushed costs up. Sources claim the additional cost runs to ВЈ80m.

The dispute arose last week just two days before the contractor was due to start tram work on Edinburgh's Princes Street. The street was to be closed for nine months during the works.

A spokeswoman for Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), Edinburgh Councils arms length body which oversees the contract, said TIE was hopeful of a resolution within the next few days. However she said there were some unreasonable demands by Bilfinger Berger which TIE will not back down on. She declined to give details in case this goes to court.


Bilfinger Berger in Edinburgh Tram cost overruns row


A spokesman for Bilfinger Berger confirmed the problem lay with delays to preliminary work. He commented: "As the client failed to meet contractually agreed conditions and as no agreement has been reached on the resulting additional costs, construction work in Princes Street cannot yet commence. Bilfinger Berger advised the client on several occasions that work can only begin when the contractually agreed preliminary services have been completed in full."

He added that the firm had never requested ВЈ80m as a pre-condition for the start of works in Princes Street. Given the on-going negotiations with the client we cannot go into further detail.

Bilfinger Berger was awarded the design, build and maintain contract in October 2007 in joint venture with Siemens. The deal finally reached financial close last May after lengthy and difficult negotiations. The deal included a significant shift of risk transferred from the public to the private sector in return for incentives linked to key milestones in the project. The Edinburgh Tram Project when completed will run 24km from the city centre to Edinburgh Airport.

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Redrow in the red and making 10% further cut in construction costs

Redrow has dived into the red over the past six months to the tune of £46m adding to the last full-year’s pre-tax loss of £190m.

The house builder’s latest figures cover the six months to 31 December 2008.

Redrow’s statistics highlight the turmoils of the current housing market:

completions - 1,000 (down from 2,100 in the same period in the previous year)average selling price - £140,000 (down from £163,000)net debt – £270m (up from £240m)

There is squeeze on costs with Redrow stating: “We are achieving reductions in construction costs as new subcontract orders are being placed at significantly lower rates and material costs have eased.

“We estimate that like for like house-build costs have reduced by approximately 10% as compared with a year ago.”


Redrow in the red and making 10% further cut in construction costs


The latest pre-tax loss of ВЈ46m was the result of an operating loss of ВЈ21m together with a ВЈ25m exceptional item. The latter was made up of a restructuring cost as well as a provision against the drop in valuations of assets.

During July and August 2008 two operating divisions were closed – based in Wakefield and Northampton. The result was 350 job losses.

Redrow has had to cut again. It said: “In response to lower levels of construction activity we revised operational practices to reduce site related costs resulting in additional redundancies.

“In the twelve months to December 2008 we reduced our headcount by 43% to 740 employees.”

The cost of the steps taken in the first half of the financial year was ВЈ3.1m and has been included in the latest accounts.

There will be a further exceptional charge in the six months to June 2009 of ВЈ1.8m in relation to the further rationalisation of the cost base which was implemented in early 2009.

That runs to a further 190 job losses.

Redrow said: “Following the conclusion of this rationalisation our total number of employees will be close to 650.” 

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Monday, February 23, 2009

HSE targets refurb death sites

Safety chiefs are targeting small property developers after 38 workers died last year on refurbishment and repair jobs.

Robert Parkes of the Health and Safety Executive’s Construction Division, said: "Tragically, last year, 38 people died on these types of projects and many more were injured or suffered ill-health because of poor health and safety practices. Whether you think of yourself as a property investor, developer or renovator, everyone has a role to play in helping reduce the number of serious and sometimes fatal incidents."

HSE has worked with representatives from across the construction industry to develop the campaign. Chris Tisi, who chairs the campaign stakeholder group said: "I’ve been involved in development of property in various capacities over 35 years and found that health and safety has to be an integral part of any project in bringing it to completion on time and to budget. In my experience a safe and healthy site is a successful site."  


HSE targets refurb death sites


Bob Blackman, of Unite union, said: "As a union that represents thousands of construction workers, we know that health and safety is extremely important. No matter how big or small your property development is, health and safety should be seen as something that helps a development run smoothly and successfully, not as a cost that can be cut."

The HSE is campaigning after it discovered that many people developing property for business do not know about the legal responsibilities clients have under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

Between 1999 & 2007, 340 people died on refurbishment sites and last year alone, it was responsible for over half (52%) of construction fatalities, some 38 deaths, with falls from height and electrocution accounting for most of these.

Parkes concluded: "If you see yourself as a property developer, I would urge you to visit for free advice on what you need to know and what you need to do."

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Bouygues picks up two contracts worth £10m

Bouygues has won two projects with a combined value of over ВЈ10m.

The first project, for the London Borough of Waltham Forest, will see the contractor refurbish and remodel Willow Brook Primary School in Leyton under the Primary Capital Programme in a deal worth ВЈ6.5m.

The second project, located in Brent, involves the design and construction of 27 private residential units for Southern Space, the private housing arm of the Southern Housing Group.

The project, which commences on site in March 2009, is worth ВЈ4.3m and will be delivered in Summer 2011.

Speaking of the project wins, managing director of Bouygues UK Lionel Christolomme said:

“Winning these new projects is testament to the exceptional standard of work our teams have been producing in these boroughs and a reflection of the excellent working relationship we have with Southern Housing Group and Waltham Forest. These are great additions to our education and housing sector portfolios.”

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Lend Lease announces opportunities on Olympic Village

Lend Lease has announced a range of potential Tier 1 construction package opportunities for the Olympic Village.

Lend Lease works as development and project manager for the scheme, while Bovis Lend Lease is providing construction management services.

Potential construction package opportunities relate to the vertical build of some of the residential plots.

A car park structure will go to the market in April.

Contractors selected by Lend Lease and approved by the ODA will be invited to tender for the construction packages.

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Government urged to pour ВЈ6bn into 100,000 affordable homes

The government needs to pour ВЈ6.3bn into a scheme to build more than 100,000 affordable homes over the next two years.

That's the view of the newly-formed 2020 Group - an alliance of the National Housing Federation (NHF), housing charity Shelter, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), headed by economist Kate Barker.

Barker said "significant" extra financial investment was needed to keep supply going, support private building and create 100,000 new social homes over the next two years.

"Support for housing today offers excellent value in terms of sustaining economic activity, and reduces the risk of a very severe loss of capacity in the housing and related industries.


Government urged to pour ВЈ6bn into 100,000 affordable homes


"There is real concern that the present fall in home building is sowing the seeds of the next boom."

"Social housing waiting lists are rising. This package meets a real and urgent need," she added.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, said: "Without radical action many people in construction will lose their jobs, and up to five million people could find themselves on housing waiting lists by the end of 2010 - this is the Government's chance to help us to make sure that neither of these things happens."

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ВЈ12m nappy recycling centre gets go-ahead

Plans have been approved for the UK's first nappy recycling plant in Birmingham.

The council has given the green light for recycling specialist Knowaste to build the ВЈ12m plant which will process 36,000 tonnes of Pampers a year.

The Knowaste recycling process sanitises every nappy and turns them into materials which can be used as plastic cladding, roof tiles, bicycle helmets and plastic injection and extrusion products.

Sludge produced from the process will also be turned into green energy thanks to bio mass treatment creating methane gas. 

Roy Brown, President and CEO of Knowaste, said: “Disposable nappies have been described as the вЂconvenience curse’ of the 21st century. Until now, they have been one of the few remaining household items that go straight to landfills, or incinerators. In the UK we produce 750,000 tonnes of nappy waste each year, enough to fill Wembley Stadium hundreds of times over.  


ВЈ12m nappy recycling centre gets go-ahead


“Our longer-term goal is to open plants in other locations in the UK, which will further enable local authorities to meet their increasingly tough landfill diversion targets and avoid landfill taxes and penalties. 

“When all our plants are fully up and running 13% of all the UK’s nappy waste will be diverted away from landfill and recycled.”

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Capita Symonds, WYG and WSP in Mapeley Estates framework

Capita Symonds, WSP and WYG Engineering have been appointed to two major building services frameworks for Mapeley Estates.

The four-year public and private sector frameworks, which will cover over 200 refurbishment projects across the UK in 2009, will be divided between the consultants on a regional basis.

Capita Symonds will cover Wales, the East Midlands and West Midlands. WSP will take London, the South East, South West and East of England. WYG will cover the North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, Scotland and N Ireland.

The frameworks will be based around collaborative/partnership working, including open book with incentivised schemes and enhanced health and safety standards.


Capita Symonds, WYG and WSP in Mapeley Estates framework


Michael Hewitt, director, Capita Symonds, said: “We will be working with the contractors and architects appointed on Mapeley’s projects in a collaborative manner to provide a range of consultancy support services. This will include strategic advice regarding the latest sustainable solutions associated with portfolio asset management, capital works and building refurbishment.”

WSP technical director Phill McMahon said: "We are delighted to be appointed to Mapeley’s major building services framework, WSP will provide Mapeley with a world-class service which means that the team not only deliver compliance with project briefs but excel in driving in value through efficiency and effectiveness."

Alan Webster, regional director, WYG Engineering, added : “We are pleased to be a key member of a prestigious framework that provides the opportunity to partner with the Mapeley Estate and a skilled team of other consultants, architects and contractors. Through collaborative working we will help to deliver financially, environmentally and technically sustainable Building Services Design solutions for both the public and private sector portfolio of clients.”

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Confidence among civils contractors at record low

Confidence among civils contractors has ebbed to a record low, according to the Civil Engineering Contractors Association's (CECA) Workload Trends survey for January.

More than 50% of firms reported a fall in workloads in the final quarter of 2008 compared to the same period 12 months earlier.

Meanwhile 59% reported reduced order books compared across the same period. Both figures are the lowest since the survey began 16 years ago.

Preliminary works was one of the hardest-hit sectors, where there was a balance of -87% of between firms reporting a rise in work and those seeing a fall. The balance for local roads was -39%. The only sector to show an improvement was rail with a balance of +16%.


Confidence among civils contractors at record low


And the picture looks little better for 2009, with little confidence among contractors of the market bouncing back. Despite the ВЈ700m of spending on transport infrastructure that could be brought forward by the government, the balance of companies expeted a fall in workload (-32%) as well as a fall in new work (-35%).

CECA said that the results showed that the government's attempts to revive the economy through investment in infrastructure is so far not helping construction firms.

National director Rosemary Beales commented: "This is a deeply concering but not unexpected set of results. These results reinforce the fear that the action taken to combat the downturn has so far failed to make a significant impression. Investment is not translating into work quickly enough and the net result will be a reduction in the size of the construction industry unless we get more work on the ground in 2009.

"With confidence so low, it is easy to see why contractors might be forced to cut their training budgets or reduce apprenticeships. This will lead to a less efficient construction industry in future unless more decisive and positive steps are taken now by government to bring projects forward and improve workload."

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Kier apologises for letter to 'Mr Blindman'

Kier Building Maintenance has been forced to apologise after sending a letter to a Hull man which addressed him as 'Mr Blindman'.

Kier, which is working on Hull City Council's Decent Homes programme, wrote to Paul Harris on Wednesday informing him of refurbishment work they would be carrying out on his home.

Harris was only registered as blind late last year.

"I was literally horrified that they can send anything through the post saying 'Dear Mr Blindman' about your disability," he said. "I was just so shocked.

"You wouldn't send a letter to a person who's got Down's Syndrome saying Dear Mr Down's Syndrome would you?"

Kier has apologised, saying the error happened when Harris's disability was mistakenly entered on its database.


Kier apologises for letter to Mr Blindman


A spokesman said: "The letter was part of a routine mail-out about Decent Homes work being carried out in his property.

"Any information relating to customers' personal circumstances are entered into a remarks column on a database.

"Unfortunately, information about Mr Harris' disability was accidentally entered into the name column, which was not noticed prior to the letter being sent."

The spokesman added that an internal investigation was taking place to establish how the mistake occurred and to ensure it did not happen again.

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Top 5 tenders of the week

This week's top five tenders include 80km of dualling work in Omagh, a ВЈ400m new build and refurbishment framework with Haringey Council and a hospital development in Manchester. The details are only a brief outline of the work available so click on the link for the full OJEU.

Omagh: Highways construction

Value: ВЈ600m

Client: Department for Regional Development, Omagh

Details: A contract notice has been issued for the dualling of the A5 Western Transport Corridor. It will involve upgrading about 88km of single lane to dual carriageway between Derry and Aughnacloy. The ВЈ500-600m scheme will be divided into three lots of approximately equal size and value. What is described as 'economic' operators will be allowed to bid for two lots. The contract will be based on the NEC option C target cost approach.


Top 5 tenders of the week


London: Construction framework

Value: ВЈ400m

Client: London Borough of Haringey

Details: The council is looking for up to 18 contractors for a two year framework. The annual expenditure is estimated at between ВЈ20m and ВЈ100m, with a possible two year extention. Three value bands (ВЈ250,000-1m, ВЈ1m-3.5m and works over ВЈ3.5m) have been established for the works which vary from new build, adaptations, refurbishment, repairs, remodelling, extensions and fit outs.

London: Construction framework

Value: ВЈ40m

Client: London Borough of Haringey

Details: As above except the framework is for lesser value work. Up to 18 contractors are still sought but the work value is up to ВЈ250,000.

Birmingham: Utilities

Value: ВЈ220m

Client: Network Rail

Details: An indicative notice has been issued by Network Rail for the contract to redevelop Birmingham New Street Station. The scheduled date for the award is 1st April and the work is expected to last five years.

Manchester: Healthcare

Value: ВЈ20m

Client: Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust

Details: The Trust is looking for a developer or other organisation to rebuild Altrincham General Hospital either on the existing site or another locally. It also owns St Anne's Hospital 1km away, which hasn't been in use since 2004. The site will be included in the bid. A developer lease solution is required as there is no public finance for the project.

A bidders day is to be held at 16:30 on 26/02/2009 at Premier Inn, Trafford Centre West, Old Trafford.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saint-Gobain asks shareholders for ВЈ1.3bn new cash

Saint-Gobain, the global construction materials group based in France, wants its shareholders to stump up ВЈ1.3bn in fresh cash for new shares that are to be created.

On top of that, they have learnt that there will be a halving of the dividend paid on their existing shares.

Behind the woes is a global downturn St-Gobain’s core housing and construction markets which have eaten into its full-year profits.

“Saint-Gobain expects 2009 to be an extremely challenging year, particularly in the first six months," Saint-Gobain told Reuters today. “The world's biggest building materials company said it would launch a rights issue by creating 108m new shares.”

Existing shareholders have until March 6 to sign up.

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Vinci puts ВЈ1.2bn UK construction business into single Coins IT package

Vinci UK, now with an annual construction turnover of ВЈ1.2bn, is to install Coins ERP software by way of a single central system.

The single system will bring the recently acquired Taylor Woodrow operations into the same IT methodology as Vinci Construction (previously Norwest Holst), Crispin & Borst and Pel Interiors.

The IT software package includes financials, procurement, commercials and document management. It replaces legacy systems that have been in place in 20 different Vinci divisions for the past 10 years.

The new software will handle all Vinci’s accounting and purchasing requirements - which has 1,300 users.

Also, up to 2,500 of the group’s employees will be able to access the systems to record timesheet data online in a вЂself-service’ approach as the workflow tools can be configured to support electronic approval and authorisation.


Vinci puts ВЈ1.2bn UK construction business into single Coins IT package


Derek Hollaway, senior finance director, said the group’s plant business is already using the Coins Plant Manager application which is “aimed at enabling all UK sites to requisition plant via a web-based electronic catalogue”.

Vinci UK companies raise over 50,000 purchase orders and process around 340,000 invoices a year.

The latest deal enables Vinci to trade electronically with suppliers as a result of the electronic catalogue procurement software which eliminates the need for paper.

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Sol Construction in line with rest of Rok says Garvis Snook

Garvis Snook, chief executive of Rok. has said that Sol Construction is performing in line with the rest of the group.

Rok bought Sol in 2007. It's latest annual results show a profit margin of 1.8%.

Since the time of the acquisition there have been several shifts of emphasis. The set-up prior to acquisition in each of Sol’s offices was different:

Nottingham – was previously mainly a contracting operation with university clients throughout the Midlands

Warwick – did both general building and maintenance, particularly for breweries.

“At Warwick we have back-filled its existing work with additional maintenance work that Rok was doing in the area,” said Snook, “while at Nottingham we have added a maintenance capability.


Sol Construction in line with rest of Rok says Garvis Snook


“Right now Sol is in line with the rest of our business.”

Prior to acquisition, the bulk of Sol’s turnover came from construction where margins of 1.9% were in line with the industry average.

Snook has worked vigorously to transform Rok’s mode of operation, shying away from new build which he sees as a highly volatile sector.

Rok’s new build turnover ran to £550m in 2007 and has been halved since that time.

“Our [new build] budget for 2009 is £240m and we’ve got £220m of that,” he said. “In 2010 I don’t expect the figure to go beyond £200m.

“Groups with a big exposure in new build will struggle – we are already seeing seven or eight names on tender lists whereas a year ago there would have been just three or four.”

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

McCarthy & Stone's pre-pack administration plan in doubt

McCarthy & Stone (M&S)’s junior lenders are understood to be threatening the group’s senior lenders with legal action.

They face the prospect of being left with a zero value on their ВЈ200m of unpaid loans should the company succeed in its plan to roll itself up and simply morph into Newco M&S.

All 60 senior debt-holders are supportive and are talking sweetly, agreeing to a lock-up – i.e. to hold firm and not to trade their debt – in order to see M&S into the courtrooms where it would get official blessing for pre-pack administration, walking out as Newco M&S within a matter of hours. 

Junior lenders are less than amused as they would be left in the cold with Rump M&S – i.e. nothing.


McCarthy & Stones pre-pack administration plan in doubt


According to Reuters, ”Junior lenders are currently battling the bank proposals on McCarthy & Stone and are threatening to take senior lenders to court if they are offered nothing.”

The amount of potential egg on face is rather high – the junior debt runs to a total of £150m. This is made up of:

ВЈ40m of second lien ВЈ110m of mezzanine debt

Should the plans be de-railed there is a loophole in the loan documentation which states that M&S will have to pay ВЈ30m-ВЈ40m of costs if there is a dispute between senior and junior lenders, sources close to the talks told Reuters.

The prospects for the junior debt-holders can be measured by the value of their pieces of paper – in secondary loan trading the pricing-in of the latest proposals led to bids on second lien tranche lifting to 2.3% of face value (well, at least that was up from just 1% before).

Mezzanine, however, was left unchanged at 1%.

M&S started talking to its lenders in August last year. Its problems got steadily worse and it reached a “standstill agreement” with its lenders after missing December’s payments.

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Former R Betts Construction employee jailed for ВЈ625,000 fraud

The former employee of a Merseyside construction firm has been jailed for five and a half years after she was found guilty of stealing ВЈ625,000.

Sheila Hodgetts, who was a secretary in charge of accounts at Waterloo-based R Betts Construction, paid money to fictitious employees between November 2002 and May 2007.

She creamed off the cash to pay for foreign holidays, a deposit on a house, and former employers from whom she had also stolen, according to the Crosby Herald.

Hodgetts' thefts caused cash flow problems for the firm, which was forced to reduce its workforce from 41 to 15.

The court heard that Hodgetts had also stolen around ВЈ125,000 from Allenbuild earlier in her career but had escaped prosecution.

Sentencing Hodgetts, Judge Mark Brown said: "I am satisfied you stole from this firm [R Betts Construction] in a systematic, cold and ruthless way by seriously abusing their friendship and trust."

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Taylor Wimpey 'on track' with ВЈ1.6bn debt restructuring

Taylor Wimpey (TW) is reported to be on track to sign up to an agreement with its creditors ahead of its next financial deadline – which is 10 March.

TW needs to restructure a debt mountain running to ВЈ1.6bn.

TW won a waiver at Christmas just as it was about to break the previous deadline of its banking covenants.

The Financial Times today reports: “The house builder is expected to strike a deal with its banking syndicate and holders of its private placement bonds in time to seek the approval of other bondholders, who hold about £450m of debt, by 10 March.

“Creditors would accept warrants entitling them to less than 10% of the company.”

There is the possibility that an early glimpse of TW’s trading and balance sheet could surface before the group’s preliminary results are formally aired (which itself will be by the end of March) as TW still needs the bondholders to give the nod to the proposed debt restructuring.

BAA to install new construction boss
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sol Construction's profit margin down from 6.0% to 1.8%

Sol Construction’s margin has dropped from 6.0% to 1.8% as a result of a two-thirds fall in pre-tax profit to £1.3m.

Sol’s latest figures cover the 12-month period to 31 March 2008. The profit during that time was well down on the previous figure of £3.9m.

Turnover was ВЈ72m, representing a rise on the figure of ВЈ66m in the previous year.

Rok bought the company in May 2007 (i.e. early in the latest financial period) for ВЈ19m. That figure had the potential to climb to ВЈ21m depending on how Sol performed in the year in the year to the end of March 2008.

When Rok bought Sol it said it was anticipating Sol’s annual turnover would break the £100m barrier in 2008.

Sol’s balance sheet shows equity shareholders’ funds at the end of the period to stand at a value of just £300,000 after starting at a much higher figure of £9.9m.


Sol Constructions profit margin down from 6.0% to 1.8%


The latest value of work-in-progress was put at ВЈ1.7m after standing at ВЈ7.4m at the start of the financial year.

There was a total of over ВЈ10m paid to shareholders during the period.

Sol had an average of 456 employees and the bill for wages and salaries ran to ВЈ11.7m.

The time to pay suppliers got markedly slower, ending up at a figure of 100 days – in the previous year the figure ran to 65 days.

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Balfour wins roundabout enhancement contracts worth ВЈ1.7m

Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering (BBRCE) has won two contracts worth in excess of ВЈ1.7m for roundabout enhancements in the North East.

Both projects will be covered by BBRCE’s Newcastle Upon Tyne based Northern Region.

The first project, awarded by North Tyneside Council, is an improvement scheme at the Holystone Roundabout located at the A19/A191 junction.

Work will involve the widening of the carriageway to create a third lane, installation of traffic signals, the construction of a new footway on the inside of the roundabout along with all the associated temporary traffic and pedestrian management.

The second project, being carried out on behalf of the Highway Agency, is for improvements at the A1/A19 Seaton Burn Interchange and Roundabout in Newcastle Upon Tyne.


Balfour wins roundabout enhancement contracts worth ВЈ1.7m


BBRCE will install new traffic signals on the A1, A19 and A1068 approaches to the roundabout, carriageway widening on the A1 approach, resurfacing and anti-skid surfacing on the circulatory carriageway and approaches together with revised road markings and improved signage.

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Marwyn Materials' anticipated bid for Ennstone called off

The anticipated take-over bid for Ennstone by newly created shell company Marwyn Materials isn’t going to happen.

The problem is that after approaching Ennstone to talk details, Marwyn says that it has been unable to agree terms with Ennstone that it considers would be in the best interests of its (i.e. Marwyn’s) shareholders.

Feeling that it has reached the end of the road, Marwyn has now walked away.

In a statement on the Stock Exchange Marwyn declared that its interest in Ennstone “has now been withdrawn”.

It adds: “Marwyn Materials considers that the opportunities to secure value-enhancing acquisitions in the building materials sector have increased in recent months. The company is currently reviewing a number of potential purchases.”

Which rather poses the question of where will Marwyn turn next, given that this latest development leaves it with ВЈ80m still burning a hole in its pockets?

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cantillon and Elliott Thomas form Specialist Contractors Group

Demolition specialist Cantillon has linked up with contracting and logistics specialist Elliott Thomas to form a partnership to bid for bigger projects together.

Both firms will work alongside Elliott Thomas subsidiaries Taylor's Hoists and joinery firm Rainsford Contracts.

The quartet will operate under the Specialist Contractor Group name.

An spokesman said: "There are a lot of synergies between the companies and advantages in bidding for work together.

"We can offer clients a complete package, which will hopefully prove attractive. We will also be able to bid for larger projects and share overheads like marketing and insurance."

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Birse Civils wins ВЈ127m Norwich Northern Distributor Road job

Birse Civils has fended off bids from Carillion and a joint venture between May Gurney and Jackson Civil Engineering to win a contract for the development of the ВЈ127m Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR).

The scheme, which has been procured under Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) will see Birse Civils undertake the 'stage 1' contract for the NDR, assisting with the detailed development of the scheme, including the planning application, statutory orders and public enquiry.

The scheme has a chequered history. In 2007, the council looked set to hand the deal to May Gurney because it feared few firms would want to pitch for it.

But the council was subsequently forced to put the project out to tender after warnings from the Department for Transport that Norfolk could fall foul of European tendering laws.


Birse Civils wins ВЈ127m Norwich Northern Distributor Road job


Preliminary works on site starting in autumn 2010. But the scheme will first have to survive a public inquiry, which is scheduled for October 2009.

A total of ВЈ79.7m in funding has been made available from the Regional Funding Allocation (RFA). The money will be spread over four years, with ВЈ3.2m available in 2012/13, ВЈ26.8m in 2013/14, ВЈ48.7m in 2014/15 and ВЈ1m in 2015/16.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning & transportation at Norfolk County Council, said: "I am delighted we have been able to award this contract. This is the most significant transport project ever promoted by Norfolk County Council and we received high-quality bids from companies with an excellent track record in major construction projects. In the end, in a very competitive field, Birse Civils came out top in terms of the overall evaluation.

"Birse were able to show considerable experience nationally in the development and construction of major schemes, and they understand the importance the County Council places on involving local communities. The County Council has also emphasised the importance of local people and businesses benefiting from the construction of the NDR and I welcome Birse's commitment to using local people, suppliers and sub-contractors wherever possible.

"This contract award is another major step towards implementation of the NDR and the next phase of the transport strategy for Norwich. If Government funding for the Postwick Hub is confirmed next month, construction could begin as early as October this year."


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CJ50 contracts league: January 2009

Contract Journal’s league table of the construction companies who have won the most contracts in the past month.

PositionPrevious monthContractorNo of contractsTotal11Balfour Beatty67888.90226Laing O'Rourke *4228.60312Costain6149.09414Carillion6148.9052Rok23139.53618Morgan Sindall44117.8274BAM Construct6117.70813Willmott Dixon1080.8496Miller469.31107Sir Robert McAlpine255.001117ISG1750.221237Fitzpatrick246.0013-GB Building Solutions146.00145Kier2645.8015-Volker Stevin *129.501649Watkin Jones125.0017-McLaren Construction724.101822Vinci Construction Ltd1323.641932BAM Nuttall823.342031Galliford Try522.1021-Ashford118.902245Apollo Group1018.202325Thomas Vale1417.612410Interserve Projects1017.502544Breyer Group1215.75263Wates515.642727Wrekin Construction214.062811Midas Group011.5629-C Spencer610.9030-Westminster Dredging*110.2031-Higgins Group29.6432-Skanska29.4533-North Midland118.4934-Beard58.4435-Jarvis *46.5036-SDC Construction25.3837-Dawnus *25.253820Frank Haslam *15.0039-Weaver14.704046Osborne13.8041-TRAK43.804224Ogilvie *13.50438Amey13.0044-Buckingham Group42.504530Dyer & Butler62.3646-Multibuild12.10479Bowmer & Kirkland42.0148-Greswolde21.514923William Birch21.4550-8build21.35Totals for January 20093722,571.93*Information taken from Barbour-ABI database

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Carillion announces £300m BSF schools deal has reached financial close

A Carillion joint venture has reached financial close on a ВЈ300m Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project in Manchester.

Carillion is one of the partners in the jv called the Local Education Partnership (LEP).

The deal the jv has finally shaken hands on is the Tameside BSF project.

Carillion’s partners in LEP are Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and Building Schools for the Future Investments.

The Carillion jv will deliver 12 secondary and special schools, at a capital cost of ВЈ173 million.

There will also be two privately financed schools - Carillion will start building them in March 2009 and will then provide facilities management services over the following 25-year concession period. This element is worth a further ВЈ21m.


Carillion announces £300m BSF schools deal has reached financial close


All 12 schools will be completed by the end of 2012. 

The private finance element of the project is being funded by the usual combination of borrowing and equity.

Barclays has signed up to provide ВЈ50m of debt finance.

A further ВЈ4.2m of equity is being poured in – Carillion’s share is ВЈ3.4 million while the other two members will add ВЈ400,000 each. 

There is bonus in that the jv will also deliver further new schools for Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council in subsequent waves of the BSF programme.

Estimates show this add-on element to have a capital value of ВЈ120m.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Skanska UK reports £43m loss on turnover of £1.5bn

Skanska UK made a loss of ВЈ43m last year as a result of вЂserious project write-downs’ on a turnover of ВЈ1.5bn.

Mats Williamson, who took over as chief executive in July, said that without the one-off hits Skanska UK would have made a profit.

Skanska UK parted company with David Fison, its previous head, back in July after problems in the UK PPP division resulted in earlier write-downs running to ВЈ48m.

Looking ahead, Williamson said that turnover in 2009 is expected to be roughly in line with 2008. “But the market is unpredictable,” he said.

The best sector is civils. “Most of our civils work is with government,” said Williamson. “We have a strong back-log [forward orderbook] and there are opportunities in this sector – both now and more in the future.”


Skanska UK reports £43m loss on turnover of £1.5bn


Clients are getting the benefit of lower project prices as a result of two changes: Skanska’s own costs are down and it is also bidding work at lower margins than a year ago.

“There is still a lot of work to tender for but there are delays in the clients’ procurement processes, often as a result of the time taken to resolve their financing,” he said, “but we have not had any cancellations.

“The credit status of some clients had dropped and we have to watch that issue carefully using various tools, some more scientific, some more on feel.

“Looking at the next six months, it is more difficult to predict where we are going, compared with the past, so we need to plan in such a way that we give ourselves manoeuvrability.”

Skanska is finding the PFI market in the UK is still strong. Job losses in Skanska’s private office-building operation has resulted in employees being switched over to the PFI business.

Skanska UK is pressing ahead on the greater sustainability route, one manifestation of this being its green car policy.

The rule is that all new vehicles must emit less than 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled.

Asked if that has caused mutterings among senior managers, Williamson said: “No, we all think it important to show leadership.”

All of which means no gas-guzzling Jaguar for the top man himself – Williamson’s own choice of company car is a VW Polo BlueMotion.

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Hulley & Kirkwood wins Birmingham BSF role

Consulting Engineers Hulley & Kirkwood has been chosen to provide M&E Design for the new ВЈ2.4bn Birmingham BSF scheme.

Catalyst Lend Lease (CLL), a consortium made up of Catalyst Education and Bovis Lend Lease, is preferred bidder on the scheme. 

The project will see 89 of the city’s secondary schools rebuilt or refurbished in six phases with completion scheduled for 2024. 

The first phase, worth ВЈ153 million, will see twelve schools completely redeveloped and four academies built.  Completion of phase one is expected in 2011.

Andy Bradley, Director at Hulleys’ Birmingham office, says: “This is currently one of the biggest projects in the country, and the biggest school transformation programme to date. We are delighted to have been chosen to work with CLL Consortium”.


Hulley & Kirkwood wins Birmingham BSF role


“Hulleys are currently working on the two largest projects in the UK - ВЈ540 million Birmingham New Hospital project and ВЈ1.6 billion SLAM (Single Living Accommodation Modernisation) project.  Birmingham BSF scheme adds to our already impressive portfolio.”

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Change design of UK buildings now to fight climate change

The UK should immediately change the way it designs and builds buildings, transport and energy infrastructure in preparation for climate change.

That's the warning from a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) published today, which looks at the impact of rising temperatures and high sea levels.

Sea levels are predicted to rise by 2m by 2250 and 7m by the end of that century, according to the Guardian.

The action the members of IMechE want includes:

• Building new railways because many of the existing routes use valleys that could be flooded

• Building reservoirs underground to prevent evaporation

• Spending heavily on researching new forms of energy such as fusion

"A seven-metre rise in sea levels would impact on vast areas of the UK, including parts of London which border the Thames,[such as] Canary Wharf, Chelsea and Westminster, all of which would need to be abandoned," the report said.

It calls for government investment to address the problem now, despite pressure on public finances, in order to save cash later.

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New £35m Portsmouth museum for Mary Rose - IMAGE

Plans for a new £35m museum for the Tudor warship Mary Rose in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard have been approved by the local council.

New £35m Portsmouth museum for Mary Rose - IMAGE

The Wilkinson Eyre Architects designed museum will contain the ship’s preserved hull with thousands of unseen artefacts for the first time in 500 years.

The museum building is shaped like a wooden jewellery box enclosing the Mary Rose as its "treasure".

Mary Rose Trust chief executive John Lippiett said: “We have reached a real milestone in the project and taken another step in the fascinating journey of the Mary Rose.

“We can now submit our stage 2 application with real confidence. We have the planning approval; we have demonstrated considerable success in raising half the money required and are buoyant that we can raise the remainder.”

The trust has raised over half of the ВЈ14m required to match the ВЈ21m earmarked for the project by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Dubai developer puts new projects on hold

Dubai developer Emaar has put construction of all new projects on hold.

The firm announced in its latest results that: "Emaar is concentrating on completing all the projects which have commenced construction and have put new projects/ launches on hold to assist in reducing the real estate property supply in Dubai."

Emaar blamed the "slowing down of the real estate market in Dubai resulting from the current state of the global financial climate" for the move.

The developer saw its annual net operating profit fall 15% on the previous year to ВЈ1.09bn during 2008.

Chairman Mohamed Alabbar said: “The primary focus of Emaar in the last quarter of the year was to mitigate the negative impact of the global financial crisis by facing up to the new economic realities and identifying innovative strategies to sustain businesses in an unprecedented downturn. We have placed emphasis on optimising resource use efficiency and maximising productivity, and will continue to build on our strategy of business segmentation and geographic expansion.”

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Budget boost for Scottish construction

Gordon Brown set for PFI deal bailout

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to revive stalled PFI deals by pouring in taxpayers’ money.

Brown told MPs yesterday that where there are difficulties in private finance “I believe the Treasury will bring forward proposals”.

The Financial Times today reports: “Treasury officials declined to elaborate and said details of any scheme had yet to be decided.

“But people familiar with the debate said the Treasury remained divided over key elements of the proposals.

“One sticking point is whether the funds should be lent to the projects at prevailing market rates. Some insiders believe that the government needs to offer lower rates, or guarantees to private lenders, in order to address an вЂaffordability gap’ in some projects.”


Gordon Brown set for PFI deal bailout


There have also been calls for an alternative вЂinfrastructure fund’ which some see as being a better vehicle for tackling the problem.

A central fund would be difficult in so far as the Treasury does not have any legal authority to lend in its own name.

Changes in the eagerness for PFI lending have resulted in some players quitting the market, making it tougher to get syndicates together to get new projects afloat.

This is being felt most on big projects such as the M25 motorway widening project where as many as 20 banks need to come together and hold hands before its finances can be resolved.

To get the M25 project moving the Highways Agency has already offered to lend funds if some banks drop out.

“By promising taxpayer-backed lending, it is hoped that banks will be encouraged to stay involved in the project, reducing the likelihood that public cash will have to be provided,” says the FT.

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McNicholas Construction Services fined over worker death

McNicholas Construction Services has been fined ВЈ65,000 following the death of a worker in 2007.

The privately-owned firm is not related to Skanska McNicholas.

David Callaghan was killed when he was hit by a passing vehicle while carrying out road works in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, according to the BBC.

McNicholas Construction Services was found guilty of breaching health and safety legislation at Ballymena Crown Court .

The court heard there were no warning signs or any other precautions to safeguard Callaghan while he worked.

Kevin Toner, deputy chief executive with HSENI, said road works needed to be carried out in a "well planned and safe manner".

"This includes the need to provide adequate signage, warnings and, where required, road closures in order to provide safety to all persons at work on or near roads," he said.

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Bardsley Construction bags £20m college deal

Bardsley is tipped to start on site in March on a ВЈ20m project to build the new Rochdale Sixth Form College in Rochdale for the Learning & Skills Council.

The news comes as local MPs indicated that the college was "highly likely" to get the go-ahead when the Learning and Skills Council meets next month.

That is despite reports that funding for 42 college buildings across the country has been frozen due to the current financial climate.

The college is part of a planned ВЈ100m investment in facilities for young people in Rochdale.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

'Blood sport' as 4,000 buyers descend on machinery auction

More than 4,000 put down a deposit of ВЈ900 to register and then turned out in person in Naas, county Kildare, Ireland, yesterday as ВЈ10m-worth of repossessed construction machinery went under the hammer at knock-down prices.

“It’s like a blood sport,” said auctioneer Robert Craigie of Ganly Craigie.

The ballroom at Tougher’s Red House in the town of Newhall was packed with bidders from Africa, Cuba, and Iraq as well as Belgium, Holland and Poland.

Today’s issue of Ireland’s Independent said: “There was traffic congestion as potential buyers viewed machinery before it went under the hammer.”

Craigie said that the event had "worldwide appeal" because of Ireland’s flagging economic image abroad. The main proportion of the sales made yesterday were for export abroad.


Blood sport as 4,000 buyers descend on machinery auction


However, Irish contractors were also out to pick up bargains. "There's a lot of people who are coming in and buying tipper trucks at half the price they were a year ago. Labour's got cheaper, trucks are cheaper, and they can put in competitive tenders,” said Craigie.

“Talking to some of the foreign guys...they said they heard Ireland had gone broke so they're here to capitalise on the situation.”


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Crackdown on cowboy scaffolders

Scaffolding bosses are vowing to take legal action against cowboy contractors who try to pass themselves off as members of the industry's trade body.

Crackdown on cowboy scaffolders

Leaders of the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation will now take a "zero tolerance" approach with firms caught posing as member companies.

Confederation managing director Robin James said: "The high standards of our members are the reassurance main contractors are looking for. We will deal swiftly and directly with any company that threatens our brand. The only place you can check and be sure that the company is a genuine member of the NASC is on our website and in our Yearbook.

“This is not a threat – it’s a promise. If any scaffolding contractor is discovered to be вЂpassing off’ as a member of our confederation we will take legal action. Further more any scaffolding contractor who has applied for NASC membership but has not yet been audited and approved but is found to be promoting their company as being part of the NASC will have their membership application thrown out."

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