Construction National

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Last updateWed, 11 Jul 2018 10am

Precision engineering in a box, from highly-trained personnel

Construction National blog logoBack in July I was waxing lyrical about a TV documentary on the new station at Canary Wharf, part of the massive Crossrail project. Crossrail issued an update on progress at the station this week. Fascinatingly, it has completed the 7.6m diameter 'tunnel eyes' – one at each end of the station box. These are target points for two huge tunnelling machines that will, everyone is confidently predicting, emerge into the station to connect it to the Crossrail network.

The tunnel box itself is an engineering masterpiece, having been built 'top-down' into the river basin and delivered five months ahead of schedule. The project to construct the rail link across London is nearly as impressive as the original Underground project in the 19th century.

Read more: Precision engineering in a box, from highly-trained personnel

There’s light at the end of at least one tunnel, even if the bridges have gone

Construction National blog logoWell, a Happy New Year to everybody now we've finally made it into 2013. It's that time of year when everybody is trying to make sense of what happened last year and find something – anything! – to cheer us up for the coming 12 months. The NHBC duly obliged, with a cautious optimism following slightly improved registration figures for the three months from September to November: 26,420 compared to 24,731 in the same period last year.

Its commercial director Richard Tamayo said: "2012 has generally not lived up to the hopes we held for it; however as we approach its end there are signs that activity is picking up. Government backed schemes such as NewBuy and Funding for Lending will hopefully provide further support in the New Year to those who have desired to own a home but in the past experienced difficulties obtaining mortgages. Hopefully 2013 can consolidate and then build on this momentum."

Read more: There’s light at the end of at least one tunnel, even if the bridges have gone

Housing recovery: is it just a case of starting from rock bottom?

Construction National blog logoIt has been a rollercoaster ride for the construction industry in recent months. While both the NHBC and RICS have reported continuing falls in registrations and sales, both are optimistic for the New Year. Glenigan, the lead source for contracts and new work in the industry, has seen a veritable seesaw of new starts. That won't be seen as registrations or sales for some time yet, so there is always a lag, but the figure for the construction industry as a whole rose by 3% for the quarter to November compared to last year. It followed a 1% fall in October and a massive 11% fall to September.

Private housing is leading the way, with the social housing sector starting to stir. A note of caution was sounded by Glenigan's economist Andrew Whiffin.

"The turnaround in the sector is a bit of a shock," he said, "but the steep increase this month has a lot to do with the weakness of the sector at the end of last year rather than any strength in the latest data."

Read more: Housing recovery: is it just a case of starting from rock bottom?

Dancing to the rhythm of the piledriver; and mind how you go

Construction National blog logoAs I have been carrying out my various commissions in the comfort of my home I have been somewhat distracted by the rhythmic 'thwack-thwack' of a piledriver somewhere in the valley outside. I say somewhere, because it is not easy to distinguish from the echo around the valley which of the two major construction sites in the source. Yes, I said TWO major construction sites. One is a new development of social housing, while the other is a supermarket in the making.

It is the first sign of sustained activity in this small town since the new homes on the edge of the town completed its latest phase. It might disturb my concentration, but it's still a welcome sign.

Read more: Dancing to the rhythm of the piledriver; and mind how you go

The heavy plant in Santa’s sack: just the job for the tunnellers of the future

Construction National blog logoIt's that time of year again, when a wife's fancy turns to thoughts of Christmas presents for grandchildren. In our case, little Samuel will soon be three and is already keen on building and – mainly – demolition. So off we go to investigate the world of construction toys all over again.

Things have changed! No longer is the world of JCB, John Deere and Caterpillar confined to more-or-less faithful reproductions for the sand pit or just looking at. No; these days children can own miniature versions of the real thing. Some are electrically driven while others (preferred by this advocate of an active childhood) are pedal-powered. Some ranges have all the attachments available to the real builder (not just a 'digger' but a back-hoe loader).

In my column of 1 November I reported on initiatives by the industry to improve its image. I venture to speculate that the future of construction (and demolition) will be enhanced thanks to the opportunities offered to the very youngest to get used to some of the skills on offer.

Read more: The heavy plant in Santa’s sack: just the job for the tunnellers of the future