Construction National

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Tue23102018

Last updateTue, 23 Oct 2018 9am

There’s a PR offensive going on, despite continuing woes

Construction National blog logoThere is still little to cheer in the housing sector, with both RICS and the NHBC issuing figures in the past week on third quarter statistics. The NHBC reported a fall in registrations for the quarter from last year in both the private and public sectors. The public sector saw a fall of only 5% from last year, but with the sector flat on its back there is little left to cut. The private sector had been a little more positive, but that optimism has evaporated.

The RICS, too, reported a continuing decline in both private and public sectors, with a net 11% of surveyors reporting a decline in public-sector workload over the period compared to 4% in the private sector.

Read more: There’s a PR offensive going on, despite continuing woes

How much open space do you need in a public building? Enough, it seems, to save a concrete plant

Construction National blog logoI commented at some length recently (5 July) about the announcement of the Priority Schools Building Programme, the £2bn scheme to keep at least some schools functioning which replaced the Building Schools for the Future programme aimed at replacing all secondary schools.

The most recent news about the scheme, to be found elsewhere on the Construction National site, is that the original cost of the scheme, which was to be £2.4bn of which £2bn would be via a Private Finance Initiative, is to be reduced by nearly £700m.

The savings, from the PFI part of the programme, will be made by applying a new design standard resulting in a review of the cost per square metre. According to the Education Funding Agency, that would not result in "smaller classrooms becoming more acceptable".

Read more: How much open space do you need in a public building? Enough, it seems, to save a concrete plant

London’s triumph begets Rio contracts; but does Whitehall know what it’s doing on procurement?

Construction National blog logoMuch emphasis in the construction news of the past week or so has been on building procurement in the public sector. First, on 10 September the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in Public Building – a snappy title, you must agree – published its report calling for a "procurement revolution" to deliver better value for money in public sector construction projects.

It cited the Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012 as a shining example of how it's done. This week the PM revealed during a visit to Brazil (one of the downsides of hosting the next Games) that many of the people and companies involved in delivering that infrastructure project have been engaged by the Rio organisers to perform the same task next time around.

Read more: London’s triumph begets Rio contracts; but does Whitehall know what it’s doing on procurement?

Bigging up extensions and putting down councils, and what has happened to Mr Prisk?

Construction National blog logoSo David Cameron and Nick Clegg are going to get Britain building again. Cameron said his Government is serious about rolling its sleeves up and doing all it can to kick-start the economy. So they came together to announce...the relaxation of planning rules on extensions! That is great news for people who build extensions, of course – provided that their prospective customers, freed from the jack-booted oppression of petty minded officialdom in town halls across the country, can actually afford to build them.

To be fair, there are some things that will boost housebuilding. The extension of the FirstBuy scheme is to be welcomed, even if it only applies to new builds. There are elements, however, that seem to display a desire to hand public money to private developers: the mooted Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill, for instance, that will guarantee "the debt of housing associations and private-sector developers" (my emphasis).

Read more: Bigging up extensions and putting down councils, and what has happened to Mr Prisk?

Let's hear it for wood, and pointy things

Construction National blog logoIn September visitors to Timber Expo in Coventry will be able to preview the shortlisted projects for the Wood Awards 2012. This year the competition – celebrating its 10th year – has seen an unprecedented number of entries – so much so that the categories for furniture and architecture had to have the deadline for entries extended to June. In the past Construction National has had its front cover adorned with winning entries of marvellous beauty and fantastic design.

Also new this year the categories have been revamped: a new main category of Small Project has been introduced to separate it from the Private category, and the Conservation/Restoration category has become Repair and Adaptive Re-use, to allow for projects that have undergone "ingenious restoration" while being adapted for other purposes.

Read more: Let's hear it for wood, and pointy things