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Cauldron sets hearts afire, and Hear, hear! to Prince Charles

Construction National blog logoLike everyone else, I gasped in wonder as the Olympic cauldron hoisted itself into place following the lighting of the flames by nine young athletes: each sponsored by a British Olympian. The cauldron, designed by Thomas Heatherwick – himself a trailblazer – was a masterpiece of thoughtful design, with each 'petal' inscribed with the name of a country which will be given it as a keepsake.

It set me looking at other notable Heatherwick designs, from the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Expo in Shanghai to a design for a café on the front at Littlehampton. The latter is set on a long, thin piece of land between the promenade and a sewer pipe, described by Heatherwick as "the shape of a cigarette". Not 'a cylinder' or anything so prosaic, note.

Read more: Cauldron sets hearts afire, and Hear, hear! to Prince Charles

24/07/2012: Who takes H&S more seriously, and what's after the Games? by Chris Stokes

Logo for Construction National blogAmerica is not universally noted for protecting the rights of workers, or for imposing any kind of onerous regulation that can get in the way of business. After all, as Calvin Coolidge DIDN'T say: The business of America is business.

In the UK, on the other hand, we have been traditionally proud of the health and safety record of our industry, particularly the successes we have achieved in reducing accidents in the construction industry.

How perverse, then, that in the same week as an Alabama construction company is fined a six-figure sum for failing to ensure the safety of its worker, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) launched yet another attack on the Government and now the HSE for watering down our own health and safety laws.

Read more: 24/07/2012: Who takes H&S more seriously, and what's after the Games? by Chris Stokes

Construction National blog: 18/06/2012

Construction National Blog logoI have, over the years, spent rather more time in health service buildings than I would have liked. That has to be true of most of us, although sometimes my inside knowledge of hospital layouts and even procedures (the bureaucratic kind, not surgical) has struck even me as being sad. Most of the hospitals and health centres I have spent time in have been dilapidated and not fit for a modern service, usually in a run-down wing at the back of a largely-refurbished hospital, tucked away from public gaze.

We are, according to the NHS, embarked on the "biggest healthcare building programme ever seen in the UK", and largely most health centres and hospital premises are being gradually brought into the 21st century. Major campaigns were fought to retain local facilities at the expense of centralised specialist units, but on the whole the progress achieved has outweighed the loss of local amenity. There have been exceptions, of course: the closure of the A&E unit at my nearest hospital has meant extra work for a far older – and frankly uninspiring – unit at the hospital in the next town, which is itself Victorian in origin.

Read more: Construction National blog: 18/06/2012

12/07/2012: Engineering genius goes underground, by Chris Stokes

Construction National blog logoI'm not usually prone to using this space for a TV review, but I'm going to make an exception this week. In a return to a former life – the first paid writing job I had was as a theatre reviewer – I am going to extol the excellent Channel 5 programme Building the London Underground, broadcast at 8pm on 11 July. It went into great depth on the engineering challenges involved in building underground railway systems that run under major cities, and in particular cities that span major rivers.

Perhaps as amazing is the fact that the upgrading of the Underground that is going on now is biggest of its kind in the world. The programme featured the new station on Canary Wharf, which is being built under the water as there isn't room on the land because of all the skyscrapers.

Read more: 12/07/2012: Engineering genius goes underground, by Chris Stokes

Construction National blog: 06/06/2012

Construction National blog logoSustainable construction as a principle has come a long way since it was first mooted as a way of keeping stock of the environmental impact of a building. Then, the issues were the amount of recycled material used, the ability to recycle the materials once the building came to the end of its life and the amount of energy used both to construct and to run the building. Developments have come to include 'whole-life sustainability' and 'embedded carbon'.

Recently, however, the concept of sustainability has developed further to encompass social and economic sustainability. This latter has been the necessary result of needing to retain sustainable development as a priority in the face of new economic prosperity and the accompanying philosophical attacks on environmentalism from green sceptics – they know who they are. Social sustainability owes its existence to a more grown-up approach to the environment.

Read more: Construction National blog: 06/06/2012