Construction National

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Last updateFri, 20 Oct 2017 3pm

Even the railway company is building homes, but there still aren’t enough

Construction National blog logoThe housebuilding industry is once more the focus of attention in the construction sphere. After a number of months during which there was a general air of self-satisfaction that a combination of government initiatives and the beginnings of a recovery had resulted in a gradual upward shift in activity, along comes the RICS with dire warnings of a widening gulf between supply and demand.

A greater willingness on the part of lenders to “increase loan to values on mortgage products” is cited as a driver in the surge of interest from buyers, but according to the RICS chief economist Simon Rubinsohn: “In spite of this, the amount of homes currently up for sale is still nowhere near enough to keep up with demand and – in order for the market to function correctly – this imbalance urgently needs to be addressed.

Read more: Even the railway company is building homes, but there still aren’t enough

And the winner is…the construction industry

Construction National blog logoIt’s that time of year again, when awards are awarded and competitions competed in. The biggest deal in the past couple of weeks was the presentation of the Construction Industry Awards themselves, at the Grosvenor Hotel on 9 October.

The big building project award – for those valued at over £50m – went to perhaps the capital’s most notable new building of recent years: The Shard. Renzo Piano’s latest masterpiece has used up all the superlatives, so I won’t use any.

At the other end of the scale was the gong for Building Project of the Year for a project valued at up to £3m was for the gorgeous new Henry King Chapel at Ripon College in Oxford, which was also shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.

The most outlandish-looking project won the International Award, for “projects outside the UK for which one or more UK-based British firms have made a significant contribution”. That was the British Antarctic Survey’s Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Wow!

Check out New Civil Engineer for pictures of all the award winners.

• Another prizegiving this month was that of the Structural Concrete competition, supported by the Mineral Products Association, the Concrete Centre, the Institution of Structural Engineers and Laing O’Rourke. It is a design competition for civil and structural engineering students. This year’s competition called for the design of a luxury residential building that formed part of the extensive redevelopment of an industrial site close to the centre of a large UK town.

First prize and sustainability prize were awarded to a team from Imperial College London, while the winners of the second prize were from the University of Southampton.

Next year's competition, for which entries are now open, will require entrants to produce a design for a school building within an existing school development in the suburbs of a large UK city. The brief for the competition includes a range of specifications that must be adhered to, as well as a precise description of the ‘site’ and its conditions, imposing constraints upon the entrants, who must “respond as though they are the structural engineer responsible within the consultant’s team”.

• Entries are also now open for the 2014 Greenbuild Awards. As the name implies, the awards celebrate “truly green buildings that show the project teams are serious about sustainability”.

These awards are for actual buildings that have been constructed, and entrants must show that they live up to the green aspirations of their design while actually in use. One of the seminars at this year’s Greenbuild Expo featured an entertaining sidelight on how and why some buildings with marvellous specs fail to deliver the carbon footprint to which they aspire – usually because the people in them don’t behave as they are supposed to!

Chris Stokes

There’s good news on the jobs front, and a deal of green flag waving


Construction National blog logoThere has been further good news for the construction industry in the past couple of weeks – at least in terms of the housebuilding sector. The latest NHBC rolling quarter figures – from May to July – show a staggering 30% increase on the same quarter last year. Of course, the same caveat applies as did to the figures from the Mortgage Advice Bureau covered in my last column – we are starting from a very low base, so an absence of growth would be a disaster. It may well be that the particular quarter under consideration accounts for a large leap that is not being sustained.

Read more: There’s good news on the jobs front, and a deal of green flag waving

Prize winners figure large, but no deal for the Green Deal among landlords

Construction National blog logoThe big story this week has been the announcement of Astley Castle in Warwickshire as the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize. What, you may be thinking, is a 12th-century fortified manor house doing winning the UK’s most prestigious prize for new architecture? Has there been some kind of rent in the space/time continuum? Has 5D BIM finally conquered time travel?

Read more: Prize winners figure large, but no deal for the Green Deal among landlords

Could movement in the housing market be accompanied by the grinding to a halt of HS2?

Construction National blog logoThere has been a great deal of hullabaloo in the mortgage industry about the imminent upsurge in property prices, following on (predictably) from the government’s Help-to-Buy scheme and other initiatives, resulting in what developers are hoping for and the mortgage industry is trying to create: yet another house price boom, pricing young families out of the market yet again. When are we going to learn?

Read more: Could movement in the housing market be accompanied by the grinding to a halt of HS2?