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Autumn 2012

Building Britain

BUILDING THE FUTURE The radical new ventures changing the way we live



The new Irish World Heritage Centre preserving our past for future generations

How the construction industry is striving to save lives

BUILDING UNDERGROUND The amazing engineering feats behind the ÂŁ15billion Crossrail transport network

Sponsored by and The Carey Group

Construction Excellence Taking Construction to the next level









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Welcome to

When the going gets tough The tough get going — RIBA President Angela Brady on ‘ladders of opportunity’ _______ page 6 Building Britain Niall O’Sullivan features some of the exciting ventures changing the way we live, work and play ______ pages 9-11 A light in the dark Fiona Audley reports on the work of construction charity campaigner Jennifer Deeney ____ pages 14-15 Creating history Excitement mounts in Manchester as the Irish World Heritage Centre nears completion __ pages 16-17 Our working lives Katy Harrington looks at the different roles that make a business work ___________________________________ pages 20-21 Health and Safety John McKenna on how the industry is striving to make working life a lot safer ________________________________ pages 24-25 Crossrail in numbers The amazing facts and figures behind the £15 billion engineering marvel _______________________ pages 26-27 Comment It’s time for Government action to boost our business, says Federation of Master Builders boss Brian Berry __ page 29

Building Britain

Printed by Warners Midlands plc, The Maltings, Manor Lane, Bourne, Lincolnshire PE10 9PH Published by The Irish Post, Suite A, 1 Lindsey Street, Smithfield, London EC1A 9HP Publisher: Niamh Kelly, Advertising: Sarah Murphy Telephone: 020 8900 4159

Welcome to the first issue of The Irish Post Construction Magazine. Inside these pages we look at the amazing impact the construction industry is having on Britain. From the great iconic sky-scraping structures reaching towards the heavens to the astonishing feat of underground engineering that is London’s Crossrail project... From the homes we live in to the buildings where we work — and the air, road and rail infrastructure that gets us between the two... From hugely exciting sports arenas to radically designed centres of learning, from the creation of great new science parks to the revitalisation of landmark and historic properties... And not forgetting the ground-breaking environmental projects that are providing us with a greener, fresher and safer world. The men and women of the construction industry are at the very heart of this brave new world. That is why we have themed this launch issue as ‘Building Britain’ — because the construction industry is doing just that... building a new world with imaginative and far-reaching 21st century projects in towns and cities all around the country. Naturally enough, if you are talking about construction in Britain, then Irish people are in the vanguard of this great drive to build a better world — and many of them, and the projects they are working on, feature inside this magazine. We hope you enjoy reading their stories and finding out more about the projects changing the world around us. And please do let us know what you think! Niamh Kelly Chief Executive, The Irish Post

Helping you build a successful business Evans Mockler are a long established and dynamic firm of Chartered Certified Accountants and Registered Auditors. We specialise in both the construction industry and the property sector and a large proportion of our clients are first and second generation Irish. We are business and tax advisors and recognise that our clients require more than just annual compliance. We understand the many challenges that businesses face, particularly within the construction industry. We work closely with our clients to ensure that they overcome these challenges and achieve their goals. Kindly contact Martin Mockler, Mike Evans or Simon Toghill on 020 8449 9632 if you would like to discuss our range of services and to find out how Evans Mockler can help you build your business.

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Setting the standard for over 85 years

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ochford Paving Limited was established in 1986. Traditionally a paving contractor, the family-run business has developed and expanded over the years into a reputable groundwork, reinforced concrete frames and paving contractor. Rochfords are registered with ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and CHAS. We consider health and safety to be a core business value. Our Health and Safety Department strive to maintain a proactive approach to safety and training. Our workforce are 100 per cent CSCS certified.

Environmental issues are considered from the tender stage up to the completion of the project and like health and safety we endeavour to exceed the minimum standards wherever possible. Rochfords’ constant commitment to quality ensures that our working systems are continually reviewed, developed, audited and implemented throughout the company. After 26 years in business the company has gone from strength to strength both financially and commercially. Due to our continual growth we are proudly able to offer a wide range of career opportunities across all our work sectors.

Case Study of one of our current projects: OCEAN ESTATE ENVIRONMENTAL REGENERATION Client: Wates Living Space Architect: PRP Structural Engineer: Consibee Value of Project: ÂŁ4.25 Million Scope of Works: 1. Groundworks 2. Drainage 3. External works: Hard Landscaping Date of Completion: July 2013 Key Points: 1. This is a 12 stage Environmental Regeneration of live residential blocks 2. The Works comprise of site clearance, excavations, drainage & hard landscaping 3. All works are carried out whilst keeping safe access for residence 4. Rochford are carrying out the Hard Landscaping Design & Build contract with our own in-house Architect.

Tel: 020 8903 6888 Website:

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Silver lining among the clouds UK Market Outlook Report by Greg Pitcher


HE UK construction industry has taken a huge battering since the global economic crisis took root in 2007, and is not expected to start improving until 2014. After the housing market collapsed in the wake of the credit crunch, and the resulting lack of confidence destroyed the commercial market, the coalition government’s austerity measures slashed the lifeline of public sector work. More than 400,000 jobs have been lost in the industry in the last five years. But it is not all bad news. The construction industry is still worth more than £100 billion a year and if you know where to look, there are plenty of healthy opportunities for contractors. Dr Noble Francis, economics director at the CPA, points out that the picture varies hugely by sector and region. He says social housing, education and health are likely to be particularly dry areas over the near future and it will also be increasingly tough going in the commercial and retail sectors. “Last year the private sector was offsetting the public sector cuts but this year retail and office work has been in decline.” Commercial and industrial Despite some iconic projects, the offices market stubbornly refuses to grow outside the M25. Supermarkets have scaled back growth plans and the commercial sector is anticipated to fall by 2.8 per cent both this year and next. On the positive side, factories work is driving a small increase in work. There are areas of growth on the horizon, however. Infrastructure projects continue apace, with the £16 billion Crossrail scheme well underway, as is the second phase of the £6bn Thameslink upgrade scheme. The energy sector is also critical for construction firms over the next 18 months. The new nuclear programme will start in earnest next year with main works beginning at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Elsewhere in the sector, significant offshore wind work will be available. Meanwhile Francis sees a two-tier market for private housebuilders. “We have seen lots of good results from the large housebuilders with profit margins of up to 15 per cent and the increasing value of land,” he says. “It is tougher for the small and medium companies who don’t have the land and are struggling to secure finance.” He believes an increase in mortgage lending is the key to unlocking more schemes. Housing A 2 per cent rise in private housing is forecast by the Construction Products Association for 2012 – followed by 4 per cent in 2013. Public sector housing, by contrast, is predicted to plummet by 22 per cent and 15 per cent respectively over this year and next.

“If this is not sorted out then it will severely hinder the private housing market,” he said. As well as these sector variances there is a strong regional bias in the industry at the moment. London and the South East are outperforming the rest of the UK, driven by landmark projects such as Crossrail and the Shard skyscraper as well as housing demand. Outside this bubble, the outlook ranges from tough to desperate. In Northern Ireland, house prices have fallen almost 10 per cent in a year. Gary Crabtree, managing director of John Sisk & Son across the UK and Ireland, says he expects the London market to remain strong. “There is a lot of money flowing into the capital city, pushing prices up,” he says. “There is a separate market in London, with high quality hotel and residential work, the Crossrail project and development around the Olympic site.” Stephen Ratcliffe, director of membership body the UK Contractors Group, says those firms that had survived the past five years felt in a reasonable position to weather the remainder of the downturn. “But there are quite a few uncertainties,” he adds. “The ongoing Euro crisis and its effects on private sector confidence is one of these. Also whether the government is ever going to seriously spend money on infrastructure. Thirdly, the schools programme is still being held back and we need to hear the new arrangements for private finance.” The Autumn Statement, to be delivered by Chancellor George Osborne on December 5 this year, will give the next major clues to the construction industry’s future. Francis says: “The government has to have a model for private investment, and we need to see an increase in the level of capital investment to get work on the ground.” Ratcliffe, meanwhile, remains positive about the medium-term prospects for construction.“The appointment of former Locog chief Paul Deighton to oversee infrastructure delivery at the Treasury bodes well. How quickly the government goes up through the gears is another matter.”

Infrastructure Rail spending is a rare high point with the huge Crossrail and Thameslink schemes. Energy investment is badly needed and widely expected but not yet flowing through on the scale the industry requires. Road investment is falling sharply. Nonetheless a small rise in infrastructure is forecast. Outside of growth sectors such as infrastructure, Francis warns the battle for work is intense and in some cases hazardous. “Competitive pressures are greater, tender lists are lengthy and anecdotal evidence of late payment are only increasing.” In conclusion, John Sisk and Son’s Gary Crabtree describes 2013 as a year for “hunkering down”. “Good contractors will come through with a margin and be hoping that as we head towards the next election, there will be a push by the Government to invest in construction.”


Thriving on complex & challenging projects

Time to start climbing on the ladders of opportunity

A proud pa


The Irish have a long history in the construction world — and are still leading the way today with highly skilled teams, as Mal Rogers reports

he situation for the UK construction industry still remains very challenging. Only now are the full effects of the economic crisis working their way through the UK economy. At the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) we know from our monthly RIBA Future Trends survey that workloads for architects are down by approximately 40 per cent since 2008, and that there is no immediate prospect of a dramatic improvement. Architects are very active at the front end of the building procurement process and the profession is a key bellwether for the wider construction industry, so it looks as though things are going to remain pretty tough for some time. All is not doom and gloom though; we architects are by nature a positive and optimistic bunch. The UK Government is trying to maintain infrastructure spending, with projects in transport and energy sectors. Although house prices have been falling in real terms in the UK, unlike the situation in Ireland there is a fundamental undersupply of housing which will have to be met in the near term. Architects working on high end residential projects in London and the South of England generally have full order books, with low interest rates and overseas investors promoting continuing growth in the prime residential property market. A key area of concern for UK architects is the restrictions on access to public sector procurement for SMEs. Some of this is caused by EU procurement requirements, but a lot relates to the culture of UK public procurement processes, which tend to be overly bureaucratic and incredibly risk averse. The RIBA has been working hard to come forward with new thinking for the UK Government and local authorities to try and address these issues, in order to create an environment which nurtures the best available talent and focusses on producing public buildings of high quality and value. Even in straitened times the public sector remains a key element of the built environment sector. Earlier this year we produced “Ladders of opportunity” and worked cross-professionally to get all views; we continue to push this forward. We could have better systems in place that recognise local talent and skills. Now going into my second year as president of RIBA my three aims remain the same: finding better procurement models; Internationalising the RIBA for its members in UK and members overseas — and bringing architecture to the public so they understand better sustainable development and will demand it as a basic human need via an Integrated Design Strategy. Internationally, RIBA are opening up Chapters overseas. The RIBA brand is a 'super brand", commands a


By Angela Brady, President, The Royal Institute of British Architects COMMENT lot of respect and is well known global gold standard. I have just launched the RIBA Hong Kong Chapter in September 2012. We can sell the very best of British Design overseas with the help of UKTI and the British Council who put us in contact with the right people. We also launched the Shanghai shop windows project showcasing young talent and making business opportunities. In Dubai at the Global architecture conference recently I spoke about Integrated Design Strategies that could be used around the world and that relate to specific climate history culture and identity, rather than importing western models that are so out of place. I think a change is happening and people are awakening and rejecting the identikit city with its lack of culture and lack of sense of place and relate to a model so out of touch with natural environments and people in more than ways of style. There is so much work overseas and I do not see the skills to match the work opportunities. We need to make good links with universities and forge links twinning universities, practices businesses and really make long term plans on how we can share skills and work together, maybe starting with a pilot project and linking research into new projects suitable for different parts of the world. The more I travel the more I see the need for a new way of moving our professions and industry forward. One area which is essential is promoting an Integrated Design Strategy where we can all work together in a holistic way and lay down a clear path for the long term using intelligent commissioning, linking research and development and producing integrated systems that are sustainable. We can look at quality of life and how we can achieve the places where people want to live, work and play, rather than producing the quick hit model of old where it’s all about finance and not quality of life. It's time for radical change now. We need to work cross industry on this and internationally in order to plan our futures together and get political ‘buy-in’ to better ways of planning our cities and towns for our people and future generations.


he Irish construction industry has a long history in Britain, stretching right back to the days of the navvies — so named after the men who came across from Ireland to work on the navigation canals in the 19th century. Since those far off days the industry has changed out of all recognition. Today the burgeoning construction world is full of bright, highly-skilled men and women, well-qualified, and experienced builders, architects, designers, machine operators, carpenters, draughtsmen, bricklayers, civil engineers, acoustic engineers and many more, who have helped build British landmarks such as The Shard, Crossrail, the Jubilee Line, Heathrow Terminal 2 and various Olympics facilities throughout the capital. Companies such as McGee’s Construction, Cappagh Public Works, KeltBtray, Seneca, Ardent Tide and Lynch Plant Hire are common names throughout Britain, with plant, transport and personnel involved in everything from motorways construction to house building.

❛ With the economic downturn it’s not been a rose garden... but wherever an iconic bulding has gone up Irish companies have been to the fore ❜ Of course, with the economic downturn it’s not all been a rose garden in the building industry. The British construction sector shrank during the summer as new contracts dropped at the fastest pace since April 2009. But development in London has gone on apace, and wherever an iconic building has gone up, Irish companies have been to the fore. The Shard (also referred to as the London Bridge Tower) is now the tallest completed building in Europe. Italian designer Renzo Piano worked with the architectural firm Broadway Malyan during the planning stage. Several Irish firms were to the fore in its construction, including KeltBray, which has a workforce of over 800. KeltBray 0wner and CEO Brendan Kerr has seen his company record a 20 per cent increase in turnover for the financial year ending 31 October 2011, from £87 million (2010) to £108 million. During the same period, operating profit also rose to £420,000. He told The Irish Post: “Despite the prolonged, weak economic climate we are currently operating in, Keltbray is experiencing significant growth, and has started to reap the benefits of a diversification strategy and extended geographical reach.

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past becomes a glowing future LOOKING UP: The construction world has many skilled workers using modern equipment as this picture from KeltBray shows

“From being a demolition and civil engineer focused business in the south east, Keltbray is branching out into very specialised business sectors. We provide integrated services to meet the needs of diverse and complex contracts in the areas of demolition and civil engineering, rail and environmental materials management nationwide.” Of course, anywhere you have builders you need plant hire, and T Mitchell & Co Plant Hire, a family run business in west London, has been supplying just that for over 35 years. Founded by Tom Mitchell from Sligo, the firm supplies everything from JCBs to mini-excavators up to 25 tonne bulk earth movers. “You can hire one of our machines with an operator or self drive — whether you’re building a carport or a new terminal for an airport,” says Adrian Mitchell, Tom’s son. “Being a family run business, we take pride in our positive, friendly approach and we are always available 24 hours a day.” The highest profile project Mitchell’s have been involved in recently is the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush. “We were supplying plant at the White City for some five years,” explains Adrian. “So, overall business has been pretty good.” Another family firm intimately involved in the building industry in the south-east of England is O'Halloran & O'Brien Ltd., now in the sole ownership of Tom O'Brien. The company has evolved from a small groundworks company to a multi-disciplined major contractor. Tom has

been at the forefront of various housing projects from Tunbridge Wells to the Holloway Road. The company specialises in reinforced concrete frame, which accounts for nearly 55 per cent of the turnover. Heathrow Terminal 2 is one of the many highprofile projects with heavy Irish involvement. Phase One of a £2.3 billion programme to construct a brand new Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport is well underway and once complete, the terminal will cater for up to 20 million passengers a year. Terminal 2 will replace a former terminal and is the latest stage in a fiveyear programme of works to transform the airport. The construction of Terminal 2 has been funded entirely by BAA, and Irish firms are to the fore. Main contractor for Phase One of Terminal 2 is HETCo, a joint venture between Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke. Main contractor for the satellite pier is Balfour Beatty, whilst Laing O’Rourke is the main contractor for the car park construction. BAA Capital Director, Steven Morgan, said: “Laing O’Rourke was awarded the contract following a competitive bid which demonstrated that they fully understood BAA’s intelligent client approach and could deliver a car park and associated infrastructure safely, innovatively and to the highest standards of quality.” Laing O’Rourke, Europe’s largest privatelyowned construction firm, was founded in 1977 by Mayo man Ray O’Rourke and has played key roles in many major projects and was one of the

Carey’s road to success It would be a cliché to say the Carey Group has covered lots of miles, but then it has built scores of roads in Britain and Ireland since its foundation in 1969. Originally established as a grounds works contractor, Chairman John Carey senior and his brothers Pat and Tom have been developing a brand built on the back of British food retail stores. The company also played a major role in the provision of infrastructure for Milton Keynes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Now one of the leading independently owned construction companies in Britain, Carey specialises in demolition, civil engineering, concrete structures and environmental solutions for business units. Such versatility has allowed them to deliver minor and major contracts, operating as a principal or specialist contractor on significant multi-million schemes. The company says they are committed to selfdelivery. This means they manage construction risks and choose not to transfer those risks to others. Instead, the Carey Group focuses on developing solutions and delivering quality. In recent years the business has expanded into further areas of operational expertise and into different areas. The company was involved in the London Olympic project and is currently delivering major jobs throughout the country. “The more challenging the conditions, the greater the value Carey's will deliver,” has become something of a company motto.

key contractors building the Olympic city for the 2012 games in London. The Byrne Group is another family firm heavily involved in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 2, as well as many other construction projects throughout Britain. Founded by Patsy and Johnny Byrne in 1969 it has steadily grown into one of Britain’s leading companies in the project management and construction services sector. Barbour ABI is one of the longerestablished construction firms in Britain, starting out in the 1930s. Its current projects include the Qeii Berth redevelopment, Middlesbrough, and the Battle Of Britain Beacon Project, Hendon. And another well-established firm is Cappagh Public Works, a family-owned contracting company which has been involved in the construction industry for over 40 years. Dermot O’Hagan from Maghera in Co. Derry is a member of another family firm, Specialist Joinery Group. They pretty much do what their name implies — they provide bespoke woodworking across a range of facilities, from hospitals to schools. Founded by John O’Hagan some 25 years ago, the company employs over 80 people. “Our highest profile building at the minute is providing the wood panelling for a concert hall in the Barbican Centre in London. That’s a contract worth £1.8million. We’ve also just secured the furniture fit-out of luxury residences at Gloucester Place, London, so business is very buoyant at the minute.”


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Building Britain

Reporting by Niall O’Sullivan

Birmingham’s new £188.8 million library


rom London’s soaring Shard to Glasgow’s Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, from a football academy in Manchester to an entertainment arena in Leeds, the construction industry is changing the face of modern Britain. From the homes we live in to the buildings where we work — and the air, road and rail infrastructure that gets us between the two, the construction champions are at the very heart of our world. The men and women who work in the industry create the beautiful buildings we admire and, increasingly, are creating the great environmental projects that make our world a cleaner, safer, better place. What’s more, the industry’s leaders are transforming the way we think and behave — in virtually every town and city there is a team of passionate people working on projects that have the power to change not just buildings but rejuvenate lives. Over the following pages we take a look at just some of the projects — large and small — that are promising to transform both the social and economic future of Britain.

Building Britain: Birmingham Excitement is growing within the team behind Birmingham’s new library. When their project opens its doors for the first time next September, they promise that it will

challenge the traditional definitions of a library. “The minute we start to believe that we are only building a library is the minute that we let everybody down,” says Brian Gambles, Director of the Library of Birmingham project. The £188.8 million development — delivered by construction company Carillion — is at the heart of plans to revitalise Birmingham’s city centre. “This is a game-changer, a once in a lifetime opportunity to change the face of this city,” Brian adds. In a bid to ‘rewrite the book for public libraries’, the site will become a major cultural centre. On top of traditional services, its 3.5 million visitors will be able to make use of roof gardens and the National Film Archive, as well as internationally

❛ If I had to pick one word to sum up the focus of our project, it would be ‘community’ — the new Library of Birmingham will change lives ❜ significant collections of photography and literature. Further, audiences will gather at an outdoor amphitheatre in its Centenary Square location. With a view to uniting people of all ages and cultures, performances will be given by musicians, poets, actors and storytellers. “If I had to pick one word to sum up the focus of

our project, it would be ‘community’ — the new Library of Birmingham will change lives,” says Mr. Gambles.

Building Britain: Glasgow When Glasgow took on the £1 billion challenge of hosting the 2014 Commonwealth Games, one thing was clear to project leaders; this cannot be about sport alone. Accordingly, the Scottish city will follow London’s example by creating a ‘Games Legacy’. “The legacy of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games will be a city that is better off economically, environmentally and socially,” says Councillor Archie Graham, Executive Member for the Commonwealth Games at Glasgow City Council. The venues of Glasgow 2014 are being built for the local community, he says: “They will be used by the public before the Games and although Glaswegians are already looking forward to seeing many of the world’s finest athletes perform in them in 2014, these world-class facilities will be of tremendous use for their physical and mental wellbeing in the future.” This month, the creation of that legacy begins when the £116 million Commonwealth Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome are opened Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd is the main construction contractor for the facilities, which will double as a centre for Scottish sport that was otherwise lacking. By 2014, it will house

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Working in partnership to deliver excellence national sport federations as well as ➤ many Glasgow Life’s Sports Development Unit. The legacy will then be completed when the Games conclude and the £150 million Athletes’ Village, developed by Glasgow City Council, becomes a residential area. The new neighbourhood in Glasgow’s East End will comprise a total of 1,400 homes across a 38.5 hectare site.

Building Britain: Manchester ONLY rarely do win-win opportunities present themselves in a recession. That is, however, an appropriate description of Manchester City’s new Football Academy. The equation is simple: The football club gets a place to develop their next generation of superstars, while the community gets jobs and a huge redevelopment of its most deprived area. “This project gives us the opportunity to bring huge benefit to the Manchester community,” says Pete Bradshaw — Head of Infrastructure Development and Corporate Responsibility at Manchester City Football Club.

❛ This project gives us the opportunity to bring huge benefit to the Manchester community, working with BAM Construction, we have set high targets for local employment and procurement ❜ “Working with BAM Construction, we have set high targets for local employment and procurement. It is our policy that a minimum of 70 per cent of people working on each stage of the construction will be from local areas. Further, 80 to 85 per cent of all goods and services will be acquired from within the M60 corridor.” The club specifically targets new skills opportunities, whether that is re-training for older people or apprenticeships for the young. “And as a part of the Great Manchester Trading Agency, we will also ensure that these people can complete their apprenticeship and get a foothold in the industry,” adds Pete. Work begins at the 80-acre East Manchester site on November 6. Of the 49 jobs already created in the £100 million development, 34 have been given to the long term unemployed and at least 160 construction jobs will follow. Leeds Arena will have a huge impact on the city.

When it is completed in 2015, it will be joined by an extensive redevelopment of East Manchester by Manchester City Council.

Building Britain: Leeds Now less than six months from its opening, construction work is concluding at Leeds Arena. “You might say that we have needed this for 30 years,” says Roger Boyde at Leeds City Council. Due to open next year, the £80 million project is an essential part of the city’s plans to improve its international profile. While its eye-catching honeycomb design will breathe fresh air into the city’s aesthetic, Leeds Arena will also make the city an essential destination for musicians, comedians and sportspersons touring the globe. Councillor Richard Lewis, Executive Member for Development and the Economy at Leeds City Council, says: “Leeds Arena will have a hugely positive impact on the city, culturally and economically.” The first part of that impact has been seen in the 200 construction posts safeguarded or created by BAM Construction. “However, its economic benefits go way beyond that,” Lewis adds, “It is enabling us to regenerate that area of the city centre as a catalyst for around £100 million of further development. We’re also ensuring real local benefits with recruitment in the local community and no less than 57 Leeds companies engaged in working on the construction phase.”

Building Britain: Newcastle: BRITISH science will soon be able to move into its new home in Newcastle. Early next year, work begins at Science Central, one of the country’s most ambitious regeneration projects. Formerly the home of Newcastle Brown Ale, the 24-acre site in the city-centre will be transformed into a place of learning, business and community. While state-of-the-art research facilities will be used for scientific research, the project also aims to attract investment from Britain’s most promising science and technology start-ups. These will exist alongside a mix of retail, residential and sustainable living spaces. “It is our vision that Science Central will form a large part of the fabric of the city. It will be a vibrant quarter where local people can work, play and live,” says Development Director Colin MacPherson. Hall Construction Services Limited has been appointed to complete the first phase of

❛ It is our vision that Science Central will form a large part of the fabric of the city. It will be a vibrant quarter where local people can work, play and live ❜ Science Central, a joint venture by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University. It is scheduled to be completed by summer 2014.

Building Britain: Liverpool Sometimes changing the face of a city can be done most effectively by re-investing in a piece of its history. This belief is held by the team responsible for refurbishing Liverpool’s iconic Lewis’ department store and rebuilding the surrounding area. Despite being the site of the city’s Central Station, the Renshaw Street district has in recent times become a paradigm of dereliction. By 2014, however, Merepark developers hope to turn its fate around. Their £160 million investment will bring the Lewis’ building back to life and see the


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Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd is the main construction contractor for the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome pictured.

previously vacant land behind it become Central Village. This will include three new hotels and a 459-space car park, as well as offices, shops, restaurants, cafes and landscaped public spaces. “Lewis’ has historically been one of the most dominant structures in the city,” explains Neal Hunter, Associate Director of Merepark, “and when an iconic building like that falls onto hard times, it can have a big knock-on effect.” “Its resurgence into modern day use alongside the rest of the Central Village development will have a profound impact, not just on the area as it is now, but by encouraging further development in future.” When the scheme is officially launched in 2014, it will “almost certainly tilt the centre of gravity back towards that end of the city,” Neal adds.

Once constructed, the Student Centre — designed by award-winning architects Patel Taylor — will change the way that students interact with the university. The state-of-theart building will bring together services including accommodation, finance and student support, creating a ‘one stop shop’ for students. “We are committed to investing in improving our facilities and enhancing the student

experience. This latest project is part of our £200 million-plus capital investment plan,” said Chris Woodman, Project Officer in the University of Essex’s Estate Management team. The University of Essex is currently out to tender to find a contractor to complete the project. Once a company has been chosen, work is due to start in January 2013 with a completion date set for late 2014.

University of Essex will benefit from an extensive redevelopment

Building Britain: Essex PLANS to revolutionise the student experience at the University of Essex have been given the green light. Planning permission was granted for the latest phase of extensive redevelopment at the university’s Colchester Campus in September. The £26 million project includes a new Student Centre and an extension to the Albert Sloman Library.


Re-imagining waste as a resource

To all the Irish, half-Irish and Irish-ish…

Whether you’re Donegal born and bred, or your Mum’s great Uncle Colm has a half sister from Cork, you’re Irish. How fortunate is that. And as if that wasn’t enough, being Irish you get all the luck too. Well, even by your own lucky standards, next year is going to be something special – it’s The Gathering. And guess what, you’re invited. Throughout Ireland in 2013 we’ll be doing what we do best – making the most of our rich culture and heritage. And you know we don’t need much of an excuse to get singing and dancing, playing sport, sharing our great food and drink and… we could go on, and on and on and on, there really will be so much to enjoy. So get your family and friends together to organise your own event, or just come along and join in. The Gathering 2013 – one great big happy celebration of everything Irish.

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E Elec lectric tron al & ic W aste

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Light at the end of the tunnel The Lighthouse Club is a charity that provides aid to families of construction workers who have died or been left unable to work. Fiona Audley speaks to Jennifer Deeney, the charity’s Fundraising Ambassador, about her role and her reasons for becoming involved with the organisation Jennifer Deeney with her late husband Kieron.


NSPIRATIONAL charity ambassador Jennifer Deeney became dedicated to helping others after her husband was killed in a construction site accident just 13 weeks after they were married. In the eight years that have passed since Kieron’s death, the 37-year-old has raised more than £250,000 in his name for leading construction industry charity The Lighthouse Club. The unique organisation has 22 branches in Britain, Ireland and across the world, providing financial help to thousands of families plunged into financial crisis when they lose their breadwinner’s income through illness, injury or death. They offer vital financial assistance to these families until they can get back on their feet, but rely heavily on fundraising in order to provide for those affected by the unfortunately high number of construction accidents reported across the globe. So it was little surprise that Jennifer, a matron at the neo-natal intensive care unit at St Bart’s and Royal London hospital, was appointed Fundraising Ambassador for the London branch of the international charity this year. And she has more than risen to the challenge — spending most of the year speaking at events, devising fundraising plans and promoting the


work of the charity, while successfully relaunching the chapter in the capital. With plenty still on the agenda before 2012 is out, Jennifer told us why her role remains important for the Irish construction community in London and more of the tragedy that drives her. “Kieron was just 25 when he died at work on a Canary Wharf building site,” she explained. “When that happened the Irish construction industry in London was very good to me. We had only been married 13 weeks, we lived together and had two incomes coming in, but when he passed away that income halved but the bills didn’t. “The generosity of the industry kept me afloat when I thought I’d lose my house as well as my husband.”


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Jennifer Deeney at one of the Lighthouse Club’s fundraising events. The Straide native, who married Donegal man Kieron in her home county of Mayo, admits it took some time before she felt strong enough to give something back to the community which helped her. “It took me a couple of years to be in the right position to do it, but eventually I wanted to set up a charity in Kieron’s name,” she explained. “I wanted his death to be something very positive as you can get tangled up in hate and anger but that doesn’t solve anything. “It was a friend who asked if I knew the Lighthouse Club and when I looked into them they did everything I wanted to do — so I thought, why reinvent the wheel?” She added: “They are the construction industry charity — they help the families, not only if someone has died but if they are injured or unable to work.

❛ The generosity of the industry kept me afloat when I thought I’d lose my house as well as my husband ❜ “They have branches in Ireland and London, too so it felt like looking after your own, which for me is a big thing.” It’s been three years since she decided to fundraise for the charity, and her first idea, a naked calendar featuring female construction workers wearing strategically placed, industryrelated items, raised £154,000 alone. “Every bit of money raised for the charity is so important,” she explained. “That money will stretch so far and I know the difference a little bit can make.” She added: “When somebody goes to work and doesn’t come home, it’s absolutely shocking. But those left behind don’t need huge sums of

money; sometimes they just need someone to pay the mortgage for a month or two. Or someone to say, ‘You and the kids are having a bad time, why don’t you take them for a day out and have some fun’. “That’s what the charity is here for and why it’s so important. We just need to get our construction firms to support it.” Steve Barnett, chairman of The Lighthouse Club, added: “There are few people in our industry who know more about the impact of

accidents on the lives of families than Jennifer. “We are truly excited to have her in this new role and we’re getting a very positive reaction to her appointment. Her knowledge, passion and drive make her a valuable team member and her first initiatives are progressing well.” ➤ For enquiries, to make donations or for further information about the charity contact Jennifer at or visit

JENNIFER DEENEY grabbed a slice of history this summer when she carried the Olympic flame through the streets of Wimbledon just days before it reached its final destination at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The Irish charity ambassador was cheered on in her 390-yard journey by friends, colleagues and relatives — many of whom came over from Ireland to witness her taking her moment to shine. “This has been such an exciting day — I’m taking part in a piece of history and it’s been fantastic,” she told us on the day. Jennifer took her place among the 8,000 Torchbearers who helped carry the Olympic flame on its 90-day journey across Britain and Ireland ahead of the Opening Ceremony in July. She also took the opportunity to purchase her torch — at a cost of £200 — to take it home as an impressive memento of her Olympic involvement. The avid fundraiser now plans to bring the torch on a tour of construction sites across London to spread the message of The Lighthouse Club charity and the support it provides victims of construction site accidents and their families.


World Heritage Centre — a unique Creating history Report by Fiona Audley


XCITEMENT builds as the Manchester skyline evolves with the new £10 million Irish World Heritage Centre finally taking shape and a raft of Irish construction firms involved in the iconic build. For long-waiting centre members, local residents and IWHC board members, the dream of the past decade is finally a reality — as the structure of the new world-class centre now looms large on the Cheetham Hill horizon and the site bustles with workers putting in the hours to see the first phase completed on time and on budget. It’s a particularly exciting time for IWHC Chairman Michael Forde and the many who supported his initial vision for a new centre which would ‘tell the international story of Irish immigration’ to a global audience. And Mr Forde is proud to call the construction a fully Irish one — using Irish material, craftwork and construction firms where possible — which will offer a truly Irish experience for all who step through the new IWHC doors once the first stage of the project is completed in December. “This has been a long time coming,” he admitted. BELOW: The new IWHC interior during construction.


“We always wanted it to be the best Irish centre in the world and now we can finally see that taking place, by a mile, and everyone is getting understandably excited about it. We are also on budget and on time to complete in December.” Part of the magic that the Manchester community will share with the Irish Diaspora worldwide at the new IWHC site in Queens’ Road will be the opportunity to ‘touch a piece of

❛ We have always wanted to make this a special place and the involvement of Irish companies in the build is an important part of that ❜ Ireland’ wherever they lay their hand. “We have always wanted to make this a special place and the involvement of Irish companies in the build is an important part of that,” Mr Forde explained. “We want people to come in and be touching Ireland — which is why we are sourcing all the material, from the stone to the timber, from Ireland. “We have Irish stonemasons doing the building exterior and the ring fort with stone from Donegal; Irish firm Kingspan have done the insulation, the panelling and the ceiling, our bar is being designed by John Duffy, who is an expert in the field back home, and our timber

flooring and the decking will come from Ireland too.” Stonemason Sean Nolan is one of the many Irish craftsmen involved in the build. He brought his team of skilled craftsman to Manchester from Co. Cavan in August to fulfil their contribution to the mammoth project over four months. They have been working with 2,500 tons of McGonagle Stone from Donegal, which will adorn the exterior of the IWHC building and the wall surrounding its open air ring fort. Mr Nolan, whose family boasts five generations of stonemasons, told The Irish post: “This is a fantastic project to be involved in. Things are tough at home and to be involved in such an iconic Irish build over here is great for us anyway, but also provides a valuable window for our work. “What we do is very skilled, there are very few who can do what we do back home let alone in England so it’s great to bring something uniquely Irish to this unique centre — that’s what the design was all about.” Such attention to detail is expected to make the finished product an award-winning building and an international Irish centre unlike anything else in existence. Project manager, quantitative surveyor Paul Stanion, has overseen the first part of the twophase IWHC development since early 2011.

uely Irish build “I have acted as an external consultant for Manchester City Council for 20 years, on every major project in Manchester, from the Commonwealth Games Stadium to the Concert Hall and Manchester Velodrome,” he explained. “Some projects were worth up to £300million, but despite the Irish World Heritage Centre being a smaller project in comparison it is certainly one of the most interesting projects I have worked on. “With the design and the quality of the material we are using I would not be surprised if it wins a number of awards over the coming years.” He added: “We have had excellent progress despite wet weather and things are going very well, so we are on budget and on programme to complete on December 10.” Keep up to date with the progress of the iconic IWHC build at Pictures by MALCOLM McNALLY

LEFT: IWHC Chairman Michael Forde is pictured centre with some of the team. BELOW: Stonemason Sean Nolan is one of the many Irish craftsmen involved in the build. Following an initial £2 million donation to the IWHC development from the Irish Government 13 years ago, the project has been heavily supported by Manchester City Council. The council donated the site in Queen’s Road, Cheetham Hill to the IWHC to allow them to build a bigger centre and have continued to support the project along the way. The first phase of the IWHC project will be complete in December. It will include a multi-purpose hall, bar and restaurant, shop, travel agent and business centre — all boasting cutting edge technology. The restaurant will make use of produce grown in the centre’s own allotment and bee hives. It will also include the foundations for phase two, a conference centre, which will go ahead once funds have been raised. This will include a hotel development, an area celebrating the Irish heritage and history with education space, leisure facilities and football pitches.



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Recipe for success — delivering By Owen O’Carroll Royal Institute of British Architects COMMENT

When the going gets tough, the tough get going A somewhat alarming pattern over the last 24 months has been the trend to cut-throat fee bidding as architects fight to stay on the ground. This has been exacerbated by a continuance and expansion of contractor or project manager led procurement teams. In a sense some have experienced the construction manager treating the professionals as simply one other element of the supply chain – with the attendant demands, pressures and forces being applied to design and designers as to normal construction sub-contractors. Overall, this challenges the basis of design, signalling the restriction on design practice within a wholly cost led model. No doubt, it’s a direct by-product of recession... as times get tough, the tough get going! Increasingly this trend forces us to evaluate what we do and what we commit to do. Whilst the introduction and evolution of BIM offers possibilities to re-position the architect within the construction equation, the realities may turn out differently. Already we see BIM being talked of as AIM (Asset Information Management), which points (ironically) towards another destiny. One where the management of data and information, albeit created by the 'creatives' actual becomes the asset of another party. Issues of copyright, reproduction, use etc come into play. So, with architects very much on the back foot, a rise in vendor pushed technology, a government that wants and demands by 2016 digital compliancy, we see ourselves at an interesting cross roads. Rather similar to when early CAD arrived, but this time the scale of difference and the implication on output more exponential. How architects as a profession take a full role is this evolution is a choice, one unfortunately in these recessionary times, that requires real commitment and perseverance to reclaim ground and position.

■ If you would like to advertise in the next issue of The Irish Post Construction Magazine contact Sarah Murphy, tele: 020 8900 4159


What does it take to keep a construction business at the cutting edge? For the most part it is the people that work within that company. Here, Katy Harrington talks to three people with different jobs in one Irish family company, the VGC Group. Ciara Pryce, Group Services Director, VGC Group There have been some big changes in Ciara Pryce’s life of late, namely the birth of her first son, who is nine weeks old and sleeping happily in the room next door to where we meet at VGC’s Head Office in Ruislip. Despite the arrival of baby Noah, the Group Services Director at VGC Group has not taken her eye off the ball at work. “I am still very much keeping my finger in”, explains Ciara, whose father Sean Fitzpatrick serves as Executive Chairman at the company. The Fitzpatrick clan is what Ciara calls your “typical second-generation Irish family”, they grew up with Irish dancing lessons, and the tradition of summer holidays spent with family in Ireland. As for the family business, Ciara never intended to join her father’s company. Rather, while studying her master’s degree at Portsmouth University, she came to VGC at her dad’s suggestion to write her thesis about the Human Resource industry in the world of construction. After completing her studies she says: “The projects just kept coming up, so I stayed.” Being a trusted employee in a family firm meant big opportunities came fast: “Had I been working for someone else, I probably wouldn’t

❛ Had I been working for someone else, I probably wouldn’t have got such exposure as early on with as much responsibility ❜ have got such exposure as early on with as much responsibility.” Working closely with her father and MD Laurence McKidd meant she got the coaching and support she needed in the beginning. Being the boss’ daughter has never been an issue Ciara says, but she does note that in her position you can never be seen to “cut corners”, adding “but then that’s not the culture here anyway. We try to do things the right way for the right reasons.” Today Ciara’s role sees her manage a wealth of responsibilities. She oversees the HR, training, payroll, accounts, IT and health & safety divisions. With between 650-700 workers on sites from the south of England right up to Scotland at any one time, it is also a role that requires a high-calibre multi-tasking manager. Ciara sees people as the core of what she does, and bringing new people in and training them is essential. The ethos at VGC is very much that the business is only as good as its people, so staff are on a constant course of self improvement and that doesn’t exclude senior management, who also take part in development programmes.

The most challenging part of the Group Services Director’s role is not just keeping up with the industry, but staying a step ahead, she says. An example of some recent forward thinking at VGC is the introduction of the Drugs & Alcohol screening programme, introduced for civil engineering sites across the UK. It’s a project that Ciara is particularly proud of because it is another way to minimise risk and make sure everything on-site runs smoothly. The most satisfying part of the job, she explains, is seeing and hearing from happy clients who know they can trust VGC to deliver. While having a newborn baby will inevitably change the way Ciara manages her time, the projects she is working on at VGC are as exciting to her now as they were when she first joined fresh from university. And with that, a baby starts to cry in the next room and she is called away, back to doing what she does best — multitasking.

Laurence McKidd, Managing Director, VGC Group Laurence McKidd took over as MD at VGC Group in January 2010. Having been with the company since 1998, he came onboard with vast experience, having previously held roles at MJ Gleeson and as Project Director at Balfour Beatty. These days Laurence’s role at VGC is all about managing the Group’s five businesses. “The core business is still labour supply ”, explains Laurence, but VGC also have large rail projects including high profile contracts with Network Rail and London Underground plus construction, personnel and vehicle rental businesses. In short, he’s a busy man. While developing and implementing strategies, budgets, number crunching, and of course rating performance, are the key elements of the MD’s role, Laurence also takes an active involvement in health and safety. As part of their commitment to safety, VGC recently introduced a behavioral-based safety programme called

ng good product and a happy workforce to his best form on the golf course. A keen golfer, he says work got in-between him and his golf clubs in the past but he is playing regularly again now with a single figure handicap. Asked what the biggest thing he has learned in his 14 years at VGC Laurence answers immediately: “Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s all about managing people and relationships. The key thing is how you treat people.”

Sean Fitzpatrick, Executive Chairman

Atkins, which Laurence describes as being centered on “encouraging engagement with the workforce, and not just legislation”.

❛ Coming up with new ideas and seeing them through for the good of the business. Business never stands still, you have always got to be looking to develop and grow — and that applies to your people too. As we have grown, people have grown with us ❜ While everyday is varied when you are managing five businesses, Laurence says the challenge for him is ensuring he spends time out of the office, seeing the projects in motion and not just drowning in paperwork at his desk. As an early riser, who is at his best in the morning, his average day consists of juggling meetings and clients. “I’m lucky that I enjoy what I do and the variance”, he says, but the most rewarding part of the job is seeing the development of VGC’s people. Business improvement is another part of the role he relishes: “Coming up with new ideas and seeing them through for the good of the business. Business never stands still, you have always got to be looking to develop and grow — and that applies to your people too. As we have grown, people have grown with us”. Having come to VGC from a big business background, a smaller company allows the MD to work efficiently and not get tied up with bureaucracy. “The thing I like here is that because we are a small company, we don’t have to go through layers and layers of management. Getting things agreed and approved can be done by just getting everyone around the table. We still operate like a family business”. The flat management structure at VGC also ensures that employees can talk to senior management freely, and it gives everyone a chance to be involved in the direction the business takes. As MD, Laurence explains his goal is to “continue to grow the business in a structured way”, adding, “It’s not all about turnover”. Out of the office, Laurence is trying to get back

Cavan-born Sean Fitzpatrick is the man behind the VGC Group. He set up the business with Bart Keaney back in 1977 and has been intrinsic in fostering an ethos where people come first at VGC ever since. A lot has changed since 1977, Bart Keaney has retired, Andy Rogers now serves as a Non-Executive Director and Sean has handed the reigns over to trusted MD Laurence McKidd. While Sean is less hands-on in the day to day running of the company, he is still as passionate as ever about delivering the highest quality product to their clients as he was in the beginning. “We grew the business from humble beginnings”, Sean explains. The plan was simple — to expand turnover gradually and take on more staff. It worked, but this was all new to the man who gave up a career as school teacher in his 30s for the cut and thrust of the business world. So why the change? “I saw opportunity”, says Sean, who admits there were many times in the early days when he thought he might have made the wrong choice. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be,” he says with a smile. “Many issues came up and I suppose I lacked experience to deal with them, but it was very much a case of head down and get over it.” Lack of experience is certainly not an issue any more and important decisions are carefully weighed, especially those that affect the future of VGC. Sean continues: “I reviewed the business and I thought it was time to hand over the MD position to Laurence. To support him, I appointed Ciara as Group Services Director, allowing him the time to deliver the product,

deal with clients and ensure the service is delivered in accordance with our plans”. Over the years, Sean says one of the most valuable things he has learned is how to react in challenging times. “There are many times you are in a situation when you don’t know what to do”, he says. The strategy that worked for him was simple, but effective. “Ask yourself what a reasonable person would do in this situation… know when you need to speak to the experts and take their advice”. That philosophy marries with the open door policy at VGC, where with little formality, the Executive Chairman is always approachable and willing to listen. “If there are any issues I would be upset if it wasn’t brought to the table immediately. That way we sort it out and then it’s done, and it doesn’t become a big issue.” For Sean, the most satisfying part of the job they do at VGC is seeing the work that is being built, whether it be a bridge or a railway and appreciating the longevity of what they put in place.

❛ I love my involvement with the business, I get a great feeling of satisfaction seeing the business develop, delivering good product and seeing the workforce happy ❜ Out of work, Sean is a big London Irish rugby supporter and a GAA fan. As a northerner he says he was thrilled to see Donegal clinch the recent All-Ireland final against Mayo, but for the man who still calls Ireland home, nothing would make him happier than seeing the Cavan team hold the Sam Maguire. With the same eye for opportunity he had back in 1977, he finishes by saying: “I love my involvement with the business, I get a great feeling of satisfaction seeing the business develop, delivering good product and seeing the workforce happy”.


Sport, history and art — construc Building Britain: The sports stadium YORK Council has begun its search for a firm to design and build a new Community Stadium. At a Health and Partners event on September 27, the team behind the project took the next step towards beginning construction by going out to tender. Speaking at the event, Councillor Sonja Crisp told reporters that York Community Stadium has been a priority since 2003. The Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture, Tourism and Social Inclusion added that the venue was part of plans “to build strong communities by providing more and better opportunities for leisure and culture for the people of York.” The £25 million project will provide a home for York City Football Club and York Knights rugby league club, with seating for 6,000 spectators. Working with these clubs, York Council also hopes to: “Use the power of sport to promote well-being, put public health at the heart of our communities and engage children in healthy lifestyles.” This will be facilitated by the on-site development of new clinical health facilities, an Institute for Sport and Well-being, play facilities for children and a new floodlit games court aimed at junior football and rugby for the local community. Ex-England footballer and former

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate, now involved in the Football Association’s development team, welcomed the plans, saying: “As a professional sportsman, coach and administrator, I know the powerful and positive impact that sport can have on a community. If we can keep people actively involved in sport, the benefits for health, inclusion and involvement in the community are enormous.”

Building Britain: Restoring our industrial heritage AN HISTORIC mill in Shrewsbury will be restored to its former glory in the near future. Largely untouched since their construction in the 18th and 19th centuries, the buildings around Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings have suffered a slow decline. Once a beacon of Britain’s industrial revolution as the first ironframed buildings, they have since become derelict. Now, Shropshire Council is looking for a contractor to complete the £19 million first phase of the site’s renovation and redevelopment, which will take it off the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register. The project, aimed at giving the site a new sense of purpose and identity, is led by Elizabeth Perkins. Talking about her task, Ms Perkins said:

“Ditherington Flax Mill is a hugely important historic building and the whole complex presents one of the biggest heritage challenges there is around at the moment.” To help fund the transformation of Ditherington Flax Mill into a centre for learning, leisure and social enterprise, Ms

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uction for the future! Building Britain: Creating structures for art

Perkins’ team has applied for a grant of £12.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Earlier this year their bid was awarded £465,300 as part of a first round pass. They will find out whether they have been awarded the full grant within the next 18 months.

Dundee is soon to be the setting for a version of London’s Victoria and Albert museum and housed in an iconic building... In September, Dundee City Council granted planning permission for the museum when all members of the Development Management Committee voted in its favour. Like London’s original Victoria & Albert Museum, V&A at Dundee will showcase the world’s best decorative arts and design. Following the announcement, a spokesperson for the £45 million project confirmed that construction companies will be invited to tender in the coming months. The winner is expected to begin work in summer 2013. Director of V&A at Dundee Philip Long hailed the development as an opportunity both to recognise Scotland’s rich design heritage and inspire future generations. “We also hope the project will provide economic benefits to Dundee and the rest of Scotland. There are substantial benefits to the surrounding redevelopment of the central waterfront in Dundee — a project that will have a transformative effect on the city,” he added. The innovative building — designed by Japanese firm Kengo Kuma and Associates — will be the centerpiece of the waterfront area’s extensive

redevelopment. When it opens in 2015, half a million visitors are expected in its first year. V&A at Dundee is a joint venture between; V&A, Dundee City Council, Scottish Enterprise and the universities of Dundee and Abbertay Dundee. ABOVE: The iconic Dundee V&A museum building. BELOW: The historic mill in Shropshire.

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he London 2012 Games had many firsts, with many sporting records broken and the best-attended Paralympics in history. One less well documented record that the Games smashed was in the construction of the Olympic Park and Games venues: not a single person died during the build, making London 2012 the first Olympics to be built without a fatality. Such a record is a proud achievement for the British construction industry, which over the past decade has seen a steadying decline in accident rates onsite. However, there are still around 50 deaths per year, more than any other industry. Figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at the end of September revealed that 11 people died on construction sites in England and Wales between April and June, with the next deadliest industry being agriculture with six deaths. HSE chief inspector for construction Philip White says that while there have been huge improvements made in the health and safety practices of big contractors, standards are fairly poor among smaller builders. “The smaller contractors are where we have a lot of problems,” says White. “These firms are often not members of trade associations, and have business practices that

Health and Safety Report by John McKenna Those sites that fail inspections are issued with notices that can ultimately lead to court appearances and hefty fines. However, this process can be lengthy, from six months upwards. In response, and by way of aiding a cash-strapped public sector in the UK, the HSE as of October 1st began charging for the time of their inspectors on inspections where safety breaches are found. Under the scheme, called Fee for Intervention (FFI), White says that contractors responsible for relatively simple breaches such as inadequate protection against falls from scaffolding could be billed with an invoice between £600 and £700 within a couple of months of the breaches being found. This invoice would cover both an inspector’s time onsite and that spent on paperwork relating to the incident back at the office. “It’s like the polluter pays principle,” he adds. “Why should taxpayers pay for the time spent on a breach by the contractor?” The avoidance of such severe measures was what first drove the construction industry, and

❛ There’s been a huge push over the last five years or so to cut accidents and the main reason for this is that, particularly main contractors, have now got management systems in place to make sure everybody is checked and has the right attitude before they get to work onsite ❜ are a bit dodgy. At this level you also see clients taking onboard builders or contractors that aren’t up to the job. For example, a factory might have a leaky roof which is also fragile, and they just employ a jobbing builder that’s good at house extensions but hasn’t got the expertise to do that job. We see a lot of injuries and deaths from falls from height in those sorts of situations, where builders simply go straight through the fragile roof.” The HSE’s statistics bear witness to the fact that it is more deadly to work for one or twoman local outfits than a local firm: of the 50 deaths to occur on construction sites in England and Wales between April 2010 and March 2011, 18 were self-employed; and more than half of the 50 deaths (27) were in the refurbishment and repair sector of the industry — an area dominated by smaller firms. As a result of this and the contrasting strong health and safety ethos among major contractors, White says the HSE now performs relatively few inspections of larger sites and has instead devoted its resources on small and medium sized building sites and refurbishments. Earlier this year the HSE carried out a nationwide inspection of more than 3,000 construction sites, mainly where repair and refurbishment work was carried out, and found that one in five failed safety inspections.


in particular major firms, a decade ago to implement all sorts of health and safety initiatives to improve its appalling record, with 80 deaths in the financial year 2001 to 2002. White says the appeal was made to industry at ministerial level, and in response one of the key initiatives was to adopt the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). The scheme operates at many levels, but at its most basic offers a “green” card to anyone who wants to work on a construction site, once they have passed a test on basic competencies. “CSCS came into being in the mid-1990s and about the year 2000 government asked the industry to introduce something that would selfregulate because there were too many injuries and deaths,” says CSCS director of strategy and communications Helen Atkinson. “CSCS was agreed by the industry as one of the ways of doing this, and it has become the industry’s leading scheme.” The test for the “green card” is a multiple choice test comprising 30 questions, taken at one of Construction Skills’ regional test centres — details of which can be found at . It costs £17.50 to take the test, and £30 for the card, which is valid for up to five years. While the CSCS is a prerequisite on the vast majority of sites and has become one of the

most outward signs of a culture change in UK construction, Atkinson is hesitant to take all the credit for the reduction in construction’s accident rate. “There are many factors that have assisted in reduction of number of incidents including better management by contractors and card schemes,” she says. Civil engineering giant J. Murphy & Sons is a typical example of how major contractors now seemingly require excellence at health and safety above all else. “The main push in our business is a health and safety cultural change programme,” says Murphy Director James O’Callaghan. Rather than being about just ticking boxes, this programme is described in Murphy’s own literature as one which “focuses on the thinking processes that come before the behaviour”. This is achieved through the development of a coaching community that continually challenges the performance of the whole company. “The aim is self-managing teams who are empowered, supported and coached to grow and produce outstanding results in everything we do,” says O’Callaghan. This is backed up by a full in-house training programme for health and safety qualifications, and a central database that keeps track of all staff qualifications. The company is also signed up to Constructing Better Health, an industry wide programme sharing best practice from medical practitioners on occupational health issues arising in the construction workplace. O’Callaghan says this kind of setup is typical for most major contractors today. “There’s been a huge push over the last five years or so to cut accidents and the main reason for this is that, particularly main contractors, have now got management systems in place to make sure everybody is checked and has the right attitude before they get to work onsite,” he says. “The industry has gone from being a reactive business to fully proactive.”

afety on site Tony’s constant safety learning process NO matter how many years one spends in construction, there is more than likely another health and safety qualification around the corner. Tony Moten, Murphy Group Health & Safety Manager, from Co. Tipperary, has been working for Murphy in London since 1990, and has been responsible for overseeing the company’s health and safety on construction sites for the past 20 years. However, despite such pedigree, when The Irish Post spoke to him he was fresh from completing another safety qualification course. “I have just completed a substation entry course, in order to gain access to a National Grid site,” says Moten. “The course consisted of a twoand-a-half-hour test on a computer covering basic electrical safety, followed by a practical assessment on National Grid’s premises where I had to identify their equipment and apparatus.” Murphy, on behalf of its client UK Power Networks, is constructing a power cable tunnel across London, part of which crosses a National Grid site. Moten and his colleagues needed access to the National Grid’s site, which requires completing the grid

operator’s in-house safety test. As the Health & Safety Manager of Murphy, Moten holds an array of site safety competence cards, from the basic CSCS card to more industry-specific qualifications such as those demanded by Network Rail in order to gain access to sites. “It is a measure of how far the industry has come to address the complexities of health and safety in construction,” says Moten, pictured. While all these qualifications are vital, Moten believes one of the key reasons that accident rates have been steadily falling in recent years has been the realisation that health and safety isn’t just an issue for the guys onsite. In particular, he cites the 2007 Construction and Design Management (CDM) regulations — which require clients and designers to consider their health and safety responsibilities on a project — as having a huge influence on the industry’s performance. “In CDM the onus is on competence,” he says. “The client must appoint a competent contractor to do the job, and then it’s up to us to ensure that everybody we employ is competent.”


Crossrail: Europe’s biggest engin There will be 37 Crossrail stations including 7 new underground stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.


T is the biggest construction project in Europe, with a budget running to almost £15 billion, employing more than 4,000 people and transforming the future of London — and ultimately the economic substructure of Britain itself. The Crossrail development will deliver a 118-kilometre rail line that will link Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via an amazing network

More than 4,000 people are presently employed on the project working across more than 40 sites. Some 1,300 chain contracts have been advertised.

Tunnelling work will be carried out by eight mammoth 148-metre long tunnel boring machines (TBMs) which each weigh 1,000 tonnes. The TBMs have their own names… Phyllis, Ada, Elizabeth, Victoria, Sophia and Mary are already busy under the ground while two more will join them in late 2013.


of 21 kilometres of twin tunnels — that’s 42 kilometres of engineering marvel… When completed it will bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of the heart of London, providing 37 Crossrail stations, including seven brand new underground stations, and linking the capital’s key employment, leisure and business districts. Speed will be of the essence with passengers able to travel from Heathrow to Tottenham Court Road in under 30 minutes. And, naturally enough, Irish companies are heavily involved with J Murphy and Sons the lead contractor on the Thames Tunnel

At least two thirds of all Crossrail excavated material – more than 4.5 million tonnes - will be used to create a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea island, creating Europe’s largest man-made coastal reservoir.

More than 400 apprenticeships will be created by the scheme and the new Tunneling and Underground Construction Academy in east London will train up to 3,500 people.

In total 250,000 tunnel segments will be used to line the 42 kilometres of Crossrail tunnels.

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ineering project... in numbers construction and John Sisk and Son a leading company in the construction of tunnels at the eastern end of the project, And Westmeath-based Shay Murphy Precast will provide the 27,000 segments that will line the 2.6-kilometre Thames Tunnel. The bulk of the major work will take place during the next two years and it is anticipated that the first trains will be running on the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel by 2018, with 24 trains in each direction per hour. Here are some amazing facts and figures about this truly amazing feat of engineering…

A total of 84 kilometres of conveyor belts will be used to transport the excavated material off site.

Crossrail’s Limmo Peninsula Shaft that enabled the launch of tunnel boring machines

Some 6 million tonnes of excavated material will be removed in total – enough to fill the equivalent of Wembley Stadium to the roof more than three times over. Drive distances for the new tunnels include: Royal Oak to Farringdon… 6.4 kilometres; Pudding Mill to Stepney Green… 2.7 kilometres; Plumstead to North Woolwich… 2.6 kilometres.





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Construction holds the key to economic recovery


HOSE who work in construction will already be aware of how difficult things have been for the industry over the last four years. The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) own State of Trade Survey has been negative for the last four years and it doesn’t look like there will be an improvement any time soon. But what impact does that actually have for the UK economy? According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) a lot! The importance of construction for the UK economy was proved in April this year when the ONS announced that the UK’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had decreased in the first three months of 2012 and cited the fall in construction output by 4.8 per cent as the reason for the decrease. Given that construction is one of the biggest industries in the UK, accounting for at least 8 per cent of GDP, it should be no surprise that its fortunes have a significant effect on the economy of the country. As the GDP figures made clear, the health of the construction industry is vital to the economy and the Government will find it very difficult to get sustained growth in the economy while the construction industry remains depressed. Construction is essential to the wellbeing of the wider economy because of the variety and quantity of jobs it creates — from apprentice bricklayers to world leading architects. Research from the UK Contractors Group (UKCG) shows

By Brian Berry, Chief Executive of Federation of Master Builders The last word that every £1 spent on construction generates £2.84 in the wider economy, which means that not only is it vital to the health of the economy but it is also the best investment the Government can make to get the UK back on its feet. There are steps the Government could take now to stimulate construction to help create jobs in the economy. Cutting VAT to 5 per cent for all home maintenance work would bring many social benefits — from cutting the number of rogue traders to ensuring that existing housing which is dilapidated is brought back into use. A VAT cut would encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, something the Government is keen to do through its flagship programme the Green Deal which is being officially launched this October. However, without sufficient incentives homeowners will not want to take out a loan to improve the

38 Sheraton Business Centre Wadsworth Close Greenford Middlesex UB6 7JB

energy efficiency of their home — which is what the Green Deal asks them to do. An incentive such as a VAT cut though would make all the difference and create over 26,000 new jobs in the construction sector alone and additional 34,000 jobs in the wider economy. Another problem homeowners and construction companies alike have had to deal with over the last few years is the lack of affordable finance. This has caused a serious slow down in the house building industry and stopped existing homeowners from being able to improve their home, resulting in less work for construction companies. The Government must act to ensure that banks increase lending, not just to home-owners but also to small, viable construction businesses. The Government needs to invest in an industry which can start to create growth rather than just focusing its attention on budget cuts. The construction industry is the industry to invest in as it holds the key to recovery because until we get builders building again the British economy is not going to recover. ■ The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the UK’s largest trade association in the building industry, with national offices in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, supported by additional regional offices. For more information please visit:

Phone: 020 8997 6560 Fax: 020 8997 6580 Website: Email:


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Building Britain - Autumn 2012  
Building Britain - Autumn 2012  

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