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How can volumetric timber construction advance Scotland’s economy?

What innovative building systems should be considered to drive cultural change and productivity improvement across the construction industry in order to deliver the 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland by 2021?

Offsite construction, where a proportion of the building process is transferred from site to a controlled factory environment has been suggested by many sources as a solution to the housing shortage in the UK. From the array of offsite timber systems volumetric construction has the highest level of prefabrication, up to approximately 85%, and therefore offers the highest opportunities for efficiency improvements. Recent advances in converting theoretical approaches into reality in Scotland are opening new opportunities and markets.

In this seminar you will see a series of evidence-based talks delivered by experts in the field, covering the hottest topics in volumetric timber construction from international best practice examples to the construction skills shortage and specifically the roles of the architect, architectural technologist and engineering professions in volumetric timber projects. You will then have the unique opportunity to explore two volumetric building types and timber systems – Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) applied in volumetric student accommodation and Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) applied in volumetric affordable housing to the Scottish Gold Standard. Tigh Grian, who successfully delivered Scotland’s first Gold Standard affordable housing development for Link and Paragon HAs in Alva last year, will talk of challenges faced and lessons learned.

The event is free of charge and will take place at the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre on May 15th 2018 from 09:15 AM to 2:00 PM.

For further details and to register please click here.

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More than 60,000 UK construction firms under ‘significant’ financial distress

The number construction business in ‘significant’ risk of insolvency throughout the UK has increased by more than a quarter since last year, according to new figures.

Begbies Traynor’s Red Flag Alert research for the first quarter of 2018, which monitors the financial health of UK companies, found that 60,541 construction businesses experienced ‘significant’ financial distress at the end of March 2018, up 33% compared with when Article 50 was triggered on March 29 last year (Q1 2017: 358,943).

The picture is even worse for companies in the support services sector, with a 40% rise in the number in distress to 115,249, while real estate & property firms in distress increased by 46% to reach 41,624.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said: “While uncertainty around the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has undoubtedly had an impact on business confidence across the UK, the economy has also faced a wide range of unexpected headwinds which have dampened progress over the past year. Currency fluctuations, rising interest rates, subdued consumer spending and a cooling property market are just some of the factors that have combined with growing political uncertainty to push nearly half a million UK businesses into financial distress over the past 12 months.

“Should these headwinds continue, they could impact the Government’s bargaining power when it comes to negotiating new trade deals after the UK’s exit from the European Union, which would be a major concern.”

“Brexit concerns and the fallout from Carillion’s collapse caused further delays in large infrastructure and construction projects.”

Ric Traynor, Begbies Traynor

Ric Traynor, executive chairman of Begbies Traynor, added: “Although the UK economy is still growing, it is now starting to lag behind many other G20 members, with predicted GDP growth during 2018 of around 1.7%. The latest Red Flag figures reflect this slowdown with increased financial distress being felt across every sector and region of the UK.

“The UK’s crucial Services sector experienced a major slowdown last month, as the impact of snow disruption, inflation and Brexit-related uncertainty hit output across the sector, while the Automotive industry has also experienced a downward trend, with declining car sales, job cuts and growing fears about restrictive future trade barriers with Europe. At the same time, the UK Construction sector last month suffered its biggest drop in activity since the 2016 Referendum vote, as Brexit concerns and the fallout from Carillion’s collapse caused further delays in large infrastructure and construction projects.

“While the recent recovery in Sterling should put UK businesses who import raw materials into a stronger trading position, the biggest positive impact on business confidence is likely to come when we finally receive clarity over how our eventual exit from the EU will look. In the short term however, the most pressing issue is whether or not the Bank of England decides to raise interest rates next month. If they do, it could push many struggling businesses, particularly those with high levels of debt, into formal insolvency.”

Ken Pattullo

Year on year ‘significant’ distress in Scotland alone affected many sectors with the worst hit being telecommunications (57% rise); professional services (50%); leisure and culture (47%); and financial services (46%).  The strongest performing sectors were: hotels and accommodation, up by just 8%; bars and restaurants (15%); food and drink retail (16%); and printing (17%).

Ken Pattullo, who leads Begbies Traynor in Scotland, said: “To see such a dramatic rise in significant distress since last year, both in Scotland and across the whole of the UK, is extremely worrying. Amid continuing concerns about the impact of Brexit and falling confidence among businesses and consumers, the prospects for the British economy in the year ahead look far from promising.

“With economic growth predicted to continue to lag behind that of the other G7 nations in 2018, there seems little hope of a change in fortunes and directors would be well advised to keep a close eye on cash flow and seek professional help at the first signs of trouble when the widest choice of options will be open to them.”

Councillors back plans for 500 new homes and primary school in Elgin

The first phase of a development which will eventually bring 1,500 new homes to Elgin has been given the green light.

Moray Council yesterday approved plans for 500 homes, cycle paths and a new primary school at Findrassie on the northern edge of the town.

With an anticipated development period of 25 years, Findrassie is expected to feature 1,500 houses, community facilities, a primary school and a twelve hectare business park within several distinct phases.

Landowner Pitgaveny Estate revealed a public consultation would begin shortly as developer Barratt draws up final plans.

Co-owner Crinan Dunbar said: “The approval importantly provides a landmark opportunity for us all to see the wider vision for Findrassie, which has been carefully shaped and informed to respect the landscape and community, come one step closer.”

The application was unanimously approved at a meeting of the council’s planning committee.

Head of development services, Jim Grant, explained that alterations may be necessary if the A96 Aberdeen to Inverness dualling route passes to the north of the town.

Space has also been provided on the site for a farm shop, cafe and other retail space for firms to expand into.

John Cowe, chairman of the council’s economic development committee, said: “This is just the first step for what should be a big boost for Elgin and Moray.

“Another primary school is important and it ties in with a lot of our aspirations with the growth deal.”

New data highlights build-to-rent gap between Scotland and UK regions

A build-to-rent project under development in Dundee

The significant gap between the number of purpose-built rental properties in Scotland and those being constructed in different English regions has been highlighted in a new report.

According to the Scottish Property Federation (SPF), figures at the end of Q1 2018 show that for every build-to-rent (BTR) home in Scotland, North West England has nearly 10.

The research, compiled by Savills on behalf of the British Property Federation, calculated that Scotland currently has 3,365 BTR homes complete, under construction or in planning. In comparison, the North West has 29,600, the South East (excluding London) 7,101, the West Midlands 6,378 and Yorkshire and The Humber 5,131.

Across all areas of the UK including Scotland, the data shows that this sector of the housing market has grown by 30% in the past year.

In the UK there are now 117,893 BTR homes across all stages of the development lifecycle, compared to the total of 90,761 homes at the end of Q1 2017.

As the BTR sector continues to grow, it has also been able to diversify its offer – with 17% of schemes in the pipeline including houses, rather than just typical high-rise apartments.

While Scotland currently accounts for just under 3% of the total pipeline, there are signs that this is set to increase significantly – particularly in Glasgow.

David Melhuish

SPF director, David Melhuish, said that while the figures are a stark reminder of how far Scotland lags behind the rest of the UK for new BTR properties, they also show a shift in gear for BTR in Scotland and indicate how attitudes to renting are changing.

He said: “Build-to-rent has historically been characterised as simply a step up from student accommodation for millennials, but this is now changing. The sector’s growth means it can cater for a wider range of people, including families. These purpose-built rental properties are high-quality, often with linked amenities, sustainably constructed and well-managed intergenerational homes.

“As a result, there is now a significant shift in perception and we are beginning to see changes here in Scotland, which will help boost further BTR development.

“Investors want assets which are going to provide returns over the long term, which drive up quality; architects and planners have the opportunity to create a built environment for communities; and local authorities are beginning to understand how BTR could tackle brown field sites, support new infrastructure development and be a catalyst for further development.”

David added: “In Scotland, there has been a promising boost in the number of BTR homes, with 3,365 homes now at varying stages of the development process. The numbers are still not high in comparison to the rest of the UK, but there are now multiple sites in Glasgow which should act as a spur to other BTR projects across the country.

“BTR is an opportunity and Scotland has some important advantages for attracting the investment necessary – the Rental Income Guarantee Scheme being one and an exemption from the 3 per cent second homes tax for large-scale PRS investments is another. With planning policy guidance now amended to support BTR developments, particularly around the treatment of development viability, there is no reason why we cannot see the BTR sector provide a new catalyst of economic growth in our cities.”

An interactive map showing all UK development sites can be viewed here.

Housebuilder Persimmon reports ‘robust’ start to the year

One of Britain’s largest housebuilders Persimmon has reported robust trading since the start of the year with total forward sales revenue, including completions, up by about 8% to £2.76 billion in 2018 to date.

In a trading update ahead of today’s annual general meeting, the FTSE 100-listed company said average selling prices for its homes rose to £236,500, up from £229,500 a year earlier, adding that pricing conditions remain firm across its regional markets.

The group added: “Customer activity since the start of the year has been encouraging with the Group’s total enquiry levels running circa 13% ahead of the prior year.

“This has resulted in robust trading since the start of the year with visitor levels to site, sales conversion rates and cancellation rates all running in line with our expectations.”

Persimmon said it has opened 65 of the around 100 new sites planned for the first half of the year and is building new homes on all sites that have an implementable detailed planning consent.

The group added that it is currently developing 375 active sales outlets across the UK.

The builder concluded that its board “remains confident of the future prospects of the group.”

In March, Persimmon named Roger Devlin as its new chairman, hoping he will help the company move on after a row over an executive incentive plan saw his predecessor quit last year.

Shareholders are expected to vote on remuneration for senior bosses later today.

A full trading update will be announced in July.

New £23m school proposed for children with additional support needs in East Dunbartonshire

A public consultation has been launched into newly unveiled plans to invest £23.5 million to build a school for children with additional support needs in Kirkintilloch.

East Dunbartonshire Council is seeking comments on its proposal to close the area’s two special schools – Campsie View School in Lenzie and Merkland School in Kirkintilloch – and invest in one state-of-the-art facility.

The new school will be able to accommodate 200 children and young people with complex learning needs who require high levels of support and could open as early as school session 2021/22.

Councillor Jim Goodall, convener of the council’s education committee, explained the background to the proposal: “Over the last year council officers and staff and parents from both schools set up a working group to look at how service provision for these children and young people could be improved.

“Drawing on the invaluable life experiences of these families and listening to our specialist staff has enabled us to develop a proposal that offers significant educational benefits for the young people.”

Current limitations on space and resources bring challenges for staff working to provide the children and young people with the help and support they need.

The proposed new school would address these constraints and include on-site nursery provision. It would also be of a vibrant, modern design to provide flexible, adaptable and accessible indoor and outdoor learning for children of all ages.

Proposals for the new school come alongside other important changes to services for young people with additional support needs in East Dunbartonshire.

Last month, following an extensive consultation process, the council agreed to establish enhanced support bases at Castlehill Primary in Bearsden and Wester Cleddens Primary in Bishopbriggs. From August 2018, staff in these bases will work with children with additional support needs who can thrive in mainstream education with the right support.

These bases are in addition to language and communication resources already established in Bearsden Academy, Bishopbriggs Academy and St Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch which also support young people in a mainstream setting.

Councillor Goodall added: “Helping all young people to achieve their potential and enjoy the very best possible educational experience is about offering them the right help and support in the right environment.”

The consultation will last for seven weeks.

Clark Contracts gets Saughton Park restoration underway

Clark Contracts is delivering the construction of a new café and renovation of the historic stable blocks at Saughton Park in Edinburgh.

The City of Edinburgh Council awarded the contract to Clark Contracts following a successful pre-qualification stage and competitive tender.

The historic stables which are being restored and remodelled will be brought back into use and will provide office space for park staff, a permanent home for the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and provide a 70 seater venue for community use. A new café along with new public toilets, including a changing places toilet, a bothy for volunteers and storage will be constructed during the 40 week project.

Funding has been secured by the council for the restoration works from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Michael Scanlan, director at Clark Contracts, said: “We look forward to working with the City of Edinburgh Council on this exciting project and we are eager to see the park fully restored and being enjoyed by the community.”

Clark Contracts has recently worked with the council to deliver the design and build of four nursery schools across Edinburgh.

CITB invites industry to join Scotland’s Nation Council

Ian Hughes

CITB Scotland is urging influential industry representatives to apply to join its new Nation Council and play a crucial role in helping to determine the future of UK construction.

The training body is looking to appoint three Nation Council Chairs – one each in Scotland, England and Wales – along with up to nine council members in each nation to form a key part of its new governance structure.

Experienced and knowledgeable individuals from a wide range of construction backgrounds are sought to ensure the entire industry is represented, including SMEs, large employers, independent consultants, employer federations and academics.

Ian Hughes, partnerships director for CITB Scotland, said: “Under our Vision 2020 programme, CITB is aiming to become much more accountable to industry and responsive to its needs. But we need industry’s help in order to do that. We want industry leaders – representing the breadth and depth of our sector – to join our Nation Council in Scotland so that we can work together to solve the skills challenges facing construction.”

The newly appointed Nations Councils will have an important role in supporting the CITB Board in its strategic leadership, by providing insight into industry challenges, across nations, regions and sectors and acting as a sounding board for Trustees. They will capture and articulate to the CITB Board all key issues affecting or likely to affect industry over a three year period.

Their key functions will include:

  • Together with the other Nation Councils assist the Board to accurately prioritise support for key issues affecting industry across the UK;
  • Review and advise the Board on CITB’s strategic business plan to ensure that it appropriately addresses industry opportunities, pressures and priorities as identified through CITB’s evidence base, which the Nations Councils will help to enhance;
  • To make timely recommendations to the Board about matters arising that may impact on the ability of the Board to deliver the Plan.

Interested candidates have until 2pm on April 30 to apply.

Taylor Wimpey leads STEM sessions at Coatbridge school

STEM project brought to life by pupils from Bargeddie Primary School and a team from Taylor Wimpey West Scotland

As part of Bargeddie Primary School’s focus on STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – a team from Taylor Wimpey West Scotland took the opportunity to lead a series of practical sessions in school to outline the important part these subjects play within the housebuilding industry.

Using the four key subjects as the pillars of their task, the children were asked to build a model house in their groups.

The children had a variety of materials to choose from, and each completed model was judged against set criteria that included whether it was the strongest, tallest, coolest looking, best functioning, cheapest as well as the overall best design.

The STEM subjects contribute across a number of disciplines in the housebuilding industry. With the construction of new homes now underway at Taylor Wimpey’s local Burnside View development in Bargeddie, STEM week was a great opportunity for Taylor Wimpey West Scotland to give the children an insight into the industry and highlight the relevance of these subjects in real life.

Errin Hendry-Giles, technical management trainee for Taylor Wimpey West Scotland, led the sessions and said: “When you consider the importance of the STEM subjects across a number of areas of our business, it’s crucial that we play our role in inspiring children to enjoy these subjects in order to future-proof our industry.

“Without Science we can’t explore new technology, design or investigate soils or materials. Technology is the cornerstone for creating new energy efficient homes to help us reduce the carbon footprint of each household and creating places where people want to live. Engineering is also a key part of designing and constructing our new homes. Finally, Maths makes it possible to be able to work out our costs and make sound business decisions.

“Our project to build a house from a range of fun materials against set criteria certainly got the children thinking and using these subjects in real-time to create some great models. With a number of learning outcomes across each of the core subjects, we were able to help the children reach the conclusion that all four STEM subjects are important because they help us to solve problems at work, school and everyday life.”

Lynn Logan, class teacher who organised STEM week at Bargeddie Primary School, added: “The STEM sessions provided by the team from Taylor Wimpey West Scotland were a fun and engaging way to bring each of the four subjects to life. Our children have enjoyed learning more about the housebuilding industry and Taylor Wimpey’s insight into the importance of STEM reminds us how crucial learning in these subject areas is for the future of many industries.”

Building Briefs – April 25th

(from left) Councillor Danny Devlin; Councillor Angela Convery; Tom Tracy, contracts manager CCG Scotland Ltd; Bruce Lindsay, development manager CCG Scotland Ltd; Tony Buchanan, leader of East Renfrewshire Council; Councillor Paul O’Kane; Councillor Paul Aitken and Phil Daws

Work starts to build first East Renfrewshire Council homes for a generation

The ambitious project to build the first council homes in East Renfrewshire for a generation is underway.

Work has started at the Robertson Street site in Barrhead, which is the first project in East Renfrewshire Council’s plan to deliver 240 homes for social rent over the next five years.  A mix of four three-bedroom semi-detached houses and nine one-bedroom amenity flats for residents 60+ will be built at Robertson Street and are expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

The next project at Fenwick Drive, Barrhead, will commence in early summer 2018, with plans for four three-bedroom terrace houses and six one-bedroom cottage flats approved.

A third site at Blackbyres Court, Barrhead, will see thirteen three-bedroom terraced and semi-detached houses, one four-bedroom house and six one-bedroom cottage flats built, with work expected to commence in Autumn 2018.

Each of the projects are being delivered in partnership with building contractor CCG (Scotland) Ltd.

The build project forms part of East Renfrewshire Council’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) 2018/19 – 2022/23, which makes the commitment to deliver almost 700 affordable homes across the authority over the next five years.


Extension works at Dunbar Grammar School

Pupils and staff at Dunbar Grammar School returning after the Easter break will be pleased to notice that work is continuing to progress on the latest phase of a multi-million pound extension at the school.

Phase one of the project included expanding the pupil social space to create a large, airy space to eat and meet, and was completed in the summer of 2016. Phase two comprises a new two-storey L-shaped block to the east side of the school which will include additional classrooms and staff bases, a new Home Economics department, a new library and learning centre with a dedicated IT space, additional PE changing rooms, and new suited accommodation for Pupil and Learning Support.

At the heart of the new accommodation will be a large covered ‘social hub’ – a flexible multi-use space that can be used for a variety of purposes including group and individual teaching, presentations, eating and other social uses. Alterations are also being made to the existing school building to maximise the use of existing spaces and will provide additional science labs, technology rooms, a new drama studio and more craft, design and technology spaces. There will also be a new full-sized, all-weather sports pitch in the school grounds.

East Lothian Council has procured the expansion works via the existing PPP Project contract with Innovate East Lothian Limited at a total cost of £10.38 million, and forms part of a wider council investment of almost £100m in new or expanded schools over three years.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of October 2018.


Ceremony held for new £6m Aberdeen community hub

The foundations for a new £6 million community facility in Aberdeen were laid this week at an event to mark the start of construction.

The state-of-the-art Tillydrone Community Hub is being built on Hayton Road and will house vital services for people living in the local community.

Aberdeen City Council has committed £4.1m toward this project with a further £1.9m awarded from the Scottish Government and COSLA Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Aberdeen City Council spokesperson for regeneration and transport, Councillor Ross Grant, and Jim Young, construction director at CHAP Construction, joined on site by pupils from Riverbank Primary School and community representatives as the last of the building foundations were laid.

The hub will be a crucial resource for supporting individuals and families in Tillydrone and Aberdeen City Council has worked in partnership with residents to identify a wide range of services in order to meet local wants and needs.


East Lothian Council considers Ministers’ response to proposed Local Development Plan

A blueprint for potential development across East Lothian has taken a further step towards completion.

The Local Development Plan will be used by East Lothian Council to inform the determination of all planning applications submitted in the county over the next 10 years. It sets out where certain types of development will generally be acceptable and where they will not.

Elected members heard yesterday that Scottish Ministers had recently responded with their findings on the council’s proposed (LDP).

Norman Hampshire, depute council leader and cabinet spokesperson for environment, said: “The proposed LDP provides East Lothian with a sustainable strategy for jobs and homes, making the best use of existing infrastructure whilst allowing for new infrastructure including new schools and improved transport networks.

“We are pleased to have received Ministers’ findings, which support the council’s proposed strategy and policies and importantly confirm an adequate housing land supply. Some post-examination modifications have been recommended and we will incorporate these into the final LDP.

“A decision on adopting the LDP has to be made within three months of receiving the Ministers’ Report of Examination and a decision on this will be sought at a separate, later council meeting following the inclusion of modifications and the completion of resulting technical work.”


Edinburgh and Stirling homes set for full fibre broadband boost

Homes and businesses in Edinburgh and Stirling will be the next Scottish cities to benefit from gigabit speed full fibre broadband with work set to begin later this year.

The cities are to benefit from the same transformation as Aberdeen which saw Vodafone and CityFibre commit to delivering a citywide roll-out of gigabit-capable infrastructure in February.

The move is part of the partnership’s plan to deliver full-fibre access to at least one million homes by 2021.

CityFibre will invest at least £110 million of private funds in the two city-wide roll-outs. A detailed planning and build programme is underway for each city as part of this first phase deployment. The new infrastructure will build on both cities’ existing Gigabit City networks with homes set to benefit for the first time.

Edinburgh’s network already spans 150km, covering the City Centre and Leith to Lasswade, Portobello to Corstorphine, and beyond the City Bypass to Currie. The city-wide network is dramatically accelerating the digital capabilities of businesses and public sector sites, including schools, hospitals, libraries and community centres, by delivering ultra-fast, high capacity internet connectivity.

First announced in early 2017, Stirling’s existing network currently extends to around 24km, spanning from Bannockburn to the Stirling Agricultural Centre. The copper-free, ultra-fast network also connects the city’s public sector estate, laying the foundations for smart city deployments, improved business connectivity and domestic broadband expansion.