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Police begin early enquiries into RIAS finances

Police Scotland has confirmed it is making enquiries into allegations of financial irregularities at the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The announcement follows a tumultuous period for the RIAS during which it has been accused of being “secretive and autocratic” from many of its members, faced the resignation of its long-standing secretary and become subject to an investigation by the charity watchdog.

Now a police spokeswoman has said it too is investigating the architecture body following a complaint.

A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “In October 2017, Police Scotland received a report of possible financial irregularities at a professional institute.

“Enquiries are at an early stage and officers continue to establish if any criminality has taken place.”

Last month more than 150 Scottish architects under the banner ‘A New Chapter’ signed an open letter calling for a major shake-up of the RIAS, claiming it was poorly run, secretive and lacking proper financial accountability.

The letter said the group of architects is “concerned at what we see as a lack of effectiveness, poor governance and insufficient financial accountability in Scottish architecture’s professional body”.

“We want an organisation to better champion the profession and provide more meaningful support in the many crises which have afflicted us for too long,” it added.

The signatories said they deplored the “general, self-satisfied torpor and bunkered, closed-up-ness that afflicts the RIAS, and demand that a culture of openness and inclusivity is now embraced”.

In particular, the group said it would like to know more about the financial records of the RIAS, which it says has become “increasingly secretive and autocratic”.

Just days later, Neil Baxter resigned as secretary and treasurer of the organisation after ten years in the position.

Then, at the beginning of this month, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) began its own formal investigation into the 101-year-old body after being alerted to serious concerns about the way the organisation is governed.

Several issues are believed to warrant “further inquiry” by the OSCR probe which will take into account the trustees’ oversight and the charity’s finances.

While yet to provide a response to the police investigation, the RIAS confirmed it had been contacted by OSCR and has pledged to co-operate with the regulator.

In a newsletter to members last week, the RIAS said it “acknowledges that a system of decision making has developed that is not supported by a robust policy framework. The findings of the review has identified a lack of structured governance and accountability”.

It said: “Very recently, the OSCR wrote to RIAS with a series of questions. All of those questions can and will be answered. The RIAS president and council will work fully and openly with OSCR to ensure full compliance with their requests and the obligations of RIAS as a charitable body.”

RIAS is to advertise for a new chief executive, and has appointed Karen Stevenson, the current director of policy and development, in an acting role.

The RIAS is also in the process of forumulating a new strategy, to cover the next five years.

The body’s president, Stewart Henderson, has been re-elected to stand for another year.

Successful ‘hub’ programme has built £1.3bn of community projects

The Carnegie Library and Galleries in Dunfermline

The value of recently completed community-based buildings such as schools and health centres delivered by the Scotland-wide hub programme on behalf of Scotland’s public sector has topped £1 billion, new figures have shown.

Managed by the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), the hub programme is an innovative approach to develop and deliver best-value community facilities that provides public bodies with a quick and efficient way of getting their projects into construction and services delivered in to communities.

Since becoming fully operational in 2012, the five hub companies have handed over 142 projects valued at £1.3bn. A further 67, valued at £1.3bn are either under construction or in the final stages of development which is supporting some 6,100 jobs.

David Macdonald

David MacDonald, hub programme director at SFT, said: “Improved value, speed of delivery, increased community benefits and expert project management are just some of the reasons Scotland’s public sector are specifying hub to plan, construct and in many cases, manage their new buildings.”

Completed hub projects include Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries designed by Richard Murphy Architects for Fife Council, which was crowned ‘Best Building in Scotland’ by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) in November 2017.

Another award-winning hub project is the Health and Care Centre in Eastwood, East Renfrewshire. During 2017, it received a number of design and healthcare awards, notably from the RIAS and European Healthcare Design.

The ‘reference designed’ health centre brought together the services of East Renfrewshire Council and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde into one, unique, community-focussed building. This joint occupancy allows the community to access multiple services in one location in a central setting with easy access to GP practices, integrated health and social care services, a community hub facility and a cafe that serves as a focal point for both the community and professionals alike.

The reference design was developed and promoted by SFT as an approach to improve future health centres across Scotland.

John Donnelly, project and development manager with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, said of the hub-delivered health centre: “The Health and Care Centre in Eastwood now provides a single base for lots of professionals such as Health Visitors, Social Workers and District Nurses who deliver services to the community to be located side by side, which allows us to provide a much-improved service.”

SELECT campaign for official recognition boosted by new government working group

Newell McGuiness

An influential working group has been established in the Scottish Government to look into “Protection of Title” for professional electricians and to create “an inhospitable environment” for untrained traders posing as qualified tradesmen.

The creation of the group is the latest stage in a concerted campaign by SELECT, the trade body for the electrotechnical trade in Scotland, for official recognition of qualified electricians in the interests of public safety.

The campaign asks the Scottish Government to accept and legislate for the fact that electricians undergo an intensive training akin to that required for other professional qualifications and to agree that their skills should be protected.

Colin Beattie, the SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, who has reiterated his support for the registration of electricians, pressed the government last month about the membership of the group and its remit.

Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, said in a written answer that group has been established to explore how best to respond to the challenge of ensuring the safety of electrical installations in Scotland.

The membership reflects industry, safety and consumer interests. It includes representatives from SELECT, Scottish Joint Industry Board, Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust, Electrical Safety First, NICEIC, Unite the union, RoSPA, Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Newell McGuiness, SELECT managing director, said: “The working group is committed to three key outcomes: protecting consumers; protecting properly qualified electricians and creating an inhospitable environment for rogues.”

Government statistics have shown that 69% of all accidental fires in Scottish homes are caused by electricity and unqualified workers pose a distinct and continuing threat to safety in Scottish homes.

SELECT’s aim is the delivery of the highest standards of professionalism and workmanship. It promotes constant improvement to meet this goal. It believes that the industry should ensure high standards of safety and competence so that any customer can rely on any electrician he or she may employ.

Charity secures planning for Leith community wellbeing centre

A charity aiming to tackle poor mental health in Edinburgh has secured planning permission to open a new health and wellbeing centre on Halmyre Street in Leith next year.

Projekt 42 said the community gym and wellness centre will offer a space for locals to come together and enhance their fitness, while also improving their mental wellbeing.

Building on the success of the pilot programme in the New Kirkgate, the charity will run fitness classes, nutrition and food planning workshops, counselling, mindfulness sessions and a fitness academy, which will provide affordable qualifications to young adults in the capital.

Since joining forces with the charity earlier this year, Edinburgh-based Buccleuch Property has already brought together a task force of local property professionals to provide assistance on the project free of charge.

With construction work set to start in Spring 2018, the team is hoping to build on this further and engage with the wider property industry for help in delivering the completion of the community space.

Commenting on the planning consent, Sara Hawkins, founder of Projekt 42, said: “We’re delighted to have received permissions from Edinburgh Council for the new centre on Halmyre Street, and can’t wait to get our teeth into the next stage of the process.

“We know from our temporary site how high the demand is for our facilities, so it’s exciting to be able to get started working on bigger and better plans for our new space.

“It’s thanks to the guidance and support from Buccleuch Property and the professional team, who have so kindly come together to help us turn our vision into a reality, that we’ve got this far, so I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the whole team.”

David Peck, managing director of Buccleuch Property, added: “This truly is a project which will positively impact the local community, and we’re all looking forward to seeing it come to life. As we move forward with the build we will be seeking key materials including everything from portakabins to fixtures and fittings, and would encourage any local building and construction businesses who could help support this project to please get in touch.”

CCG OSM and Fjordhus partnership continues across UK

The completed Isle of Harris property

A partnership between Glasgow-based off-site manufacturing specialist CCG OSM and Galashiels timber frame contractor Fjordhus Ltd is set to continue in 2018 with its fourth project due on site in February.

Working collaboratively with parent construction company CCG (Scotland) Ltd and partners from across the industry, CCG OSM assists with the delivery of one-off villas to large-scale, urban regeneration schemes as well as commercial, care and education projects.

Through the utilisation of OSM’s iQ closed panel timber frame system, Fjordhus has been able to enhance its own offering in the self-build sector to create private homes for clients as far north as Skye and as far south as Southampton.

CCG’s iQ production line

The partnership is set to continue in 2018 with a 5-bedroom home in Edinburgh, a 4-bedroom home in Melrose, and a 6-bedroom home in Southampton set to be on site in January and a fourth project set to be on site in Hawick in February.

All of the developments will utilise the OSM iQ closed panel timber frame system for the construction delivered to specification stage 3. The wall panel solution will be delivered to site inclusive of insulation, windows, doors and pre-fitted electrical service provisions.

With components installed under factory-controlled conditions, Fjordhus are given assurance of right-first-time quality whilst the speed of manufacture and logistical flexibility brought by the use of the system ensures a faster speed of delivery and erection when on site, a key factor when taking into account remote geographical areas and external factors such as the weather.

Steven Earlie, CCG OSM managing director, said: “The CCG OSM closed panel timber frame system is manufactured to the highest quality standard offering efficiencies to Fjordhus during construction and to the homeowner with excellent environmental properties allowing for long-term savings on energy bills.

“Working with Fjordhus, clients across the UK are benefiting from the use of the iQ system due to the inherent advantages a panelised system brings to a construction programme. This is personified by a project that was recently completed in the Isle of Harris: with components pre-installed, ease of transport and a faster speed of erection, difficulties associated with a remote location are vastly reduced by removing the inefficiencies of the site environment.

“Combined with Fjordhus’ expertise, the contracts being delivered in 2018 will reap the rewards of off-site manufacturing and we look forward to seeing them coming to fruition later in the year.“

VELUX reveals new roof window design award competition with RIAS

A new design award competition has been launched by roof window manufacturer VELUX in collaboration with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

Set to consider the innovative vision of designers in Scotland, the VELUX Roof Window Award is an exciting competition that wishes to seek out and reward inventive and modern designs that use any VELUX roof window products.

The competition will be divided into two categories: built and unbuilt. The built category seeks to celebrate the design, aesthetics and detailing of any completed project that includes a VELUX roof window, whilst the unbuilt category will consider any project that is in the design stage or is under construction. The unbuilt category has the objective of recognising progressive designs of the future that will innovate and drive the industry forward.

Winning designs will receive £1,500 in prize money and a VELUX curved glass rooflight to use in their next project.

Coinciding with the launch of the world’s first curved glass rooflight, VELUX and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland are incredibly proud to use the VELUX Roof Window Award as a platform to celebrate the work done by architects, designers and specifiers within the construction community.

Jenni Shanks of RIAS Consultancy said: “The VELUX Roof Window Award is a great opportunity for designers to be recognised for their innovative work. It also provides a platform for designers to put their work in the public domain and in turn raise their profile. The RIAS commends VELUX for wanting to encourage and recognise innovative ideas in the use of their products.”

For more information on the VELUX Roof Window Award and the opportunity to enter, click here.

Building Briefs – December 18th

CALA returns from The Big Build in Cambodia

A team of employees from Edinburgh-based CALA Homes have recently returned from Cambodia where they have been taking part in The Big Build project organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity (HFH).

The Big Build seeks to help tackle poverty by building and renovating homes for vulnerable families.

CALA’s Andrew Aldridge (land director, Chiltern), Rachel Dillon (group training and development manager) and Craig Leishman (contracts manager, East of Scotland) have raised over £8,000 for the charity by joining 250 volunteers from across the world to build 29 homes in just 10 days, for families currently living in informal settlements in the Battambang Province.

Rachel Dillon

Speaking about the experience, Rachel Dillon said: “When we arrived I think we were all shocked by the conditions that so many people were living in.  The majority of homes were very simple; made from corrugated iron, with little protection from sun, rain and risk. Houses are often on stilts to offer some protection from the flood waters and there is no electricity or a clean water supply in many.

“It was hard work and the heat and humidity made it especially challenging, but the personal reward for all of us has been huge. We had an official handover with our family to move them into their home. We decorated their house for them and had a ribbon cutting ceremony where they were presented with some gifts, including a framed picture of us during the build.  We were invited into our family’s new home and through the translator, each of us shared a little bit of the significance of participating in the build.

“We have been incredibly privileged to be able to support this family. The reward of doing something so immediately tangible in terms of its benefits and being able to see them move in to their home will be up there in terms of the most profound moments in life for all of us.”

The Cambodian Government has estimated that at least 10 million people lack access to decent housing. 2.8 million people, or 17.7 % of the population, still live in extreme poverty without any social safety net, and an estimated 2 million houses need critical improvement to meet minimum quality standards.  It’s estimated that an additional 1.1 million houses will be needed by 2030 as a result of a population increase and rural urban migration in Cambodia.

For the past decade, HFH has been working to provide holistic housing solutions and helping to secure land tenure for the homeless, informal settlers, those affected by HIV/AIDS, and street children and orphans. Since 2012, more than 17,820 families have gained access to housing through HFH’s partnerships.


Glasgow charity gets Christmas boost from Mactaggart & Mickel Homes

Spirit Aid’s David Hayman Jr and Keira Lucchesi with Mactaggart & Mickel CEO Ed Monaghan, director Joanne Casey and sales manager Laura MacKenzie

Generous staff at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes have donated almost 200 Christmas gifts for deserving children.

The family housebuilder chose to support Glasgow-based charity Spirit Aid’s Christmas Toy appeal,​ which helps to put a smile on children’s faces by making sure they get a visit from Santa.


Leith homes given million pound makeover

Residents of a Leith street who once feared they might lose their homes have benefitted from a £1 million housing improvement programme thanks to Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association.

Places for People Scotland acquired 92 properties in Lorne Street from the Agnes Hunter Trust just over twelve months ago. The grant-making Charitable Trust’s decision to sell the properties to safeguard its ability to maintain financial grants to organisations which support health and social welfare in Scotland, had left tenants facing an uncertain future.

Since taking over the portfolio Castle Rock Edinvar has significantly improved 21 empty units by installing gas central heating, undertaking electrical upgrades and replacing kitchens and bathrooms where necessary. It has now successfully re-let all previously empty properties in the portfolio.

The Association is investing a further £960,000 before the end of March 2018 on a planned maintenance programme that will see timber double glazing installed in all properties, heating upgraded where required to meet its standards, a programme of roof maintenance as well as kitchen and bathroom improvements.


Graham Construction builds Christmas spirit

(from left) Back: Mark Smith (Graham senior project manager), Colin Mackinnon (Graham contracts mManager), Stephanie Mackenzie (NHS Play Specialist), James Friel with his 7 month old baby Harry. Front: Angus Donaldson (Graham project manager), Jayde Clark and her 2 year old daughter Skye Carruthers.

Graham Construction has brought some festive cheer to the patients and nurses at Raigmore Hospital, delivering gifts to those spending Christmas in the children’s unit.

Staff from the construction company, currently working on site, arrived at the unit with a variety of presents including selection boxes, board games, children’s gift sets and baby toys.

Graham Construction is currently undertaking a two-year refurbishment of existing facilities at the Hospital – built in 1980 – to meet modern healthcare standards.

The work will see an overhaul of the Theatre Suite, consisting of nine Operating Theatres, along with the relocation of critical services within the tower block, fire safety upgrades and the extension of the sprinkler system.

Graham Construction will also move all critical care services into one area within the ground and first floors, creating a new purpose built Critical Care Unit.


New 70mph speed limit for Queensferry Crossing

A speed limit of 70mph will be introduced on the Queensferry Crossing from tomorrow after the completion of all required surfacing work.

This move means the commitment to have a 70mph speed limit in place before the end of 2017 has been met. This also marks a key milestone in the delivery of the benefits from the £1.35 billion investment in improving the reliability of cross-Forth travel.

A consultation is currently underway regarding the designation of the Queensferry Crossing and its connecting roads as a motorway, as is normal in these circumstances. Once this process is complete in the New Year, motorway regulations will come in to force. In addition, the Intelligent Transport System is on schedule to be operational in the New Year across the entire scheme.

In advance of these final steps, a guide will be published in the new year to provide information for all users of the entire scheme, including the ITS, the road layout and what vehicles can and cannot use the Queensferry Crossing and Forth Road Bridge once the regulations come into force.

While the road layout is self-explanatory for drivers the guide is intended to give the full variety of users and drivers of different vehicle classes the information they’ll need to plan their journeys over the Forth.


Work complete on £24,000 Ayr restoration project

Work on a £24,000 restoration project in Ayr is now complete.

The scheme at Newton Tower was carried out over a seven-week period.

Features included power washing and sympathetically painting the tower to its original colours, with the white spire and ivory walls of the building now restored to look the way it did when first built in 1795.

Business Fives set to kick off for new winter season tournament

The five-a-side event for footie-loving firms, which runs through January and February, culminates in finals day at the state-of-the-art SoccerWorld venue in Glasgow.

What do you get when you merge five-a-side football and business? You get Business Fives.

The tournament, which encourages firms across Scotland to enter a five-a-side team in both a winter and summer event, is entering its fourth season.

And entries are now being taken for the forthcoming winter season with heats throughout Scotland in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen and culminating in the national final in Glasgow on March 14th.

So far more than 300 companies have taken part in the events which offer a mix teambuilding and networking – and this year it was the Construction, Housing & Property winners AC Whyte & Co and RBS who were crowned the summer winter champs respectively.

The events for this sector are supported by industry partners Scottish Property Federation, Scottish Construction Now and Scottish Housing News who have taken part and been actively involved in the events throughout the year.

It’s even had some famous ex-players and sporting celebrities taking part as ambassadors including ex-Hearts star Gary MacKay and Hibs legend Pat Stanton along with Sky Sports presenter David Tanner.

Tournament founder and Business Fives managing director John McClarey – who also organised a highly-successful inaugural Business Fours golf tournament – says it’s a great opportunity for professionals to make new connections and for businesses to bond with colleagues outside of the office, get fit and raise money for charity.

This winter Business Fives is continuing to allow companies to play for their chosen charity over with the winning company taking its company commitment to donate 10 per cent of everything to their cause this winter.

Previously it elected a sole charity partner, but now firms who take part can elect their own chosen charity with the destination of the final donation being decided by the overall champions.

John said: “By allowing companies to play for their chosen charity we have made a much bigger overall impact to charity.

“The summer season saw us almost double our original target of £10,000 and raise £19,600 which was a brilliant achievement from everyone involved.”

The tournament is now open for entries and to register a team go to

Business Fives Dates for your Diary

Edinburgh Event

Construction, Housing & Property Heat – Tuesday 23rd January, World of Football, Edinburgh

Glasgow Event

Construction, Housing & Property Heat – Tuesday 30th January, SoccerWorld, Glasgow

And finally… Splashes of bronze add finishing touch to revamped city square

A sprinkling of precious metal embedded in paving stones is adding an artistic flourish to a newly refurbished city square.

The new public artwork – a meandering trail of thousands of bronze drips – has been unveiled in Edinburgh’s Bristo Square to mark the area’s redevelopment.

Commissioned by the University of Edinburgh, the 1600 bronze pegs create a series of small circles that stretches 68 metres from McEwan Hall’s original entrance across the Square.

The Next Big Thing… is a Series of Little Things by artist Susan Collis is part of the major redevelopment of the hall and the square.

The drips suggest that the trail has been created by someone walking across the square while carrying a leaky vessel.

Designed to be unobtrusive, the constant friction of people walking over the work will polish the bronze over time.

The Next Big Thing… is Collis’ first public art commission. She is known for her detailed sculptural works that combine everyday objects and materials with meticulously applied precious stones, metals or fine embroidery.

Her work is intended to make the public reconsider items that on first viewing might appear ordinary or accidental.

The Bristo Square installation is similar to her work in London’s Groucho Club, with mother of pearl drips embedded in the wooden floor.

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The Edinburgh commission is the result of a limited competition for a public artwork for the Square.

Nominated artists were invited to submit proposals for work that responded to the space, the creative and inspiring context of the University and the institution’s relationship with the city.

The selection committee featured representatives from Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh Art Festival.

The work was installed by Powderhall Bronze Foundry over three weeks.

Susan Collis said: “I was delighted to be chosen to create a public artwork for Bristo Square. It is a deliberately unobtrusive work – in contrast to other grand bronze figurative sculptures in Edinburgh – suggesting that even the small and subtle can make a major statement. I hope that everyone who passes by enjoys it for years to come.”

Neil Lebeter, University of Edinburgh Art Collections Curator, said: “This is a highly significant commission for the University that adds to the uniqueness of our campus. The work will encourage curiosity and engagement with our public spaces and help to further promote the University as a place for everyone.”

Our most read stories of 2017

From new contacts to Pictish discoveries, here are the stories which caught the attention of Scottish Construction Now readers throughout 2017

  1. A737 Dalry bypass contract to be awarded
  2. Pictish carving found at £35m A9/A85 project
  3. Glasgow approves plans for £20m hotel
  4. Video shows unexpected collapse during demolition at St James Centre site
  5. £370,000 embezzlement led to loss of jobs at Glasgow construction firm
  6. Muir Construction to deliver £10m Aviemore retail park
  7. A9 dualling shortlist revealed as first section prepares to open
  8. Hotel and student accommodation plans unveiled for landmark Glasgow buildings
  9. V&A Dundee gets the Star Wars treatment
  10. Multiplex awarded £700m University of Glasgow contract
  11. Doosan Babcock to complete Glasgow waste plant for Viridor
  12. ‘Forgotten’ construction workers win their redundancy battle
  13. Ambitious Glenrothes town centre redevelopment underway
  14. Robertson to lead £750m Scape framework in Scotland
  15. Architecture and occupational therapy students join forces to design for dementia
  16. Fifteen jobs lost as Fife builder goes under
  17. £250m masterplan launched for Rosyth waterfront as Fife ‘opens for business’
  18. Plans for £25m motorsport centre at Rest and Be Thankful
  19. Scottish subcontractor ‘on brink of insolvency’ over payment dispute
  20. Contractor appointed for anchor development at Ayr’s Riverside Block