And finally…

A (sometimes) light hearted look at the weird and wonderful world of construction

And finally… Spat breaks out on Canadian construction sites

alberta-2519653_960_720Vehicles displaying licence plates from the Canadian province of Alberta are no longer welcome on new job sites for neighbouring Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.

On Dec. 6, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the license plate-based ban to match a similar rule in Alberta

“Saskatchewan contractors tell us that vehicles with Saskatchewan plates are not welcome on government of Alberta job sites,” said Saskatchewan minister David Marit. “Saskatchewan operators feel forced to register their vehicles in Alberta if they want to do business there. Today’s announcement just levels the playing field.”

The decision affects new Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure’s projects. New contracts awarded by the ministry will require suppliers to ensure that no vehicles displaying Alberta license plates are present on ministry-funded sites. This will include contractors, sub-contractors, consultants and workers.  Ministry staff will enforce the contract provision through job site monitoring.

The restriction was developed in response to industry feedback that Alberta’s practice has placed Saskatchewan suppliers at a competitive disadvantage.  The restriction will apply only to new contracts awarded by the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure. Existing sites will not be impacted.

“We are very pleased to see government enacting changes that will level the playing field for our members,” said Saskatchewan Heavy Construction Association president Shantel Lipp said.  “Saskatchewan heavy construction contractors have been one of the largest employers in the province in good years and in bad, creating major economic impacts and fiscal benefits for Saskatchewan.  Our members invest in people, and machinery to construct our network of roads, railways, pipelines, dams and, in the past century, build mines and cities.  As local construction companies obtain a larger share of the Saskatchewan construction marketplace they develop the people, equipment and capacity to maximize their economies of scale.”

Marit added: “Saskatchewan operators have been subject to this treatment in Alberta for years. Today, we are sending a clear message that Alberta suppliers can expect the very same treatment here.”

And finally… ‘Prankster’ cements head in microwave, nearly dies

Cement head prankA so-called prankster had to be saved by local firefighters after cementing his head inside a microwave.

The West Midlands Fire Service spent an hour working to release Jay Swingler who mixed seven bags of Polyfilla before his friends poured it around his head, which was protected by a plastic bag inside the appliance.

Their intention was to use the microwave as a mould.

But by the time emergency services were called at 1.49pm on Wednesday to the garage of a house in Fordhouses, Wolverhampton, the group had already been trying to free him for 90 minutes.

The friends had managed to feed an air tube into the man’s head to help him breathe.

A ten-minute YouTube video, hosted by Swingler’s TGFBros channel, shows emergency crews arriving at the property and using a screwdriver to chisel off the Polyfilla.

The incident has led to calls for Swingler to pay the costs of the hour-long call-out.

And finally… Iron Age remains discovered during A9 works

The possible structure found near Kingussie

The possible structure found near Kingussie

Archaeologists have discovered a possible Iron Age structure, pottery and a stone tool near ongoing work to dual the A9.

The finds have been made on the Crubenmore to Kincraig stretch of the route.

The dualling of the A9 trunk road from Perth to Inverness is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Scotland. Over 80 miles of road will be improved over the next 8 years to improve the quality and reliability of journeys along the road. In common with all major infrastructure projects, Transport Scotland has appointed archaeologists in order to check for previously hidden ancient structures and other significant archaeology.

Commercial archaeologists, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA), have been working alongside design consultants CH2M Hill / Fairhurst Joint Venture, and ground investigation contractors, and have opened trial trenches to investigate several interesting anomalies identified in a geophysical survey.

Raitt's Cave

Raitt’s Cave

The interest of the archaeologists was heightened further as the ground investigation works are located close to a prehistoric souterrain called Raitt’s Cave near Kingussie. This underground structure is a scheduled monument and is very large compared to most similar structures in Northern Scotland, and yet soutterains in general remain enigmatic as their use is still debated by archaeologists across the UK. They may have been used for storage, defence or some unidentified ritual, but commonly they are associated with settlement in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Following discussions between Transport Scotland and the ORCA team on site, the preliminary work continued as the archaeologists investigated the anomalies. Traces of a previously unknown structure were quickly identified together with a scattering of pottery sherds and a possible stone Ard point – a stone worked into a point for use as part of a plough. The pottery was identified by Martin Carruthers (Iron Age specialist at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute) as a possible collection of early Iron Age sherds. These finds led the archaeologists to believe that the structure may be associated with the souterrain.

Following advice from ORCA, the team quickly formulated a plan to incorporate the archaeological investigation into the schedule, meaning that the important A9 infrastructure development work could continue while the significant archaeology was recorded in more detail.

Inside Raitt's Cave

Inside Raitt’s Cave

Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, said: “Our work to dual the A9 will bring undoubted improvements for road users including improved journey times and significantly improving road safety. At the same time, the ongoing design work has opened a window into Scotland’s past. We have already been able to shed more light on the Battle of Killiecrankie and now these latest finds on another stretch of the route offer evidence for experts on how our prehistoric descendants lived in the Iron Age.”

​Peter Higgins, senior project manager at ORCA, added: “We are tremendously excited by these finds in this archaeologically significant location. We are also pleased that we can work with Transport Scotland to make sure that these finds are recorded correctly without impeding the roadworks so vital to this Scotland’s economic development.”

All images provided courtesy of ORCA

And finally… The van driver’s Christmas playlist

Santa Christmas SongEveryone has a favourite Christmas song and now a motoring organisation representing Britain’s army of van drivers has named the top ten festive songs to listen to while driving.

Van leasing firm asked customers to name their favourite Christmas tunes as they make their December deliveries around the UK.

With everything from Bing Crosby to the Ramones, the playlist has something for all musical tastes and all the songs are well-known favourites.

Top of the list is the melodic yet unsentimental Fairytale of New York by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

There is also some sassiness from Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, the haunting A Spaceman Came Travelling by Chris de Burgh, and Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody for pure feel-good factor.

Tim Alcock of said: “You can imagine how many Christmas songs there are to choose from – it was hard to whittle it down to just ten but we’ve managed.

“These are driving songs designed to get you into a happy and festive mood, so they need to have strong tunes and be good for singing along to as you make your way along the roads.

“It’s easy to get bored with your music when you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, so we’ve made sure there’s variety in the playlist – everything from classic crooning to proper punk.

“It’s not always easy to keep the Christmas spirit when you spend a lot of time on the road or stuck in traffic, but these tunes will lift your mood and help you to remember that it’s still the season of goodwill.”

The Van Driver’s Christmas Playlist

  1. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, Fairytale of New York

It’s not your standard Christmas story, but this 1987 hit has gone platinum and is one of the nation’s favourites. Great for belting out while driving, and you can direct the insulting lines at bad drivers.

  1. Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas

The ultimate song for the Christmas spirit of giving and caring about others. Choose the 1984 original, or the versions from 2004 or 2014.

  1. Chris de Burgh,A Spaceman Came Travelling

Beautiful and haunting. If you’re driving through frost or winter snowfall, this is perfect.

  1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Happy Christmas (War is Over)

Anyone would choose world peace for their Christmas present if they could.

  1. Bing Crosby, White Christmas

The classic Christmas crooner. Smooth and almost carol-like, this is truly timeless.

  1. The Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)

For a perfect contrast to old Bing, a punky number that still captures the Christmas spirit of making peace and showing love.

  1. Wham!, Last Christmas

We still miss George Michael, who passed away on Christmas Day last year, but his much-loved Christmas single lives on.

  1. Eartha Kitt, Santa Baby

There are many covers of this fun Christmas song, but none of them beat the playful sassiness of Eartha Kitt’s original.

  1. Slade, Merry Christmas Everybody

Brilliantly catchy and everyone knows it. The only problem will be trying to get it out of your head before New Year.

  1. Shakin’ Stevens, Merry Christmas Everyone

They just don’t get more singalong-y than this – you can even practise your falsetto.

And finally… World’s longest moving walkway suggested as Glasgow city centre to airport link

airport walkwayThe world’s longest moving walkway is the latest suggestion to end the long running saga of linking Glasgow Airport and the city centre, The Herald has reported.

Architect Maurice Rodger has mooted the mile-long sky travelator as an affordable solution to the Glasgow Airport rail link which he claims would cut the cost from £144 million to just £10m.

Mr Rodger of ID>A Design has drawn up a rough plan to create a new train station on the Glasgow to Wemyss Bay line near the Ferguslie Park housing estate in Paisley. This would then combine with a covered moving walkway which he estimates could take pedestrians to Glasgow Airport’s main terminal in just eight minutes

A recent report found that Glasgow City Council’s plans for a tram-train link from the city centre to the airport would struggle to justify the expected £144m cost. The tram-train link was mooted after the Scottish Government cancelled plans for a direct rail link in 2009 as a result of the economic crisis. As a result of Glasgow’s City Deal, the idea was resurrected with a specially designed tram and a relocated Paisley St James station planned to reduce journey times.

Mr Rodger said: “The idea came about because of the latest news that the latest study to take a tram to the airport was deemed to be uneconomic and possibly damaging to Ayrshire and parts south and west of the airport.

“My colleague and I were chatting away and when you think of it a train station and walkway would be considerably less expensive than a train or tram link.”

And finally… I’m still standing

A plan to demolish a derelict NFL stadium near Detroit has gone awry.

A series of blasts failed to topple the Pontiac Silverdome to the frustration of officials and the bemusement of a crowd gathered to watch the spectacle.

Fans of the Detroit Lions, the team that called the Silverdome home until moving to a downtown stadium after the 2001 season, joked on social media that the failed implosion was not the first time they found themselves leaving the stadium car park disappointed.

The Lions have not won a National Football League championship since 1957, the league’s second-longest title drought.

“Guess the Silverdome went through one too many implosions in its history,” the sports desk of the Detroit Free Press wrote on Twitter.

Live video footage of the planned demolition, which Pontiac city officials said was to make way for new development, was broadcast online on Sunday morning (local time) for nostalgic fans and those who enjoy watching large structures collapsing in smoke.

What they saw was plumes of smoke exploding out at regular intervals around the stadium’s perimeter with a smattering of loud bangs.

After the smoke wreathed upward and faded, the stadium was still standing proud, looking little different from what it has since its 1975 opening.

Demolition officials were quick to state the obvious.

“That didn’t work,” one official onsite said to two colleagues, the Detroit Free Press reported.

And finally… Architect to design shelter for Pictish Stones

Pictish StoneAn architect has been appointed to design a shelter to protect historic North-east standing stones for years to come.

A restoration project of the Pictish Stones at Inverurie’s Bass Cemetery has been ongoing since March this year.

The Pictish Stones were taken away in March to be cleaned and restored after years of being battered by the elements left them the worse for wear.

Now John Renshaw Architects have been appointed to design and implement a new shelter for the stones at Inverurie.

Mike Hebenton, a member of Inverurie Community Council which is overseeing the project, told the Evening Express: “It’s been on the go for a while now.

“We’ve been liaising with Aberdeenshire Council about it and it seems to be going well.”

Archeologist Bruce Mann has been overseeing the project for the council, and it was previously said the local authority has said the aim was for the stones to be returned to a custom-built protective display space.

Mike said: “I haven’t seen any designs for the new shelter yet, but I’m presuming that it will be made of glass so that people can look in and view the stones.”

An initial project meeting took place for the shelter’s design and the date set for the final design and construction of the shelter has been agreed for the end of March 2018.

Mike said: “Weather permitting, construction work for the new design should start very soon.

“Obviously it was bad weather that got the stones in this state in the first place, so having a shelter for them is quite important.”

He added: “The stones are quite unique and have some very interesting carvings on them. We’d like to see them returned to the way they were.”

The renovation project came after a campaign was launched in October last year to save the Pictish Stones, with hundreds of Garioch people taking part in a survey to give their opinion on the proposals.

And finally… ‘Marvel’ at Waverley Station’s (very) brief appearance in Avengers trailer

The background shows the pillars at Waverley Station

The background shows the pillars at Waverley Station

Marvel Studios has released the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, complete with a cameo appearance from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.

Filmed partly on location in Edinburgh over seven weeks, Avengers: Infinity War was the largest and most complex shoot ever to film in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and city centre.

The production saw over 400 crew members working on the shoot, following three months of pre-production and several months of preparation in advance of this, working closely with Film Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council.

And it appears that a small part of Edinburgh has made it into the trailer. The arches in the sandstone wall at Waverley Station make a (very) brief appearance in the background at 1:21.

As part of the shoot, a vast 160,000 sq ft warehouse on the Leith waterfront was turned into a film studio.

Rosie Ellison, head of Film Edinburgh, Edinburgh’s film office, said: “The Avengers is one of the most successful and highest grossing franchises ever, so Edinburgh’s appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, which will be watched by millions of people around the world, will showcase the city on a global scale. The film will not only reach a huge number of potential visitors, it also demonstrates Edinburgh’s film friendly credentials to future productions.

“Avengers Infinity War was the most complex shoot ever to film in Edinburgh, a feat even more impressive given that the majority of the filming took place within an UNESCO World Heritage site, and Film Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council worked closely with the filmmakers over several months to facilitate it.”

Avengers: Infinity War ushers in a new arc for the Marvel Comic Universe that will see Thanos embarking on his quest to collect each of the prized Infinity Stones.

Part 1 will be released on April 27.

And finally… The 28 best construction apps of 2017

The well-known mantra, ‘there’s an app for that’, now applies to tradespeople with even the most hands-on jobs.

IronmongeryDirect has created an infographic of the 28 most useful construction apps for iOS and Android, to put job-revolutionising tech in the pockets of those who need it.

This surge in construction app creation implies a definite shift in attitude in the industry, backed up by the recent release of PwC’s Industry 4.0, which shows the need for cloud computing, technology, 3D printing and smart tech is being increasingly valued among tradespeople. But not all construction workers and tradespeople are up to date with the latest technology, and many still resort to ‘traditional’ methods of working.

According to Designing Buildings, the construction industry is one of the least efficient industries worldwide with some estimates showing a staggering 50-80% of time is wasted on the construction site.

However, app technology is set to bring about change:

  • Co-Construct: Project management app that claims to save workers at least 30 minutes a day
  • Joist app for contractors: Claims to help workers win more jobs, eradicating the need to do paperwork at evenings and weekends
  • Construction Master Pro: Advanced calculator app that claims to reduce costly errors on the worksite
  • TSheets: App to replace paper timesheets making payroll and invoicing faster and less costly
  • Fulcrum: Information capture app claims to decrease costs and risks of paper storage, effectively replacing ‘the clipboard’

Wayne Lysaght-Mason, managing director of IronmongeryDirect, said: “With most people working in the construction sector now owning a smartphone, the apps we have researched have the potential to save considerable time and money. From builders, carpenters and electricians to project managers and employers, their smartphone can become their best tool with a range of powerful apps to help improve day-to-day efficiency both on site and in the office.”


And finally… Construction workers unearth giant swastika monolith


Construction workers in Germany have unearthed a giant concrete swastika underneath a sports field in the city of Hamburg.

German news agency dpa said workers were excavating ground to build changing rooms when they discovered the four-by-four metre block.

Members of the sports club at the Hein-Kling stadium in the city’s Billstedt district said the Nazi monolith served as a foundation for a monument that was torn down decades ago.

City officials say they want the swastika gone as quickly as possible.

But because it is too heavy to be transported away, they are planning to destroy it with jackhammers.