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Electricity reinforcement scheme named Scottish Project of the Year at RICS awards

The £1.1 billion Caithness-Moray transmission link was named the overall Scotland Project of the Year

Over 25 of Scotland’s most impressive and community beneficial building projects battled it out for top honours at the 2018 RICS awards, where the Caithness-Moray electricity network reinforcement took the overall Project of the YearScotland title.

Held at The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh yesterday, the annual RICS Awards 2018, Scotland celebrate inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors across eight category awards.

The highly acclaimed Scotland Project of the Year accolade is presented to the category winner that demonstrates overall outstanding best practice and an exemplary commitment to adding value to its local area.

The project also took home the Infrastructure category award

The project, which has energized the initial section of the £1.1 billion Caithness-Moray transmission link, won the Infrastructure category award before being named the overall Scotland Project of the Year.

Head judge of the RICS Awards in Scotland, Colin Smith MRICS, said: “The network reinforcement highlights the importance of a long-term investment commitment to energy production and its transmission from the connection of remote wind farms in Caithness along the sea bed to the north-east corner of Scotland.

“This highly technical project required a significant degree of logistical planning, project management, safety procedures and engagement with the local community. This project is a leading exemplar for the need and benefits of investing in Scotland’s infrastructure.”

Commercial category award winner ScottishPower House in Glasgow

Other category winners include ScottishPower House, Glasgow, in the Commercial category, Marischal Square, Aberdeen, which took the accolade for Regeneration, and Countesswells, Aberdeen, taking the award for the Residential category.

The ScottishPower project saw consolidation of 1,650 staff from several different ScottishPower operating businesses into its new headquarters, an impressive achievement alone, but the design strategy and procurement route used to deliver the building proved equally impressive to the judging panel.

Colin Smith said: “The design of the building was fully tested pre-construction and the city centre location drove the need to develop innovative off-site manufacturing processes that minimised material storage and deliveries whilst accelerating construction.”

The Residential category was won by the Countesswells project in Aberdeen

Countesswells won the Residential category, providing an example of a large-scale housing development being funded by innovative means utilising a UK Treasury guarantee that has allowed certainty and confidence to invest in a significant amount of up-front infrastructure and environmental works.

Director of RICS in Scotland, Gail Hunter, said: “Residents in Countesswells are taking ownership of completed spaces by becoming members of the management company responsible for maintaining new public spaces and allowing them to own and control the land’s future use.”

Colin Smith added: “The regeneration of Marischal Square is transformational for Aberdeen City Centre.  It has reversed the negative impacts of the building it replaced and delivered a mixed-use development that has enhanced the setting of two of the city’s most important heritage assets.

“The significance of the new office space is heightened by its Aberdeen context, where such development has in recent decades been lost to the urban fringe. Marischal Square will help Aberdeen City Centre to capture the benefits of the economic success of the city region.”

Aberdeen’s Marischal Square was awarded the prize for Regeneration

6 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, was also Highly Commended within the Commercial category. Other category winners include Appleton Tower, Edinburgh, in the Design through Innovation category, Falls of Shin, Lairg, which took the accolade for Tourism & Leisure.

Gail Hunter said: “I would like to congratulate all winners of the RICS Awards, and the high quality of projects shortlisted, demonstrating the calibre of built environment work taking place across Scotland. The winners showcase schemes, from billion pound investments to locally funded community projects, all of which have a positive impact on their region and wider economy.”

All category winners will go on to compete against regional winners from across the UK at the national RICS Awards Grand Final on 2 November 2018 in London, for the chance to be crowned the overall UK winner in their respective category.

RICS Awards 2018, Scotland – Winners

Building Conservation

Winner – St. Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh


Winner – ScottishPower House, Glasgow

Community Benefit

Winner – Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries, Dunfermline

Design through Innovation

Winner – Appleton Tower, Edinburgh


Winner – Caithness-Moray Electricity Network Reinforcement


Winner – Marischal Square, Aberdeen


Winner – Countesswells, Aberdeen

Tourism & Leisure

Winner – Falls of Shin, Lairg 

Project of the Year

Winner – Caithness-Moray Electricity Network Reinforcement

SME building firms bemoan ‘rocketing’ material prices

Rising material prices are squeezing margins at more than half of the UK’s small building firms with the same percentage having to pass these price increases onto consumers, according to new research.

A survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that 56% of small and medium-sized (SME) building firms have had their margins squeezed, an increase of one third (32%) in July 2017.

Around 49% of firms have been forced to pass material price increases onto their clients, making building projects more expensive for consumers. This figure has more than doubled in less than a year.

Other impacts of material price increases have been a third of firms (30%) recommending that clients use alternative materials or products to those originally specified, up from one in ten in July 2017, while nearly one fifth (17%) of builders reported making losses on their building projects due to material price increases.

Construction SMEs were asked by the FMB which materials are in shortest supply and have the longest wait times.

The average results were as follows (in order of longest to shortest wait times):

  1. Bricks were in shortest supply with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  2. Roof tiles were second with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  3. Insulation was third with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  4. Slate was fourth with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  5. Windows were fifth with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  6. Blocks were sixth with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  7. Porcelain products were seventh with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  8. Plasterboard was eighth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  9. Timber was ninth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  10. Boilers were tenth, with the longest reported wait time being more than one year.

SME building firms were also asked by what percentage different materials have increased over the past 12 months. On average, the following rises were reported:

  • Insulation increased by 16%;
  • Bricks increased by 9%;
  • Timber increased by 8%;
  • Roof tiles increased by 8%;
  • Slate increased by 8%;
  • Windows increased by 7%;
  • Blocks increased by 7%;
  • Plasterboard increased by 7%;
  • Boilers increased by 7%;
  • Porcelain products increased by 6%.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Material prices have rocketed over the past year. The reason for this could include the impact of the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum still feeding through. High demand due to buoyant international markets could also be contributing to price increases. What’s particularly worrying is that when prices have increased mid-project, almost one fifth of builders have absorbed the increase and therefore made a loss. Also, if material price increases weren’t enough of a headache for building firms, they are also experiencing material shortages with wait times ticking up across a range of materials and products. Worst case scenarios include firms waiting for more than one year for a new order of bricks.

“The rise in material prices is not just a problem for the country’s construction firms – it is also a problem for home owners. Half of firms have been forced to pass these price increases onto their clients, meaning building projects are becoming more and more expensive. This problem has worsened recently with more than twice as many firms passing material prices on to their clients now compared with nine months ago. What’s more, home owners should be prepared to have to use alternative materials or products to their first choice. One third of firms have recommended that their clients should use alternative materials or products to those originally specified. Now more than ever, it’s important that builders and their clients keep the lines of communication open in order to stay within time and within budget. Specified products or materials may need to be swapped for alternatives or clients will need to accept the additional cost.”

Brain Berry added: “We are calling on builders merchants to give their customers as much advance warning of forthcoming material price increases or wait times as possible so that firms can warn their customers and plan ahead. We are also advising builders to price jobs and draft contracts with these material price rises in mind. The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey shows that almost ninety per cent of building firms are expecting further rises over the next sixth months. This makes quoting for jobs difficult but if builders flag the issue to their client from the outset, and include a note in the contract that prices may be subject to increases, they shouldn’t be left short. What we don’t want is for the number of building firms making losses on projects to increase as this could result in firms going to the wall. A large number of collapsing construction companies will have a terrible knock-on effect in the wider economy.”

Inverurie Community Campus reaches financial close milestone

A £55 million finance deal for a state-of-the-art community campus in Inverurie has been agreed as the project moves to the next phase.

Construction of the facility, which will replace the existing Inverurie Academy, will be led by hub North Scotland after it was appointed as development partner by Aberdeenshire Council.

Robertson Construction has been appointed as the projects main contractor with FES FM as the facilities FM Service provider.

On completion, the new Community Campus will provide:

  • Replacement of the existing Inverurie Academy, Inverurie Swimming Pool and Garioch Community Centre on the existing site which will provide state of the art teaching accommodation for 1600 learners;
  • New accommodation for the existing St Andrews Special School with dedicated external teaching space;
  • Community accommodation including a 6 lane swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, training pool, dry sports facilities, community cafe, and access to shared Campus spaces;
  • External facilities including an all-weather pitch, MUGA and external play area;
  • Car and bus parking together with demolition of existing facilities.

Preparatory work has already commenced on site, with full construction works now set to follow the first phase of the new facility is due to be completed early 2020.

Video: Amey completes polystyrene filling project on disused tunnel at Forth Road Bridge

The blocks were installed in steps for safe working at height

Forth Bridges operating company Amey has completed an unusual project to infill a disused railway tunnel underneath the approach roads north of the Forth Road Bridge.

The structure originally formed part of the Dunfermline to North Queensferry railway line, providing a link to the ferry service until the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890 and continuing in limited use for freight until 1954.

The tunnel runs underneath the A9000 and B981 on the northern approach to the Forth Road Bridge. It is 420 metres in length, 4.3 metres wide and 5.1 metres high, with a vaulted roof and brick lining. Both ends had been sealed off and the adjacent cuttings filled in, so the only remaining means of access was via a vertical shaft at each end.

Amey engineers carried out a structural inspection in February 2016, finding that parts of the tunnel were degrading and in need of preventative maintenance to ensure continuing structural integrity. Due to the limited depth of cover above the tunnel, a failure could potentially have had an impact on the roads overhead.

Two options were considered: an ongoing programme of inspection and maintenance, or a one-off project to infill the tunnel with a low cost material. The infill option was chosen as it would eliminate the need for future inspections or maintenance and so prove more cost-effective in the long term.

After considering workforce safety, overall cost and the need to avoid disruption to the local community, it was decided to fill the tunnel with expanded polystyrene (EPS) blocks manufactured to a specific compressive strength capable of resisting the weight of rock and tunnel lining in the event of a localised failure. Unlike with concrete or aggregate material, EPS blocks can also be easily removed if the tunnel ever needs to be reopened.

Installing hydrocarbon resistant membrane

The EPS blocks were pre-cut to a size and weight that allowed easy manual handling on site. This allowed work to be carried out from the access shaft at the north end of the tunnel, keeping construction traffic out of North Queensferry for the majority of the works. Another advantage of the lightweight blocks was that they could be delivered in large lorry-loads, significantly reducing the number of vehicle movements required.

Once offloaded, the blocks were passed down the access shaft and transported along the tunnel to the work face hooked onto a specially designed sliding monorail system.

The tunnel was lined with a hydrocarbon resistant membrane, before a total of 21,342 EPS blocks were installed, built up gradually in steps to allow safe working at height.

Local primary school children from Burntisland and Lauriston were invited to fill two time capsules with items of their choice. These were then buried in the tunnel amongst the blocks.

Once the body of the tunnel was infilled the access shafts were filled with concrete to seal the tunnel and prevent damage to the blocks, with work reaching a conclusion in late March 2018.

Mark Arndt, Amey’s operating company representative for the Forth Bridges Unit, said: “This has been an unusual and interesting project where we’ve learned something new about the history of the area as well as gaining the satisfaction of making a disused tunnel safe.

“The team deserves particular credit for developing innovative solutions that maximised workforce safety while minimising the cost to the public purse and the impact on local communities.

“It’s a real measure of success that most local residents were not even aware this work was taking place, despite the tunnel emerging within metres of homes in North Queensferry.”

Images courtesy of The Forth Bridges

Blog: Isabel Garriga on being voted as next GIA President

Isabel Garriga from Holmes Miller, who was elected as the next President of the Glasgow Institute of Architects, outlines her vision for the organisation.

This year we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Glasgow Institute of Architects and I am delighted to have been elected as president of such a great Institution. As a result of the hard work and dedication of the numerous past presidents and council members we can celebrate our achievements during our long history. Thank you to all of them.

The GIA is continuously growing and changing and I am very proud to have such a dedicated, reliable, hardworking and passionate team and we plan to make sure we can make the GIA an organisation that is transparent, democratic and most of all, truly represents the variety and richness of architecture and architects in our chapter. We want to keep improving the things that we are well known for such as the Design Awards, Student Awards, the Glasgow Urban Design Panel, our great CPD series and building visits as well some of our more innovative new projects such as PaperCUT. We will also work to improve some of our own processes and efficiency such as the newly reformed Conservation and Sustainability Committee and the RIAS Liaison Committee.

As a woman myself, I want to make sure that women have a bigger voice in our profession, that our work is recognised and celebrated to ensure we have true equality for future generations.

I hope my passion for architecture in both my work in practice and as an educator in university, can create further connections between education and the profession. Over the years, the GIA has been kindly supported by many private practices, without their support and generosity none of our activities would be possible, thank you to all of them. On a personal note, I would like to thank my own practice, Holmes Miller who have continuously supported my predecessor and I, enabling us to have such active roles in the GIA.

Over the next 2 years I look forward to working with other industry related professionals, institutions, local councils and the RIAS to help bring focus to the incredible emerging talent that is all around us. Viva la GIA!

Isabel Garriga is a Mackintosh School of Architecture graduate & has extensive experience practicing in Spain and the UK. At Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects she was involved in a wide variety of award winning projects such as the Sentinel Office and the Scottish Crime Campus. Since joining Holmes Miller in 2011, her portfolio include works such as master planning in China or custodial projects like HMP & YOI Grampian and the new Women’s National Facility in Cornton Vale. 

Isabel is a Studio Design Tutor at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, she has been a Glasgow Institute of Architects Council member since 2012 and the Convener of the Architecture People and Places and the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design Committees until 2017 and held the position of GIA Vice-President prior to be elected to GIA President.

Council approves improvement options for Angus schools

Plans to replace Monifieth High and Grange Primary School with an all-through school are among a range of improvement options for the school cluster approved by Angus Council yesterday.

Councillors on the children & learning committee agreed to begin discussions on the following options:

  • A review of the secondary catchment areas  of Monifieth, Carnoustie, Forfar and Websters
  • Extend Monifieth High School, Mattocks Primary School and refurbish Grange and Liff Primary Schools
  • Replace Monifieth High and Grange Primary School with an all-through school
  • Replace Monifieth High and Grange Primary School with an all-through school with additional community leisure facilities
  • Refurbish and increase the capacity at Mattocks and Liff Primary Schools as well as an all-through school to accommodate Monifieth high and Grange Primary School
  • Develop Monifieth High School to include community leisure facilities

Convenor of children and learning, Councillor Mark Salmond, said “This will be the largest organised conversation with the Monifieth community to help us shape future education provision. I would ask all interested parties to fully engage with Angus Council to share with us their views and aspirations.”

The council will develop a timescale and programme for engagement in the coming weeks.

Go ahead recommended for CALA Homes development in Cults

A residential development off Craigton Road in Cults by CALA Homes (North) has been recommended for approval from Aberdeen City Council.

The collection of 19 homes will also allow the completion of the new Friarsfield link road, a key piece of infrastructure for the local area set out in the Friarsfield Development Framework, set to greatly enhance connectivity and traffic flow in the popular area.

The proposed mix and style of properties has been carefully designed to be sympathetic to both older and newer homes in the area, complementing CALA’s previous developments in Cults, Hayfield Grange and Rosefield Gardens, and current development, Cults Park.

Careful consideration has also been given to the creation of suitable open space, tree retention and the layout of the site to blend with the surrounding landscape.

The development will see the creation of semi-detached and detached properties including two, three and five-bedroom homes.

Mike Naysmith, managing director of CALA Homes (North), said: “We are very pleased that approval has been recommended for this site, which will see not only the creation of new homes for the area, but the delivery of a vital piece of infrastructure for Cults.

“We have extensive experience of creating homes in the locale, with several historic and current sites in Cults, all of which have been extremely popular. Our current development, Cults Park, is progressing very well and we expect to see similar interest in this new pocket of homes.”

Mactaggart & Mickel secures planning permission for second English housing development

Scottish housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has continued its expansion into the English market by receiving planning permission for its second development south of the Border.

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes England, part of the Mactaggart & Mickel Group, will deliver 38 new homes at East Challow, near Wantage in Oxfordshire.

The five-star Home Builder Federation (HBF)-rated housebuilder also recently opened an office in Cheltenham, where it will initially create around 20 full time jobs for local people.

The development will see a mixture of 25, two- to five-bedroom private homes and 13 one- to three-bedroom affordable homes. The private homes will be two-, three- and four-bedroom homes.

Craig Ormond, company director at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes England Ltd, said the move marks an important step for the company, following it move into the English housebuilding market as it plans to broaden its geographical reach to a UK wide audience.

He said: “We look forward to starting work at this exciting new quality development at East Challow.  As well as providing new quality housing, we will be working with local suppliers and contributing to the local economy. We plan to be on site later this year.”

Building Briefs – April 20th

HEEPS loan scheme now open for applications

The Scottish Government’s Home Energy Efficiency Programme Scotland (HEEPS) loans scheme for Registered Social Landlords 2018/2019 is now open for applications.

Loans of between £30,000 and £1 million are available to housing associations and housing co-operatives to install energy savings improvements with the aim of progressing properties towards the required Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH).

The loan can also be used to cover activities related to, or required in advance of, the installation of energy efficiency improvements (such as repairs to roofs in advance of the installation of loft insulation).

Applicants should ensure their installers are selected through a compliant procurement process and are Green Deal certified for the measure being installed. In the case of renewables the installer should be Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified and the product is MCS or Solar-Keymark certified.

Applicants should also ensure that all improvements installed comply with the relevant industry standards and are covered by appropriate guarantees. All wall insulation improvements must be covered by an appropriate OFGEM-listed guarantee.

Registered Social Landlords should ensure that work is inspected by an independent, qualified Clerk of Works.  For more complex measures such as external wall insulation it is recommended that at least 50% of works are inspected and records are kept.

Loans are interest free and repayable over up to 10 years. Successful loans will be subject to an administrative fee.

Applications must be submitted by 31st July 2018 and will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis subject to available funding.  Successful applicants must complete work and claim their funds by 28th February 2019.

Download the application form and property details spreadsheet to apply.


Work begins to enhance homes on Glasgow’s London Road

Work is now underway to improve housing 173 family homes on London Road in Glasgow, which will enhance the quality of life for tenants.

Thenue Housing Association has appointed the Regeneration division of ENGIE (formerly Keepmoat Regeneration) to deliver £1.6 million worth of improvement works, while introducing new security measures to safeguard residents.

The work is being funded by the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, with contributions from residents.

Each household will benefit from a warmer home and reduced utility bills due to the installation of external wall insulation; as well as renewed guttering, pipes and roof repairs. Common areas will benefit from thoughtful upgrades while home security will be further enhanced by upgrades to screens, windows and doors, new external lighting, and new controlled door entry systems.

Residents will not be required to leave their homes, with ENGIE confirming, the work will be completed with residents in situ. The company has also revealed a dedicated resident liaison team will be on-hand throughout the duration of the project, to answer any concerns or queries; while keeping households up to date on progress.

Work is currently underway on London Road and it is expected to complete in early 2019.


A82 Leven Bridge waterproofing works

Additional waterproofing works will be carried on the A82 Leven Bridge under a full closure of the A82 Northbound and Southbound carriageways between the Stoneymollan and Lomondgate roundabouts.

The closures will be between 8pm and 6am on Friday 20th April, Monday 23rd April and Tuesday 24th April.


New chief executive appointed at Falkirk Council

Kenneth Lawrie

Falkirk Council has appointed current Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie as its own chief executive.

Mr Lawrie will take up his new role from the start of August 2018 following the retirement of current chief executive Mary Pitcaithly OBE in June 2018.

Since joining local government in 1994, Kenneth Lawrie has held various positions at Dartford Borough Council and Scottish Borders Council, taking up the position at Midlothian in September 2009.


Good causes could win share of £250k prize fund

2017 winner Montrose Playhouse

Community groups in Scotland can now apply for a share of £250,000, available through Jewson Building Better Communities.

Through the competition, good causes can apply for funding for building materials to improve their facilities: whether it’s a new roof for a village hall or revamping changing rooms at a sports club.

Now in its fourth year, the Building Better Communities initiative will award one community project up to £50,000, as well as many smaller prizes to other projects.

As well as supporting local community groups, Jewson will give away £100,000 of the overall prize fund to heroes of the building trade. These heroes are unsung tradespeople who go above and beyond in their local area or builders who have always supported others but now find themselves in need.

Entrants have until May 9 to submit their application. After a shortlisting process and a public vote, the winning projects will be announced on 3rd July at a ceremony hosted by celebrity architect, George Clarke.

Scotland community groups and tradespeople can submit their entry via

And finally… Thousands of UK households and businesses could be energy producers by 2035

A future of energy study by Arup has predicted that many people and businesses across the UK will be generating their own power by 2035.

Endorsed by Energy UK, Energy systems: A view from 2035 sets out the energy solutions required to bring the UK on track to meet its 2050 climate change targets. It shows a country made up of a diverse range of heating sources, within a more decentralised energy system, where households and businesses play a greater role in managing and producing their own energy.

The study suggests there will not be one solution within the future energy system, but many. This will make flexibility – in system architecture, system operation and the regulatory framework – essential. However, it warns that although major changes in the way the UK produces, manages and uses energy are inevitable in the coming years, how these are steered will be essential to achieving the government’s three objectives of decarbonisation, security and affordability.

The study highlights the following changes, and more:

  • Electricity– will be low carbon and local, with many people no longer relying on the grid. New nuclear plants will become operational and offshore wind will grow rapidly.
    There will be between 50-77GW of intermittent solar and wind generating capacity on the system compared to 27GW today
  • Decentralised energy and microgrids– demand-side response (where customers are incentivised to lower or shift their electricity use) and batteries will become widespread in commercial and residential properties, industrial parks, universities and airports. New towns will develop microgrids to reduce the load on the national grid
  • Heat– the heat sector will become fragmented, especially in inner cities. It will no longer rely on natural gas – but will become a multi-sourced system varying by location and type of building. For example, hydrogen will replace natural gas in the suburbs and various cities.
  • Smart homes – New properties will be energy neutral. At times they will export energy back to the grid (for example from solar generation) and at other times they will import energy from the grid. Some properties will be built with energy storage which will allow them to be self-sufficient all year round.
  • Transport – Personal ownership of vehicles will be progressively phased out, with all new vehicles either electric, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen-powered. The rail network, including trams, will be fully electrified other than a few hydrogen trains.

With more energy retailers in the market – including local energy co-operatives and municipal suppliers – consumers will have a wider variety of products available to them including time-of-use and peer-to-peer tariffs (via blockchain technology).

Filippo Gaddo, head of energy economics at Arup, said: “The next few decades are expected to be amongst the most transformative for the energy industry and billions are being invested to ensure that it is fit for the future. For this investment to enable positive change, flexibility across energy systems and within regulation will be essential in order to achieve a sustainable, affordable, and low carbon future. The UK has the opportunity to lead the way in the future of energy development, but it will be technological advances, investors and policy changes – highlighted within this study – that drive this forward.”

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, added: “Customers must be at the heart of any future energy system. The energy sector is working hard to bring forward an energy system that continues to lower emissions, provides reliable supply, at lowest cost. The work Arup has done highlights how and where the changing system and decarbonisation imperative will create new roles, interactions and dependencies – as well as potential business models that will help make this future energy landscape possible. This brings many promising opportunities, but we must continue to build the evidence and have open dialogue about the challenges and the size of the investment required to update our energy infrastructure.”