Thursday, 26 November 2020

 How can technology improve construction?

The big question, how can technology improve construction? Well, as with anything, some people are more concerned about the impact technology will have than others. Obviously there is the worrying thought that it could take over some of the jobs that others are trained to do but I think we’re far from losing a full sector of people. That said, don’t forget, there actually need to be people designing these machines, apps, programmes, training to use them and even selling the new technology, all of which will provide work. I thought it was best to get that out of the way early on. 

Now, what improvements can be made? Technology doesn’t have human error, and assuming all of the set up is correct, the results are faultless. If there are any mistakes, it is usually ‘user error’ rather than anything else. 

Software and apps are some of the most used advances in the industry to date. These are there mostly to help manage scheduling and reports. They’re predominantly designed to streamline processes and improve productivity. The Cloud is used a lot, so when people aren’t in the office they still have the same access as if they were, which makes communication throughout the day between team members so much easier and more successful than before. 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is storming our industry and quite literally has no bounds. This technology can improve the quality of work undertaken, which in turn reduces the amount of wasted time on site. It also allows for the direct input of data, which can then be assessed and predictions made on present or future projects.  AI doesn’t stop there though. We soon move into robotics, a big move but one which can save time and money in the long-run. Drones can be used to photograph and scan a site. The data and measurements received can then be analysed in order to provide accurate site details and potentially even a model drawing. This is by far the quickest option and quite frankly, the most accurate. This will save a lot of time on certain tasks and allow more of a hands-on approach where needed. 

For us, if we want to remain competitive within our industry, we really need to be able to adapt to the new technologies. In order to stay ahead of the game we must adopt these new strategies because this technology is here to stay. Soon, it will be the norm to be used on every construction site and you wouldn’t want yours to be left behind. Technology allows for information to be transferred in real time, by far the best, quickest and easiest option; what’s not to love?

Quite honestly, I think that sometimes we, as an industry have been slower to accept change but thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I really believe these advances are going to be the making of our industry. Yes, we have already adopted some of these changes and yes, they are helping us progress but, mark my words, there is a lot more to come!

Friday, 20 November 2020

How to get started in construction; construction careers



Firstly, you need to understand exactly why it is that you want a career in construction. Perhaps it’s the opportunities that await; the fact that the country relies heavily on construction workers to thrive. Or maybe it is quite simply what you know and love. Whatever it may be, as with any job, you need to do it for the right reasons. Is there a
particular area you’d like to focus on? Expand your knowledge or even have more of a desk role. Hone in on your skills and utilise what you already know. 

The construction industry is a popular choice for many people, partly because the career options can vary so much. Studying is more often than not the way forward and will give you hands on experience; learning a craft from actual experience is the best way into this field. It will also give you a good standing if an apprenticeship came up. From an employer’s perspective this is something they really look for, practical experience and knowledge. This is a popular industry so you need to make sure you’re the best you can be for the job!   

If you’re looking into studying but you don’t know where to start, do some research. Find a training provider that is recommended, or that also has connections with companies within the construction industry. Not only will they offer thorough training but there is also the potential to network for future positions. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking, build this up early, get a list of people you know in the business, then if a job or training ever comes up you’re already in the loop. 


This industry is full of skilled workers, from carpenters to painters and everything in between. If you have had the relevant training then obviously you will need your CSCS card (Construction skills certification scheme). This might seem like quite a self explanatory thing to say, but you’d be surprised at how many people overlook this detail. 

If you’re looking into architecture or to become a surveyor, for example, you really should be going, or have gone, to University. The amazing thing about construction is that there are so many different levels to think about. Are you looking to progress in your career? Have you been working in the industry for a while and are looking to move forward but don’t know where to turn? Have you thought about going to an agency? The agency will be able to match your skills with jobs they have available. Sometimes you need more experience to be able to progress up the ladder, so getting that under your belt where possible can only be a good thing. This industry offers positions that are on site, office based or even home based. There is quite honestly, something for everyone which makes construction quite different from other career choices. 

Whatever stage you’re at in life, if you’re thinking of changing your job, or just progress in the one you have, you need to research. Look at what avenues you have available and what opportunities there are out there and what qualifications are required. Learning a trade is more than just building, it is a craft. Blood sweat and tears go into perfecting the art. 

Friday, 13 November 2020

 The most iconic buildings in the uk; clever construction


We have some brilliant construction here in the UK and we’re not done yet, not by a long shot. To look at some of the most clever construction over the years we actually have to go back in time. I realise the Pyramids aren’t in the UK but still, they are one of the most talked about ‘buildings’ to this day. The building techniques used to construct them are still on the table and up for discussion. This doesn’t mean that we haven’t come far in our techniques. We have many different materials now, some better than others, we have newer methods and we’re driving eco living into the future. We have a lot to be proud of and look forward to, but, what have we achieved? What builds amaze us in our homeland?


The Uk is full of stunning architecture, heritage and amazing builds. The Shard in London is a landmark that is recognised both near and far. It takes its name as it quite literally resembles a shard of glass. It boasts 95 stories and is over 1000 ft tall. This iconic build takes over the skyline and is the tallest building in the UK and Western Europe


The Uk, as mentioned, is full of stunning architecture but it isn’t all new. As I have said, the heritage we have here is like no other and this architecture has been around for years. You only need to take a look at the Cathedrals we have in the Uk, for example Ely Cathedral. This beautiful build has brought many a visitor over the years and has even featured in films such as ‘The other Boleyn Girl’. The Cathedral has also featured in the background of the cover of Pink Floyds album ‘The Division Bell’.  Stunning architecture has been in our landscape for years and it is documented forever. 

Another landmark, love it or hate it, is the Gherkin in London. This is one more for our capital city and again it is one that’s recognised all over the world, not only by sight but also by name. It has 41 storeys and is 591 ft tall. This building was constructed in the early 2000s and uses energy saving methods. It actually uses ½ of the energy than a ‘standard’ build of its size. 

Construction methods have changed over the years and now a lot of the focus is on eco technologies. In the Uk we have builds such as PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) building in London. This build uses many new technologies and has an Environmental Performance Certificate A and a BREEAM score of 93.31%. It is considered one of the best builds for the environment and one to look up to. 


As you can see, we really do have a collection of various different builds, which are not all in London or in the south, but are quite literally all over the UK. We are very lucky to be surrounded by this stunning architecture and clever design. It just means that we have a lot to live up to. Construction is at the height of its game, recognised and renowned all over the world. We really are learning from the best of the best. I wonder what the future will hold?  


Tuesday, 3 November 2020

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?


I honestly believe we each have an entrepreneur inside us, a smaller version of ourselves that is bursting to get out. All we need is a vision, a passion and a break. The most important thing is to find something that you’re interested in, not just marginally interested in, it needs to be a ‘thing’ that you have a deep-rooted passion for. The more passion, the better the outcome. 

Whatever business you decide on you must be able to execute your ideas. There is no point having a fantastic business plan but no idea about how to make it happen; ‘all the gear but no idea’. You don’t have to have an idea that isn’t already on offer but you do need to be able to make your business stand out from the rest. So, you will have competition but what makes your idea different? What are you going to do that will make people want to use you instead of someone else? Good execution and a positive twist are excellent ways to get started. Research, research, research! 

You will make mistakes, they make us who we are but they don’t define us. We learn from them and move on. The greatest entrepreneurs fail at some point, but they don’t let that stop them from achieving. Remember, no matter what, have passion, execute your plans, research and move on from mistakes. 

Throughout life we learn, we have the ability to discover new information daily, if we so wish. A true business person will thrive on this. You need to have the ability to continue learning, throughout life. Accept and appreciate that you can learn from anyone, at any time. Everyone has the ability to teach us something new, we just have to be open to accepting new information. 

Are you a risk taker? There is a lot of risk in setting up your own business. Some people don’t like the idea of this and much prefer sticking to what they know. If you’re happy to come out of your comfort zone, then you’re more likely to succeed. Yes, manage your risk level, don’t put silly things on the line if you’re really unsure as to whether you’re going to succeed but, with a solid idea and business plan, there is no reason that you should fail; have faith in yourself. 


Monday, 26 October 2020

The construction industry is one of the biggest claimers of furlough money 



The construction industry has been hit hard. On the one hand we are to continue as normal, construction needs to happen after all, and on the other hand we are hit with delays in materials, employees not able to come in because of illness or self isolating, sites being shut down or on pause; so what is really going on?

It’s fair to say that we do have to keep working. However there are many of us across the country who unfortunately have found ourselves in the position of having to claim furlough. According to HMRC building companies have claimed quite a substantial proportion of the money that was allocated for the furlough scheme, in fact it is one of the highest claimers. But why? Surely we are able to go back to work? The building trade in the UK is a large and lucrative business, especially if you’re one of the top bodies, pre Covid of course. As with every other industry we have been hit by this pandemic and in more ways than are perhaps seen on the surface. Construction still has to continue, we need places to live, hospitals, infrastructure and many other buildings for the country to be able to function. However, there are many workers who aren’t on the frontline, who have been furloughed in the hope of getting back to ‘normal’ asap. 

The construction industry has a collection of employees, contract workers and self employed, so in total, the amount of support our industry has received is huge. For that we must be grateful. We have a long way to go to be back to ‘normal’. Supply chains are being disrupted which obviously means that there are delays on site. But we must just try and get on with it as much as we can, perhaps look at other outlets, other places to get materials, perhaps now is the time to reassess the way we do things on site. Try and get the most from this as possible.  

There are so many ways in which we are still going to be affected by this current situation, and with the furlough system changing now, the future is still up in the air. Thankfully the Government has put in another system to help those who are still affected financially. The office staff we rely on, the ones who organise and process the wages, those who perhaps aren’t on site but without whom we would be lost, those who are behind the scenes and those who are on centre stage, everyone who makes these projects come to fruition, these are the people that these grants are for. We don’t want to lose any more people from our industry for good; we want and need construction to thrive. We have so many exciting opportunities coming and as the age old saying goes, ‘there’s strength in numbers’. Our industry is a front line service and without us we wouldn’t have any of the building resources we do. We should be proud of everything we have gone through in the last few months. We’re not out of the woods yet but we are seeing better ways of coping with things. 

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Update to permitted development rights to blocks of flats


As in a previous post I have stated that there are some changes to the planning laws and I thought I would go into a bit more detail. These are relatively new and everyone is trying to get their head around them, including planners. So forgive me if I don't manage to answer all of your questions!

Today I am going to discuss the changes to the permitted development rights to blocks of flats. These changes came into effect from the 1st August 2020 and only apply to purpose built blocks of flats that have been vacant for at least 6 months prior to the application. The extension must not change the footprint of the original building, so building upwards is the way to go. The extensions are to be for self contained flats to be built on top of the existing building and  the extension must not exceed more than 2 storeys. These rights will not apply to listed buildings or buildings that are in conservation areas and the existing building will need to have been built between 1st July 1948 and 5th March 2018. The extension itself can't be taller than 7m in height but with a combined height (from the extension and the original build) of no more than 30m. 




As you can imagine there will be certain criteria that you will have to meet and there are permissions that you will still need to gain. It would be best to speak with your local planning office to ensure that your project meets the criteria that is outlined in the new documentation and you will also need to get permission from  transport and highways. Considerations must be in place with regards to flooding, noise, appearance, design, amenities, traffic etc. So there is still a lot to think about and it isn't quite as simple as building on top of your current building; let's face it, it never is.  

The Government is trying to provide ways for us to extend what we have and make use of it. This should help to bring existing buildings back to life. It will provide more homes and opportunities for the public and jobs for developers, builders and planners. So on paper, it's a win, win situation. In reality, I will leave that for you to decide. 




The existing footprint of the building must not exceed more than 1,000 sq m and have a maximum height of 18 meters. There is a lot of material out there regarding these new rights, some which go more in depth than others. I found that this site was one of  the best for finding material and answering questions. https://www.hewitsons.com/latest/news/new-permitted-development-rights-for-upward-extensions-introduced Bear in mind though, these regulations are new and people are still, as I have said, trying to get their heads around them so give it time. These things are not easy to manage. Visit your local planning office and talk with your planning officer, get as much information as you need. Soon, these will be second nature but if you can take advantage of these new regulations now, then why not? I can only hope that the quality of builds is not compromised, I imagine that as you are  still required to maintain the same level of excellence there shouldn't be a problem. However, I am sure there will be some extensions that are not to everyone's taste and 2 storeys make quite a difference, especially if they are not to your liking. These are questions that no one can answer, not yet anyway.

These new rules will hopefully have a positive impact on both our construction industry and environment, with buildings that were once left to just watch from the sidelines breathing life again. How will these new rules affect you? Are you positively excited or quietly nervous? These changes, with the other developments, are some of the biggest we have seen in years. 

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Thursday, 24 September 2020

Update to the use classes



From September 1st 2020 an update to the use classes came into play. I have briefly touched upon this in the outline blog but I hope to be able to give you a touch more information here. 

The broad outline here is that the ease for a potential change of use should be much simpler. To find out the changes to the use classes see this site. It has a very good table to determine your class. https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/guides/planning-use-classes-order-changes

I can see that these changes will provide our local high streets with a chance to potentially supply what is needed rather than what was permitted under the previous use class system. This alone should allow for local high streets to have more scope with regards to what shops/business are allowed. It has become evident that in recent years the main complaint from the public has been that their high street offers variations of the same types of business. Whether this had any impact on the recent review, I don't know, but I do hope that it will bring back some excitement to our shops. 




These changes will allow more flexibility with a building's use and allow existing companies to be able to potentially change the use of  their nature of business should they see fit. In recent times, dealing with Corona, we have all found our work to have been affected in some way, some businesses more than others. This should allow for these businesses to be able to discover new opportunities, and let's face it, in times such as now, this news is welcomed. 




If you're confused and want to check what you can or cannot do I would always say that you should contact your local planning office for clarification. You could also use the information from the site above to work out what category your business falls under. It is always best to check your rights, especially when talking about new changes. There have been a couple of updates to the planning system recently and there is quite a bit to get your head around. However, if you manage to get things sorted, these changes could be beneficial to you, financially and personally. 

Keep an eye on my blog for updates, changes and anything construction related. Check out the link above for more updates to the change of use laws and let me know how this is going to affect you. I hope these changes are not only going to be good for business but I hope they're going to enrich our high streets and bring out the shoppers in us once again. 
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Friday, 18 September 2020

Designing your dream home? What are the starting points?

 


When taking on any project there is a lot to consider and when you're thinking of designing your own home there is even more!



Firstly you need to think of where you want to live. This sounds simple enough but getting the right plot is sometimes harder than you might expect. You will have to think about locality and whether you would get permission to build your home. In order to do this you will at least need to know what type of build you would like and then choose an architect, one that you trust and work well with, to complete your drawings. Obviously there are many more steps in the beginning but this is just a very brief summary.




The biggest part of getting your dream home is in the design.  You need to know what you would like  from your build. Will you be employing green technology? If so, what?

Eco living is often seen as a given these days especially when building from scratch. Why wouldn't you use the technology available to you? We have come so far with technology and compliances to ensure that we really can build the best.

You need to know what you want from your home, so essentially you have to be able to set up your brief and get it right. Take a look around and see what is about. It is far better to know what you would like from the outset. It will be an expensive job to make alterations down the line, especially if construction has already started.  When you talk to your architect provide all the information that you can, extra if possible. Do you have a model, pictures or even sample materials? If not then you should really try to get these or at least some of them. Look at what the materials can do for you, look at what they can do for your build and look at what the aesthetics are like. What design do you want to achieve? There are plenty of ideas out there, you just have to be able to narrow them down.



What will the layout of your home look like? What do you need it to provide? Check and check again that your build will be able to give you the space, room and light that you want. This is your home so don't let anyone else tell you or influence you otherwise. Yes it is a good idea to get advice and feed off the knowledge of others but don't be swayed by someone else's opinions and desires.

When you choose your architect you need to ensure that you both have a similar style as this will help with the design. If you're reading from the same page it makes the whole process a lot easier, believe me.

You also need a budget and timescale and they must both be realistic. If your timescale goes over, then your budget will be affected. If your budget goes over and you run out of money your timescale can be affected. They work together and need to be thought of as a team.



Designing your own home is more than just the 'drawing', it is the idea, the passion and the dream.












Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Eco builds-what do you need to know when taking on an eco construction? Build for the future!

 


When taking on any build there is a certain amount of planning and understanding required. There are many ways in which you can research different methods, materials and design and work out which are best suited to your needs. There is a vast array of information, all you need is Google. But, is this all correct? Is it all helpful? You need to know what to look for, what to believe and what not to believe!




If this is your first eco build and you're starting from scratch, (we all have to start somewhere), then I would suggest seeking out the help of an expert. There are many places you can go for this. ATSPACE (https://atspaceltd.co.uk) has a number of experts who will be able to point you in the right direction. Use them, feed off their knowledge and expertise. You will have to undertake all of the usual compliances, water testing, air testing, extractor fan testing etc and everything in between. However, with an eco build you will need to be able to reach the highest standard in these compliances. What you must remember is even the design of your build can have an impact on the eco standard. So, you should find an architect who understands the impact and who will be able to implement this into your design. This doesn't mean that you can't have the home that you want. Eco isn't there to stop or hinder your dream it is there to enhance it. Your architect will be able to work with an assessor and by getting these people together your green build is half way there. 




Your next step is to think about what level of 'green' you want to go to. As with anything you can just reach the basic level or you can aim to surpass that. Let's face it, there is no point in going through all of this and trying your hardest to be able to be a part of the future of construction if you don't aim for the highest of eco that your budget will allow. 

You must understand that whatever material you decide to use will also affect your build's eco standard. You need to know what you ultimately want from your materials in both style and use. You must use materials that are fit for purpose and each type has its own pros and cons list. Talk this through with your architect and assessor to work out what will suit your build best. With green technology you don't need to compromise on the style of your home. This is often thought to be the case and sometimes is the reason why people steer away from building green; but things have come so far. There are no compromises with eco standard anymore, there is just a bright future to look forward to. 




When you're employing workers to help with your construction it is best to make sure that they understand what you're trying to achieve and preferably have worked with your materials, or at least similar, before. I know everyone has to start somewhere but if you're doing this for yourself then trust the experts and work with those who can help you learn. One day, when you've completed your build and moved on to the next you can repay the favour and pass down any knowledge you have to others. This is your chance to help to shape the future of construction. 


Sunday, 13 September 2020

What does the future of construction look like? Building for generations to come.

 

I have written a few blogs about what construction looks like in the aftermath of corona and where we expect to be down the line. Unfortunately things are looking as if they're going to take a touch longer to get back to normal than what we had all expected and hoped. But what we have to understand is that we have a new 'normal' and we need to work towards that and not look back at what 'was'.



Construction is changing and not just because of the recent events but because of the influence of technology, new materials and the new way of living and we, as builders, business owners, labourers and trades need to find our place and build our own 'new normal'.

Technology is a driving force within our industry and thankfully it is forward thinking which enables us to build the amazing constructions we have today We have new technology, advances in materials and experience to thank for the rise in eco living. The Government has a deadline of 2050 for net zero carbon emissions and this is achievable. We must remember that we can do this and surpass this deadline if we put our minds to it and work together. From low energy bills right up to passive house standard, and everything inbetween, technology plays a huge part in allowing us to progress swiftly forward.



More and more builds these days are adhering to eco standards and in turn we are expecting a lot more from our homes. Not only do we have expectations of lower energy bills and a cleaner healthier environment we also expect our homes to be more versatile. Over the last few months we have experienced many challenges, some of which are still continuing. For example, we now await materials which in turn causes a delay in the construction. I imagine we can expect this to continue for a while, certainly until things start to become a bit more 'normal' and there isn't much we can do to change that. We can, however, look elsewhere, use local suppliers, look at different materials and plan ahead. Is this an ideal situation? No, of course not but it is the hand we are dealt and we need to be able to work with it.

The way in which we utilise our homes has changed. As I have said before, we have new ways of living, we expect more from the same builds. We need more, we need offices, places to school, home gyms and entertaining areas but we don't necessarily have more money to spend to achieve this. As builders we must be able to provide what people want without letting the standards slip. We know what we can do, we have been doing it for years. Let's not let a few inconveniences get in the way. We can and must carry on building the best, building for the future and building green. Construction is a forward thinking, versatile industry and it has proven that more than ever over the last few months. We are lucky to be a part of something so prominent. Let's be grateful, positive and happy that we are the future.









Monday, 7 September 2020

Planning law changes - how will Government changes affect you?

A few new rules have been introduced by the Government over the last few months, and we are all still trying to get our heads around them. Even those in charge can get confused; It's easily done.  Hopefully, this document will at least, be able to shed some light on the never-ending questions.

 




The changes that have been announced refer to a range of new permitted development rights (which will be discussed further down in this blog) and the class order for businesses. Essentially, from the 1st September, the class orders are being altered. This means you could change the use of your business building without requiring "change of use". This will be good news for owners who rent out premises as they will have a broader clientele with more scope on what businesses can open. The more opportunities there are, the more interest you'll get from others. Hopefully, this will also encourage the use of commercial builds that we, as consumers, want, rather than what we are told we need. There are obviously some restrictions with certain classes, but actually, there are more that fall under the change than those that don't. You can find out more information here https://www.forsters.co.uk/news/blog/changes-use-classes-order-england-planning-permission-development-rights




 

The Town and Country Planning permitted development rights have also been updated, and if there wasn't confusion at what you could do before, there certainly is now. The permitted development rights now say that you could possibly have the right to extend your home up by two storeys. This applies to a detached, semi-detached or even a terraced property. There are obviously restrictions. You can't just add as much height as you'd like, as the maximum allowable height is 18m in total including the extension, so essentially from the ground to the tip of the new roof. But for a terrace, you can not extend more than 3.5m higher than the next tallest house in the row.

 

If your house was built between 1st July 1948 and 28th October 2018, then you fit into the right bracket and have ticked the first box. These new rules DO NOT apply to homes that are in conservation areas, so you really need to check that out. You can find out your conservation status with a quick call to your local planning office.

 

Permitted development rights essentially allow you to make certain changes, extensions and alterations to your build without gaining planning permission. You must remember though, that just because you don't require planning permission, you will still need your building regulations certificate so you must involve building control and get each stage signed off. These new changes can make the difference to a family either having to move in order to gain more space or being able to extend and staying put. We have found that recently we have needed our homes to be more flexible and this is certainly one solution. For years now, we have had permitted development rights that have allowed us to make certain changes to our homes, but, never on the scale that has been put forward here.

 

From the 1st August 2020, we will also benefit from the change to permitted development rights to blocks of flats. Essentially flats will be able to be extended upwards with a lot more ease than before. More information can be found here https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/news/permitted-development-new-rights-update-to-come-into-effect-on-1-august

 

These new rules make quite an impact and, I think you will find a lot of people taking advantage of the changes. I will reserve judgement as to whether this is a good thing. It is early days and we seemingly have to put a lot of trust into other people that what they're doing won't change our landscape forever.

 

 How can technology improve construction? The big question, how can technology improve construction? Well, as with anything, some people are...