Gyproc’s Bladerunner is a safe tool for cutting plasterboard, designed as an alternative to the Stanley knife, which is the most frequent cause of cuts on building sites. Supplied in the UK by British Gypsum, the tool has two flat sides fitted with cutting wheels, which fold around the plasterboard panel and are held together against the board by a magnet. The operative simply pushes the tool along the line of the cut and because the blades are enclosed within the device there’s no danger of cuts.
We piloted the device with several operatives at the Newcastle-under-Lyme College project and they liked it, although work still needs to be done to get them out of the habit of using Stanley knives.
CMYA silver award winner Ivan Gethin, project manager at BAM Construct
The telehandler, or telescopic forklift, is an essential part of almost every modern construction project, used to transport palletised materials, reduce manual handling and reach awkward positions.
The latest advance is the mini telehandler, such as Manitou’s Maniscopic (pictured). They are small enough to manoeuvre inside buildings between floors where only palette trucks have previously been able to enter. The machines also run on calor gas or electricity and have low or zero emissions.
CMYA gold award winner Simon Owen MCIOB, project director at Leadbitter
Hydroseeding is a technique that combines grass seeds with conventional wallpaper paste, nutrition, fertilizer, papier mâché and water which is then sprayed onto embankments using a hydromulching machine, such as the Turfmaker 1200. The wallpaper paste prevents seeds from being washed away by wind and rain, and because the seed is jet pumped into all the fissures and voids in the bank surface, there’s less danger of erosion.
At Ark Academy school in north London the subcontractor covered 500m2 of ground in just two hours and in two weeks the seeds were already shooting. This technique also worked out a lot cheaper — about £2/m2 compared to turfing (£6.50), and normal seeding (£3.50).
Sabah Abed MCIOB, project director, Willmott Dixon and CMYA 2010 finalist
Colleagues are impressed by my Centre Scanner by Laserliner, which can detect what is on the opposite side of a wall or slab. The device has two parts: a transmitter on one side of a slab, and a receiver on the opposite side. The receiver has a circle in the centre, surrounded by four arrows, which all light up when you’re located directly opposite the transmitter.
The device works with concrete up to 1m thick and is accurate to +/-2mm. I used it recently on a shopping centre refurbishment where we had to cut a concrete floor slab between large downstand beams. We precisely set out the line of the beams and achieved a perfect cut.
CMYA gold award winner and Rok project manager Joe Conway ICIOB
Park House, Land Securities’ 50,000m2 development on London’s Oxford Street, was a geometrically complex project that curves in multiple planes. We’re using Autodesk’s Navisworks to develop a comprehensive 3D Building Information Model to help us understand the constraints of the geometry, as well as model the congested building services.
Navisworks really helps manage risk on projects by ensuring that all the services are co-ordinated to support the tight programme. The only way to do that with any confidence is by producing a 3D model that the team can constantly interrogate. It’s also an amazing tool to communicate the physical feel of a project to clients and stakeholders.
CMYA 2010 finalist Jonathan Foster, director of major projects at Mace
At Leeds City College, we used an innovative steel fibre concrete reinforcement called Dramix by Bekaert within the suspended floor slabs. The 2.5 inch-long fibres are mixed into the wet concrete at a volume specified by the structural engineer and, once poured into Kingspan metal decking and the concrete has cured, the fibres hold the slab together in the same way a reinforcing mesh would and provide the same structural properties.
Dramix was an ideal replacement for mesh on this project as hauling large 4.8m x 2.4m sheets of mesh up the five-storey building would have posed a significant health and safety hazard. The mesh also takes a long time to install and overlapping panels can cause bits of metal to stick up through the concrete, whereas Dramix fibres remain concealed in the slab to create a smooth surface.
2010 CMYA finalist Jason Pink, project manager at BAM Construct
UNIC URW 376 mini crane
At the 265-267 Tottenham Court Road mixed-use project in London, we were under pressure to construct part of the reinforced concrete frame and a stone masonry facade simultaneously. With the tower crane occupied on the frame, I was able to provide additional “hook time” to the stone masons by mobilising a UNIC URW 376 mini crane, positioned on the fifth floor to lift stone onto the facade.
The machine’s size meant we could lift it up there by crane, while its jib has a significant reach and can handle heavy loads, which helped us stay on top of a challenging programme.
CMYA gold award winner Justin Willison ICIOB, project manager at Kier
Shepherd has been trialling HAVmeter devices from Reactec to reduce hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) related to power tools. Each operative is assigned the device, which is attached by magnet to their tool to monitor the amount of trigger time. The HAVmeter has a green, amber and red light and when the recommended daily safe exposure limit is near the amber light flashes, signalling that the operative should stop using the tool.
Data from the devices can be downloaded onto the site computers to give overall exposure statistics for each operative and compare it to their health records. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the way forward for reducing injuries.
Construction Manager of the Year 2010 Neil Matthias, project manager at Shepherd Construction
Mobile Computing Systems’ Priority 1 software for handheld PDAs is being trialled with great success at Kier’s Featherstone Prison project in Wolverhampton to make snagging less of a chore. The PDAs can be loaded with drawings for every room on a project, so if you notice a snag you can quickly enter it and attach it to a drawing, or attach it to a photo to make the snag easier for the subcontractor to identify.
It’s much faster and simpler for a manager to allocate a snag while on site, rather than having to make hand-written notes to type up later on. Once a day’s snagging is complete you simply attach the PDA to a computer and that night all the subcontractors are sent an email including a snagging list and the relevant documents to identify exact snag locations.
Chris Burden, Kier project manager and 2010 CMYA finalist
Most of today’s innovative technologies tend to be bespoke-designed to solve a certain type of problem, but for me the truly indispensable kit can be used anywhere and has its origins in ancient building techniques. The simple tape measure has been used since the Egyptians worked on the pyramids and is still fundamental to every operation on a building site, used by every trade to set work out on site, check dimensions etc. Some people prefer high-tech laser measurement devices, but I find them less reliable than this proven technology.
CMYA gold award-winner Keith Lovell MCIOB, construction director at Bovis Lend Lease