Photograph: Philippe Ruault
The latest Maggie’s centre, which will offer practical and emotional support for people with cancer and their families and friends, opens this month at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow. The £2.3m centre was designed by Dutch firm OMA and features a single-storey ring of inter-connected counselling rooms, sitting rooms and offices, creating a small landscaped courtyard at its centre. Ceiling heights and views give varying experiences of intimacy and exposure.
Implementation architect for the 535m2 centre was Scottish firm Keppie, structural engineer was Sinclair Knight Merz, with services engineer KJ Tait. The contractor was West Lothian firm Dunne Group.
Companies could haveto pay for investigations after breaches of safety law. Michael Glackin reports
The deadline for the industry to have a say in proposed legislation that will allow the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to recover investigation costs from those who break safety laws expires this week (October 14).
Insiders believe the proposals, which could mean firms having to pay tens of thousands of pounds to cover the cost of HSE inspections and investigations, are likely to be approved by government and come into force within six months.
Gordon MacDonald, HSE programme director, said: “The government has agreed that it is right that those who break the law should pay their fair share of the costs to put things right, and not the public purse. Compliant firms will not pay a penny in intervention fees.”
Under the proposals put forward by the HSE, contractors and other firms would have to pay the cost of an HSE inspection or investigation if either revealed a failure to adhere to health and safety law.
HSE will recover costs at current estimates of £133 per hour. Costs of any specialist support needed would also be passed on and firms would have to pay within 30 days of receiving an invoice.
A company served with an enforcement notice could pay up to £1,500 in costs to the HSE, while an investigation into a serious breach of safety could mean firms will have to pay tens of thousands of pounds in addition to the statutory fine.
If the government accepts the proposals for cost recovery in their current form, the changes could be implemented as early as April 2012.
Construction bodies are broadly supportive of the new arrangements, but concerns remain over how they will work in practice.
Brian Berry, director of external affairs for the Federation of Master Builders said: “Our problem is with what happens when a firm wants to contest the H&S inspector’s ruling. What will be in place to deal with that situation?”
Berry wants to avoid the situation where a firm’s only recourse is a legal one.
Mike Smith, managing director of Corniche Builders, and chairman of the Chartered Building Company scheme, also agreed “that the principle of charging for services when a serious breech has occurred seems fair and reasonable”. However, he is concerned that it would only be able to be reinforced with reputable companies, which means that, yet again, these would be penalised.
Smith suggested that a more equitable way of raising cash for the HSE might be to introduce a registration fee when notifying under CDM which would make health and safety more accountable.
The proposal for inspection cost recovery is one of a series of government reviews of health and safety regulations.
These include the Department for Work and Pensions’ review, chaired by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, which aims to reduce the burden of health and safety legislation on businesses by combining some regulations and scrapping those that have resulted in what the government believes to be inappropriate litigation and compensation.
The H&S review is part of a wider review of business regulations — the Red Tape Challenge — which aims to cut regulation on businesses and follows Lord Young’s earlier report, which called for an end to “excessive” health and safety rules.
Meanwhile, the HSE and EU are also reviewing the CDM regulations, which could result in changes to the Approved Code of Practice.
Peter Caplehorn, technical director with Scott Brownrigg, said: “There’s been an improvement in health and safety in the industry over the last 10 years or so, but it’s not breathtaking when you consider the effort involved in that period in the shape of reviews and reports.”
The new £57m Aberdeen University library opened last month. Designed by Danish architect Schmidt Hammer Lassen, its sharp cube-like exterior gives way to a contoured interior. Contractor Pihl UK started construction in September 2009 and completed in summer this year. Despite Aberdeen’s cold winters, the building is BREEAM Excellent, with a high-performance facade, solar collectors and a dedicated CHP system.
The government is at loggerheads with its own advisers over proposals to restrict the use of Building Notices and replace them with a more rigorous procedure, writes Michael Glackin.
The Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC) recommended restricting the use of Building Notices as part of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation paper, Future Changes to the Building Regulations, which is due in December.
BRAC strongly recommended the introduction of a tougher system that would require detailed plans to be submitted to local authority Building Control departments for a number of schemes that currently only require Building Notices. But sources close to the discussions between BRAC and junior minister Andrew Stunell said the government was intent on ignoring BRAC’s advice because it “clashed with the coalition’s policy of deregulation”.
The insider said: “The government is loath to introduce new regulations at a time when it is promising to reduce red tape. So it is prepared to ignore its own advisory body’s recommendation, and the view of the wider industry, and keep the current system.”
A Building Notice allows work to be carried out before detailed plans have been produced. It is generally used on less complex projects, primarily on domestic property for work such as loft conversions and some extensions.
But critics insist the Building Notice system greatly increases the risk of clients and contractors breaching the Building Regulations during construction.
Under the current system local Building Control departments need to inspect each stage of a project to ensure it complies with the regulations and critics insist this puts too much strain on the limited resources of local authorities, particularly against the backdrop of government cost cutting.
Paul Everall, chief executive of Local Authority Building Control (LABC), said: “We don’t want Building Notices scrapped completely, they have a place, but their use needs to be restricted.”
One Building Control insider said: “Loft conversions raise safety issues such as escape routes in the event of a fire as well as a range of structural viability concerns.”
A new British Standard aims to “level the playing field” for procurement across both public and private sectors. BS8534 aims to simplify “policies, strategies and procedures for the procurement of construction”.
Peter Caplehorn, chair of the BSI Construction Committee, says it is not before time: “UK procurement is in a bit of a mess. Everyone is using different methods.”
Caplehorn said UK construction had formerly used the Department of Business Innovation and Skills’ PAS91. But he thought it to be biased towards larger firms: “BS8534 levels the playing field for everyone.”
Caplehorn denied that the BS was set up in competition with EU ISO standards, adding “it merely recognises the different nature of UK construction law”.
Kier seals four-year framework
Kier has landed a £1bn framework to deliver small building works across the public sector. The Scape National Minor Works framework will last for four years and is expected to comprise more than 2,500 projects valued under £500,000 and more than 350 projects valued between £500,000 and £2m.
Task force to tackle green confusion
A new Green Building Guidance task group aims to combat “greenwash”, reduce confusion and help make sustainability profitable. The task group, launched by the UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC), plans to provide a comprehensive framework for the construction and property sector, sign-posting businesses to information and advice.
The UK-GBC says the launch was a response to the proliferation of information, tools, guidance, products and services around green buildings. It is due to report early in the New Year.
Ritchie to stand for UCATT post again
The former leader of construction union Ucatt plans to stand for re-election after losing office following a voting scandal.
Alan Ritchie was forced to stand down as general secretary of the union earlier this year after an investigation by the Certification Officer (CO), a government appointed ombudsman, found that his 2009 election victory was “flawed” due to voting irregularities.
Ritchie is one of four candidates planning to contest the leadership election which begins next month.
The other contenders for the £96,000-a-year post are Michael Dooley, Steve Murphy and Jerry Swain.
Dooley lost the now void 2009 election to Ritchie and is currently embroiled in a legal action with Ucatt after he was sacked by the union earlier this year. The Certification Officer’s investigation into the 2009 ballot followed a complaint about the conduct of the election by Dooley.
H&S videos launched
The ciob is to launch a suite of health and safety training videos to reach out to all levels of the industry. CIOB director for construction innovation and development, Saleem Akram, said: “Last year there were 50 fatal injuries in UK construction and that’s 50 too many. This tragic loss of human life can be avoided by effectively communicating how accidents occur and how they can be avoided.” The videos are in a clear, animated format, with minimal narration, to cross language barriers as well as construction disciplines. The project has been funded by the EU’s Leonardo Da Vinci programme.
Crane ready for presidency
Chartered engineer Alan Crane will be inaugurated as President of the CIOB on 1 January 2012, taking over from James Wates. Crane has spent 40 years in the construction industry and currently heads up an independent construction consultancy. He is a past chairman of the Construction Confederation and member of the Construction Industry Board.
Prior to his new appointment, he was chair of the CIOB Education Qualifications, Standards and Practice Board. He is currently a government appointed construction sector member of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. Crane will deliver his inauguration speech on December 7.
City’s Sustainable awards
Applications are invited for the City Of London Corporation’s Sustainable City Awards. Now in its 11th year, the awards are open to both new build and refurbishment projects, not just in the City of London, but UK-wide. A total of 14 awards are up for grabs across a variety of construction sectors.
The CIOB has sponsored the Sustainable Building Award with the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors. For more information visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/sca. Closing date for applications is 14 November.