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  • Last week, UK government advisors published a report announcing that all new homes should be banned from connecting to the gas grid within six years as a way of tackling climate change writes Darran Smith, Technical Manager at Alpha Heating Innovation. Whilst there is a need for the UK to tackle climate change and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, is banning gas from new homes the right way to go about it and is it just yet another idea to achieve what seems like the impossible goal of zero carbon homes? The report, from the independent Committee on Climate Change, states that they want all new-build homes in the countryside to be warmed by heat pumps and cooking done on induction hobs, rather than using gas boilers and hobs. They say that new homes should be the initial target as it's much more economical - £4,800 to install low-carbon heating in a new home compared to £26,300 in an existing house. The report adds that in cities, new housing estates and flats should be kept warm by networks of hot water and the water could be heated by industrial waste heat. Whilst a move to more sustainable energy is a good idea, there are a number of drawbacks. Firstly, domestic heating using systems such as heat pumps only work if homes are insulated to the highest standards and therefore require little heating. As such, there needs to be consideration given to the building fabric. There is also the issue that to many, ground source heat pumps are a new technology and are we fully up to speed on how to get the best from them and how systems should be designed and installed for efficient operation? Furthermore, there is the issue of timescales. For many housebuilders, land banking and securing planning approval based on regulations and standards at that time, rather than at the time of construction work starting, will impact on how a ban can be enforced. There is also the risk that if a ban on gas is introduced, will developers and housebuilders take the path of least resistance and look at electric as a heating method? This could be a huge step backwards - a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Whilst I agree that as a nation and as an industry we need to look at how we reduce our emissions, I’m not sure a ban on gas is the right way. You could also argue that housing is not the biggest culprit - 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from our homes - and that we should be focussing on the industrial and commercial sector where the majority of emissions come from. The problem with a move to renewable energy in homes could be more deep rooted however. Many will remember in December 2006, the government made an ambitious pledge that would ensure that within a decade every new home would be a 'zero carbon' home. Britain was the first country ever to have made such a commitment and the plans dictated that come 2016 all new homes would be expected to generate as much energy on-site through renewable tech - such as wind turbines and solar panels - so to cancel out their overall emission of greenhouse gases. This clearly hasn’t happened. The Code for Sustainable Homes was drawn up to facilitate this plan and in 2007 government proposed tightening Building Regulations to achieve the target, first by 25% in 2010, and then by 44% three years later. We then had the Climate Change Act which aims to reduce carbon emissions (compared to 1990 levels) by 34% come 2020 and 80% come 2050 with The Carbon Plan setting out how this would be achieved. Yet nine years after the ambitious pledge, in 2015, a Treasury paper ‘Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’ effectively dropped the requirements for zero carbon buildings stating that they will ‘keep energy efficiency standards under review’, recognising that existing measures to increase energy efficiency of new buildings should be allowed time to become established. All in all, it has been one step forwards, one step backwards. As such, please excuse my scepticism over a plan to make all new homes gas free in just six years. A move to greener energy is the right thing to do and we need to find a way of getting more homes to use technology such as solar. We have seen significant increase in demand for systems such as our award-winning SolarSmart boiler and I have no doubt the industry will move to these over time. However, I do feel that six years is rather ambitious. There is nothing wrong with ambition but history has shown that we are not very good at delivering on our promises and pledges. It should be noted that these are just recommendations at this stage and are part of the Committee on Climate Change’s plan for the UK to meet its 2050 target. Time will tell if this recommendation is put in to action but I feel it will take a lot longer than six years for all new homes to be gas free. Visit: https://www.alpha-innovation.co.uk
    149 views Feb 28, 2019
  • In a world where businesses are measured by their efficiency, intelligent solutions and more efficient methods of construction have become the order of the day in the building industry writes Steve Cocker, senior sales manager at Sika. It’s why the company and its engineers keep close to the customer base and fine-tune products accordingly.  Sikafloor®-RB58 is one such product and for car park operators having an asset in need of refurbishment, it’s a proven way of ensuring a car park is back to its best within the shortest downtime possible. Regardless of how well designed or constructed car parks are, they are inherently vulnerable due to their exposure to aggressive and corrosive elements such as oil and diesel spills, carbon dioxide gasses, de-icing salts and water, all of which become more of a problem if cracks exist in concrete decks. With car park owners or operators legally obliged to maintain their car park in a safe condition, key revenues will be lost when any one of the multi-storey and underground car parks across the UK needs to be closed temporarily for refurbishment. Any closure of a car park can result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds for owners or operators.  By simply specifying a Sika system, 80% of the car park can stay open as normal during refurbishment work.  For example, Sikafloor ®-RB58 is a slip resistant, fast curing waterproofing system that can be applied to asphalt or concrete. As each layer cures within one hour, the system is rapid-setting allowing for fast track applications. Works can therefore be completed overnight in critical areas such as ramps which in turn will reduce the time the car park is out of service to the client.   The system can be applied down to 0°C which allows for both winter or colder, external nighttime applications.  With good mechanical, chemical and abrasion resistance, Sikafloor®-RB58 comprises several layers to guarantee a robust, watertight, performance. The system has been tested in accordance with BS EN 1062-7 for dynamic crack bridging class B 4.2; a test carried out at a temperature of -20°C, a harsher environment than even the UK winter generally provides. As the system can be applied directly over asphalt this in turn reduces waste to landfill, cost to the client and length of programme of the works.  It’s also easy to repair and bonds to itself reducing maintenance costs.  A range of highly decorative colours are also available which can significantly lighten and brighten parking facilities. By using a fast-track and innovative solution such as Sikafloor®-RB58, owners and operators of car parks can ensure their car park is returned to its best within the shortest time frame possible. And once it is installed there is no doubting its superb, durable and waterproofing credentials which will stand the time and traffic for many years to come. Visit: https://gbr.sika.com/content/united_kingdom/main/en/solutions_products/products-solutions.html  
    279 views Feb 18, 2019
  • GroupBC celebrated 20 years in operation with an exclusive event held for partners, customers and staff at its head office in Reading. Unveiling BC HQ’s fresh look as well as its new employees and an exciting solution roadmap, the event was well attended by both new and old faces alike. Festivities included drinks and canapes, followed by a welcome from CEO, Wes Simmons. Speaking at the event, Mr. Simmons said: “Commemorating our 20th year in operation with an event such as this allows us to reflect on the company’s successes and achievements. We have proved to be an organisation which blends passion for technology with proven pedigree in enterprise scale, construction CDE solution design and delivery, and reward ourselves on the positive impacts we have made to the industry.” “This event was a fantastic opportunity to showcase our new office spaces, upcoming projects and our latest software developments as we look forward into the future of BC.” One of the evening’s highlights was an informative talk by Dr. Mark Bew MBE, chairman of BIM consultancy PCSG. A widely-recognised industry expert, Dr. Mark Bew MBE reflected on how he became involved with BC during his time at Costain and Scott Wilson, as well as looking at the leading technologies which have revolutionised the construction sector; giving his forecast of what the industry might look like in the next 20 years. GroupBC is delighted to have celebrated its 20 years with its loyal customers, such as Balfour Beatty,  Sainsbury’s, Thames Water, and Mackley; partners including PCSG, Excitech, and Secura, as well as staff members and is extremely excited to see what its next phase has in store. Visit: www.groupbc.com
    385 views Feb 15, 2019
  • Sika is delighted to have presented the British Heart Foundation with a cheque for £8,000 at their Preston office on 24th January 2019. Having raised funds through the annual Sika Cycle Charity Event, Dragan Maksimović, of Sika, was on hand to present the cheque on behalf of the company, to BHF volunteer and cardiac arrest survivor, Chris Connor, a volunteer fundraiser in the Warrington area, who has been volunteering with the BHF for nearly eight years. Michelle Bailey, Area Fundraising Manager (North West) at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this generous donation from Sika,which will help fund life-saving research and support people affected by heart and circulatory conditions. The support we receive from companies like Sika can make a tremendous difference.” Presenting the cheque to the BHF, Dragan said: “The work that the BHF does is vital in saving lives, and their research into heart disease must continue.  I would like to say a big thank you to all Sika employees, suppliers and customers, who took part in the cycle charity event last September.” The sponsored Sika Cycle 2018 event on 15th September saw pedal-pushing participants take on one of four challenging routes – lasting 25, 50, 70 and 100 miles – with courses weaving their way through the dramatic landscape of Teesdale and Nidderdale, within County Durham and North Yorkshire. The routes gave the riders a glorious view of two of England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The fundraising is vital to the research of the British Heart Foundation, currently helping to support over 1,000 research projects into heart disease around the UK. For more information, visit www.sika.co.uk/everyday
    402 views Feb 11, 2019
  • Brett Martin Plumbing and Drainage is delighted to announce its membership with the British Plastics Federation (BPF) Pipes Group, consolidating its promise of being a provider of best practice, guidance and advice on plastic piping systems for its customers. Brett Martin’s membership with the BPF Pipes Group - the leading trade association representing manufacturers and material suppliers of plastic piping systems in the UK – is testament to the company’s investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, R & D and stringent testing and approvals to ensure products are fit for purpose for each application. Commenting on Brett Martin’s membership, Caroline Ayres, Director of the British Plastics Federation, said: “We are thrilled that Brett Martin are joining us and look forward to their involvement in the latest industry developments and campaigns the BPF are working towards.” Established in 1962, the BPF Pipes Group fosters better standards across the industry and is dedicated to promoting the development, acceptance and usage of manufactured plastic piping systems at all levels in the building, construction, civil and utilities industries. Mark Spacie, Managing Director of Brett Martin Plumbing & Drainage said: “We are delighted and proud to become members of the well-established BPF Pipes Group and look forward to bringing our technical and industry expertise to this market leading forum.  For all our customers, it provides the assurance that we are a trusted partner while it is a further endorsement of the company striving for the highest standards in product, service and support.” Brett Martin began life in 1958 and has built a solid reputation with the nation’s building merchants, building contractors and installers as a company that can be relied upon for quality, service and value. Testament to the company’s commitment to producing world-class products, the company has invested in two dedicated centres of excellence for Plastic Pipe Extrusion and Injection Moulded Fittings in Derbyshire and County Antrim. Brett Martin Plumbing and Drainage remains at the forefront of the industry thanks to the continuous development of its range of Underground, Rainwater and Soil & Waste above and below ground drainage systems.  Product highlights in the Brett Martin range include Cascade Cast Iron Style Rainwater Systems, Anthracite Grey Rainwater Systems, Universal BBA Approved Twinwall Multi-Fittings, SfA7 Adoptable Chamber Assemblies and 50Kn Lids.  These are all manufactured in Brett Martin’s own BS EN 9001:2015 quality approved factories to the relevant industry standards with BBA certification, BSI Kitemarks and CE marking throughout the range. The company has dedicated teams of sales, service and technical support professionals to provide one-to-one product, specification and service assistance throughout the UK and Ireland.  Round-the-clock manufacturing, a stock holding along with a dedicated distribution fleet, ensures Brett Martin’s on time delivery of goods. Visit: www.brettmartin.com
    446 views Feb 10, 2019
  • A superb housing development created within the walls of an historic naval fortress has been hailed as a ‘bold’ and imaginative scheme by judges of a high-profile industry awards. Ordnance Yard, an innovative nine-home scheme in Gosport, Hampshire earned a highly-valued ‘Commendation’ at this year’s RTPI South East Awards for Planning Excellence.  The recognition was awarded in the ‘Excellence in Planning for Homes’ category. In commending the development, which lies within the Priddy’s Hard Ministry of Defence Ordnance Depot, judges praised Elite Homes for its ‘courage and drive’ in taking on a challenging site ‘with a range of characteristics that other developers saw only as constraints’. Judges said they were also impressed by the bold approach to the design of the houses; ‘not only their appearance and choice of materials, but also their sustainability’. Ordnance Yard occupies a stretch of waterfront which formed a vital part of the Victorian and wartime armouries, providing the arsenal that protected the UK during these industrial times. Elite Homes and John Pardey Architects embarked on the derelict site’s regeneration after an attempt by a previous developer to build nine homes and demolish its six shell filling rooms and associated structures failed. A new vision was required. It resulted in a unique and thoroughly modern development that also reflected the site’s naval heritage. Six open-fronted homes, clad in metal with a battleship grey tone, ‘float’ between giant blast walls used to protect the demolished shell filling rooms. Bookending the development are two elevated houses. Occupying the sites of two former Trotyl melting room structures, the homes - clad in a lighter grey metal -  also ‘float’  above a continuation of the existing blast walls. The final house, which sits squarely on the ground, occupies a central location on the former footprint of the shell emptying room towards the site entrance where it acts as a gatehouse to the development. Each home contains energy-efficient air source heat pumps and exceeds building regulation levels for airtightness.  An on-site drainage and sewage system, which converts wastewater into potable drinking water, has also been installed to enhance the development’s sustainability. David Craddock, Director at Elite Homes, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Ordnance Yard received a commendation. The RTPI awards are revered throughout the industry and the competition was fierce. Ours was the only private housing development to win a south east award. The award is testament to the hard work and vision of everyone at Elite Homes and John Pardey Architects. All involved are rightly proud with what they achieved with this remarkable development.”  Following the Ordnance Yard development, Elite Homes has been granted planning permission to carry-out a wider regeneration of Priddy’s Hard. Phase one of the £11million scheme includes the creation of 30 homes, an armed forces museum and an alcohol distillery. It is hoped the renovation will transform the dilapidated naval fortress into one of the most desirable residential and tourist hubs on the south coast.
    300 views Jan 25, 2019