HS2 reaches ‘major’ milestone as tunnelling begins

HS2 has launched the first of 10 tunnelling machines that will dig 64 miles of tunnels in phase one of the project.
The 170 metre-long Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), named Florence, will operate 24 hours a day for the next three years to dig a 10-mile tunnel under the Chiltern Hills. The work will be managed by the Align joint venture comprising Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick, which is responsible for the C1 package of phase one civils works worth around £1.6bn.
The machine has been designed specifically to tunnel through the mix of chalk and flints under the Chilterns. Florence, and an identical TBM called Cecilia, will dig one tunnel each to cater for north and southbound rail. The TBMs are expected to dig and line the tunnels with precast concrete sections at a rate of 15 metres per day.
HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston said: “The launch of our first tunnelling machine is a major moment of progress for the HS2 project as we work to deliver a high-speed railway that will offer low-carbon alternatives for long-distance journeys across the UK.”
Earlier this week, a Mace/Dragados JV secured the latest major contract on HS2 as it landed the £570m deal to deliver Curzon Street station in Birmingham.

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HS2 reaches ‘major’ milestone as tunnelling begins – David Price – 2021-05-13 12:59:00

New York Penn Station’s stylish new entrance invites travelers to the train concourse and the city

Great fanfare was accorded the opening, last January, of the $1.6 billion 486,000-sf Moynihan Train Hall, an adaptive reuse of the 107-year-old Farley Post Office Building and the first major step toward the reimagination of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station, the busiest train station in the Western Hemisphere. The Train Hall “gives the city the gateway it deserves,” wrote the New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which designed the Train Hall, also was part of that building team that included Skanska, AECOM, and Seele on the East End Gateway, a 40-ft-tall street-level glass and steel canopy that provides a new entrance to Penn Station at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue. SOM—which had been attached to the Train Hall project since the 1990s—recently released new photos of the Gateway.


The structure is positioned to give travelers a better view of the Empire State Building.


The entrance is set back 130 ft from the curb to ease pedestrian crowding and to align the structure more directly with the Empire State Building for viewing that iconic skyscraper. It is also another natural light source into the station that, previously, had been like navigating a hermetically sealed cave.

The Gateway’s pre-tensioned steel cables support its smooth, high-performance glass enclosure. Parametric analysis informed the design and engineering of the curved glass and connector elements.

East End Gateway connects directly to the Long Island Railroad Main Concourse from the street. Its three escalators double the entrance’s vertical circulation capacity. Underground, a map of New York State rings steel spandrels and helps to place travelers within the region.

The three escalators double the entrance’s vertical circulation capacity. 



Pre-tension steel supports the Gateway’s high-performance glass.


The Gateway represents the first phase in the complete revamp of the LIRR concourses. The next phase, scheduled for completion in 2023, will nearly double the concourse’s width and raise its ceiling height to 18 ft. Other improvements will include new wayfinding, a new elevator at 7th Avenue, brighter lighting, and enhanced airflow.

There has been talk about relocating Madison Square Garden—which currently sits above Penn Station—across the street in order to open the above-ground area for the train station, which also serves Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. Before the pandemic, 650,000 people per day used Penn Station.

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New York Penn Station’s stylish new entrance invites travelers to the train concourse and the city – jcaulfield – 2021-05-06 15:46:29

Morris Homes admits guilt in sewage row

stock imageSouth Staffordshire District Council took Morris Homes to court for not rectifying an unauthorised sewage and drainage system at Salters Meadow in Cheslyn Hay, near Cannock.

The company admitted not complying with a breach of condition order at Cannock Magistrates’ Court on 27th April. It was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay the council’s costs and a £100 victim surcharge.

Annette Roberts, director of planning and infrastructure at South Staffordshire District Council, said: “The company has been far too slow to install a proper sewage system on this housing estate, even after it lost an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, but we are determined to see this through to a successful conclusion on behalf of our residents.

“It’s a great pity that the council have had to follow the legal process this way. However, the company has now submitted two alternative drainage and sewage schemes which we will now be considering.”

Morris Homes installed a sewage pumping station in 2014, saying that it was only a temporary solution but a year later the company submitted plans to make the station permanent.

South Staffordshire District Council refused the application and its decision was backed by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2018 after an unsuccessful appeal by the housebuilder. 

Morris Homes has now submitted alternative drainage plans for the council to consider so that an approved system can be installed.

Salters Meadow resident Andrew Dodd said he was pleased that the council’s court case had resulted in the house-builder admitting the sewage system was not fit for purpose. “Morris Homes has shown a complete lack of regard for residents over the years and still do,” he said. “Bowser tanks regularly visit to empty a cesspit which causes disruption and horrible smells, with mess left on the road and pavements where residents walk their children to school.

“We hope that Morris Homes work with the district council and Severn Trent to ensure that this is installed in a timely fashion to finally allow residents to get on with their lives.”
Got a story? Email news@theconstructionindex.co.uk

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Morris Homes admits guilt in sewage row – The Construction Index – 2021-05-05 07:08:00

Mammoth Birmingham NEC housing plans revived

Plans for more than 2,000 homes to be built near the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham have been revived by West Midlands mayor Andy Street.
The huge housing scheme, which would involve the use of surplus car parking sites at the NEC, were first mooted in 2018. The aim of the scheme is to boost housing provision in Solihull without encroaching onto greenbelt land.
According to the Birmingham Mail, Street has been in talks over the scheme in recent weeks. He said: “This is a game-changing proposal from the NEC, which could see an enormous new brownfield housing site in the West Midlands, right in the borough which faces the biggest greenbelt challenge.”
A statement from NEC Group said that discussions are ongoing between Birmingham and Solihull councils and the mayor’s office over the proposals, which if built would cover 140 hectares.
Andy Street’s office has been contacted for comment.

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Mammoth Birmingham NEC housing plans revived – tim.clark@emap.com – 2021-04-29 13:49:13

Building performance requirements are coming: Are you ready?

Building performance requirements are policies that establish a definition for high-performance buildings and drive all buildings to achieve that definition, making clear the city or county’s priorities. A building performance requirement provides flexibility because owners can use whatever technologies and operational strategies they decide are most effective and economical to meet the performance target.

Montgomery County has a stated goal to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 80% by 2027 and to achieve Net Zero GHG by 2035. Like many counties, the approach in Montgomery County will lean heavily on the performance of existing buildings and requirements for new construction. Benchmarking performance and the associated rewards and penalties for performance are increasingly used to curb energy consumption of existing buildings. You can learn about the Montgomery County BEPS program here.

Building Performance Requirements are trending nationwide and are likely coming to a county near you. This post explores the steps that building owners and operators need to take to prepare and perform. So how can building operators prepare for future building performance standards requirements?

The truth is that there is no single step that an owner can take to achieve the performance required to curb climate change and comply with regulations. The solution requires a 360-degree perspective on real estate, addressing strategies at the portfolio and building levels, considering both new construction and existing buildings.

The strategy must include diverse yet complementary disciplines, so real estate owners and operators can have a rich understanding of the issue and the options available to meet performance requirements when the time comes.

These are four recommendations to prepare existing buildings for future building performance requirements.

1. Analyze and review current building data. Collect design and operating data to baseline the building’s performance now. This includes a site walkthrough to determine the installed and operating conditions.

2. Start documenting and benchmarking now to determine where you stand. Collect a minimum of 15 months of utility data to enter into a benchmarking platform like ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This will provide a clear comparison between your building’s performance and similar buildings.

3. Right-size your energy audits. Analytical data from benchmarking will indicate what level of effort is needed to effectively improve energy performance. The energy audit (Type I, II, or III) should be scaled up or down to meet regulatory and owner goals to increase energy performance and reduce climate impact. You can learn more about the types of typical energy audits here.

4. Invest in ongoing commissioning. To ensure that performance goals are maintained you should plan on having a backcheck like ongoing commissioning, which ensures that performance standards meet performance goals. We’ve explained the different types of building commissioning here.

Each county or city will have its own metrics for its building performance requirements. Once you learn if your requirements are based on ENERGY STAR scores, EUI, GHG equivalent, or another metric, you can begin tracking performance, training building staff, and planning for performance improvements.

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Building performance requirements are coming: Are you ready? – dmalone – 2021-04-26 21:24:51

Paul Morrell to lead review into product testing

Paul MorrellThe review comes after testimony to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry exposed evidence of testing irregularities and potential ‘gaming of the system’ by some manufacturers.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has appointed Paul Morrell to chair an independent panel the conduct the review. Paul Morrell was the government’s chief construction advisor (2009–12) and is a former senior partner at Davis Langdon. He previously led government reviews on low carbon construction strategy in 2010, government construction strategy in 2011 and industry training boards in 2017.   

He will be support by barrister Anneliese Day of Fountain Court Chambers, who specialises in construction litigation.

The review will examine how to strengthen the current system for testing construction products to provide confidence that these materials are safe and perform as marketed.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: “The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has heard deeply concerning suggestions that some construction product manufacturers may have gamed the system for testing these materials and compromised the safety of residents.

“We are taking these allegations very seriously and will await the inquiry’s final recommendations – but it is clear that action is needed now to ensure products used on buildings always meet the highest safety standards.”

The government has already announced that a new National Regulator for Construction Products will be established within the Office of Product Safety & Standards and be given powers to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk; and prosecute and fine any company that breaks the rules. 

These measures form part of the Government’s wider reform of the sector, post-Grenfell, which includes the draft Building Safety Bill.
Got a story? Email news@theconstructionindex.co.uk

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Paul Morrell to lead review into product testing – The Construction Index – 2021-04-21 07:51:00

Material prices to remain high ‘for a year’

Inflation in raw materials will continue to push up prices for the rest of 2021, according to a new survey from the Construction Products Association (CPA).
The organisation’s State of Trade Survey for the first quarter of 2021 found housing is leading a recovery for the sector but material shortages are expected to hit prices for the next year.
The supply of raw materials and components is the primary concern for most product manufacturers, reflecting global supply issues for items including steel, timber, PVC and chemicals. Some 90 per cent of heavy side and 88 per cent of light side manufacturers reported an increase in the cost of raw materials during Q1.
Heavy side products are typically structural materials used early in the construction process including cement and steel, while light side products are mainly fittings and services, such as heating systems and insulation.
At the same time as input prices are rising, manufacturers are reporting an increase in demand, with activity above pre-pandemic levels. Some 41 per cent of heavy side manufacturers, and 46 per cent of light sight manufacturers reported an increase in sales in the first three months of the year, as well as on an annual basis, taking activity above pre-coronavirus levels, the CPA said.
CPA senior economist Rebecca Larkin said: “Encouragingly, manufacturers expect continued growth over the next year. This risks being held back by bottlenecks in the global supply of raw materials, however, notably in categories where a high proportion is dependent on imports. Inevitably, rises in input prices have followed and almost all manufacturers expect this inflationary pressure to persist over the next 12 months.”
There have been several recent warnings over materials costs in recent weeks including from the Builders Merchants Federation, steel specialist Billington and Travis Perkins.
The increased demand from the industry is being primarily driven by the housing market, Larkin said: “The construction industry continues its V-shaped recovery, resulting in another quarter of increased sales for product manufacturers. This appears to be the case particularly in private housing, which is experiencing a flow of pent-up demand and policy support from Help to Buy and the stamp duty holiday.”
The trade body also found that extensions of job support schemes and housing market stimulus by the UK Government, as well as activity on large-scale infrastructure projects have underpinned confidence that the recovery will continue.

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Material prices to remain high ‘for a year’ – Ian Weinfass – 2021-04-19 18:20:46

New Great Lakes Academy expansion will double the size of the school

The new 130,000-sf expansion of Great Lakes Academy, a K-8 charter school in South Chicago, has begun construction. The expansion will more than double the size of the school.

The school’s current location, a three-story brick masonry building, will be connected to the neighboring building, a former Catholic Church, via a one-story glass link. Additions to the program will feature a multipurpose space that will serve as a gymnasium and include a regulation-sized basketball court, a volleyball court, and a climbing wall; a performance venue with a stage and green room; a cafeteria that will be separated from the gym by a flexible use divider curtain and provide enough space for half of the students to eat together; and a commercial kitchen with preparatory spaces and a training component that will allow over 600 meals to be served each day. Other new facilities will include a visual arts room, a combination library and makers-ace, and an artificial turf field with seating.



The project will also expand outdoor spaces for lessons and recreation, incorporating elements like boulders, logs, and stumps to allow for immersive activity. A landscaped entry courtyard will become the school’s new entrance. Additionally, a green roof will reduce groundwater runoff, improve building thermal insulation, and lessen the urban heat island.



In addition to Wheeler Kearns Architects, the build team includes:

Bulley & Andrews: General Contractor

Enspect Engineering: Structural Engineer

Terra Engineering: Civil Engineer

Kettelkamp and Kettelkamp: Landscape Architect

IBC Engineering: MEP Engineer

Edge Associates: Kitchen Consultant

Shiner Acoustics: Acoustical Consultant



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New Great Lakes Academy expansion will double the size of the school – dmalone – 2021-04-14 17:44:55

New flagship barge for Red7Marine

Haven SeaChallenger (Image from Costain)The monohull jack-up barge has deck dimensions of 50 metres by 24 metres and a leg length of 55 metres, making it the biggest in the company’s fleet.

Red7Marine described the purchase of the Haven SeaChallenger as “an exciting step-change” for the company. It now owns and operates 12 jack-up barges, with payload capacities ranging from 100 tonnes to 1,000 tonnes.

The barge allows Red7Marine to take on bigger projects and offer clients a liveaboard option, which can be a differentiator on projects where crew transfers are costly and time-consuming. This will be essential in meeting the company’s aim to move into renewable markets and to offer support on large marine infrastructure projects, the company said.

It was previously owned by Fugro, as the Fugro F1200, purchased in 2010 after a majore rebuild. It was originally built in 1974.

Red7Marine managing director Kristen Branford said: “By purchasing the Haven SeaChallenger, we are ready to take on bigger projects with an enhanced capability. This will open greater market share for the business and is an investment which will grow our core business activity as well as open new doors.”

Chief executive Nick Offord added: “We are already in discussions regarding several future projects for the Haven SeaChallenger and look forward to seeing where the barges’ first charter will be.”

Got a story? Email news@theconstructionindex.co.uk

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New flagship barge for Red7Marine – The Construction Index – 2021-04-08 07:55:00

Taylor Woodrow wins £328m deal to upgrade A358

Taylor Woodrow has been awarded a £328m contract by Highways England to upgrade the A358 in the South West.
Nine miles of road will be upgraded to dual carriageway between the Southfields roundabout on the A303 and the M5 in Somerset. Taylor Woodrow has been carrying out ground investigations and environmental surveys for the scheme alongside Arup and Ramboll. The project will now go through statutory consultation ahead of a development consent order application being submitted.
Taylor Woodrow was first awarded the job in November last year, ahead of the final value of the contract being agreed.
Highways England programme leader for the A358 Andrew Alcorn said: “Taylor Woodrow has an extensive track record working with Highways England and delivering large scale infrastructure projects, so we are confident they will deliver a scheme that will support economic growth, improve traffic flows at peak times and make the road safer.”
The A358 upgrade is part of a wider plan to increase road capacity in the South West, which includes the construction of the A303 Stonehenge tunnel. The project received a development consent order approval last year. Widening of the A303 between Sparkford and Ilchester in Somerset was also approved last year by the transport secretary.

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Taylor Woodrow wins £328m deal to upgrade A358 – David Price – 2021-04-07 13:16:40