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

Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic For Our Collective Humanity, By Femi Falana

In sum, the response to the crisis should, therefore, be based on the principles of compassion, cooperation and multilateralism. In fact, apart from the pandemic, other global issues such as climate change, social inequality, drugs and identity crisis require cooperation and multilateral approaches because they constitute dangers to our common humanity.
The most telling lesson of the coronavirus pandemic is that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.” It is an indisputable proof of our biological connectedness, which is even more consequential for life and livelihoods   than the digital connectivity that is the buzz phrase of the millennials.
As it happens in any pandemic, the coronavirus does not respect geo-political boundaries; neither is it restricted by socio-economic and cultural divides. The virus infects the poor and the rich alike. It overwhelms developed countries and underdeveloped ones, despite the sophistication of the healthcare system of the industrialised countries. Yet, humanitarian disasters loom in some parts of the world because the obvious lesson seems to be currently lost on mankind.
Let me illustrate this point with the politics and economics of vaccines being played out before our very eyes around the globe. About this time last year, no fewer than 140 world leaders and experts issued an unprecedented joint statement calling for equity and humaneness in the distribution of the vaccines meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was indeed a battle cry for “people’s vaccines.” The essence of the call was to ensure a global arrangement to guarantee the provision of COVID-19 diagnostics, tests, vaccines and treatments to everyone on earth.
Among the signatories to the statement were President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana; President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Chair of the African Union; the President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall; and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. Notable economists including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and public health experts joined the political leaders in signing the statement. Their motivation was obvious: The pandemic is a tragic reminder of our shared humanity, which some members of the global elite and establishments seem to have forgotten. They are immersed in their myopic and selfish pursuit of polices defined by unbridled competition, instead of cooperation and isolationism, rather than multilateralism. The world leaders and experts argued as follows:
“It is time for Health Ministers to renew the commitments made at the founding of the World Health Organization, where all states agreed to deliver the ‘the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being.
Now is not the time to allow the interests of the wealthiest corporations and governments to be placed before the universal need to save lives, or to leave this massive and moral task to market forces. Access to vaccines and treatments as global public goods are in the interests of all humanity. We cannot afford for monopolies, crude competition and near-sighted nationalism to stand in the way.”
It is also worth noting that President Ramaphosa, in a separate statement, added an African note to the clamour for the equitable distribution of vaccines:
“Billions of people today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic. As the countries of Africa, we are resolute that the COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All the science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.”
The sad story is that of the resurgence of vaccine nationalism, with all its perils for our shared humanity. The current battle is not only against coronavirus, it is also a war against vaccine inequality. The trend is a portrayal of the huge deficits in the global consciousness about our collective humanity. Intriguingly, these deficits are not on the part of the poor people who continue to exude immense humanity…
Since the May 14, 2020 statement, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic has shifted from China to Europe, the Americas and now back to Asia, in India, where more than 230,000 persons have died. More than 5,000 human beings die daily in India! Watching the grim footages on television today, of the havoc being wreaked by coronavirus in places as diverse on the planet as India, Brazil and Turkey, you would not believe that that statement was ever made in the sober moment of May 2020, when the whole world was on a virtual lockdown.
The sad story is that of the resurgence of vaccine nationalism, with all its perils for our shared humanity. The current battle is not only against coronavirus, it is also a war against vaccine inequality. The trend is a portrayal of the huge deficits in the global consciousness about our collective humanity. Intriguingly, these deficits are not on the part of the poor people who continue to exude immense humanity, despite their sordid conditions. The deficits are noticeable more on the part of the selfish poltical and economic elites who make decisions in the rich countries.
Some countries are stocking vaccines more than their urgent needs, while some countries lack vaccines to save the extremely needy sections of their populations. In Nigeria, a country with a population of more 200 million people, only about a million persons have been vaccinated. Meanwhile, it was reported at the weekend that the highly virulent South African variant of coronavirus has been found in Ghana and Togo. The proximity of the variant to Nigeria suggests a greater need for vaccination within the population. This should be treated as a matter of emergency because of the porous borders. Corruption has rendered the surveillance at the airports ineffective.
The story is more pathetic in some African countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Men and women of good conscience should join in the campaign against vaccine inequality because of its destructive implication for mankind. The reputable British news agency, Reuters, did a review of about a dozen contracts involving major suppliers of vaccines in the United States. The revelations put into serious question the consciousness about our collective humanity.The richest and most powerful nation on earth has been stockpiling finished vaccines, as well as the ingredients and equipment desperately needed by other countries such as India, Brazil and Turkey to manufacture vaccines. Employing selfish policy instruments, the U.S. only grants access to American manufacturers to make the jabs. Less developed countries in dire need of vaccines have been pushed into looking for alternatives. As a matter of fact, this trend began during the tenure of President Donald Trump, who would rather lure vaccine manufacturers into the United States from other countries, instead of establishing supply chains with these countries.
There is a global debate about the patent for COVID-19 vaccines. Some countries being ravaged by the pandemic are requesting the richer countries to grant them waivers on the patent for the existing vaccines. They need the waivers on intellectual property, so that enough could be produced to check the explosion of infections in those countries. Although President Joe Biden of the United States expressed support for the waiving of patent for COVID-19 vaccines only last Wednesday, the problem could still persist without addressing the hidden question of the universal access to the ingredients and equipment for making vaccines.
The United States controls the supply of items such as tubing, special disposable bags and filters. If the World Trade Organisation (WTO) accepts the waiver on patents, the gate may be opened for a faster production of vaccines to significantly reduce the number of infections. But the access to the ingredients would still be a hurdle to scale by manufacturers in other countries. Surprisingly, the United States is invoking a law made during the Korean War of the early 1950s to justify this vaccine inequity. The law is called the Defence Production Act (DPA). Agencies of the federal government are empowered by law to decide the priority of items related to national defence. Like defence items, America is restricting ingredients for making vaccines.
As such, the most powerful nation on earth is treating the fight against COVID-19 as a geo-political war by this application of a 70-year old law to restrict the democratisation of the distribution of vaccines. A false equivalence is being drawn between military supplies and materials needed to make vaccines! Trump invoked the same law to give American manufacturers priority over those in other countries. The same Trump took his isolationism to an outrageous level when the United States stopped funding the World Health Organisation (WHO) amid the pandemic last year.

I like to draw a particular attention to the philosophical underpinnings of the difference in the response of socialist Cuba and Western capitalist countries. Internal and foreign policies of Cuba are determined by an ideology that makes man the object and subject of development. And one other lesson of this pandemic is that issues of healthcare cannot be inclusively resolved by market forces.
Meanwhile, Americans have access to full doses of the vaccines, while the country’s pharmaceutical companies are making a lot of money in the process. It took weeks of appeals before the Biden administration granted waivers to the Indian vaccines manufacturers, the Serum Institute of India (SII), to import filters needed for making vaccines. The net result is that more than 45 per cent of the American population has been vaccinated, while less than 1 per cent of the population of Guatemala, Thailand or Nigeria has received the jabs.
The foregoing is the ugly picture of vaccine inequality. Talking about the political economy of COVID-19 in relation to a sense of our common humanity, let us contrast the role of Cuba in the crisis with those of the Western capitalist countries. Whereas the United States and some other capitalist countries have been largely selfish in the approach to the pandemic, Cuba has heroically demonstrated humanism. At the height of the lockdowns last year, some British voyagers infected with coronavirus were stranded in a ship. No Western ally of the United Kingdom allowed the ship to berth because of the travel bans imposed by countries around the world. Europe was then the epicentre of the virus infections. It was only Cuba that welcomed the infected passengers and ensured that they returned to the U.K. It was another teachable moment for the whole world. In a highly compassionate tone, the Cuban foreign ministry put the matter like this: “Given the urgency of the situation and the risk to the lives of sick people, the Cuban government has decided to allow the docking of this ship.“ The passengers will be repatriated by air to the U.K. and their home countries… These are times of solidarity, of understanding health as a human right, of reinforcing international cooperation to face our common challenges, values that are inherent in the humanistic practice of the Revolution and of our people…”

That was a practical demonstration of our shared humanity! The significance of the Cuban gesture even becomes more conspicuous when you remember that in the course of the 60-year old callous economic blockade that the United States has imposed on the Cuban people, the U.K. and other Western capitalists have never risen even in moral defence of Cuba or shown any compassion to them. At the request of the Italian government, Cuba doctors, armed with their drug, Interferon, were in Italy when that country’s healthcare system was overwhelmed by coronavirus infections last year. Cuban doctors were on ground also in other countries in different continents of this world to battle coronavirus.
The reputation of the Cuban social medicine is legendary. The conscious investment in its healthcare system as a social good has paid off for the tiny Caribbean country. The investment is so huge in public health and primary healthcare that no one is left behind. It is an exemplary policy of social inclusion. The result: Lifespan in Cuba is higher than that of any of the U.S. and all the other members of the G7. Apart from India, Cuba is the only country that’s not a member of the G7 but is actively involved in the production of vaccines. Cuba already has five candidate vaccines. The heroism of the Cuban nation in this crisis is firmly hinged on the assertion of our common humanity in words and action.
I like to draw a particular attention to the philosophical underpinnings of the difference in the response of socialist Cuba and Western capitalist countries. Internal and foreign policies of Cuba are determined by an ideology that makes man the object and subject of development. And one other lesson of this pandemic is that issues of healthcare cannot be inclusively resolved by market forces. The excluded members of the society in healthcare provision are more vulnerable during this pandemic in advanced capitalist societies.
The present situation in which some national policies are informed by low humanity is not due to the lack of efforts by multilateral institutions. For instance, about a year ago, the WHO created the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool for the sharing of intellectual property, information and the technology needed to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines. Surprisingly, nothing has been put into the pool despite the fact that the Director-General of the WTO, our own Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called on vaccine makers to share their technology knowhow with others.
Those hoarding vaccines, as if they are oblivious of a common humanity, should be reminded of history. To make penicillin available during World War II, the British government waived the intellectual property on the antibiotic needed to treat wounds during war. The antibiotic was discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, but it was not until 1941 that some Oxford University researchers demonstrated its antibacterial effectiveness. Rather than make a fetish of intellectual property, the Oxford researchers went to the United States to share their knowledge and American manufacturers began to make about 100 billion units of penicillin in a month. The same knowledge was shared with India with the support of WHO and UNICEF. India became a big manufacturer of penicillin. The principle then was the exchange of knowledge, because untreated wounds constituted a global health problem. That same principle could still be applied to as mankind battles this pandemic.
One thing is crystal clear from the global debate on the central factor of intellectual property in the production of coronavirus vaccine: The capitalist logic rules the policies of the advanced countries. The priority of the big pharmaceutical companies is profit and not saving humanity from the pandemic. Western governments are giving a political and ideological stamp to this approach to the problem. But the approach to a global public health emergency is not only selfish, it is also scientifically myopic. As long as the virus exists in any country, it could spread to other countries. One other lesson of the pandemic is that public healthcare systems cannot be developed by applying the logic of market forces. Public health services should be treated as social goods because a pandemic is a challenge to the common good. The implication is that government should invest more in public health.
Humanism can find expression at the global level. It can also manifest at the national level. Contrary to the cynical viewpoint of bourgeois theorists, humanism could be expressed in moments of crisis, as it happened last year in Nigeria. The coronavirus unmasked the grave inequality in the Nigerian society during the lockdown imposed to cut the chains of the virus.
Nigeria, for instance, devotes less than 5 per cent of its budget to healthcare. Little surprise that the response of Nigeria to the pandemic has been extremely weakened by the manifestation of poverty in the healthcare system. Most of the states are yet to comply with the law on universal healthcare coverage. Health insurance still remains essentially an idea whose time is yet to come in Nigeria. In fact, the chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, said last year that he never knew that the condition of healthcare system was so derelict until he was given the assignment. Health is still not yet a budgetary priority in Nigeria. In a culture that is bereft of humanism, members of the political and economic elite are content with the situation in which they pay exorbitant fees in private hospitals at home and abroad. Here we are talking of less than 1 per cent of the population. Policy makers are not losing their sleep because the 99 per cent cannot afford quality healthcare.
It is, therefore, shocking that with all the billons garnered by the private sector Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID) last year, the federal and state governments are yet to report noticeable improvements in healthcare infrastructure in the country. Not enough molecular laboratories have been built. Ventilators are not in adequate supply in hospitals and isolation centres. Even with all the warnings that the pitiable situations in India, Brazil and Turkey are presenting to the world, Nigeria is not getting prepared for the possibility of another virulent wave with massive production of medical oxygen and other essential materials to save lives.
In this respect, I like to call on African governments not to wait naively and irresponsibly on those who may not have compassion on poor African countries. They should fund the health sector as a public good. For instance, Nigeria was producing vaccines in the 1980s. How come we are not talking of Nigeria’s own vaccines against coronavirus in 2021? The challenge of the hoarding of vaccines by the developed countries is that Africa should begin to prepare for future pandemics by producing its own vaccines.

Meanwhile, the little quantity of vaccines available in Nigeria came from India through the facility of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX). Now, India itself has now run of stock of vaccines for its population being ravaged by coronavirus. So the vaccine situation for Nigeria, like other third world countries, is precarious. This is despite the great efforts of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI), which has been nudging the American government to remove the restriction to the production of vaccines by manufacturers located in other parts of the world. The alliance comprises governments, international organisations, drug companies and non-governmental organisations.
In sum, the response to the crisis should, therefore, be based on the principles of compassion, cooperation and multilateralism. In fact, apart from the pandemic, other global issues such as climate change, social inequality, drugs and identity crisis require cooperation and multilateral approaches because they constitute dangers to our common humanity. Those who for profit motives, power and other considerations ignore these issues of common humanity, while pursuing recklessly selfish private interests, are really short-sighted. They are like fleas, parasites which inflict so much pains on their dog host, forgetting that the death of the host would be their own end too.
I like to end on a little optimistic note. Humanism can find expression at the global level. It can also manifest at the national level. Contrary to the cynical viewpoint of bourgeois theorists, humanism could be expressed in moments of crisis, as it happened last year in Nigeria. The coronavirus unmasked the grave inequality in the Nigerian society during the lockdown imposed to cut the chains of the virus. Most of those working depended on daily incomes. Millions of others were jobless. The pressure was such that some starved members of the society hid behind the placards of the legitimate #EndSARS protests to loot warehouses full of foodstuffs. The good news was that food items were provided by a coalition of private businessmen for the benefit of the most vulnerable people.
Another piece of good news is that people living in middle class and upper middle class estates supplied their poor neighbours in slums with food. Many individuals also quietly assisted others with provisions and money during the lockdown. No, all these kind gestures did not address the systemic question of the poverty of the majority. However, they pointed to the realisation of our common humanity. The trend provides a basis for hope, as we ponder the future of mankind.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), writes from Lagos.
This is the edited text of a keynote address delivered at the International Conference Humanism in the Era of Pandemic at Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State on Monday, May 10, 2021.
 

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Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic For Our Collective Humanity, By Femi Falana – Premium Times – 2021-05-13 18:39:26

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. 

 

OTHER IMPROVEMENTS IN THE WORKS

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

Nigeria on life support, says Wike

By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt
Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, has said that Nigeria is on life support following widespread insecurity overwhelming the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government
The Governor spoke during a thank-you- visit by the Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers of Ogoni nationality at Government House, Port Harcourt on Thursday.
He said nobody felt secured anymore anywhere in the country because of the unchecked attacks on law enforcement personnel and innocent citizens.
According to him: “You know how the country is today. Nobody can say that he or she is safe now. Governors are being attacked even on the road like other citizens. The security of the country has collapsed.
“The present Federal Government of All Progressives Congress (APC) has not shown enough commitment to protect life and property of Nigerians.”
He said it would be disastrous if Nigerians failed to take their destiny in their own hands by kicking out the APC in 2023.
“Nigeria is already and almost on life support now. Making another mistake will be disastrous. We are praying to God not to let us to die. Let this country not collapse”, he said.

He said poor governance festered in the country because Nigerians never bothered to hold elected officials accountable.
Wike said the federal government rode on mere rhetoric without clear direction on how to address the insecurity plaguing the country.
He said: “All of us are at risk because the party voted for at the national level have refused to protect us. They have shown that they have no capacity to protect Nigerians.
“There’s no day you wake up and will not hear that 20 people have been kidnapped, 10 people have been killed, army and police officers have been killed, police stations have been set ablaze, and children have been kidnapped from school.”
Wike said the completion of the first phase of the dualised Saakpenwa-Bori-Kono Road and other ongoing projects in Ogoni demonstrated his resolve to fulfil all campaign promises to Ogoni people.
“We pledge our willingness in the area of intelligence gathering to you and the security agencies to enhance the security architecture of the State to forestall further occurrences,” he said.

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Nigeria on life support, says Wike – Oamen Eromosele – 2021-04-29 18:35:15

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

Senate Seeks Policies to Encourage Local Investors in Cement Production

By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
The Senate has called on the federal government to provide more industrial incentives and protections such as concessionary loans and larger tax incentives for new entrants into the local cement production with a view to boosting production, reduction of price and encouragement of more valuable producers in the country.
The Senate passed a resolution at yesterday’s plenary, following the adoption of a motion, entitled, ‘Need for Liberalisation of Cement policy in Nigeria,’ sponsored by Senator Ashiru Yisa (Kwara South) and five others.

The co-sponsors are Senators Muhammad Bima (Niger South); Adelere Oriolowo (Osun West); Samuel Egwu (Ebonyi North); Kabiru Gaya (Kano South); and Michael Nnachi (Ebonyi South).
Moving the motion, Yisa said cement was of strategic importance to the country’s infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drainages as well as in the construction of residential and public buildings.
He stated that the cement market was oligopolistic in nature with three players (Dangote Cement (60.6 per cent); Lafarge Africa Plc (21.8 per cent) and BUA Group (17.6 per cent) largely dominating the scene therefore making it susceptible to price-fixing practices.
According to him, the significant rise in cement prices in the country and the low purchasing power of Nigerians may result in substandard building construction and non-completion of planned infrastructural works.
He added that the situation called for urgent need to encourage more local production of cement to satisfy demands with a steady growth rate of approximately three per cent per annum; a housing deficit of 30 million units and less engagement of over 10.5 million workforce of the building.
He said unfavourable government policies such as the imposition of multiple taxes, erratic power supply, government ban on importation in violation of ECOWAS Trade liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) and subsequent lifting of importation in favour of few producers had negative implications on the growth infrastructures.
The sponsor of the motion added that if the status quo persists, the negative consequences of high prices on the economy will outweigh the benefits of producing cement locally;He said: ”Cement is one of the few building materials in which Nigeria is self-sufficient.
As of 2018, the installed capacity of cement producers was about 47.8MMT, which is far above the estimated (2018) consumption of about a 20.7million metric tonnes. Yet, the prices of cement in Nigeria (N380) are about 240 per cent higher than the global average.
”Cognisant that cement takes a large share of domestic expenditure, and the price of such commodity; significantly impacts the government’s ability to provide much-needed infrastructural works required for the growth of our economy. Further cognisant that the recent increase in price of cement ( from N2,600 N3,800) slowed down the amount of construction work being embarked upon thus negatively affecting labour engagement and almost collapsed the procurement plan of the governments in 2020 Appropriation Act.”
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Senate Seeks Policies to Encourage Local Investors in Cement Production – editor – 2021-04-21 04:28:26

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