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.”

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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

Theatrical fog formula approved as antimicrobial air treatment

As more is known about COVID-19, preventive measures continue to emerge and compete.

The engineering firm NV5, which provides third-party verification on WELL v2 projects for the Green Business Certification Institute, has been recommending to its clients Safe Traces, a solution that uses DNA-based sprays and sensors to verify engineering and HVAC controls for airborne contaminants. Its veriDART control verification uses “aerosol mobility indicators” to identify hotspots, assess ventilation and filtration, and inform remediations.

On January 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced approval of an emergency exemption request for the use of Grignard Pure, which claims to be the first-ever antimicrobial air treatment solution. Georgia and Tennessee were the first states granted exemptions to use Grignard Pure in certain indoor spaces. Another 17 states have expressed interest, according to Etienne Grignard, co-founder and CEO of Grignard Company in Rahway, N.J., whom BD+C interviewed in February. 

“There’s no limit to where we can use it. The issue is just scaling the equipment to the system to which it is being deployed,” declares Mitchel Simpler, PE, FACEP, a Partner with Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B), one of four engineering firms—the others being STV, ME Engineers, and Cosentini Associates—that comprise Grignard Pure’s engineering steering committee.


Grignard Pure has worked with Luminator Technology to devise an air treatment system for mass transit, which has already been tested on trains moving through several states. Courtesy of Grignard Pure


Simpler introduced Grignard to Dr. William Esposito, Founder of the Ambient Group and a leading industrial hygienist, who was an early proponent about the airborne transmission of COVID-19. “He convinced me that Grignard Pure is for real,” says Simpler. Esposito is part of Grignard Pure’s senior advisory leadership, along with William Jordan, the former deputy director of EPA’s pesticide programs.


Grignard Pure’s arrival

To say that Grignard Pure’s arrival was theatrical is no exaggeration.

Back in 2000, lighting equipment manufacturers requested a health and safety assessment of a product Grignard made that they were using to create haze and fog during concerts and plays. Grignard determined that four of the product’s ingredients, including triethylene glycol (TEG), were safe to breathe.

Fast forward 15 years: Grignard’s chemists discovered that TEG—a colorless, viscous liquid that is the active ingredient in Grignard Pure—had demonstrated efficacy against viruses. The company sought EPA approval to use it for virus deactivation, but EPA at the time wasn’t disposed to creating an entirely new category for antivirus antimicrobials. The approval request got shelved until the coronavirus hit the U.S. in 2020, at which point, Grignard began working with Microchem Laboratories to develop protocols for using this formula. 

JB&B conducted proof-of-concept engineering assessments by distributing Grignard Pure through existing HVAC systems at two sites: Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, where the solution was applied to the owner’s suite; and the 1,700-seat New Amsterdam Theater in New York, where the test ran for two weeks. These tests demonstrated that, in an aerosolized microdroplet state, Grignard Pure behaves like a gas in its ability to distribute, dilute, and disperse in an atmosphere of occupied spaces.

Grignard Company eventually had the testing and efficacy data to prove that Grignard Pure could deactivate more than 98% of the COVID-19 strain in less than one minute. It reapplied for EPA approval in April 2020. 

Last February, Jordan and Jack Caravanos, Clinical Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at New York University’s School of Global Public Health, posted a 75-page paper that provides a detailed assessment of Grignard Pure’s safety. (Caravanos sits on Grignard Pure’s seven-person science advisory team.)

Simpler and Grignard state that the federal government has shown interest in Grignard Pure for use in mass transit. Grignard Company partnered with Luminator Technology Group to develop an airborne intervention system ( that uses atomizers and sensors to dispense Grignard Pure into the atmospheres of buses and trains. The sensors monitor capacity and conditions of the vehicle and adjust the air treatment accordingly. The system coordinates with on-board displays and audio announcements.

Grignard says he’s most proud of the role his company played in creating a new category for assessing antivirus antimicrobials. EPA invited JB&B and Grignard Company to assist the agency in establishing protocols for testing anti-virus products. “A year from now, I hope we’re talking about how we helped bring back some normalcy to the world.”

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Theatrical fog formula approved as antimicrobial air treatment – dbarista – 2021-03-31 20:00:59

New pre-qualification system goes live

Build UK has announced that the new industry-wide pre-qualification (PQ) system is now fully up and running, with the aim of simplifying a previously complex system for the benefit of everyone in the construction sector, it says.

The hope is that the rollout of the common assessment standard will reduce the duplication of time, effort and resources that are costing the sector up to £1bn a year.

Major contractors and clients – including Balfour Beatty, Costain, HS2, Mace, Multiplex and Skanska – have all adopted the common assessment standard, meaning that members of their supply chains need to obtain just one certification to tender for work with them. This follows the recent implementation of a new data sharing solution, which enables contractors and clients to obtain key PQ data from any one of three recognised assessment bodies: Achilles, CHAS or Constructionline.

The common assessment standard is an industry-agreed question set with two levels of certification – desktop and site-based – and companies can apply to any of the recognised assessment bodies to get the appropriate level dependent upon their trade, size and requirements of their clients.

Created by Build UK with the support of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the common assessment standard is endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), which is pushing for its adoption throughout government construction procurement, including the Construction Playbook.

Build UK deputy chief executive Jo Fautley said: “We’re delighted that the new system is now fully up and running and already being used by major contractors and clients. It’s been a collaborative effort, involving companies across the whole sector, and the new system is a huge step towards more efficient working, which is more important than ever in the current challenging economic climate.”

Vinci procurement director Neil Mant chaired the interim cross industry body that has overseen the development of the new system. He said: “The new PQ system is a huge step forward for construction. With a single common assessment standard and data sharing now in place, we have not only eliminated a huge amount of costly duplication of effort but also raised the bar in assessing the competence of the supply chain. Supply chain companies will need certification from only one of the three recognised assessment bodies, and contractors can continue to deal with the body they have an existing relationship with.”

Construction Leadership Council chair Andy Mitchell said: “The CLC is delighted to endorse the common assessment standard, which is set to transform the construction PQ process. It is a real and practical way of reducing bureaucracy and improving quality in the industry and it comes at just the right time. Companies will be able to demonstrate that they meet an agreed industry standard, and clients and contractors will be able to rely on the certification. The CLC will be encouraging the adoption of the common assessment standard throughout public and private sector procurement.”
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New pre-qualification system goes live – The Construction Index – 2021-03-29 08:46:00

How we’re helping unlock UK buildings through safe ventilation

The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a ‘stress test’ like no other to all businesses operating within the UK.
As we learn to live with the ongoing threat of the virus and its variants, and prepare for the UK to unlock, how do we return in the safest way possible?
When the UK Government initially published COVID-19 guidance for workplaces and construction sites, it focused on direct contact-based infection as well as near-field transmission, between people less than two metres apart. Little was mentioned in the early days of the pandemic about the risks of far-field aerosol transmission (see first picture, below), over distances beyond two metres.
From an early stage it became apparent that the World Health Organisation (WHO) was reluctant to acknowledge advice from aerosol scientists, who were warning about the risk of far-field airborne aerosol transmission.
Some of those experts cited apparent flaws in the WHO’s understanding of the size of aerosol particles and their ability to travel distances greater than two metres. On 6 July 2020, two leading aerosol scientists, supported by an international group of 237 related specialists, published a commentary in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, which urged the authorities to acknowledge the potential for airborne transmission. Since then, the evidence of far-field transmission has steadily grown, and it is now widely recognised as being a significant cause of coronavirus infection.
Minimising far-field COVID risks
Concerned about the return of our own team from lockdown to our offices, we developed a COVID-19 ventilation risk assessment. This incorporated the latest guidance from UK Government and reputable industry bodies. An embedded natural ventilation calculator was used to estimate air-flow rates through windows, and we invested in air-flow measuring equipment to assess mechanical ventilation systems. This enabled us to reconfigure our offices to minimise far-field COVID risks.
Shortly after, we were approached by a client who needed advice on how to assess the adequacy of their ventilation systems, to help them provide a safe return for their workforce. Today, we are working with numerous clients to deliver COVID-19 air ventilation audits, to help businesses prepare for unlocking during 2021.
As a father of two school-age children, my thoughts recently shifted to the return of pupils to the classroom. There remains a question as to whether school classrooms may prove to be COVID-19 ‘super spreader’ environments (see picture, below). Current UK guidance from SAGE and the HSE is to prioritise improvements where room carbon-dioxide levels are greater than 1500ppm, indicating poor ventilation, and where fresh air rates are less than 5 litres per second per person.
Checking back on school design regulations, since 1997 (at least), classroom ventilation should be capable of providing 8 litres per second per person, though reduced ventilation rates are often encountered during colder weather, when windows are closed or automated ventilation systems are turned down to maintain classroom temperatures.
The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) has published an online calculator for assessing airborne COVID-19 risk for different space types, including classrooms. The following table gives results for a typical classroom under varying ventilation rates and other variables, based on one COVID-19 infected occupant.
Air flow (l/s/person)
Time in room (hours)
Face mask type
Speech levels (% speaking)
Virus strain
Probably of infection
Good fit, multi-layer
UK (Kent)
Source: REHVA, based on mask and strain data from MIT
Points of note from the above results:
Reducing time spent by pupils in a classroom, with gaps between to purge the air, will prevent the build-up of COVID19. Transmission risk is very low for one-hour lessons (scenarios A and B);
Well-ventilated classrooms are key to transmission-risk reduction (scenarios C-E);
The amount of speech occurring within the classroom has a significant impact on transmission risk (scenarios D and F);
Multi-layer fabric masks can significantly reduce the level of exhaled particles and therefore the transmission risk (scenario E);
A combination of factors including poor ventilation, long duration in the classroom, no masks, and noisy children will significantly increase transmission risk.
Research is ongoing into airborne COVID-19 transmission and the REHVA calculation tool recognises this and is caveated in numerous places. It also ignores near-field and contact transmission, which would both tend to increase the transmission risks stated above.
Richard Lewis is technical director at Davies Partnership. For more information about COVID-19 ventilation audits, contact him via

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How we’re helping unlock UK buildings through safe ventilation – Contributor – 2021-03-26 07:50:19

Construction employment slips in 225 metros from January 2020 to January 2021

Construction employment decreased from January 2020 to January 2021 in nearly two-thirds of the nation’s metro areas, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America of government employment data released today, as project cancellations and a lack of new orders have forced firms to reduce their headcount, the association’s latest contractor survey shows. Association officials said more layoffs are likely for the industry amid spiking materials prices and uncertain demand for new projects.

“More contractors are telling us they are cutting headcount than adding workers, which is consistent with the new data showing the industry is shrinking in many parts of the country,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “More than three-fourth of the firms said projects had been postponed or canceled, while only one out of five reported winning new work or an add-on to an existing project in the previous two months as a result of the pandemic. That imbalance makes further job losses likely in many metros.”

Construction employment fell in 225, or 63%, of 358 metro areas between January 2020 and January 2021. Industry employment was stagnant in 41 additional metro areas, while only 92 metro areas—26%—added construction jobs.

Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, Texas lost the largest number of construction jobs over the 12-month period (-32,900 jobs, -14%), followed by New York City (-23,000 jobs, -15%); Midland, Texas (-11,100 jobs, -29%); and Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, Ill. (-10,400 jobs, -9%). Lake Charles, La. had the largest percentage decline (-40%, -8,100 jobs), followed by Odessa, Texas (-37%, -7,600 jobs); Midland; and Laredo, Texas (-27%, -1,100 jobs).

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif. added the most construction jobs over 12 months (3,500 jobs, 5%), followed by Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. (3,100 jobs, 6%); Boise, Idaho (2,500 jobs, 9%); and Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. (2,100 jobs, 2%). Sierra Vista-Douglas, Ariz. had the highest percentage increase (42%, 1,000 jobs), followed by Bay City, Mich. (18%, 200 jobs); and Auburn-Opelika, Ala. (15%, 400 jobs).

Association officials are urging Congress and the Biden administration to work together to address rising materials prices, supply chain backups and invest in infrastructure. They are asking the administration to end tariffs on key construction materials, including steel and lumber, work with shippers to get deliveries back on track and pass the significant new infrastructure investments the president has promised.

“The construction industry won’t be able to fully recover and start adding jobs in significant numbers as long as materials prices continue to spike, deliveries remain unreliable and demand remains uncertain,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Federal officials can’t fix every problem, but they can help by removing tariffs, helping hard-hit shippers and boosting investments in the nation’s infrastructure.”

View the metro employment 12-month data, rankings, top 10, multi-division metros. View AGC’s survey.

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Construction employment slips in 225 metros from January 2020 to January 2021 – dmalone – 2021-03-22 14:44:44

Tutor Perini lined up for $478m LA metro project

The contract for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has an anticipated value of approximately US$478m (£343m).

The project scope of work includes construction of a new major transit station hub connecting the Metro Crenshaw/LAX and Green rail lines and a number of bus routes with the airport’s automated people mover.

Work is due to begin in the third quarter of this year, with substantial completion expected in the first quarter of 2025.  
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Tutor Perini lined up for $478m LA metro project – The Construction Index – 2021-03-17 09:41:00

Housebuilder picked for £1bn east London regen

Housebuilder Hill has been confirmed as a joint venture partner on the £940m regeneration of the Teviot Estate in Poplar, east London.
The Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (HARCA) chose the housebuilder for the role on the project that will see between 1,800 and 2,500 homes built, as well as new local public spaces and shops. 
The contract term is up to 20 years, with a development value of between £682m-£940m.
The joint venture will appoint a master planner in the first half of this year to develop designs in consultation with residents, Tower Hamlets Council and other stakeholders. A formal planning application is expected mid-late 2022.
The scheme was put out to tender in February last year and the housebuilder was formally appointed to the role with a contract notice published this week.

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Housebuilder picked for £1bn east London regen – – 2021-03-12 14:30:22

AGC: House votes in favor of idling workers, stripping their privacy and denying them the opportunity to establish businesses

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, issued the following statement in reaction to the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives today of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act:

“House Democrats today voted in favor of idling workers, stripping their privacy, and denying them the opportunity to establish their own businesses. The PRO Act, which passed largely along partisan lines tonight, includes a host of measures that are anti-worker, anti-privacy, and anti-recovery. The measure, for example, will deny workers the absolute right to a private union election ballot. It also forces employers to disclose private details about their workers to unions, including their home addresses, emails, and shift schedules.

“The measure authorizes a host of long-prohibited labor actions, including secondary boycotts, where unions can picket firms that are not involved in a dispute with that union. These boycotts will force many workers to suffer, without pay, for disputes where they do not stand to benefit. The PRO Act also discriminates against independent contractors. This means workers will no longer be able to successfully establish their own businesses and become their own bosses.

“The broader impact of the PRO Act, should it be enacted, is a new era of labor unrest that will stifle future economic activity and job growth. Instead of helping deliver higher wages and better benefits, the PRO Act will provide labor uncertainty, stagnant economic growth, and diminished entrepreneurial opportunity. That is why the Associated General Contractors of America, including our union and open shop members, will continue to oppose this measure and take every possible step to prevent its passage in the Senate.”

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AGC: House votes in favor of idling workers, stripping their privacy and denying them the opportunity to establish businesses – dmalone – 2021-03-10 15:55:15

highlights and construction industry reaction

Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi SunakHighlights for the construction industry include the creation of eight freeport zones in England and special tax relief for companies investing in new equipment.

Lowlights include an increase in the rate of corporation tax to 25% in 2023 for businesses with profits greater than £250,000.

There are also extensions of pandemic emergency measures, including the coronavirus job support scheme (furlough) running until September 2021 across the UK and an extension to the temporary cut in stamp duty land tax in England and Northern Ireland until the same date. House-builders will also welcome the new mortgage guarantee scheme to enable all UK homebuyers secure a mortgage up to £600,000 with a 5% deposit.

Coupled with the budget announcement is the publication of the government’s plan for growth, titled Build back better. This sets out capital spending plans worth £100bn next year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his budget statement that, beginning in April 2021, a new super-deduction will cut companies’ tax bill by 25p for every pound they invest in new equipment, meaning they can reduce their taxable profits by 130% of the cost. This is worth £25bn to companies over the two-year period the super-deduction will be in full effect, the chancellor said.

Eight new English Freeports will be based in East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.

Discussions continue between the UK Government and the devolved administrations to introduce freeports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.

Within the freeport zones, there will be an enhanced 10% rate of structures and buildings allowance for constructing or renovating non-residential structures and buildings (excluding Northern Ireland). This means that investments will be fully relieved after 10 years compared with the standard 33 years and four months at the 3% rate available nationwide. To qualify, the structure or building must be brought into use on or before 30th September 2026.

There will be an enhanced capital allowance of 100% for companies investing in plant and machinery for use in freeports (again except Northern Ireland) and full relief from stamp duty land tax and business rates, until 30th September 2026. Relief will apply for five years from the point at which the beneficiary first receives relief.

Other attention-grabbing snippets include:

A UK Infrastructure Bank is to be set up in Leeds, with £12bn of equity and debt capital to finance local authority and private sector infrastructure projects across the UK;
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government is getting £10m of seed funding for a new MMC Taskforce, to promote the take-up of ‘modern’ methods of construction across the industry. It will be based in the ministry new Wolverhampton office that is going to be set up in due course;
£135m is being allocated to progressing the A66 Trans-Pennine upgrade (building on last year’s announcement that the construction phase will be halved from 10 to five years as part of Project Speed);
£20m to fund a UK-wide competition to develop floating offshore wind demonstrators;
£50m to develop proposals for transport improvements around the High Speed 2 Birmingham Interchange Station and £59m towards the construction of five new stations in the West Midlands; and
£68m to fund a UK-wide competition to deliver first-of-a-kind long-duration energy storage prototypes.
However, despite industry lobbying, there is to be no reduction in the rate of VAT for domestic repair, maintenance and imporvement (RMI) work.

Paul Hamer, chief executive of Sir Robert McAlpine: “A National Infrastructure Bank, with an initial capitalisation of £12bn to invest in an array of public and private projects, is very good news indeed for construction and the country as a whole. It’s clear that the government has an intent for ‘Build Back Better’ to be much more than a slogan and to make good on the commitments they made last summer. What’s more, in locating the Bank in Leeds, the government has sent a powerful message that it appreciates the need to level up areas outside of London.

“Crucially, the government has recognised that investment in upgrading or maintaining existing infrastructure is vitally important. For one, given the arterial importance of Britain’s roadways, any investment intended to support the transport of freight is to be welcomed. This was a vital component of last summer’s spending plans, so hopefully we will see this continue.

“The planned ‘super deductions’ for businesses investing is further good news, and could see innovation accelerate right across the sector as firms commit money to new technologies and sustainable construction solutions. The positive ripple effect could be significant and we will be looking closely at how this may benefit our business and future projects.

“It is difficult to predict whether the government’s budget strategy will create further private sector investment as hoped, but in the immediate term, today’s budget alongside the revised OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] economic forecasts is encouraging.”

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA): “We were not anticipating a range of new announcements on infrastructure today, as the chancellor was setting out details of the ‘fiscal firepower’ needed to support jobs during the pandemic for the remainder of this year.

“Nonetheless it is welcome that, to accompany the budget, HM Treasury has published Build Back Better: Our Plan for Growth, which recognises that the UK has historically underinvested in infrastructure, and details an initial £100 billion of capital investment in 2021-22 to begin to remedy this fact.

“The creation of the new UK Infrastructure Bank will help to level up the UK by investing in local authority and private sector projects, as well as providing an advisory function to help with the delivery of schemes on the ground.

“Similarly we were pleased to see greater incentivisation for employers to take on apprentices, which will help to tackle the skills shortages our sector faces.”

Rob Oliver, chief executive of the Construction Equipment Association: “Whilst the necessary extension of the furlough scheme and additional support for Covid-19 challenged business was welcome and expected, there were also some interesting initiatives that may be of direct benefit to the construction sector.

“The announcement of a ‘super deduction’ for capital investment should stimulate decisions from companies currently undecided about their expenditure plans. For every £100 they spend they will receive a tax credit of £130. The ability to carry back company losses for three years against earlier profits will also help the cash flow of many companies.

“I believe that the ‘super deduction’ is based on a scheme successfully introduced in Slovakia. We look forward to reviewing the details, but on the face of it, it looks like it will be a great time to renew the machine fleets of plant hirers and contractors. These tax concessions are clearly a quid pro quo for swallowing a corporation tax hike in the future”.

Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) chief executive Hannah Vickers: “The chancellor today rightly combined ongoing support for business with steps to ensure we ‘build back better’.  The built environment sector is the engine room of the economy and the freeports and city deals announcements are exactly the sort of holistic, low carbon regeneration programmes we need to simultaneously create jobs, level up opportunities and hit net zero. But the Infrastructure Bank must also play its part.  The Treasury’s scoping document setting out how the Bank will operate is encouraging, taking on board the Construction Leadership Council’s regeneration proposals.  The trick for the bank will be to use its powers to enable ambitious integrated regeneration investments across the UK, whilst avoid getting fixated on individual project deals.”

Rohan Malik, EY’s UK managing partner for government & infrastructure: “The chancellor’s infrastructure announcements are a strong signal of confidence that the UK economy is ready for post-pandemic recovery.

“We’ve been actively monitoring how infrastructure spend is helping countries across the world return to full strength post-pandemic. For good reason, governments view infrastructure projects as an economic stimulus with strong job delivery, however those jobs must come at the right time if that bullseye is to be hit. In other countries we’ve seen capital projects yet to be finished that were originally instigated to help credit crunch recovery, so it’s important that projects match the immediate delivery need.

“There is an important role for the government to create the conditions for success that attract and ramp-up private funding – domestic and FDI – so taxpayers aren’t left holding the chequebook every time, while also freeing up capital to be spent in other areas of recovery. The UK Infrastructure Bank is a first step in making that happen while also helping to tackle climate change. Allowing investors – be they citizen investment bonds or private sector – higher returns when they take higher levels of risk is a key lever for stimulating private investment and speeding up cash release, and one the UK shouldn’t shy away from.

“Investment in infrastructure must have people at the heart of its purpose and be linked to enhancing the sustainable living of citizens. Announcements around the City Deals, freeports and opening the first round of the Levelling Up fund suggests infrastructure policy makers are rightly thinking ‘hyperlocal’ – how can we get jobs-for-now across the regions while also aligning these investments to long term value and social needs.

 “In order to give infrastructure capital projects the opportunity to feed directly into the Levelling-Up agenda they must be accelerated to achieve maximum impact for economic recovery post-pandemic. That means we need to see the right projects chosen, project development accelerated, departments and polices mobilised for success, and, finally to build, build, build.”

Patricia Moore, UK managing director at Turner & Townsend:  “Today we saw further signs of the kind of creativity that we need to build back better.  The commissioning of the new UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds will grab attention from investors, and pits the country ahead of many nations mulling similar measures to help stimulate interest. 

“For construction, the phrase that featured far less than may have been expected today was net zero.  From past announcements and commitments, we know that this is the major challenge for our sector.  Our industry is in the unique position of being one of the UK’s biggest contributors to carbon emissions, while also being the engine for growth and common thread across all these announcements.  We bear the responsibility both to deliver the infrastructure and change that helps shape a modern, post-pandemic economy, while doing it in a way that effectively measures, evaluates and reduces our carbon impact. 

“This makes it imperative that the recovery drives root and branch reform of the industry – from how we create skills and job opportunities for the country’s 1.75 million people who are out of work, to how we source and use materials in ways that are more ethical and sustainable than in the past. 

“While we heard less about construction today, the call has been taken up by government and alongside these announcements, departments have been working to get the industry match-fit for its starring role in the recovery – from prioritising shovel-ready projects through the work of the National Infrastructure Commission, to promoting more sustainable models of procurement, management and delivery in the Construction Playbook and the forthcoming IPA Routemap.  The success of the chancellor’s commitments today will rely on the successful adoption of the tools of this reform agenda for construction, but also its spirit and vision.”

Stephen Wicks, chief executive of house-builder Inland Homes: “We welcome the continued support for the housebuilding and construction sector in today’s budget, recognising the importance of the industry to support economic growth as we move out of lockdown. Both the stamp duty holiday extension and support for 95% mortgages are very welcome short term measures.  

“However, the UK continues to suffer from a chronic undersupply of housing and the unintended consequences of the measures announced today may fuel an artificial buoyancy in the housing market that is not sustainable. To really speed up the delivery of new housing, we need longer term planning reform. The government needs to act quickly and invest to speed up the whole process to give us the platform to address the housing crisis.” 

James Talman, chief executive of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors: “The chancellor has set out a solid investment-led economic roadmap in his budget that supports the UK economy as it comes out of lockdown and into recovery. He is right to focus on tax incentives, many of which will help boost construction – particularly the extension to the cut in stamp duty, the super deduction for companies that invest in plant and machinery, and the enhanced structures and buildings allowance at freeports.

“However, the chancellor can and must go further to encourage investment – not only to help the economy grow but to ensure we make our buildings fit for the future. To spur on investment in the upgrading of commercial buildings, he should extend his ‘super deduction’ policy so that it applies not only to plant and machinery but to buildings too. This will help businesses to not only bring down their energy bills but also to support the UK to reach its net-zero target.”

Jason Tema, director of property development firm Clearview Developments: “We welcome the government’s introduction of a super-deduction on company investments. With the UK’s ongoing demand for quality and affordable housing, we believe that this tax incentive is a much needed boost of confidence for the construction sector; particularly for SME house builders who have been hard hit by the pandemic.”

Donald Morrison, vice president of consulting engineer Jacobs: “The creation of a new National Infrastructure Bank will play an important role in supporting new infrastructure technologies, help to reduce uncertainty and has the potential to accelerate financing to free up large-scale investment across the UK. However, we also need to carefully consider how to design and integrate infrastructure that will be of long-term benefit to all – environmentally, socially and economically. The government must follow through on its commitments to take into consideration not only how best to invest, but where the structural support will result in the most benefit. An ‘outcome-based’ model for infrastructure planning, one that has social value embedded at its heart, will be essential in ensuring the UK can build back better in a way that is truly committed to ‘levelling up’ and the transition to net-zero.”

Phil Bayliss, chief executive of later living at Legal & General: “As Britain emerges from the pandemic over the coming months, extending the stamp duty holiday will help sustain a strong property market amid the worst economic downturn in 300 years.

“Importantly, the extension ensures a more efficient use of Britain’s existing housing stock can continue, by incentivising older homeowners living in larger properties to downsize. These homes can be put to much better use by first-time buyers and growing families but, at present, nearly nine million bedrooms in the homes of older people are lying empty.

“Ultimately, we hope that the holiday might one day inspire the scrapping of the levy altogether. Not only would this inject much-needed liquidity into the market, it would also help first-time buyers, second-steppers and young families climb up the property ladder.”

Clive Docwra, managing director of property and construction consultancy McBains: “The ‘super deduction’ in tax may encourage construction firms to invest, while the reintroduction of 95% mortgages, and extending their availability beyond first time buyers, could trigger a revival of the housebuilding sector.

“But we’re disappointed that it appears green retrofit schemes, such as the Green Homes Grant, were not renewed, as such programmes not only help contribute to carbon net-zero targets, but provide a lifeline to many construction firms in terms of maintenance contracts.  On a macro-level, we’d have also liked to have seen a bigger commitment to wider green initiatives to help encourage the industry to move towards net-zero.

Brendan Sharkey, head of construction and real estate at accountancy firm MHA MacIntyre Hudson: “It is rare to listen to such an encouraging budget and confidence will have increased markedly across the construction sector after hearing the chancellor speak. The extension of stamp duty relief makes perfect sense given the backlog of housing purchases. The tapering of relief through to April 2022 takes the angst out of deadlines while stimulating the number of transactions and new builds, which is all good news for the economy.

“In fact, when this is combined with the dhancellor’s new government mortgage guarantee scheme we could see an unprecedented rush to buy. So the only question is whether the developers can meet the demand as it takes time to bring stock to the market.

“Finally the super deduction scheme will be a real shot in the arm for businesses looking to invest; those investing will be able to reduce tax that is paid and presumably where tax losses are sustained they will be carried back. This could prove to be the stimulus for offsite manufacture to increase volumes of houses built as well as modern methods of construction.”

Dean Clifford, co-founder of developer Great Marlborough Estates: “Home ownership remains the aspiration for the vast majority and it is right that the government’s housing policy looks to support that.

 These government-backed mortgages will help first-time buyers get onto the housing ladder and drive activity as the stamp duty holiday and Help to Buy are wound down.

“Yet encouraging banks to lend to first-time buyers can only ever be part of the solution. Too much demand-side stimulus without increasing supply risks stoking an unsustainable housing bubble.

“The bigger picture involves increasing housing delivery across the board which can only be achieved by having a better resourced and designed planning system.”

Peter Truscott, chief executive at Crest Nicholson: “We welcome the measures that have been announced for prospective buyers in today’s budget. The extension of the stamp duty holiday, which has been a useful tool for so many buyers over the last few months, will ensure that the housing market continues its recovery and benefit many customers with significant savings.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact of the mortgage guarantee scheme, which will give buyers who previously felt locked out of the market, the ability to access the lending they need. House-building employs lots of people directly and through its supply chains, so it’s encouraging to see the government support an industry which has demonstrated its resilience over the past 12 months.”

Sean Randall, partner at tax advisory firm, Blick Rothenberg: “As expected, the government has extended the stamp duty holiday by three months. No stamp duty will continue to be payable on the first £500,000 of the price. Buyers completing before 1st July 2021 will benefit by up to £15,000. The twist is that a new holiday period will then apply for three months. No stamp duty will be payable on the first £250,000 of the price. Buyers completing before 1st October 2021 will benefit by up to £2,500.

“Buyers due to complete between 1st April and 30th June will breathe a sigh of relief; estate agents, surveyors and mortgage brokers will rub their hands with glee; and conveyancers, exhausted by the pressure to complete before 1st April, will look ahead with dread.

“The measure, part of the chancellor’s jobs package, was intended to protect the half a million of jobs in sectors sensitive to the housing market: eg, garden centres, DIY stores, home furnishing retail, etc. Now that we have a roadmap out of lockdown, it is logical to extend furlough and the stamp duty holiday to align with it. The cost, which is baked into the stamp duty holiday, is market distortion, with buyers bringing forward their plans to move, bunching transactions during the holiday and producing a consequential fall in the number of transactions once the holiday ends – the so-called ‘cliff-edge’. Some drop in house prices (already 8.5% higher due to the holiday) is expected, but the real pressure on house prices would come from unemployment, not the loss of the holiday. By protecting jobs until lockdown ends, the chancellor hopes to protect the economy and indirectly avoid a house price crash.

“The pleas from professional bodies for a tapered end to the holiday have been heeded to some extent. Rather than one large ‘cliff-edge’ there will now be two smaller ones. That said, buyers failing to complete before 1st July will lose up to £12,500, so there will continue to be pressure on many to complete before the second holiday begins: average house prices in many parts of the country exceed £250,000.

“Many thought that the stamp duty holiday was unnecessary and an unwise policy. They would say that the housing market was not in trouble, the surge created by the holiday has produced a logjam, the positive ripple effect will turn into a negative ripple effect as soon as the holiday ends, it was estimated to cost £3.8bn pre extension and the rise in house prices shows that the tax saving has been enjoyed by sellers not buyers. Extending the holiday means that that the chancellor is doubling down. All of that is probably true, but having made the decision to give the holiday, extending it for the journey out of lockdown is not such a big gamble.”

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highlights and construction industry reaction – The Construction Index – 2021-03-03 16:16:00