‘February sees new energy reforms helping households stay warm, a new gas safety certification gets launched and the construction industry continues growth as project and employment levels hit record highs’
- Energy reforms will help more households stay warm
- Construction skills boosted with apprentice sponsorship scheme
- New gas safety certification scheme launched
- Housing White Paper released
- Inadequate gas training leads to unsafe practices research shows
- Construction Skills Report 2017 – Comment from Schneider Electric
- BMA stands up against unsafe bathroom products
- The best of industrial automation is yet to come
- Construction outside London hits record levels
- Construction employment levels set to top 2.6 million
Energy reforms will help more households stay warm
Households struggling to pay their energy bills will receive extra support to keep warm during the colder months, thanks to reforms to the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) published on 30 January.
The government scheme, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty, will be extended from April 2017 to September 2018.
The reforms, which were consulted on last year, will usher in a simplified scheme, with energy companies required to provide struggling households with free energy efficiency measures to make their homes warmer and bring their bills down.
Minister for Energy & Industry, Jesse Norman said: “The government is committed to tackling fuel poverty, and a key part of that is to help people keep bills down by living in more energy efficient homes. These changes will move the UK a further step towards the goal of insulating a further 1 million homes by 2020.
As well as an increased focus on low income and vulnerable homes, eligibility will be extended to social housing tenants in EPC bands E, F and G, and local authorities will also be able to help match people with energy suppliers, he explained.
Suppliers will also be required to install a minimum 21,000 solid wall insulations per year, up from the consultation figure of 17,000.
“There will be continuing protection for the delivery of energy efficiency measures in rural areas, with a requirement that 15% of suppliers’ Carbon Emission Reduction Obligation be delivered in these areas,” Mr Norman added.
“ECO has proved a very effective delivery mechanism with over 2 million measures installed in around 1.6 million properties between 2013 and the end of November 2016.”
Construction skills boosted with apprentice sponsorship scheme
Hudson Contract is celebrating having helped more than 80 apprentices begin a career in construction with its ground-breaking Apprentice Sponsorship Scheme. The professional workplace construction audit and contract solutions provider is dedicated to investing in the future of construction. Now, it is encouraging other firms to host similar schemes to help address the skills shortage in the industry.
Launched back in 2011, the Apprentice Sponsorship Scheme offers 12 months’ financial support to employers to help them take on an apprentice. As part of the scheme, Hudson Contract pays 50% of each apprentice’s wages for the first year of their training. It has helped more than 60 firms to date.The firm hosted a celebration for its apprentices last week. Attended by school and college career advisors and construction industry professionals, the event promoted the scheme and rewarded four young apprentices with special prizes on the night.The Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight, MP, presented the awards to the winners; Danielle Sharpe, plumbing apprentice (first place); Ben Dolan, electrical apprentice (second place), Regan Hewitt, carpentry and joinery apprentice, and Jordan Forsdyke, joinery apprentice (joint third place), received prizes kindly donated by West BS and Hudson Contract.Hudson Contract founder and chairman David Jackson said: “We are passionate about ensuring young people have every opportunity to begin a career in construction. We recognised several years ago that there is a real need to develop places for apprentices which is why we created our apprenticeship programme. The introduction this year of a new national apprenticeship levy and training service is very welcome, but it will not be enough on its own. We would really like to see other companies in the region offer a sponsorship scheme like ours, which has proven to be successful. The scheme is really simple – and it has to be, to ensure there’s plenty of take-up in an area where only a handful of construction firms have more than five employees.“I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who joined us at the event last week, and to congratulate all the apprentices who have participated in our scheme, especially those who won prizes on the night.”Speaking at the event, Alex Sheldon, head of construction at East Riding College said: “Initiatives such as the Hudson Contract Apprenticeship Scheme and the governmental Apprenticeship Levy coming in April, make it easier for employers to build their workforce from the ground up. Companies must also take up the mantle of responsibility themselves if they truly wish to contribute to industry productivity.”
New gas safety certification scheme launched
Capita, the company behind the Gas Safe Register, has launched a new scheme that is said to set a new benchmark in best practice in the management for any company or organisation involved with gas related matters. The new gas safety certification scheme from Capita Gas Compliance Services (CGCS) is UKAS accredited and is claimed to give businesses a competitive edge, as well as saving on assessment costs and raising safety standards. In addition to helping to secure a competitive edge, UKAS accreditation of CGCS provides assurance for an organisation and employees against the risks of gas safety work.
Matthew Hickman, Managing Director at Capita Gas Compliance Services, comments: “The CGCS certification will give businesses that go ‘above and beyond’ for gas safety work the recognition they deserve among their customer base, potential new business opportunities and other organisations in the industry. We welcome businesses to get in touch to find out how they can achieve CGCS certification and look forward to working with them.”
Assessments for businesses looking to achieve CGCS certification will cover a number of areas including: quality control and supervision policies, standard of gas work service warranties and an on-site gas work assessment of employees and contractors across the areas of the organisation’s scope of certification
Two organisations who have already achieved CGCS certification are Blackpool Coastal Housing and Optimum Technical Services.
Martin Watson, Managing Director of Optimum Technical Services, says: “Achieving certification demonstrates our commitment to providing excellent customer service and provides our clients with further confidence that our work is to the highest quality standards and is in line with industry best practice. CGCS certification shows we are not only Gas Safe registered and meet Gas Safety regulations and British standards, but that we operate to the highest standards of quality in this area.”
Martin is pictured above (right of picture) receiving certification from Matthew Hickman.
The CGCS certification cost will vary depending on the size of the business and the scope of the gas work undertaken. The assessment process will take approximately six to eight weeks depending on the number of operating centres. To find out more about CGCS Accredited Certification, visit www.CapitaGasComplianceServices.co.uk/CGCS-Certification.
Housing White Paper released
Bsria has welcomed the government White Paper on Housing setting out the government’s preferred strategy in tackling the country’s housing crisis. As described in the White Paper, 225,000 to 275,000 (or more) new homes per year will be needed to keep up with population growth and years of under-supply. That could translate into almost one million new homes built by 2020.
Among other issues, the White Paper discusses the role of the local authorities in delivering higher housing volumes, potential changes in the way planning permissions are granted, new and innovative accelerated construction processes, the need for supply chain improvements and also addresses quality and sustainability.For private developers, in line with the recently released industrial strategy, Government aims to boost productivity, innovation, sustainability and skills by encouraging modern methods of construction in house building.Government also expects builders and developers to take responsibility for investing in their research and skills base in order to create more sustainable career paths and genuinely bring forward thousands of new skilled roles.For housing associations and other not-for-profit organisations, Government has already announced funding worth a total of £7.1bn through an expanded and more flexible Affordable Homes Programme. More clarity over future rent levels is also expected soon. The current Parliament will strongly focus on the delivery of more affordable homes.For lenders, institutional investors and capital market participants, Government is offering a clear and stable long-term framework for investment, including properties for rent. In return, it will call upon lenders and investors to back developers and social landlords in building more homes.For utility companies and infrastructure providers, Government is exploring an improved approach to developer contributions to help pay for new infrastructure.
Inadequate gas training leads to unsafe practices research shows
Poor levels of training provided to some gas engineer students in the UK is potentially leading to unsafe practices, according to research commissioned by the Gas Industry Safety Group (GISG) and the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM).
The research was undertaken due to the increase in unsafe gas work from recently qualified engineers, with volumes up from 1% to 5% (Gas Safe Register).
Concerns were raised that some training appears to focus on passing assessments rather than really testing job competency. There was also a worry that some training establishments are willing to keep training failing students until they passed the assessments, regardless of how many attempts taken to gain the qualification and with little apparent regard for the students’ ability to fulfil the essential competency requirements.
In-depth interviews with newly qualified gas engineers included questions relating to course lengths, theory and practical components in course content, assessments, industry placements and mentoring opportunities.
The research revealed particular unease expressed by some interviewees that training had been too short, particularly for those with no prior experience.
“The GISG is shocked and disappointed by these research findings as they highlight a fundamental flaw in the gas industry, which ultimately could affect the safety of customers,” said Chris Bielby, chairman of the GISG.
“We are specifically concerned about the discrepancy in course durations, the certifications of very short courses, the imbalance between theory and practical course content, and differences in pass and fail criteria between some training colleges.”
“It is paramount that we as an industry work together to ensure high standards of gas engineer training and capability are upheld across the country. We call on the government and industry to undertake a review to establish minimum standards of training across all gas engineer training programmes.”
Ian McCluskey, head of technical services at IGEM agreed that the findings were disappointing and was alarmed by the apparent lack of consistency in the standards of training in the industry.
“As the professional body for the gas industry we are committed to ensuring that all training meets the necessary standards and that engineers are competent to carry out their role,” he said.
“This research highlights the need for the gas industry to now come together and ensure there is a robust system in place which will create a level playing field and put an end to these poor practices.”
Construction Skills Report 2017 – Comment from Schneider Electric
In response to the latest Construction Industry Training Board report, which forecasts that Britain’s construction industry is on course to add 35,000 jobs a year for the next five years, Tanuja Randery, Zone president UK & Ireland, Schneider Electric has called for greater investment in skills for Britain to remain globally competitive and thrive in a modern economy.
“Britain is facing its biggest skills shortage for a generation. Skilled trades are one of the most sought after roles in the UK, yet employers are struggling to fill the vacancies because demand is outstripping supply.
“Nearly a quarter of all job vacancies last year were a consequence of the skills crisis, and at present, 43% of vacancies in skilled trades are a result of this skills shortage, with electricians making up 13% of these.
“The hole is widening as mature contractors check out of the industry, some because of recession led retirement and others due to career changes.
“As such, this is an exciting time to be part of the electrical industry, with rapidly increasing opportunities for skilled professionals. The government has set a target of building 1 million homes by 2020, resulting in increasing pressure on trade industries to fill the quota.
“However, energising a new house has become increasingly complex. Gone are the days of simply installing a phone line, running a handful of main cables, fixing a TV aerial and wiring up the doorbell. Now, there is an increased demand for smart technology such as home automation systems, power and data supply solutions, customisable consumer units and everything in between.
“In addition, regulations have moved on too, demanding the addition of smoke detectors, setting ‘special locations’ such as kitchens and bathrooms, and requiring you to alert building authorities before embarking on a project.
“The construction sector has historically developed and managed internet and infrastructure as two different domains. However, as IoT gains pace and the adoption of smart home technologies increases we’ll continue to see a surge in demand for multi-skilled electrical professionals with the skillset and know how to carry out successful IoT-ready installations.”
BMA stands up against unsafe bathroom products
The Bathroom Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) is raising concerns over the habitual flouting of EU regulations by unscrupulous manufacturers and importers, recently highlighted in a report by the European Commission.
Harmonised European Standards dictate that the CE Mark which denotes ‘fitness for purpose’ must be fixed to the product, instruction literature, or packaging.
By implication, the safety of unmarked bathroom products that are making their way on to the market are called into question.
Members of the BMA embraced the regulations and complied with the new laws when they became legally binding in 2013. However some manufacturers and importers are known to contravene the regulations and consumers are the worse for it, says the association.
“This is outrageous and nothing short of a scandal,” said Yvonne Orgill, chief executive of the BMA.
“Consumers throughout the UK are being duped into purchasing goods which they genuinely believe to be up to standard and safe to use. But, in fact, because they don’t know where they were made and who made them, they could be spending hard-earned cash on substandard and illegal product. The new report confirms what we have been saying for years and action needs to be taken for the public good.”
The report, ‘Enforcement and Compliance’ was published at the end of January on the DG GROW website and shows the results of a survey of companies, SMEs, micro-enterprises and industry associations throughout Europe.
Most respondents agreed that there was a high level of non-compliance in industry and 80% of businesses confirmed that non-compliance has a negative impact on their sales and/or market share.
Furthermore, all respondents agreed that the market surveillance authorities (the likes of Trading Standards) lack both financial and human resources, and also the technical means, to clamp down on the fraudsters.
“The end consumer has the right to know that their bathroom products do comply with the regulations and installers need to know of this regulation to reinforce their commitment to professional practice,” added Ms Orgill.
“We will continue to be very vocal about the problem and highlight the issues with the relevant authorities.”
The best of industrial automation is yet to come
Need a pick-me-up? Here are some of the industrial technologies you can look forward to in 2017.
Regardless of whether you call it Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet or the Internet of Things (IoT), the shift towards connected technologies is clear across most industry sectors. Ongoing developments are lowering the cost of smart technologies for industrial automation systems and making these new technologies available to the wider industry. Smart sensors, vision systems, data analytics software and cloud computing are the building blocks of the connected manufacturing facility and the smart supply chain.
Most industrial companies currently rely on wired systems, such as fibre optic to support their network infrastructure. Although wired networks facilitate high transmission speeds and large volumes of traffic, cables tend to degrade over time, resulting in poor transmission quality and high maintenance costs. Not to mention that when production facilities are spread over a large space, cables can become inconvenient very quickly.
Historically, there have been two factors that have limited the wide adoption of wireless in industrial environments: cost and security. The former looks like it will soon become extinct, as wireless sensors and IoT devices are becoming more affordable. Similarly, improvements in cyber security and an increasing awareness of best practice are making wireless a more viable option for industry.
The convergence of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) is clearer now than ever before. The benefits of tight integration between the factory floor and enterprise business systems result in improved manufacturing efficiency and flexibility, paving the way to the smart factory. Layers of compatible software suites are helping manufacturers collate and curate design, production and business data into clear reports that companies can use for asset management, process optimisation, supply chain system and customer service.
At SPS Drives 2016, more than ten leading automation suppliers came together to back OPC unified architecture (OPC UA), the most popular machine-to-machine (M2M) communication protocol for interoperability developed by OPC Foundation. ABB, Bosch Rexroth, Cisco, General Electric, Kuka – to name but a few – intend to support OPC UA in their future products.
This is a significant moment for the industry because it could signal the end of an era in which industrial automation systems relied on incompatible and non-interoperable standards to communicate between devices. In turn, this could mean that manufacturers never again find themselves locked into proprietary systems and can pick and choose the best technologies from different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
As huge volumes of data become available across manufacturing facilities, the shift towards condition monitoring and predictive analytics finally become possible. Cloud-based software tools are becoming more affordable and user-friendly, allowing manufacturers to achieve advanced process control and optimisation. Platforms such as Microsoft Azure mean that manufacturers can have a clear, real-time overview of their production facilities and use this insight to improve decision making and refine manufacturing processes.
From a maintenance perspective, this continuous monitoring of equipment and production allows manufacturers to dramatically minimise maintenance and repair costs. It also has the potential to eliminate an age-old industry bugbear – unplanned downtime.
If you attended any industry events in 2016, you will be familiar with the thrill and trepidation around the latest generation of industrial robotics – collaborative robots. The lightweight, affordable cobots are making cages a thing of the past and can work alongside people on a production line. Their integrated vision systems and advanced software mean cobots display excellent situational awareness.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the cobot saga is its familiarity. Just like the personal computer revolution was sparked by the lowering cost of technology and accessibility to a wider audience, so too are industrial cobots becoming more affordable and available, with some cobots currently priced at less than $40,000.
Another peculiarity of the robotics market is the rapid international growth. China is now the second largest market for robotics in the world. Sectors like automotive and electronics are still leading the way in terms of robotics sales, with metal, chemicals and food production quickly increasing their usage of the technology. Other high growth sectors are logistic systems, defence, construction and service robots used for cleaning or customer relations.
There is no doubt that the super trends above will all have an impact on the industry in the coming year. Whether manufacturers choose to implement any of the technologies or not, one thing is clear – companies can no longer ignore the truly momentous shift that smart technologies are causing in industry.
2017 is looking like a bright year for the industry. It might even be the year when we see the first smart factories and warehouses make a debut.
The survey shows significant increases in activity in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Belfast.
The Birmingham Crane Survey identifies 1.4m sq ft of new office space under construction – a 50% increase on the previous year (969,000 sq ft).
The surge signals the highest level of activity since this crane report was first published in 2002.
Birmingham has also witnessed a 10-fold increase in residential schemes starting construction last year, totalling 2,331 units in the city centre.
Manchester’s city centre has a record 22 residential projects breaking ground on site last year.
This was eight more than the previous high of 14 in 2007 and is scheduled to deliver nearly 7,000 units to the market.
The Northern Powerhouse’s skyline continues to evolve with the addition of four residential towers over 25 storeys high, all now under construction.
This includes the UK’s tallest residential tower, marking a new era for the Manchester housing market.
Leeds saw 20 major construction schemes complete in 2016, including the highest level of office space (over 700,000 sq ft) delivered to market since 2007, and the city also recorded six new office starts in this survey.
Retail was dominant in Leeds as the delivery of new shopping areas doubled the average annual total of retail space with nearly 600,000 sq ft brought forward in 2016.
City centre residential construction remains modest in Leeds with only three new residential schemes starting last year.
The first Belfast Crane Survey recorded a healthy 19 schemes under construction and 11 schemes completing in 2016.
Across the cities, the hotel sector is benefiting from serious investment.
Manchester has recorded 1,040 rooms under construction which will be the largest delivery of hotel rooms in 10 years for the city.
Leeds saw more hotel construction starts than at any other time in the last decade, adding 385 rooms into the development pipeline.
Student accommodation is an increasingly active sector. Belfast has almost 2,500 bed-spaces across seven major projects being built in the city centre area. This is in addition to the 413 bed-spaces that completed in 2016.
Birmingham has over 1,000 student bed-spaces coming forward to support its growing student population.
Simon Bedford, local government development partner at Deloitte Real Estate, said: “The results of our four crane surveys reflect the growth and resurgence in the regions, breaking records set more than a decade ago.
“Sentiment towards city centre development is buoyant with residential rising to new levels, quite literally in Manchester, with the addition of towers that will alter the city skyline.
“The unparalleled scale and volume of development in the regions prompted us to monitor a further city.
“Belfast’s development pipeline is in good shape and we expect to see even more cranes there in 2017.
“All sectors are active and we conclude that our regional cities are delivering growth and investment at levels not witnessed for many years.”
Construction employment levels set to top 2.6 million
The number of people employed in construction is set to top 2.6m this year as the industry continues on its upward trajectory.
The latest Construction Skills Network report from the CITB predicts growth of 1.7% over the next five years, with 179,000 jobs to be created.
But the positive figures are heavily dependent on three huge projects – Hinkley Point C and Wylfa Newydd nuclear power stations and High Speed 2 – starting main works on time.
Infrastructure is responsible for 45% of all growth from 2017-2021 with private house building the next best performing sector with average annual increases of 2.2%.
Skills shortages are set to intensify with a rise in vacancies for carpenters (+3,850 per year), electricians and insulators (+2,250), process managers (+2,150) and a range of IT and other technical workers (+5,240).
Steve Radley, Director of Policy at the CITB said: “We expect construction to keep defying the economic headwinds, with almost half of its growth coming from Hinkley, HS2 and Wylfa and other infrastructure projects.
“These huge projects give our industry a great chance to seize the initiative on skills and start investing in the next generation and upskilling the current one.
“So it’s vital that we don’t throw this opportunity away by allowing these projects to slip or get squeezed together and worsen the pressure on key skills.”
Sarah Beale, Chief Executive at CITB, said: “While we are forecasting slower growth for our industry than we were last year, employers will still be creating tens of thousands of new jobs.
“We will be working with employers to attract new talent into our industry and to train them for rewarding careers in the sector.
“While we have factored Brexit into this forecast, there remain many unknowns to life after leaving the EU.
“We will be working with our industry to understand what it means for our migrant workforce and what we must do to attract and grow more of our own.”