Workloads powering ahead for M&E specialists
The latest bullish sector-wide Building Engineering Business Survey found 79% of engineering services saw turnover increase or remain stable during the first quarter of the year.Hundreds of firms were quizzed in the survey which is run in partnership by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), and Scottish electrical trade body SELECT.
ECA CEO Steve Bratt said: “These figures show that the engineering services sector continues to power ahead, against a backdrop of enormous political volatility.”
“New business opportunities continue to be created across our sector, notably, but certainly not exclusively, linked to energy supply and storage.”
“We remain cautiously optimistic entering into a period of further change with the upcoming general election.”
BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin said: “We should be extremely heartened by these results.“We continue to live through a period of unprecedented political upheaval, yet the building engineering services sector remains on track.”
“For nine out of ten respondents to be so upbeat about their immediate business prospects in the current uncertain economic climate is testament to this industry’s resilience.”
SELECT Managing Director Newell McGuiness said: “It’s encouraging to see continued optimism on workload, given the backdrop of uncertainty which exists at present.”
“The rise in material costs is a concern and we hope that any further increases will be kept to a minimum.”
“Seven in 10 businesses reported an increase in materials prices – up from six in 10 during Q4 2016.”
Half of the firms who responded said the move to Brexit had negatively impacted on materials prices.
In addition, half of companies said labour costs had risen, up from four in 10 firms in the previous quarter.
Source: Construction Enquirer
Safety first for the next generation of electricians
Five hundred and fifty apprentice electricians and adult trainees in Scotland will get a safe start to their careers – thanks to Electrical Safety First and the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust (SECTT), who are providing them with free lockout kits valued at £21 each.
The kits allow for safe isolation – securely disconnecting one or all parts of the electrical installation when working on it – which is a fundamental safety precaution, as ‘live’ working can be fatal. Over the next few weeks, the trainee electricians studying at 20 Approved Centres across Scotland, from the Shetland Isles to the Borders, will receive lock-out kits, totalling almost £12,000.
“It’s vital that everyone in the industry adopts safe working practices and procedures and it’s important that this is established right at the start of an electrician’s career”, explains Phil Buckle, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First. “By providing free lockout kits to young electricians we not only give them crucial safety equipment, we also hope to help them make safe working an ingrained habit. Because, as we know, it could mean the difference between life and death.”
Anne Galbraith, Chief Executive of SECTT, adds: “We are committed to improving safety for our industry and this is a great way to support Scotland’s newest electricians. Our longstanding partnership with Electrical Safety First – which is now entering its 9th year – means we have been able to share the cost of these vital safety devices and help safeguard the next generation of Scottish electricians”.
- Electrical Safety First is the leading UK charity committed to reducing deaths, injuries and accidents from electricity.
- The Charity offers a range of tools on its website for both professional electricians and consumers, to support electrical safety and best practice – including a safe isolation app for mobile phones. For more information, please visit: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.
- SECTT provides essential information about careers in the electrical industry and useful guidance for employers and young people. See www.sectt.org.uk for more details.
Source: Electrical Engineering
New initiative launched to support mental health in construction
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and the Considerate Constructors Scheme have launched a new initiative to help support the mental health agenda in the construction industry.
Considerate Constructors Scheme-registered sites, companies and suppliers can now provide their workforce with handy wallet-sized Construction Industry Helpline cards, as well as displaying posters to advertise the services.
The Construction Industry Helpline provides a free 24/7 confidential employee assistance programme for all of the construction workforce and their families in the UK. The Helpline is there to deliver mental health and wellbeing, financial assistance, legal advice and support on education and training. It is operated by the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity (also known as the Lighthouse Club) and is funded by the charitable generosity of the construction industry.
With the crucial support of the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the Helpline has launched a new range of packs which are available to purchase. Each pack contains wallet-sized Helpline cards for distribution to the workforce and A2 posters to promote the Helpline on site. There are nine packs in total, which are suitable for sites, companies and suppliers of different contract values and annual turnover.
By purchasing a pack, the site, company or supplier is also making a commitment to undertake a “Lighthouse Day”, which can be any day in the calendar year where anything can be done to raise much-needed funds for the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity.
The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity chief executive, Bill Hill, said: “As well as delivering emergency financial aid to those in our industry suffering hardship, we have augmented our Helpline services to support callers suffering from anxiety, stress, addictive behaviours and depression in support of the recent research into the mental health of the industry.
“It is now imperative that we put the Helpline Card in the hands of every construction worker in the industry, so they will always have a safety net to catch them at their time of need. The Considerate Constructors Scheme has fully embraced this initiative right from the start and we cannot thank them enough for their enthusiastic support.”
Considerate Constructors Scheme chief executive Edward Hardy added: “The Scheme is keen to take its ongoing support for the Construction Industry Helpline to the next level, which is why we have launched these essential packs for the benefit of the entire workforce.
“The Helpline provides invaluable support for workers and their families during times of difficulty and hardship and has already made a huge difference to the lives of many people. The Scheme would like to see this important industry asset go from strength to strength, which is why we are urging as many sites and businesses to purchase the packs and pledge to hold a Lighthouse Day to raise funds for the charity. There is no pressure to raise a target amount – just as much as you can on the day to make a difference.”
The Scheme has been supporting the Construction Industry Helpline ever since it officially partnered with the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity in 2014, when the Helpline was launched.
The Helpline is not publicly funded and relies entirely on the generosity and support of industry organisations, fundraising groups and individuals.
To access the Helpline’s team of experts, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or visit www.constructionindustryhelpline.com.
Source: HVP Magazine
ECA president optimistic on business outlook as term ends
Dave Kieft, the outgoing President of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), believes there is significant potential for business growth in the engineering services sector, as a result of recent developments and new commercial opportunities.
One of the key themes for Mr. Kieft’s ECA presidential term, which ends in May, has been to raise the profile of the engineering and electrotechnical sector, while promoting the ECA across the UK.
In addition, Kieft has been one of the main drivers in bringing together a number of engineering sector bodies, with many agreeing to work in partnership to promote the value of engineering services to clients and government.
According to Dave Kieft:
“The ECA’s profile has risen significantly in the last year, but it is also building strong, effective partnerships with other bodies in our industry. Partnering will ensure that the interests of the entire sector, and what we have to offer, are communicated to government and other stakeholders with a strong, single voice.”
Kieft adds that for the sector to realise its commercial opportunities, it also needs to bring more young people into engineering. To boost awareness of both the career opportunities, and to identify the excellent talent that already exists in the engineering services industry, the ECA launched its new ‘Power Players’ initiative in April.
“It’s now absolutely crucial for our collective future prosperity that we communicate the considerable benefits of a career in engineering to young people, their parents, teachers and careers officers.”
Kieft formally comes to the end of his year-long tenure as ECA President on 17 May. He is also the ECA’s Wales spokesperson and managing director of Swansea-based RDM Electrical and Mechanical Services.
About the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and its members:
The Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) is the UK’s largest trade association representing electrical, electrotechnical and other engineering contractors, at regional, national and European level. ECA member-companies are rigorously assessed before membership is approved.
Member firms have a combined turnover in excess of £6 billion annually. Member firms carry out design, installation, inspection, testing, maintenance and monitoring activity across domestic and commercial sectors. This ranges from power and lighting to data communications, to energy efficiency and renewables, as well as the design and installation of cutting-edge building control technologies.
The ECA’s near 3,000 members range from SME electrical firms to nationwide engineering contractors and building services firms that employ thousands of professionals on major UK projects.
To visit the ECA website, please click here.
Source: Electrical Engineering
ECA and BESA launch engineering services manifesto
Ahead of the general election on 8 June, ECA and BESA are calling on the next government to make sustainable construction a strategic priority.
The five-point manifesto, released by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), adds to a recent submission by the ECA and BESA on the government’s industrial strategy consultation, and calls for the following:
- Connecting the output of construction and operation of the UK’s built environment, and making it a strategic priority, to enable the sustainable delivery of economic, social and environmental benefits. Engineering services is uniquely positioned as a cornerstone of both sectors and has a central role in delivering these benefits throughout the lifetime of built assets, and, as a key enabler, should be selected by government for a ‘sector deal’.
- Ensuring that SME apprenticeship training is fully funded for the entire parliament. At present, there is significant concern that firms not required to pay the new apprenticeship levy may not be able to access the support they need to develop engineering and other technical skills.
- Ensuring government is a smart client and smaller businesses have stability of cash-flow and payment. A key request is for a digital payment platform in the public sector, linked to digital procurement processes. This would give greater transparency and speed to supply chain payment, and lower supplier risk.
- Making energy, heat and carbon efficiency a real sustainable delivery priority within the next parliament. Achievable energy efficiency goals, backed by government, need to be fulfilled if we are to meet our emissions reductions targets in the lowest cost way, as well as offering a way for businesses to improve their productivity.
- Improve productivity through action to enhance employee engagement. Government should introduce additional requirements in the procurement process to help mitigate against false self-employment and other tax avoidance schemes, and facilitate improved employer-worker collaboration, resulting in enhanced productivity.
ECA chief executive officer Steve Bratt, and BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin, commented: “The next government has a great opportunity to deliver an investment and regulatory climate in which industry thrives and where buildings and infrastructure support UK growth and productivity.
“Our five-point manifesto would support business, by delivering highly skilled apprenticeships, giving SMEs the opportunity to grow, and ultimately, improving UK productivity.”
According to the government’s industrial strategy consultation, the UK lags behind other developed nations including Germany, France and the United States, in terms of worker productivity.
BESA and ECA members have combined annual turnover of £10 billion, spanning building, infrastructure and maintenance activity. Engineering services fulfils 90% of the costs associated with buildings and infrastructure, compared to just 10% for initial building costs.
Source: HVP Magazine
Contractors set to benefit from NEC contract changes
The latest NEC4 documents are due to come into force next month – 12 years since the last NEC3 contracts were first published.
Experts at consultant Systech believe the revised paperwork will please contractors as they support the ongoing drive for collaborative working.
Important anticipated changes include possible compensation for contractors preparing quotations and allowing contractors to reach the definition of defined and progressive costs as work proceeds rather than waiting to the end of a project.
Jason Palmer, Systech Associate Director for UK North, said: “Whilst the devil will be in the detail, contractors will welcome a number of the reported changes in NEC4, particularly those allowing cost reimbursement for preparing quotations, the early agreement of defined and disallowed costs [rather than waiting until the end of the project] and the moves to ensure the agreement of the accepted programme.”
Rekha Thawrani, NEC Contracts General Manager, said: “The uptake of NEC products and services has grown exponentially across the globe over the last 20 years and we pride ourselves on the fact that our innovative portfolio will always react to and be shaped by the needs, experiences and feedback of our users.
“As part of our commitment to all our customers, we continue to constantly review ways to enhance and update our products. We believe NEC4’s diverse range of definitive end-to-end project management contracts will empower users to deliver projects on time, on budget and to the highest standards now and in the future to the benefit of both industry and society.”
Source: Construction Enquirer
Calls to tackle air pollution from construction sites
Former Deputy Mayor of London for Environment, Matthew Pencharz, believes the UK government must do more to tackle the problem of air pollution from construction sites
Mr Pencharz commented after the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) published the consultation on its new UK Air Quality Plan.
Mr Pencharz, current director of Off Grid Energy, believes more needs to be done to encourage local authorities to introduce and have the powers to enforce environmental regulations on construction sites to push the utilisation of clean technologies, after describing the Air Quality Plan as disappointingly unambitious.
Construction sites are important sources of pollution in towns and cities across the UK. In London, for example, construction equipment accounts for 7% of emissions, leading to unacceptably high NO2 concentrations.
“It is disappointing that in its new consultation to deliver the reductions in air pollution the UK needs, the government is not doing more to push the utilisation of clean technologies on construction sites to save both money and emissions and stimulate this high value manufacturing sector,” said Mr Pencharz, who brought in the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) regulations for construction equipment while he was Deputy Mayor of London for Environment.
The GLA brought in regulations in 2015 to begin the cleaning up of construction sites, but in the consultation the government is only talking about regulations which, from 2019, would only apply to new machines, without addressing the thousands of older, high polluting ones.
In addition, other local authorities do not appear to be being encouraged to bring in London-style regulations and, even if they did, any enforcement powers remain weak. Mr Pencharz stated that the government should be proposing to give strong enforcement powers to local authorities wishing to regulate construction equipment operating in their areas and work closely with organisations like the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) to solve this problem.
“The challenge to deliver clean air creates a huge opportunity for the UK’s high value manufacturing sector but it does need reasonable and pragmatic regulation to stimulate the deployment of technologies,” finished Mr Pencharz.
Source: HVP Magazine
Brits need help with voice-controlled Smart Home devices
Over 50% of Brits would consider using voice-controlled connected devices in their home, but most would need professional help to install them, according to research by online electronics retailer, reichelt elektronik.
The research suggests that installers already fitting smart heating control technology could add a lucrative new revenue stream to their business by offering to fit other voice-controlled connected devices as well.
The enthusiasm for this type of technology in the home is apparent with the success of systems like Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Microsoft Cortana. While 50% percent of respondents said they would consider installing a voice-controlled solution, 6% already use the new technology in their home.
However, most of them (55%) don’t know how to install these types of products and would need professional help, providing installers with a potentially lucrative new revenue stream.
In the case of voice-controlled home automation solutions, the desire to operate heating and lighting either automatically or remotely is the first priority (74%), closely followed by camera surveillance/alarm systems (48%), and kitchen and household appliances (40%).
Across Europe, the trend is similar. reichelt’s research found that most German (70%) and French (63%) people surveyed felt the same as the British about the technology, however about half of Germans would do it themselves.
Of the 30% who wouldn’t consider using devices like Alexa, Siri or Google Home, this was due to concerns over data protection. This is especially striking in the age group of the 18- to 24-year-olds, among whom 65% of those who wouldn’t purchase these devices clearly state privacy concerns (65%).
reichelt commissioned One Poll to conduct the research of 1,000 adults across UK, Germany and France, during April 2017.
Source: HVP Magazine
Solar panel installs fall 80%
Solar panel installations have fallen by 80%, following the massive cut in government subsidies at the beginning of 2016.
Homeowners have turned their back on solar energy, following the controversial decision to slash payments to households for their solar energy under the Feed-in Tariff from 12 pence per kWh last January to just 4.39 pence.
As a result, the number of people putting solar panels on their homes is now at a six-year low.
Between January and March, there were about 650 rooftop deployments a week – a fall of more than 75% on the long-term average of 2,700 a week since 2010.
Paul Barwell, chief executive of The Solar Trade Association, which produced the figures from government statistics, told the Independent: “At a time when we need more generation, the government is hindering market competition against the best interests of consumers by suppressing the tremendous potential of solar power in the UK.
“Solar is being needlessly impeded in the UK by shock taxes, red tape and by a serious failure in the only remaining supportive policy.
“We urge the government to act now to stabilise the industry.”
Of particular concern is a 65% drop in the number of large-scale solar schemes on hospitals, factories and other large buildings, which backers of solar power say may well have been caused by the business rate increase.
The figures equate to just one large factory roof having solar panels fitted every month in the whole of the country.
Paul admitted he did not want new rooftop subsidies, but added: “What we are asking for, and urgently, is fair tax treatment, fixes to a failing policy, less red tape and just a level playing field.
“It makes no sense to shut the most popular and cheapest clean power out of the energy market.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has defended the fall in solar panel installations among homes and businesses.
A spokesman said: “This government wants Britain to be one of the best places in the world to invest in clean, flexible energy. Solar power is a great success, with over 11 GW of capacity installed in the last five years – that’s enough to power more than 2.6 million homes with clean electricity.”
Wise up to smart controls
British controls manufacturer Drayton, part of Schneider Electric, is encouraging installers to wise up to the next generation of smart heating controls ahead of an exciting new product launch in the coming months.
Allowing installers to work smarter, not harder, Drayton’s newest offering is set to shake up the smart controls market for installers and consumers alike, allowing them to get wise to the benefits of the connected home.
Drayton’s MD Catherine Connolly comments: “We have something very exciting in the pipeline which we feel is not only an innovative proposition for installers but a wise investment for their customers.
“We’ll be revealing all over the next few months, so make sure you follow the @DraytonHeating channel on Twitter and sign up for our e-newsletter to be the first to know!”
Source: Electrical Times