Construction Industry Council
This is a very complex issue, which accounts for the mixed messages coming from government in recent days (eg Nicola Sturgeon calling for sites to close and Michael Gove and Robert Jenrick arguing that they should remain open).
In the absence of firm advice, some construction companies are taking matters into their own hands and closing for the foreseeable future (Taylor Wimpey, Galliard, Travis Perkins) or until there is more clarity (Saint Gobain). It is currently a matter of mess and muddle.
It would be incredibly dangerous for all construction sites to close; but it is also incredibly dangerous for all construction sites to remain open. It is not an issue with a binary solution.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of critical activity that ought to continue for issues of public safety:
- Make good unsafe buildings/dangerous structures –District Surveyors need powers to instruct emergency work to be done to make them safe if any occur – and a hastily abandoned site might just lead to a dangerous structure occurring.
- Structural inspections for subsidence / movement to determine risk
- Structural and roofing problems, loose tiles/chimney stacks, weathering
- All general building control work (both LABC and AIs) for nationally important buildings / facilities, e.g. NHS estate, GPs, etc.
- Drainage works / maintenance etc – important to avoid any increased public health problems in this respect
- Fire safety inspections
- Requirement for maintenance of fire protection systems and equipment to meet Fire Safety legislation – even if buildings are not occupied.
- Ongoing need for Fire risk assessments, both to meet legislation and new circumstances in buildings.
- Remedial work required to remove unsafe ACM cladding etc.
- Glazing replacement
- Locksmithing / lock replacement
- Gas safety work/ Suspected gas leaks
- Electrical safety work/ Electrical failures
- Flood remediation (especially to homes hit by recent floods)
- Plumbing and heating failures including loss of heating/condensation problems/hot water services
- Emergency Leaking/ flooding
- Health risks associated with blocked drainage/sewerage systems
- Water companies – remedial / emergency work to buildings and assets that are crucial to the supply of clean water,
- New or business/safety critical maintenance work on establishments which are involved in supply chain of vital NHS equipment (for example where manufacturers are building units to make ventilators),
- Factories that are making anything required to combat the virus (e.g. a new hand sanitiser factory is under construction);
- Food supply chain – essential new builds or maintenance on existing buildings
- Extra warehouse space for food distribution by online platforms (to cope with massively increased demand)
- New or business/safety critical maintenance work on establishments which are involved in supply of medicines,
- Essential maintenance on morgues, funeral parlours, and crematoriums
- Essential maintenance and remediation across the health sector
- Installation/maintenance technicians providing services to key sectors – health, power etc?
- Emergency callouts, safety checks and essential work in care homes?
- Ongoing supervision and security measures.
- Sites where anti-terrorism considerations need to take precedence over other concerns – eg Palace of Westminster.
- Urgent works on emergency service properties other than health - police, fire, for example?
- Unsafe infrastructure – if a lorry strikes a bridge during the shutdown, for example, then work may be needed to make safe the affected structure.
- Bridge inspection and maintenance
- Dam inspection and maintenance
- Maintaining key national infrastructure: power stations and grid, motorways, railways, utilities etc.
- Repair and maintenance of telecommunications, energy waste and water – these are vital to work from home
- R&D facilities, where related to vaccine development or virus treatment
- Work on factories that make materials that are vital to all elements on this list
There will be other safety-critical work that needs to be added to this list.
However, it is also clear that much construction work is NOT essential – such as office accommodation, leisure facilities, for example.
The most important message to government is to define what work is essential and what work is not essential (as they have done for retail outlets).
One of the imperatives for people to go to work is that so many construction workers are self-employed (construction has more self-employed and freelance workers than any other industry) and in the absence of any package of support comparable to the job retention scheme announced on Friday, workers will continue to risk their health by going to work on non-essential projects. It is essential for government to address this issue urgently.
If construction sites remain open (and my argument is that they should only remain open if the work is critical) then construction work should only continue if:
- it can be carried out under the guidance issued by Public Health England;
- it can be undertaken without compromising safety and health;
- it is carried out in accordance with the Site Operating Procedure published earlier today; and
- workers can travel safely and responsibly to sites.
There has to be a safety-first message in all of this.
Construction sites cannot just be left. They need to be prepared for closure and left in a way that is safe and secure. Work is being done today on guidance about how to shut down sites safely.
So, the bottom line is that construction sites should only remain open if they are critical and they meet these conditions. If it is impossible to meet the 2m rule for example then they should not remain open unless it causes an unsafe or dangerous situation for them to close or the project is deemed to be critical to immediate societal need and then this needs to be carefully managed and risk-assessed.
We are looking for clarity from government and a strong central message. CIC is working with government through the Construction Leadership Council to try to achieve this clarity.
Head of ADR Research and Development
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
The evening of Wednesday 18 March sees the launch of the Construction Industry Council’s ground-breaking adjudication procedure for resolving low value building contract disputes, at an event hosted by RICS in Westminster, London.
There is clear evidence in the construction industry that a fresh approach to using adjudication to resolve disputes is needed. This is largely because of concerns raised by small and medium sized businesses that adjudication generally has become too legalistic, too complex and too costly for resolving straightforward issues where the sums involved are relatively small.
There are close to 300,000 construction businesses operating in UK, many of which are SMEs that do not use adjudication. Lots of smaller sized businesses appear to have become disillusioned with adjudication, which they say has developed into a process that is inordinately complicated and expensive. Some even say that adjudication is no longer fit for purpose.
It appears the Government, in the shape of BEIS, is alert to concerns about increasing costs and complexity in adjudication. BEIS has been investigating the extent of real and potential problems for SME’s who say they cannot afford to adjudicate. They would appear to be particularly keen to understand precisely where, in the adjudication process, costs are prone to escalate. That is: are costs being driven higher by overzealous or superfluous lawyer/professional representatives? Are adjudicators at fault for failing to be sufficiently robust and managing the process and timetable efficiently? Are parties at fault by insisting on submitting vast quantities of pointless documents, or failing to adhere to prescriptive timetables and then seeking extensions to timetables?
Whether, and if so to what extent, BEIS intervenes in the future to make adjudication more accessible for SME’s involved in lower value claims remains to be seen. In the interim is is apparent that BEIS welcomes the CIC’s pan-industry initiative to develop a simple, Construction Act compliant, adjudication timetable and procedure for low value disputes
The CIC Low Value Disputes Model Adjudication Procedure (LVD MAP) has been developed under the auspices of the CIC ADR Management Board, whose membership is drawn from leading industry bodies, including RICS, RIBA and the ICE.
Other organisations which are actively supporting the initiative are the CIArb, CIOB, CEDR, IME, IET and UKA. Each of these have been motivated to participate in the development of the LVD MAP in response to growing concerns within the construction industry that adjudication is now too costly, and the process too convoluted, for dealing with anything but large-scale disputes. The primary aim of this pan-industry collaboration is to re-establish industry confidence in adjudication as a method for deciding all types of construction disputes, including straightforward, low value, claims.
The LVD MAP provides a simple and cost-effective procedure that makes adjudication more accessible for SME’s involved in lower value claims. It is aimed at disputes where the amounts claimed are for £50,000 or less, and the issues in dispute are relatively uncomplicated. The LVD MAP offers a nimble way to settle straightforward issues, and allows small businesses to achieve fair, cost effective and transparent decisions by trained and qualified adjudicators. This will be achieved, for example, by adopting a structured timetable and procedure, setting limits on amounts of evidence to be submitted setting a ceiling on adjudicators’ fees at £6,000 and providing clarity for both parties on how much it will cost.
RICS is very supportive of this initiative, and we are delighted that the CIC has agreed to host the launch of LVD MAP at our headquarters in Parliament Square, London.
The Diabetes Safety Organisation
I spend much of my working day visiting construction sites telling people about the consequences of unmanaged diabetes, such as erectile dysfunction, and telling managers that they could be at risk of liability if they are not correctly managing the risk associated with diabetes. Diabetes is a condition most people have heard about. It is in the media most weeks yet very few people understand the impact the condition can have on their bodies, their lives, their families and to their companies.
Diabetes is a hidden epidemic and the fastest-growing health threat facing our nation. 4.6 million people have the condition in the UK, 700 people are diagnosed a day (one every two minutes), it is the leading cause of blindness in the working population and 75% of men who have diabetes, suffer from erectile dysfunction at some point. Diabetes does not discriminate.
Diabetes can cause people to black out or act as if drunk when they are not correctly managing their condition. Those on high medications are required by the DVLA to test two hours before driving and every two hours whilst driving. This is not, as yet, a legal requirement on sites, but the same people may be operating heavy machinery or huge cranes. They are at risk of acting drunk or passing out with no regulations in place. Few companies have in place diabetes specific policies, risk assessments and diabetes first aid kits.
Diabetes is progressive, slowly impacting people’s health. As it cannot be seen in the early stages and the symptoms can be put down to late nights and other lifestyle factors, helping people and companies understand and manage the risk is crucial to today’s aging, busy workforce.
Why does it all matter so much to me, well we can save lives if we get this right and make a difference to people’s health. That is surely enough and if it’s not then we also help companies ensure they comply with their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Workers who are diagnosed with diabetes do not have to inform their company under the equality act (unless otherwise stipulated). However, employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their employees and those affected by what the employer does are not exposed to risk to their health and safety (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). If someone had a diabetic episode on site that resulted in a serious or fatal accident and an employer had taken no steps to assess and reduce risk, then the employer would commit a criminal offence and face a significant fine.
The other question I am regularly asked is why is no one else pushing this and why should we spend time and money in our company? My answer, do we need to wait for people to die or a clinical paper to show there is a problem, we know there is a problem, it is time we did something. Diabetes is a condition already recognised by the DVLA to be a high risk and is regulated. Additionally, the symptoms of diabetes expose the individual who has the condition, other employees and non-employees, to risk. The employer therefore has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people are not exposed to this risk. I believe that it's an obvious risk once it has been pointed out. Employers must therefore assess and it and take reasonably practicable steps.
Currently diabetes has not been individually recorded at accident sites, so there are no criminal cases we can show you specifically, however that does not mean it wasn’t diabetes that was the cause. We know 500 people a week die in the UK from the complications of diabetes, but it may not be what is written on the death certificate! Do we need to wait to see diabetes as the written cause of death in the construction industry before we do something? I do hope not!
Taking reasonably practicable steps around diabetes safety does not need to be expensive to your company, there are simple measures that can be put in place to keep your staff safe and healthier. Doing nothing after reading this blog is not reasonably practicable.
With diabetes having a national prevalence of 7%, do you know the 7% of people in your company with the condition? Have you delivered diabetes awareness training to your staff, have those with the condition and roles that are required, been risk assessed and do you have policies and diabetes first aid kits across your business? If not, are you doing enough?
As diabetes continues to rise and risk increases, we are working with the international law firm, Gowling WLG, to increase awareness and safety. We believe it’s imperative that employers start to understand the risk that their employees and they themselves face and work together to eliminate it.
By using online training courses that educate people about the condition and its symptoms so that they manage it better will hopefully stop the accident and mean your company discharges the duty.
Don’t let a diabetes related episode contribute to a workplace accident leaving you open to a criminal offence and facing significant fines. Take steps to make your company ‘diabetes safe’. Why not sign up to the diabetes charter and commit to increase awareness to your staff. To find out more about the diabetes charter please go to diabetessafety.org.
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Kate Walker (Director)
Chartered Arbitrator and Engineer, Adjudicator, Mediator
Niall Lawless is just completing his second three year term as Chair of the CIC ADR Management Board
In November 2007, I attended a construction sustainability conference in Shantou, Guangdong, China with a Chinese friend, a Structural Engineer. When I asked her why she chose to study structural engineering, she replied that she didn’t. When I enquired further, she told me that in the mid-1980’s following success in the ‘Gaokao’, she was accepted to study aeronautical engineering. During induction day the leader of the University came to talk with the aeronautical engineering students and told them at that stage of China’s development it needed structural engineers more than it needed aeronautical engineers, and he asked students to consider if they would change course. My friend was one of the students who volunteered to move to the Faculty of Structural Engineering. When I asked her why, without a flicker of hesitation she replied “my country’s needs are more important than my needs.”
In 2009, at the inception of the first Obama administration, I was studying culture and dispute resolution, and doing some teaching at the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing. When I looked at the makeup of the USA government (a democracy) I was struck by the high number of members who were lawyers. When I looked at the makeup of the China Politburo (a meritocracy) I was struck by the high number of members who were professionally trained engineers. As I wrote recently in an “Adjudication Practice and Procedure: Ireland” textbook, engineers and lawyers have different belief systems. Engineers deal with certainty and facts, and are concerned with creating tangible solutions that work. Lawyers deal with ambiguity, and are concerned with creating intangible solutions that win.
First travelling to China as a tourist in 2004, I have subsequently rented an apartment in Beijing for 14 years, and I have been a volunteer tour guide at Forbidden City for 12 years.
Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site was a Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and in the period from 1420 until the end of the Imperial System in 1911, twenty-three Emperors ruled China from Forbidden City. Constructed between 1406 and 1420, the Forbidden City is the largest wooden palace complex in the world. From the East Gate to the West Gate is 700 metres, and aligned along Beijing’s central axis it is 1,000 metres from the South Gate to the North Gate. During the period 1406 to 1416, materials were amassed from all over China, and during the period 1416 to 1420 the Palace was built as one. It is said that about one million people were involved with the construction of Forbidden City including 100,000 artisans and craftsmen. During that period China had between 90 and 100 million people, so 1% of the population were involved with that amazing construction enterprise.
It was called the Forbidden City because commoners who entered did so under penalty of death. When I walk around that revered place unaccompanied, I sometimes think the Emperors could be turning in their tombs at the thought of a Barbarian (a non-Chinese person) from Northern Ireland having authority and freedom to do so.
In December 2019, my son Becan who is currently just finishing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Manchester University and his partner Ellen visited me. As we travelled to and from Chinese cities such as Beijing, Tianjin and Hong Kong Self-Administered Region (SAR), I had cause to reflect on how construction and engineering have changed over the last forty years, in the period since 改革开放 (Gǎigé kāifàng : reform and opening-up) .
CITIC Tower. During Imperial times no building in Beijing was allowed to be taller than Forbidden City’s Hall of Supreme Harmony, so just 100 years ago the tallest building in Beijing was 33 metres. Today if you walk east along the rampart from Forbidden City’s Meridian Gate to the Corner Tower you can experience 600 years old ancient architecture, and if you look past the Corner Tower you can experience a few years old modern architecture in the Central Business District (CBD). The smaller of the two buildings in the distance is the China World Trade Centre Tower 3, and the taller of the two buildings is the new CITIC Tower, which although not the tallest building in China, runs to an impressive height of 528m. The Institution of Structural Engineers said ‘this 108-storey tower is possibly the world’s tallest building constructed in a high seismic zone.’ The form of the CITIC Tower draws inspiration from the ‘zun’ a vase like ritual vessel used until the Northern Song (960–1126 AD).
Beijing Subway. In 2006, when I was renting an apartment near UIBE, my prospective landlady told me that within 18 months my apartment in Rome Gardens would be close to the subway. I did not pay much attention to that, thinking it was ‘Mere Puff’; but low and behold in March 2008 Beijing Subway Line Five was completed and I found myself five minutes’ walk from Huixinxijie Beikou subway station. Beijing Subway had 114 km of track in 2004; 200 km of track in 2008; 336 km of track in 2010; 527 km of track in 2014 and 700 km of track in 2019. In concord with holistic design, via mall and subterranean walkway, the CITIC Tower connects directly with three subway stations and four subway lines.
Beijing Daxing International Airport. In December as I travelled through Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) Terminal 2, I thought that it was abandoned a bit like the Mary Celeste, and would not be in use for long. The decline of BCIA Terminal 2 began with the March 2008 opening of the Norman Foster designed BCIA Terminal 3. Almost everyone who travelled by plane into Beijing before March 2008, will have passed through BCIA Terminal 2 located in the North East of Beijing. Part of the reason for the abandonment is the amazing new Zaha Hadid designed Beijing Daxing International Airport (BDIA) ‘the Starfish’ located in the South of Beijing. Construction work commenced in December 2014, and the airport was opened in September 2019. The terminal building is the largest single-structure airport terminal in the world, with an area of more than 1,000,000 m2. There are currently four runways (with the prospect of becoming seven in the future), and it is expected to handle up to 45 million passengers per year by 2021 and reach an outstanding 100 million in the future.
High Speed Rail. Becan and I took a weekend in Tianjin. Tianjin is famous as a concession city. Its legacy architecture located along the Hai River built in the period of national humiliation and unequal treaties, is interesting to behold. The Beijing to Tianjin driving distance is about 125 km, but the travel time by high speed train with a station stop along the way is just 30 minutes. The speed indicator in the train carriage displayed 349 km per hour. I wondered was the speed governed to be below 350 km per hour. In September 2019, the World Bank reported that over the past decade, China has built 25,000 km of dedicated high-speed railway—more than the rest of the world combined. China has 2,800 pairs of bullet trains.
Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge (HZMB). As part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, the Greater Bay Area development seeks to build a world-class city cluster in an economically diverse region in southern China. To help facilitate this initiative, China has built the HZMB across the Pearl River Estuary. The HZMB is the world's longest sea crossing, a 55 km long group of bridges and tunnels which protect the sea lanes, linking Hong Kong SAR, Zhuhai City of Guangdong Province and Macao SAR. Construction commenced in December 2009, and ended in February 2018.
In 2019, China had the second largest economy in the world (GDP: US$ 15.54 trillion) and the UK had the seventh largest economy in the world (GDP: US$ 3.02 trillion). According to PwC, today’s China’s Belt and Road initiative has a total infrastructure investment need of about US $5 trillion, creating incredible opportunities for capital projects.
The purpose of this blog is not so much to extoll Chinese construction achievements, but rather to hold up a mirror to ‘Global Britain’, and our agonising incapacity through culture, economics, and politics to invest properly in a modern fit for the purposes of the 21st Century infrastructure. China has benefited from a rolling five-year planning system which is a core mechanism for coordinating and implementing policy and which has helped to regulate economic and infrastructure development. If the UK is to compete as ‘Global Britain’ it needs a long term national infrastructure development plan that has cross-party consensus and which is immune to the vagaries of individual governments and the parliamentary cycle. As Bob Dylan Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote and sung ‘The Times They Are A-Changin.’
Photographs - Beijing, Tianjin and Hong Kong Self-Administered Region (SAR)
1)Beijing - Forbidden City Hall of Supreme Harmony before the gates open
2)Beijing - Forbidden City Corner Tower
3)Beijing - CITIC Tower (Source: www.kpf.com)
4)Beijing - BCIA Terminal 2 – it will be retired long before me
5)Beijing - BDIA ‘the Starfish’ a Cathedral of Light 1
6)Beijing - BDIA ‘the Starfish’ a Cathedral of Light 2
7)Tianjin - High Speed Rail Train just arrived
8)Tianjin - Colonial era architecture on the Hai River
9)Tianjin - Guinness is available
10)Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge The Hong Kong Link Road (Source: Arup)
University College of Estate Management
Ashley Wheaton, Principal of University College of Estate Management, explores how sustainable housing developments high in social capital not only deliver a better quality of life for residents, but also increase land and property values too.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a community with high ‘social value’? Somewhere that positively impacts on health and wellbeing, that sources local building materials, delivers employment opportunities, has good air quality and provides a platform for local businesses to thrive.
Sustainable development is not a new idea, but climate and human geography issues have brought it sharply into focus.
In 2012 The Social Value Act placed a formal requirement on public sector organisations to consider the economic, social and environmental benefits for communities, as well as the overall cost when awarding contracts. This is only going to become more important in choosing development partners.
Research shows that sustainable development does not have to affect profit. In fact, the developments with higher social capital are the ones retaining their value and proving more resilient to the local market compared to their neighbouring developments. As well as these developments making higher than average profit, they also provide residents with a strong sense of community spirit encouraging communities and local businesses alike to thrive.
University College of Estate Management recently had the privilege of launching The Value of Community report at Blenheim Palace in partnership with the Prince’s Foundation. Savills produced a financial study for the report that revealed the long-term economic benefits of taking a sustainable approach to house building. This report provides yet more concrete evidence that this approach results in social and financial gains long-term.
In attendance at this event were 80 influential landowners who were there to discuss development projects across the UK. These landowners are actively choosing development partners with a focus on sustainability.
I have seen some brilliant examples of sustainable developments such as BedZED, an eco-village in South London that boasts major energy savings and lower bills, abundant green space and continued above-market sale prices.
If we put residents’ health and wellbeing at the heart of our developments then we can not only make a sustainable long-term profit, we can build communities to be proud of.
Modular construction, whether for housing or large scale construction projects, is both a time-saving and a cost-saving construction process. But exactly how does it save time and money, and how can that be reflected in the construction plan? Continue reading to learn more about the time and cost efficiencies of modular construction.
How Modular Construction Works
Modular construction is a process, not a product. The process for the construction of a modular building or structure begins off-site, where the majority of the construction is done in controlled conditions on (what can only be described as) an assembly-line. These modular units are put together on-site and form one component. Modular units are constructed with the same codes and standards as traditionally built structures.
However, unlike traditional production, modular construction is a much more streamlined process that's faster, often saving up to 50% of the time when compared to on-site construction. After the units are constructed off-site, all that's left is putting the modules in place on-site, which is a much faster project since most of the actual construction has been done off-site—all that’s left is setting and securing the modules to form a structure.
The Benefits of Modular Construction
Fast Building Process
As stated, modular projects can be up to twice as fast as traditional construction projects, meaning that the time it takes to build a modular building can cut the amount of time it would take with traditional methods in half.
By picking the modular process, traditional construction processes like site foundation work can occur at the same time as the modular units are being constructed in-factory.
As I said, modular construction takes place off-site. Modular units are stacked much like lego blocks to form one whole unit or building. Modular construction is great for schools, hospitals, apartments, condos, and businesses.
The benefits of off-site construction are impactful, allowing work to be done in a controlled environment means fewer headaches and more efficiency with reduced on-site labor.
Since modular construction is performed in controlled conditions, much of the labor comes from factory workers who can produce more than on-site construction crews and tradesmen, at a lower cost. This efficiency and labor cost savings can save money on the project, as a whole.
Little to No Impact on Current Business
Modular construction can have a minimal impact on your current business by greatly reducing the footprint of the construction site. If you are expanding on-property and don’t want a mess preventing customers from finding you, modular construction is the way to go.
In fact, modular construction removes about 80% of construction activity from the site. So if you're expanding your business, you don't have to be concerned about construction negatively impacting your place of work.
High-Quality Materials Means Durable Structure
With indoor construction, safety and quality are guaranteed. Building materials are safe, away from moisture or the elements—meaning that the materials are at their peak quality.
Modular buildings are also constructed with some of the most structurally resilient materials available to make sure that the modular structure is made to last. Some leading commercial modular manufacturers use structural steel (as opposed to cold-formed steel) which allows them to build taller and stronger projects.
Smaller Environmental Footprint
When it comes to the environment, construction can easily have a large impact. It’s not just the materials that are used that have an effect on the environment, but the process used to build the structure. With modular construction, you can drastically decrease the environmental impact construction has on the environment. In the UK, energy usage on building sites equals 33% of total emissions in the construction industry. With the reduction of construction time and material waste, those numbers are cut in half.
Cost Efficiency for Modular Construction
Modular construction can save money in a variety of areas, including the following:
Reduced on-site labor
Costs are more predictable
Reduced material waste
Construction schedules are shorter
Less site disruption
Controlled conditions, reduced labor costs, and shortened construction schedules—these are some of the reasons why there’s a growing interest in modular construction. Modular construction is a time-saving and cost-saving construction process, cutting costs across the board.
The modular process is an innovative and efficient way to save money on your next construction project. Using a modular builder will help you make the most of your investment.
Jamie is an SEO specialist for Deluxe Modular. His expertise lies in writing SEO rich content, blog posts, feature articles and managing content marketing initiatives to help grow Deluxe Modular as a leader in the construction industry on the web. You can read more modular construction news on the Deluxe Modular site.
Director, Innovation Plus
According to the government’s latest figures, there were 52,335 R&D Tax Credit claims filed in 2016-2017. The scheme paid out a total of £3.5 billion to companies that met the criteria of ‘R&D for tax purposes.
However, out of those 52,335 claims, only 1,940 were filed by construction firms, despite the fact that there are over 300,000 construction-based businesses operating in the UK.
It’s safe to say that the UK construction industry is losing out on many millions of pounds each year in unclaimed funds due to not taking advantage of the R&D Tax Credits scheme.
(What is the R&D Tax Credit Scheme?) *Sources: ons.gov.uk and gov.uk
The relevance of R&D tax credit scheme to the construction industry
Construction firms routinely face complex challenges imposed by unique site conditions, unusual build requirements, budget constraints, safety and regulatory considerations and even the conflicting priorities of all of these factors.
Many construction firms consider the resolution of these challenges to be a routine part of their operations, without realising that in many cases these types of activities enable them to claim significant funds annually through the scheme.
The eligibility criteria for claiming
A project or activity should meet the following criteria to be included in an R&D tax credits claim:
- The project should seek to achieve a technological or scientific advance
An eligible project or activity should add to the current pool of technical or scientific knowledge in your sector. The advance does not need to involve tangible assets but can also involve process improvements. Any intellectual property that is included in a claim would remain protected throughout the claims process and is not shared publicly.
- The project had to overcome a level of technological uncertainty
In other words, it’s not known at the outset if the solution was either possible or how to deliver it. Even if someone else in the industry has already achieved the same thing, you can still potentially make a claim if the solution is not in the public domain and not obvious.
Types of construction projects and activities that enable you to claim
The below list is only aimed at giving you a sense of the types of projects that qualify. Every construction project should be assessed for eligibility on a case-by-case basis.
1. Offsite and Modular Construction
Increasingly, developers and construction firms are embracing innovative offsite and modular construction techniques to help them to achieve time and labour efficiencies that were not possible before.
Offsite construction activities that are likely to attract R&D benefit include: Design or improvement of building systems, prototyping and manufacturing of new structure types and optimisation of building processes.
The experimental nature of these activities and the high levels of technical expertise that they require, make them a perfect fit for the R&D tax credit scheme.
2. Non-Standard Construction Materials
Manufacturers are continuously developing new construction materials to achieve better performance in specific areas and to enable buildings to meet certain requirements. Some examples of this are:
- Materials that are stronger and can bear heavier loads
- Materials that are lighter or that have a better strength-to-weight ratio
- Materials that have a smaller negative impact on the environment or that use recycled ingredients in their manufacturing
- Materials that have better thermal performance (I.e. they have better heat retention in cold weather or are better at expelling heat in warm weather).
For a construction firm that is the end-user of such materials, the eligible R&D may reside in the selection process of those material (e.g. feasibility studies, construction load analysis and experimentation) and how they have adapted the use of those materials during implementation.
3. Development of Building Information Modelling Systems (BIMs)
A construction firm that is beginning to adopt a BIM, may have to create new internal processes that will allow it to share its project data correctly. It may have to hire specialist consultants to facilitate BIM adoption or it may even have to invest in developing custom software that would allow its legacy systems to connect to the BIM. All of these activities have the potential to meet the criteria for claiming. The creation of BIMs and BIM-related software is a separate industry in itself. For more on this, visit Innovation Plus’ R&D tax relief for software development page.
4. Eco-friendly Construction and Lean Construction
Innovative construction methods that minimise the negative impact on the environment often enable construction firms to claim R&D tax credits. Eligibility can stem from developing either new or improved eco-friendly techniques, or appreciably improving existing techniques to meet unique project conditions. The R&D may also lie in solving challenging logistical and technical problems that can result from implementing these techniques. For example:
- Using sustainable materials such as recycled steel, glass or materials that have been claimed from dismantled buildings.
- Using eco-friendly materials such as concrete reinforced with timber, bamboo or other natural fibre construction materials like Hempcrete.
- Development of green walls, water harvesting systems or water purification systems.
- Reduction of waste and increasing the efficiency through new, lean construction processes
5. Other Indicators of Eligibility
- Creation or improvement of construction techniques to improve efficiency, durability, soil remediation or environmental sustainability
- Construction of dynamic structures such as retractable roofs
- Design, development and testing of temporary construction structures and construction equipment and tools
- Investigations that relate to the development of new material types such as metals alloys, concrete, insulation, plastics, glass and ceramics.
We have explored just a few scenarios of how construction firms are be eligible for the R&D tax credit scheme. If you are unsure of your eligibility or would like further information, you are welcome to contact Innovation Plus for an objective assessment at no obligation to you.
How Brexit will impact on construction product regulations: How you can prepare for Brexit
Director, Building Safety Programme
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
This month we will leave the European Union, and for those with an interest in the construction products sector, it is important that your members and those across the construction sector know what will be changing following Brexit.
The Government has taken steps to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also continue to engage with the sector.
We recently published updated guidance setting out actions that manufacturers and notified bodies need to take whether we leave the EU with, or without, a deal after 31 October. It provides information for UK-based firms that sell construction products in the UK and for those that export or may want to export their construction products to the EU after we leave the bloc.
Here’s a reminder of what the guidance means for these two groups:
UK manufacturers operating within the UK
Should we leave the EU without a deal we have published legislation that mirrors the current EU Construction Product Regulations 2011. All existing European harmonised standards will become UK ‘designated standards’ ensuring that there will be no change in the standards required for products imported from the EU.
However, from October 31, we will introduce a new ‘UKCA’ marking.
The UKCA mark will be provided by UK-based notified bodies – replacing the CE marking for UK conformity assessed products in the UK. Goods with CE marking will continue to be recognised in the UK for now, as long as manufacturers have complied with EU requirements.
UK manufacturers exporting to the EU
For those exporting construction products to the EU or have plans to trade with the bloc after the UK exits, there will also be changes.
If we leave without a deal, the European Commission has said that products assessed by UK notified bodies will no longer be able to display the CE mark. To continue to export their product, one of the following actions must be taken:
- The manufacturer re-tests their product through an EU-27 notified body.
- The UK notified body transfers the existing certificate to an EU notified body.
For further information on the processes, businesses can still apply to attend of the Government’s Brexit Business Readiness Events in their area, check the guidance on GOV.UK or contact their trade association.
#ConstructionisOpen Pledge to help EU27 nationals feel Welcome
‘Unprecedented Situations Call for Unprecedented and Proactive Actions’
Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen
Around 7% of workers in the construction industry are EU 27 nationals, compared to the national average of 6% (Office for National Statistics, 2018).
Securing post-Brexit rights
In 2016 following the outcome of the EU referendum, as an EU 27 national I found myself, alongside 4 million others in Britain and Europe, being uncertain about my rights post-Brexit, in a place I call home.
Starting almost immediately after the referendum, and in the grip of ‘the Brexit Blues’, I started the process of understanding how to re-secure my rights under British law. Dual citizenship is allowed for Danish citizens so I decided to apply for British citizenship as it would give me full voting rights. I understood that any future status, such as Settled Status, would be unlikely to offer that I maintain the voting rights in the local elections that EU 27 nationals have through EU treaty rights prior to Britain leaving the EU. During the application process there were real challenges, when I needed support from others, and there were times of relief. The overall process took 22 months, from the start of filling in forms until completing my British citizenship ceremony in January 2019.
Hurdles buried in the permanent residency application included having to provide evidence of the comprehensive sickness insurance that I was expected to have, when I had arrived in the UK as a student. With access to the local GP I did not know about this requirement and did not have comprehensive sickness insurance as a student. With support from immigration lawyers provided by the volunteer-powered project, UK Citizenship for EU Nationals (UKCEN), I discovered that as I had to chosen my 5 years that acts as my qualifying period for permanent residency during a time I was in full time employment, these excluded my student years. As a result, this requirement became irrelevant and fell away.
To obtain British Citizenship you need to pass the Life in the UK Test and I really enjoyed learning about Britain and its history for this. It was great fun learning with, and testing, British friends and colleagues as an alternative ‘pub quiz’.
Invitation to Take the #ConstructionisOpen Pledge
To become a dual Danish-British citizen I had and gratefully received support from my MP, UKCEN, the Danish Embassy, my family, colleagues and many other EU27 nationals. Their support made all the difference to my ability to successfully navigate the complex process involved and to deal with the situation I found myself in.
The #ConstructionisOpen pledge, developed with and hosted by the construction industry think tank the Edge, is an invitation to members of the construction industry to make their own difference, to help EU 27 nationals feel welcome and to provide them with support during and after Brexit.
Please add your signature here and pick your own action:
Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen is a Sustainability Leader with extensive experience in working within world-class and global engineering design and consultancy businesses in the built environment. Dorte is the CIBSE representative on the CIC diversity and inclusion panel.
Chartered Arbitrator and Engineer, Adjudicator, Mediator
Chair CIC ADR Management Board
On 7th August 2019 I was in Singapore where 46 countries signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the ‘Singapore Convention’). The Singapore Convention provides parties with a straight forward method of enforcing mediated settlement agreements across borders. It is significant because it will give businesses greater confidence that mediation is a reliable way to settle international commercial disputes.
One of the grounds for granting relief against enforcement is where there was “a serious breach by the mediator of standards applicable to the mediator or the mediation without which breach that party would not have entered into the settlement agreement”. 
To mitigate against any breach of standards erudite parties will use a mediation procedure designed to ensure a fair and consistent application of the mediation process, underpinned by a mediator from a reputable panel. One such highly regarded procedure is the CIC Model Mediation Agreement and Procedure (the ‘CIC MMAP’).
Although it was a privilege to participate in such a landmark event as the signing of the Singapore Convention, my principle reason for being there was to attend the 2nd to 5th August 2019 Singapore International Mediation Institute (‘SIMI’) Mediation Competition. I was coach to ‘Mediation Works’ comprising Ariunsanaa Batbaatar (Mongolian), Cécile Maitre-Ferri (French) and Ren Xiaolu (Chinese). Mediation Works achieved a Gold Medal for outstanding Mediation Advocacy, with the team’s performance receiving critical acclaim from highly respected professionals.
During the SIMI Mediation Competition there were 40 competing teams from 17 countries, with over 140 students participating. All teams performed for five rounds. SIMI used a ‘power matching’ system to allocate team pairings for each round of the competition, except for the first round which was determined by random selection. Power matching ensured that the best performing teams faced each other in subsequent rounds, which maintained bracket integrity.
Mediation Works came together through networking, and prepared almost exclusively on-line over a six week period, supported by three-day training in person in Beijing. One of the first documents I asked the students to study was the CIC MMAP, which emphasises the bifurcation and importance of the role of:-
- Lead Negotiator the business principal with full authority to settle the dispute and to sign the settlement agreement. The role of lead negotiator is challenging as it requires the evaluation and development of options, and being able to respond wisely and expeditiously to any new information provided by the other party.
- Parties’ lawyers or representatives who can make or break the mediation. Good mediation lawyers or representatives can shift seamlessly to advisor from advocate. In their role as advocate they will succinctly summarise legal arguments, but not in an adversarial or combative way. They allow the business principal to take the lead, preparing their clients offering advice, guidance and information on negotiation and mediation.
Cross-cultural ability, intellectual resilience, and mastery of roles were reasons Mediation Works prevailed and achieved a Gold Medal for outstanding Mediation Advocacy.