Category Archives: Local News

BME Businesses – No Limits

The following Press Release was posted into the Steering Group pages by Andrew Platten at Elevate, but needs a wider distribution. Any other good news out there in the Lancashire / North West?

Introducing New Companies

Construction companies from across Pennine Lancashire came together to share their experiences and contacts to boost the industry. The event held at Shere Khan Restaurant, in Blackburn, united BME Businesses in the area, helping to benefit the local business community.

This is one of the latest initiatives from The Constructing the Future programme from Elevate East Lancashire, working in partnership with the enterprise initiative No Limits.

The event introduced representatives from 40 construction companies to the idea of creating a business consortium for BME businesses – as well as workshops on how to work together and gain more business by developing skills and business practices. In particular CTF promoted the innovative Pennine Lancashire independent training group to the attendees which will enable business to plan their training needs.

Andrew Platten, Head of Constructing the Future, said: “The aim of the event was to unite BME businesses and allow them to share their experiences and skills, benefiting them and encouraging them to work together in the future.

“The event was hugely successful, and will hopefully be the first of many in this new project we plan to continue to roll out throughout 2008.”

One of the attendees, Yasir Ahmad, Director of Crystal Baths said: “The event was really well attended by companies in the community and was a great opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs.”

The No Limits initiative has secured a three year funding allocation, of which £130,000 will be allocated to Constructing the Future to aid local businesses and people into employment helping with the Elevate overall aim to regenerate East Lancashire’s disadvantaged communities.

No Limits is a £23m initiative to help support new and existing businesses throughout Pennine Lancashire with advice, finance, accommodation and a whole range of other support.

It is supported by the three professional football clubs of Pennine Lancashire – Blackburn Rovers, Accrington Stanley and Burnley – and by the borough councils of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, and Pendle, and Lancashire County Council.

Green spires or greenwash?

Universities UK today published Green Spires, a very rosy picture of what academia is doing within the world of becoming green. The report, full of case studies of great activities from around the UK Universities is a must read with many of the innovations related to the built environment.

However, Bibi van der Zee writing in the Guardian Education illustrates the real world of academia – one that should put its own house in order, ‘focus on estate management, universities are huge and wasteful beasts’ and ‘move out of their comfort zone‘.

Learning curve on Radio 4 last night contained interviews on the report – listen again

One of the key priorities laid down today by John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, in his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) was reducing carbon emissions emissions to help the Government achieve a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

The Government wants universities’ performance in reducing carbon emissions to be a factor in their future capital allocations

Also of note EAUC’s (Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges) conference this year will focus on skills for sustainability – if architects and engineers don’t have the necessary sustainable skills we will never be able to achieve our carbon reduction strategies

Locally in the North West of England, SusBee (Sustainable Education in Built Environment Education) based at UCLAN , a joint academic and industry forum has just formed to address the sustainability content within all regional education. (more details here).

New Liverpool school seeks ‘Very Good’ BREEAM

Details of the state of the art sustainable design (and construction) for Liverpool Lower Lee Special school were posted on Building website earlier this week. (Story, pictures and strategy)

The school is only targetting a Very Good BREEAM level accreditation – beacuase, according to Mouchels architect “An BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating would only be achievable with a considerably larger outlay on renewables,”

How does this square with Ed Balls announcement recently that wants all new school buildings to be zero-carbon by 2016 and has put a few million in the pot to help achieve this? see Zero Carbon Schools

And indeed how does it square with the (albeit draft) Construction Strategy for Sustainability that calls for  public buildings to have BREEAM Excellent Assessments by 2008.   Construction on Lower Lee finishes in 2009.

Where is the watchdog for all this?

Whilst Lower Lee has some fantastic sustainable design aspects and it is to applauded for that, this does raise the question – are we building schools for the future?

Free low carbon building event

The North West Sustainability in Built Environment Education forum is holding a presentation and workshop on Low Carbon Buildings at UCLAN (University of Central Lancs – Preston) on Feb 1st.    Download details from the Events page.

The Sustainability in Built Environment Education forum is a mixture of industry and academics looking at improving the provision of sustainability in all levels of he built environment curriculum.

The forum is open to all interested in this important aspect with much activity taking place within a social network online and with four ‘events’ each year. Although there is a North West (England) focus the work and issues are much much wider. If you would like more information, attend this event or participate in the forum online please contact me or the forum secretary.

New Preston landmark office building revealed…

 From the BD website,  (the Architects Website)

Moxon Architects has won an RIBA competition to design a £6 million landmark office building in Preston, Lancashire.

The firm beat CJ Lim’s Studio 8 Architects, Maxwan, Piercy Conner, New York-based Stephen Yablon Architects, and Hamburg’s LH Architekten in the contest.

The winning scheme, Moxon’s biggest win to date, will be four storeys high with a two-storey atrium, and will provide around 4,000sq m of office space.

Director Ben Addy said the unnamed client did not want to release design details until it had gone through pre-planning consultation, but added: “It’s quite bold, it’s got a pronounced expression to it. It’s got unusual cladding and we’re looking to use a material that retains colour as it weathers.

The contest had 50 entrants and was judged by a panel including Urban Splash’s Nick Johnson and architect Ian Simpson.

A quick surf of Moxon Architects website revealed very little about the organisation other than a hard to view portfolio. In fact the news / press section was more than a year out of date.  Something about form and function?

Now thats got Prestonians guessing who, where, what, when ?

Conservatives, Blackpool and the built environment

Attending a number of fringe events hosted by Climate Clinic at the conservative conference in Blackpool (because of the location not any political alliance) looking for hints as to the future treatment of the built environment left me slightly worried. Cutting through the rhetoric, I found very little conviction that politicians or advisors have a handle on dealing with our sector. There appears to be a blinkered approach with no joined up thinking.

Key themes I took away include

More political focus will be placed on the built environment sector as a tool to reduce overall carbon emissions. However this would seem to lead to more confusion as Merton Rules, Building Regulations, grants and subsides, etc get tampered with.

Mircopower, decentralised power suppliers and feed in tariffs are very popular. Interesting question though is how large scale green power schemes – such as wind and Severn barrier become environmental problems associated with centralised power

The Quality of Life group group paper Blueprint for a Green Economy from authors Goldsmith and Gummer is the mantra of the conservatives, with praise upon praise being heaped on to Zac Goldsmith every time the document was mentioned. Yet, this is a market driven approach, very close to Tory values that may well have contributed to where we are today, (for example ‘Construction companies must take the lead in ensuring new buildings are as green as possible,) and has a few striking omissions, such as biodiversity. Still worth reading …just in case. The highlights relating to buildings include:

  • Stamp duty should be abolished on homes which have a very low carbon footprint.
  • Local authorities would have the power to reduce council tax bills on low-carbon properties, and homes which reused water efficiently, as incentives to occupants to be greener.
  • Public buildings should be forced to adopt the highest possible energy performance standards.
  • There should be greater incentives to construct eco-friendly homes.
  • Construction companies must take the lead in ensuring new buildings are as green as possible, and to prioritise the environment when considering ways to revamp existing buildings.
  • Home Information Packs (Hips) should be abolished by any incoming Conservative government and replaced with National Building Standards, which would ensure all properties reached required standards.
  • Walking, cycling and using public transport should be prioritised as part of the planning process for any new neighbourhoods. (source BBC)

Two non political comments I took away, which sums up the problems we face:

From Michael McCarthy, Environmental Editor of the Independent“be clear: this is the ultimate political issue”

and from Sunand Prasad, President of the RIBA, who queried in the Quality of Life question time session whether this issue was too big to be political and requires some form of non, or a – political body to drive, to collect green taxes and make the ‘polluter pay’.

Listening and reading between the lines, and indeed one of the questions at the Quality of Life question time,was the difference between he Goldsmith-Gummer approach and those who feel the environment agenda has gone to far, notably the Redwood degulation camp.  The question to the panel was for how long can both remain within a conservative party.

Leaving the event the most striking moment however was the fantastic sunset, in contrast to the high energy usage Blackpool Illuminations, just a reminder that the earth and nature is far superior and will out survive our messing it up, and how important nature and biodiversity etc are in the balance of our approaches. (Ok, a Gaia moment but hey…)

Tony Juniper sums up the conservative environmental approach from a Friends of the Earth view here – A Paler Shade of Green 

Praise for Preston Bus Station

Good to see the article in the Guardian yesterday A baroque cathedral for buses giving praise to the Preston Bus Station scheduled for demolition for the Titheburn regeneration project.

It is cinematic, sculptural, heroic – and one of the most dramatic public buildings from the 1960s, writes Jonathan Glancey, who  heartbroken to hear that Preston bus station is to be demolished.

The station is a thing of swoops and curves. Great ramps whizz cars up and down the parking floors, while buses move to and fro below.

The article is worth a read as it makes comments on regeneration schemes that will be … an air-conditioned town-centre shopping complex with some “luxury apartments”, a spot of genteel public art, a few water features and yet more chain-store retailing. Tithebarn will, of course, look like every other exciting new “urban regeneration” project in Britain.

About maintenance ….   To reduce the weight of the cantilevered balconies, they were kept so thin that, in the words of the architect for Preston borough council: ‘In many cases this has resulted in inadequate cover to the steel reinforcements which in turn resulted in the need for continual inspection and maintenance.

About Preston  …  Preston lacks impressive historic buildings; many of its streets are lined with glum, run-of-the-mill office blocks and gloomy multistorey car parks. In another city – mainland European, not British – something as striking and monumental as Preston bus station might have been listed, loved and worked intelligently into a new development. It would take just an ounce or two of imagination to rejig the building and give it a new life.

About community and place … The building was created at a time when the car was deferred to, and pedestrians were expected to enter major new public buildings through underground passageways. This is rarely done today, not least because most city subways are, at best, frightening. The arrangement of underground passages explains why the bus station appears to be isolated, set on an ocean of roadway with no pedestrians in sight among the buses, taxis and cars.

Fringe climate events at conservative conference, Blackpool

There is an impressive series of fringe events being organised by Climate Clinic along side the conference next week in Blackpool. Of note is the Ask an Architect event on Monday and Tuesday, hosted by the RIBA, billed as

Get advice from some of Britain’s best green architects on creating new, environmentally friendly buildings or improving the energy performance of existing buildings. Understand the science of climate change and get advice from the science experts – Met Office Sustainable Energy Advice – learn about easy steps you can take to be more energy efficient – Energy Saving Trust

I am hoping to get to some of these events and will feedback through here.

Updated -comments here: conservatives, blackpool and the built environment

Details at Climate Clinic

Construction Knowledge Exchange

I am delighted that isite, fairsnape and CKE are now working together to bring news of CKE’s events and projects (focusing on the North West activities) through this blog.  We also welcome Andrea Pye, CKE, as a guest blogger and contributor.   Welcome to the blogosphere!

The newly created CKE page to this blog will carry more details of the events, news, and project case sudies.  In addition we are working on thecreation of a similar relationship and dedicated blog space for the Women in Construction project currently under way as part of the CKE programme.