Development debates often tend to juxtapose environmental concerns with the need for economic growth and job creation. The decision by Parliament today to support the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway, is a good case in point. An expansion, no doubt, will create more jobs in construction and transport industry, and is likely to result in all sorts of knock-on retail and service-related economic benefits (also a very good job and research opportunities for our building surveying, quantity surveying and engineering students). There is also of course a long list of environmental and social impacts that are rather unattractive, such as a significant increase in air pollution (from airplanes and increases in associated road traffic) and noise pollution and vibration for those living near the airport, as many prominent politicians and (environmental and resident) lobby groups have highlighted.
Who wins? Who loses? We may be able to quickly identify obvious winners – such as construction firms; air travel companies and supply chain; business and private air travellers – and losers, for example those experiencing the noise and vibration; tax payers who prefer green investment; further deterioration of land, water and air-encompassing ecosystems. What is rarely talked about in such balance sheets, however, are the indirect but heavy prices paid by society overall. Continue reading Runway economics or plane stupid?→
The Olympic Games in Rio are in full flight and the gold medal rush continues. Much talk in recent days, though, has focused on how the diving pool has turned from a sparkly azure blue colour at the beginning of the Games to something with a peculiarly green and murky tinge. Various explanations have been put forward to explain what has happened, though it is still not entirely clear why.[i] Divers have been assured that the water is safe, and the competition continued, but the event has stirred some deep-rooted fears regarding water quality.
There is a growing literature on resilient environments; indeed, the term resilience has been hotly debated, discussed, and in some instances, roundly dismissed. It lies outside of the reach of this blog to unpick the various threads of these arguments in any detail. However, I will limit the focus to one area of resilience, which is embodied in the ‘100 Resilient Cities’ initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, with the expressed ambition of ‘helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century’.[i] Such an approach is perhaps representative of broader concerns regarding the need to incorporate resilience thinking into planning, engineering and design-based initiatives that ensure the urban fabric can withstand, and positively respond to, a whole range of anthropogenic and ‘natural’ threats – earthquakes, fires, flood, and so on.[ii] These recent ambitions chime with broader historical arguments regarding the paradoxical nature of cities. Continue reading Shake the foundations: resilience and planning for infrastructure→
In this audio blog, Alister Scott critically explores the implications for the West Midlands and Green Belt in an assessment of the recent Birmingham Local Plan approval by the Inspector which gave the green light for building 6000 homes in the Green Belt.
Recently graduating from Birmingham City University I have been exposed to the Architecture/Construction working environment right away. It’s been already four months since starting work and wow time has flown by so quickly before my eyes. I am happier than ever with the progress that I have been making for the past few months. This has been a great learning curve for me transitioning from a student to a professional in the construction industry. I couldn’t have asked for a better company to start with right after graduating. The transition from being a student to a training professional in the Architecture/Construction industry has been a real eye opener. Continue reading Studying Architectural Technology at BCU has been the best decision I have made→
Building Information Modelling (BIM) attracts much interest in the construction industry. Among many events, articles and forums about BIM, there is hardly a discussion that does not include “information”. The centrality of “information” in the BIM discourse deserves a critical look at the ways we understand and use the word “information”. I am not going to discuss the different philosophical stances that view “information” differently and their extended implications (although I think it is very useful for everyone to have a sound knowledge about these different stances) but question what “information” may mean in construction projects.
Anyone who has spent some time in practice will acknowledge that construction project environments are not free from politics. Moreover, social and political positions occupied by different individuals and groups in a construction project are subject to change during its course for a myriad of different reasons such as the project stage, contract types, design changes etc. These changes are a natural result of the largely technical dynamics of a project and the social dynamics of the project team. Continue reading What does the “I” in BIM mean?→
The majority of modern public or private buildings could be described as set of columns, beams and slabs structurally calculated, architecturally designed and tangibly engineered and systemically (e.g. Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing – MEP – or any other associated systems) integrated. This statement sounds complicated enough, but doesn’t reflect the actual process of constructing buildings, and raises the question of who else other than engineers and designers (including architects) are involved in the construction of buildings. If, for the sake of argument, we claim that people involved in the construction process are doing their job according the standards set, why do we still have problems? One possible answer is stated by the Royal Academy of Engineering which claims that the ratio construction cost : maintenance and building operating costs : business operating costs is about 1:5:200. This demonstrates that the most significant cost of buildings starts after construction (Evans et al., 1998). The stated ratio is not necessarily wholly accurate, and numbers may have been used for illustrative purposes (Hughes et al., 2004), but it must have resulted from problems faced with buildings during operation which had not been taken in account in their design and construction. The interesting question here is why such a ratio has been highlighted in the first place? It suggests that there are some aspects that should be considered by those involved during the design stage which currently are not, or not in the right way. I would like to know whether these building intangibles (e.g. aspects within the building which result in higher costs, non-satisfaction and poor management) are a reality or mystery, and if they are real, can some of them be revealed during the design stage? The purpose of my blog is to generalise about the importance of early considerations (and the involvement of users in the design stage) which can avoid unpredictable intangibles in all buildings, notwithstanding the function of any specific building (Private houses will be excluded from the blog as their problems are considerably less that general private and public buildings).
PCs, laptops, computer pads, smart phones and others have become essentials in our daily lives, for some even a way of living. It is true to say that technology has turned much of the world into a “global village” (Marshall Mcluhan’s phrase) where any information can be obtained within seconds with a click, rather than spending hours or days searching for and sifting through large volumes of paper turning page after page. Technology has touched nearly everything in our life, which has made me think that the world might end up with living surrogates rather than human selves: however, the question raised is “will this kind of technology solve many of our problems?” and the likely answer “probably not”. Here, I will briefly explore why technology fails despite all the numerous benefits it provides for the users. I will look at this through the ‘lens’ of software and why they turn out to be a problem rather than a solution.
Hey! This is one question to which I think I know the answer. That’s unless they’ve been doing a lot of expensive repaving work since I was there a couple of weekends ago to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. The reason I’m so confident that nothing will have changed is that the government is too busy saving up so that it can build HS2. This (of course) is the high speed rail link that seems designed to get us all to the capital as quickly as possible. Despite controversy over the economic case, the environmental consequences and the (lack of) social benefits (not to mention a sudden £10bn price-hike a couple of weeks ago), the government seems determined to drive this one through. It’s only track ‘n’ rolling stock but they like it.
A few things occur to me. For a start, why are we all so desperate to get to the Big Smoke? Sure, it’s a great place and I like going there; but Birmingham’s pretty good too and I’ve also heard nice things about Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield (feel free to amend this list to suit your own preferences). I spent a few years living in Germany and one of the things that struck me over there was the way in which the major cities all had their own identities and sense of importance. Perhaps this was a consequence of the (then) capital being the relatively small town of Bonn (which might give a clue as to how long ago I was there) but it always seemed very healthy to me. One of the ‘pro’ arguments I’ve heard for HS2 is that it will allow people flying to Birmingham to get to London quicker. Is ‘Birmingham International Airport’ destined to become ‘London North’? Surely, it would be better if the people actually wanted to stay in Birmingham. But don’t start me up on that one.
On 11th June, the Construction workers’ Union (UCATT) held a rally entitled ‘SOS: Save our Safety’ in an attempt to “highlight and expose the … Government’s attacks on health and safety”. This stems from a speech given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in January 2012 in which he told an invited audience of entrepreneurs and representatives from small businesses that he is “waging a war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British business”.
Mr Cameron’s comments were, unsurprisingly, well-received by much of the written press – who have been at the forefront