Archive | General

Presidents Column (March 2020)

Sorry to start on a gloomy note, but I’m dismayed to read on a regular basis that main and specialist
contractors are going under or in difficulty.  These are long-standing companies whose expertise and skills are a great loss to the construction sector, at a time when skill shortages are becoming more obvious and when we need to attract a new and more diverse set of people into the industry. This mirrors the economic uncertainty and challenges of recent times with a softening in activity and delays in investment for large construction projects. Looking back to the start of 2018, the steel sector and others warned the Government about “the Carillion effect”; that the true ripple effect on the industry as a whole would not be felt until 12 to 24 months down the line, I think we are seeing this play out now.

We must focus on financial due diligence, good housekeeping and contract management. We must stand back on receiving an enquiry and think about whether we want to work for that company. What is the financial standing of my client, perhaps I can get advance payments, offer a retention bond or have monies set aside in trust in an escrow account or project bank account? Can I get credit insurance for the main contractor (and if not, why not?) Who is the main client on the project? When are payments due?  Will payments flow through properly and when will my retention be released? These are the sort of questions and assessments for a go/no-go decision and it’ll probably avoid having to face the aggravation of sorting it out after cash has left the business. Continue Reading →

Presidents Column (February 2020)

There’s little doubt that climate change and sustainability are gaining momentum in our domestic lives as well as in industry. Greta Thurnberg argues that humanity is facing an existence crisis and that climate change is fast becoming the number one issue for the world. Perhaps the scale of the fires in Australia has shown us this in some way

This shift in emphasis towards carbon reduction has put it in the spotlight for us all. As it’s not going away anytime soon, we’ll also be under this spotlight.  We may all have to change the way we live and work to reduce future carbon emissions otherwise extreme climate events will become more frequent and damaging.

The construction industry has a major part to play in this drive to net-zero carbon. We need to do more with less; maximise the efficient use of resources and move towards a truly circular economy. This is the Module D strategy, and the Paris Agreement brings carbon reduction into focus.
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Presidents Column (January 2020)

The adage cash is king is never more real, cashflow is the life blood for any company. Recent developments with late payments, retentions and increases in the cost of Professional Indemnity insurance coupled with the proposals from government to impose reverse VAT on parts of the construction industry are stretching some companies to breaking point.

Many steelwork contractors are suffering from the doubling and trebling of PI insurance premiums. Insurance companies that are willing to offer cover are offering it for ‘aggregate’ claims and are no longer for ‘each and every’ claim. Undoubtably, the hardening
of the insurance market could have been affected by events at Grenfell that none of us want to see a repeat of, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. I’d like to see insurance companies take into account the professionalism and quality of specialist contractors.

All of BCSA’s members are subject to annual audits that focus on all the good practices that demonstrate good governance and professionalism.

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Presidents Column (November 2019)

What’s going on in the construction sector at the moment? On one hand, we have the statistics implying its all doom and gloom, and on the other hand, many of my customers are saying they’ve never been busier. How do we reconcile these conflicting sentiments, and what do they mean for us all?

The IHS Markit / CIPS UK Construction PMI has been in the doldrums for months, sitting well below the 50 break even point. Their latest data release for October was 44.2, following on from September’s weak 43.3. Experian is expecting a flat year for construction this year, up 1.2% and the ONS new orders data for quarter 2 was 13.3% down, more than reversing the gains we saw in the first quarter of this year.

But when I speak to my customers, they all say they’re flat out and never been busier tendering. So what’s the story?

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BCSA releases new Historic Steelwork Publication

With many cast iron, wrought iron and early steel structures still in use today, it is essential that engineers have access to practical information on the types of material, their properties and the section sizes used, should such structures require repairs, alterations or strengthening for a change of use.

Originally published in 1984, BCSA’s Historical Structural Steelwork Handbook has been one of the books to go to for those tasked with inspecting, investigating and assessing historical metallic structures for 35 years.

The intention of this new publication – ‘Historical Structural Iron and Steel Sections – Properties of historical cast iron, wrought iron and steel sections’ – is not to rewrite that document, but to build upon it with additional information.

Written by Dr David Gent it brings together in one easy to read publication information that up to now has only been available through a variety of historical documents that few engineers have access to or are able to locate, and will be invaluable in assisting investigations to determine the:

• probable material (i.e. cast iron, wrought iron or steel)
• technical properties of the different members
• origin of the members
• strength of the material from which the members were made

A PDF download of BCSA’s ‘Historical Structural Iron and Steel Sections’ can be obtained from the publication section of the website priced at £25 +VAT for Non-BCSA members and £18.75 + VAT for BCSA members.

To purchase this publication please click the link below.

Historical Structural Iron and Steel Sections – Properties of historical cast iron, wrought iron and steel sections

BCSA supports NCE Future of Bridges conference

BCSA is supporting New Civil Engineer’s (NCE) two-day Future of Bridges conference and is able to provide 15% discount to BCSA members.

To book your place please visit the Future of Bridges booking page and enter the discount code BCSA15 when you checkout.

The event, which will be held at the America Square Conference Centre in the City of London on the 25th and 26th November, and will showcase a number of inspiring projects from around the world, and address some sobering lessons from bridge failure. The emphasis will be on learning from the past, pinpointing how we can innovate in the future, first class networking, and examining the ongoing pipeline of projects.

This will be NCE’s first event dedicated to the design, construction and maintenance of bridges. Future of Bridges will bring together an international audience of clients, consultants, contractors, specialists and architects to discuss best practice, materials innovation and sustainable design and construction.

Some key features of the conference include, a dedicated half-day seminar focused on the monitoring and maintenance of existing bridges; a number of talks and panel discussions exploring innovation in materials, access and technology; a meeting place for the key stakeholders in the supply chain – clients, consulting engineers, contractors, architects and specialist suppliers; an in-depth analysis of high profile bridge projects, including existing assets and new builds; and a graduate competition, encouraging young engineers to ‘Design a Carbon-Neutral Bridge’.

Further information please visit the Future of Bridges website.