Places for People, one of Britain’s leading placemaking organisations, has announced a pioneering joint venture with ilke Homes to deliver hundreds of modular homes, as confidence in offsite manufacturing (OSM) grows.In the largest deal yet for Britain’s modular housing sector, Places for People will purchase 750 units from ilke Homes, including 500 for sites it already owns and 250 for new schemes they will partner on to develop affordable and market-priced housing.With 198,640 homes across the UK and some of the country’s most significant regeneration projects, Places for People’s backing of OSM will be welcomed as property chiefs respond to calls to speed up delivery, improve quality and fend off a construction skills crisis.The benefits of volumetric modular construction – where precision-engineered, factory-finished modules are assembled on-site – include:

  • The light gauge steel construction can be clad in traditional brick making it look like a normal house
  • Development time on site is halved, meaning income can be generated far quicker as factories engineer homes while foundations are dug
  • Significant reduction in snagging, thanks to dry and warm factory production
  • Around 90 per cent less on site waste and 80 percent improvement in man-hour productivity
  • ilke is the first modular manufacturer to be fully covered by NHBC warranty

Last July, Places for People was one of the first organisations to be awarded a grant from Homes England to deliver an additional 2,603 homes, as part of the agency’s strategic partnerships with eight ambitious housing associations.

Based in Yorkshire, ilke Homes has won a number of industry awards and accreditations, including a Sunday Times Best Home award. It was originally established by Keepmoat Homes, one of the UK’s leading housebuilders and has been able to draw upon the expertise of Algeco Group, a world leader in modular technology.


Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse MP said:

“This is excellent news as the UK blazes a trail in the modern methods of construction that are transforming home building.

“Today’s announcement supports our urgent mission to deliver more, better and faster home construction to ensure a new generation can realise the dream of home ownership.”


David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for People, added:

“We are a market disruptor becoming more active in the adoption of MMC; partnering with a proven modular business such as ilke allows us to create more affordable, well-designed homes across the country – speeding up delivery, cutting cost and giving our customers unrivalled choice and quality.

“This is just the start for offsite manufacturing and as placemakers, we are going to invest even more in modular. We will implement efficient processes and new design techniques which not only raise the bar for the industry – but crucially, give people across the country affordable homes to live in. Our partnership is about pioneering a new way of delivering homes and disrupting the market through making socially-responsible decisions and working with best-in-class partners to improve quality, speed up housing delivery and minimise environmental impact.”


Dave Sheridan, executive chairman at ilke Homes, said:

“Ride-hailing apps have replaced standing in the rain to flag taxis, so it makes sense that we embrace the benefits of manufacturing homes in dry factories. A mature OSM market could create an “Uber moment” for construction, speeding up delivery, cutting cost and giving our customers unrivalled choice and quality. Our deal with Places for People will help continue to grow our capacity and is a huge vote of confidence in modular housing and Homes England deserves huge praise for its entrepreneurial approach to accelerating delivery.”


Sir Edward Lister, Chair of Homes England, said:

“It’s no secret that the housing industry has been facing significant productivity and skills challenges in recent years, which is why, as the government’s housing accelerator, Homes England is committed to championing modern methods of construction – such as modular homes – to increase the pace of delivery across the country.

“It’s exciting to see two of our partners, Places for People and ilke Homes, joining forces to increase the capacity of the off-site manufacturing industry and deliver much-needed new homes. This kind of innovation in the private sector is exactly what we need to see more of to disrupt the housing market and meet the country’s housing demand.”


Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said:

“It’s really positive to see housing providers like Places for People embracing offsite manufacturing. This is the single biggest modular housing deal yet, and the fact that it has been led by a housing providers speaks volumes about where we as a sector are at.

“Offsite manufacturing is an opportunity to build high quality homes, support communities and invest in skills through the jobs it creates. It clearly provides huge benefits for accelerating delivery and improving energy efficiency.

“Housing providers are well-placed to take a long-term, strategic view around the delivery of new homes and I am delighted to see the likes of Places for People and ilke Homes on the vanguard of change across the housing sector.”


Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said:

“The industry has delivered big increases in supply over recent years but we are still some way short of building enough homes to meet the country’s need. As we look to address our housing shortage, the industry is increasingly looking to innovate as a way of delivering ever more, high quality homes. We welcome such initiatives and will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure new technologies come forward and be developed.”


Neil Jefferson, chief operating officer of the National House Building Council, said:

“We have worked extensively with ilke Homes and they were the first low-rise volumetric manufacturer to be accepted as meeting NHBC Standards, meaning homes built using this system can be covered by the 10-year Buildmark warranty.

“Modern methods of construction are helping to support the demand for new homes and, when manufactured in controlled conditions, can help drive improvements in quality. We do not take this for granted, however, which is why we have carried out a detailed review of the design, manufacture and construction of ilke Homes which will help give homeowners confidence in the quality of new homes.“


David Cowans added:

“We’ve been working with ilke Homes for a long time and this has enabled us to really road-test their technology and have complete confidence in what is a top-class product. The potential for this technology to allow us to start to make housing more customisable in the near-future is inevitable, and I am looking forward to be working with ilke as we look to develop and innovate designs so that residents at all price points have a better home.”


Mark Farmer, a government advisor who warned In his landmark report the construction sector must “modernise or die”, said:

“Places for People’s leadership in this space, driving forward this kind of strategic deal, is a template for how the wider housing providers sector should act. We were impressed that ilke Homes had a strong digital design thread, a clear path for business evolution and the technical and management skills to be a best in class modular business.”

“Game-changing disruption in the UK modular homes sector is now starting to gather pace. This revolution is long overdue and will enable us to deliver more homes to a better quality.

“The government’s pledge to get us building 300,000 homes a year will only be possible if offsite manufacturing capacity grows and other prominent developers follow the lead set down by the likes of Places for People, Berkeley Homes and Urban Splash.”


Nicholas Boys Smith, director of Create Streets

“This is very welcome news. Our society has an existential challenge to meet with collapsing generational fairness. This means not just that we need to build homes fast enough but also to high standards.

We need a rich diversity of supply and innovation. And we need it from developers and contractors who are genuinely interested in creating attractive, safe, communities with beautiful places to live and work, rest and shop. Modern methods of construction are an important part of this mission and I welcome today’s news.”

SOURCE: Ilke Homes

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says countries intending to retain nuclear power as an option in their clean-energy transitions should support innovative new reactor designs with lower capital costs and shorter lead times, such as small modular reactors (SMRs).
The recommendation is made in a newly released report, titled ‘Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System’, released this week during the tenth Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver, Canada.
The report makes the case for sustaining nuclear, which currently accounts for 10% of global electricity generation, as an option to help meet global climate targets.
The report asserts that, while a clean-energy transition with less nuclear power is possible, a substantial rise in investment in other forms of power generation and electricity networks would be required.
The IEA calculates that the electricity sector in advanced economies would have to invest an additional $1.6-trillion between 2018 and 2040.
Securing investment in new nuclear plants would require a “more intrusive” policy intervention, however, particularly in light of the high cost of projects and unfavourable recent experiences.
The report highlights the long delays in completing advanced reactor projects in Finland, France and the US.
“They have turned out to cost far more than originally expected and dampened investor interest in new projects.”
The main obstacles to new nuclear investments are listed as including: the sheer scale of investment and long lead times; the risk of construction problems, delays and cost overruns; and the possibility of future changes in policy or the electricity system itself.
Interest is rising, therefore, in advanced nuclear technologies that suit private investment such as SMRs.
“There is a case for governments to promote it through funding for research and development, public-private partnerships for venture capital and early deployment grants.”
Standardisation of reactor designs will be crucial, however, to benefit from economies of scale in the manufacturing of SMRs.
South Africa’s Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) programme was officially closed in 2010, owing to funding constraints and an inability to attract an investment partner.
The intellectual property was retained by the PBMR Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eskom, which subsequently developed a conceptual outline for converting the PBMR into an Advanced High Temperature Reactor.
Eskom is facing serious financial constraints and is unlikely to be in a position to invest in nuclear research and development.
South Africa’s yet-to-be-concluded Integrated Resource Plan includes an assumption that the life of the 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear power station, in the Western Cape, will be extended by 20 years to 2044.
The draft IRP, currently the subject of consultation at the National Economic Development and Labour Council, does not preclude the development of new nuclear capacity, but states that such capacity would by added at a “scale and pace that will not have a negative impact on the economy”.
No new nuclear capacity is envisaged for the period to 2030, representing a marked deviation from the current outdated IRP, which controversially catered for the introduction of 9 600 MW of new nuclear capacity between 2023 and 2030.

SOURCE: Engineering News


About 7 percent of the world’s labor force is employed in the construction industry, so it is a major sector of the world economy. Individuals and businesses spend $10 trillion per year on construction-related activities (McKinsey, 2017). Other sectors have used AI and other technologies to transform their productivity performance. Construction, in comparison, has progressed at a glacial pace.

The global construction industry has grown by only 1 percent per year over the past few decades. Compare this with a growth rate of 3.6 percent in manufacturing, and 2.8 percent for the whole world economy. Productivity, or the total economic output per worker, has remained flat in construction. In comparison, productivity has grown 1500 percent in retail, manufacturing, and agriculture since 1945. One of the reasons for this is that construction is one of the most under-digitized industries in the world and is slow to adopt new technologies (McKinsey, 2017).

Check out the free guide Adapt or Die to see how the right cutting-edge technology helps construction firm to keep up.

Adopting the latest technology can be daunting for teams. But machine learning and artificial intelligence are helping make job sites more efficient and saving money in the process. AI solutions that have made an impact in other industries are beginning to emerge in the construction industry.


What is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an aggregative term for describing when a machine mimics human cognitive functions, like problem-solving, pattern recognition, and learning. Machine learning is a subset of AI. Machine learning is a field of artificial intelligence that uses statistical techniques to give computer systems the ability to “learn” from data, without being explicitly programmed. A machine becomes better at understanding and providing insights as it is exposed to more data.

McKinsey expects the spread of AI in the construction sector to be modest in the immediate future (McKinsey, 2018). Nonetheless, a shift is coming. Stakeholders can no longer afford to see AI as pertinent only to other industries.  Engineering and construction will need to catch up with AI methods and applications. That is the only way to contend with incoming market competitors and to remain relevant.

AI and Machine Learning for Smart Construction

The potential applications of machine learning and AI in construction are vast. Requests for information, open issues, and change orders are standard in the industry. Machine learning is like a smart assistant that can scrutinize this mountain of data. It then alerts project managers about the critical things that need their attention. Several applications already use AI in this way. Its benefits range from mundane filtering of spam emails to advanced safety monitoring.

10 Examples of AI in Construction

  1. Prevent cost overruns

Most mega projects  go over budget despite employing the best project teams. Artificial Neural Networks are used on projects to predict cost overruns based on factors such as project size, contract type and the competence level of project managers. Historical data such as planned start and end dates are used by predictive models to envision realistic timelines for future projects. AI helps staff remotely access real-life training material which helps them enhance their skills and knowledge quickly. This reduces the time taken to onboard new resources onto projects. As a result, project delivery is expedited.

  1. AI for Better Design of Buildings Through Generative Design

Building Information Modeling is a 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering and construction professionals insights to efficiently plan, design, construct and manage buildings and infrastructure. In order to plan and design the construction of a building, the 3D models need to take into consideration the architecture, engineering, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) plans and the sequence of activities of the respective teams. The challenge is to ensure that the different models from the sub-teams do not clash with each other. The industry is trying to use machine learning in the form of generative design to identify and mitigate clashes between the different models generated by the different teams in the planning and design phase to prevent rework. There is software that uses machine learning algorithms to explore all the variations of a solution and generates design alternatives. It leverages machine learning to specifically create 3D models of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems while simultaneously making sure that the entire routes for MEP systems do not clash with the building architecture while it learns from each iteration to come up with an optimal solution.

  1. Risk Mitigation

Every construction project has some risk that comes in many forms such as Quality, Safety, Time, and Cost Risk. The larger the project, the more risk, as there are multiple sub-contractors working on different trades in parallel on job sites. There are AI and machine learning solutions today that general contractors use to monitor and prioritize risk on the job site, so the project team can focus their limited time and resources on the biggest risk factors. AI is used to automatically assign priority to issues. Subcontractors are rated based on a risk score so construction managers can work closely with high-risk teams to mitigate risk.

  1. Project Planning

An AI Startup launched in 2018 with the promise that its robots and artificial intelligence hold the key to solving late and over budget construction projects. The company uses robots to autonomously capture 3D scans of construction sites and then feeds that data into a deep neural network that classifies how far along different sub-projects are. If things seem off track, the management team can step in to deal with small problems before they become major issues. Algorithms of the future will use an AI technique known as “reinforcement learning.” This technique allows algorithms to learn based on trial and error. It can assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects. It aids in project planning since it optimizes the best path and corrects itself over time.

  1. AI Will Make Job sites More Productive

There are companies that are starting to offer self-driving construction machinery to perform repetitive tasks more efficiently than their human counterparts, such as pouring concrete, bricklaying, welding, and demolition. Excavation and prep work is being performed by autonomous or semi-autonomous bulldozers, which can prepare a job site with the help of a human programmer to exact specifications. This frees up human workers for the construction work itself and reduces the overall time required to complete the project. Project managers can also track job site work in real time. They use facial recognition, onsite cameras, and similar technologies to assess worker productivity and conformance to procedures.

  1. AI for Construction Safety

Construction workers are killed on the job five times more often than other laborers. According to OSHA, the leading causes of private sector deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, followed by struck by an object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. A Boston-based General Contractor with annual sales of $3 Billion is developing an algorithm that analyzes photos from its job sites, scans them for safety hazards such as workers not wearing protective equipment and correlates the images with its accident records. The company says it can potentially compute risk ratings for projects so safety briefings can be held when an elevated threat is detected.

  1. AI Will Address Labor Shortages

Labor shortage and a desire to boost the industry’s low productivity are compelling construction firms to invest in AI and data science. A 2017 McKinsey report says that construction firms could boost productivity by as much as 50 percent through real-time analysis of data.  Construction companies are starting to use AI and machine learning to better plan for distribution of labor and machinery across jobs. A robot constantly evaluating job progress and the location of workers and equipment enables project managers to tell instantly which job sites have enough workers and equipment to complete the project on schedule, and which might be falling behind where additional labor could be deployed. Experts expect construction robots to become more intelligent and autonomous with AI techniques.

  1. Off-site Construction

Construction companies are increasingly relying on off-site factories staffed by autonomous robots that piece together components of a building, which are then pieced together by human workers on-site. Structures like walls can be completed assembly-line style by autonomous machinery more efficiently than their human counterparts, leaving human workers to finish the detail work like Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical systems when the structure is fitted together.

  1. AI and Big Data in Construction

At a time when a massive amount of data is being created every day, AI Systems are exposed to an endless amount of data to learn from and improve every day.  Every job site becomes a potential data source for AI. Data generated from images captured from mobile devices, drone videos, security sensors, building information modeling (BIM), and others have become a pool of information. This presents an opportunity for construction industry professionals and customers to analyze and benefit from the insights generated from the data with the help of AI and machine learning systems.

  1. AI for Post-Construction

Building managers can use AI long after the construction of a building is complete. Building information modelling, or BIM, stores information about the structure of the building. AI can be used to monitor developing problems and even offers solutions to prevent problems.

The Future of AI in Construction

Robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things can reduce building costs by up to 20 percent. Engineers can don virtual reality goggles and send mini-robots into buildings under construction. These robots use cameras to track the work as it progresses. AI is being used to plan the routing of electrical and plumbing systems in modern buildings. Companies are using AI to develop safety systems for worksites. AI is being used to track the real-time interactions of workers, machinery, and objects on the site and alert supervisors of potential safety issues, construction errors, and productivity issues.

Despite the predictions of massive job losses, AI is unlikely to replace the human workforce. Instead, it will alter business models in the construction industry, reduce expensive errors, reduce worksite injuries, and make building operations more efficient.

Leaders at construction companies should prioritize investment based on areas where AI can have the most impact on their company’s unique needs. Early movers will set the direction of the industry and benefit in the short and long term.

Article by Sumana Rao



Some £55 million grant funding has been agreed with Homes England to deliver 4,000 new homes with the first developments getting underway later this year, it has been announced.

The deal will support 12 local authorities to accelerate housing across England on sites in their ownership and the programme prioritises the use of modern methods of construction will contribute to an increase the build time by an average of 40%.

The funding totalling £55million has been awarded through the Government’s £450 million Local Authority Accelerated Construction (LAAC) Programme and will support local authorities with a range of work required to prepare their sites for the development of new homes such as infrastructure enabling works, planning and technical expertise and site remediation.

The funding will be used to kick start the development of 4,000 new homes across England, including 1,400 at a 400 acre site at Horton Heath, Eastleigh. Eastleigh Borough Council purchased the site in 2018 and the development will benefit from £20.8million of LAAC funding to accelerate the delivery of a mix of one, two, three and four bedroom homes, including a minimum of 30 percent affordable housing.

Today’s announcement includes deals with local authorities from across England. They are the City of York Council, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Pendle Borough Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, Medway Council, Dorset Council, Leicestershire County Council, High Peak Borough Council, City of Lincoln Council, Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, and South Norfolk Council.

‘We haven’t built enough homes in this country for far too long and our accelerated construction programme is here to change that, and fast,’ said Housing Minister Kit Malthouse.

This £55 million funding boost will help councils get 4,000 new homes built across the country using the latest modern methods that cut down on construction time. We must keep building more, better, faster to meet our ambition to building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s,’ he added.

According to Stephen Kinsella, executive director for Land at Homes England, the funding will enable local authorities to accelerate housing delivery by enabling them to prepare sites for development and bring forward the construction of new homes incorporating modern methods of construction.

It’s amazing what you can do with 3D printing. From food and furniture to prosthetics and artificial organs, the technology is very versatile and will undoubtedly change the way industries work in future. Now, researchers …

Business leaders from within the industry met at Spencer House in London for a stategic discussion around the state of the industry and how the sector was reacting to market and political conditions, in particular the fact that BREXIT had been hanging over us for nearly 3 years and was creating an unstable platform for growth.

Discussions around the economy were led by Charles Grant, Director; Centre for European Reform and Rupert Robinson, Managing Director; RSBGi who both spoke about their career development and factors that had led them to their current positions. Under ‘chatham house rule’ Charles shared his views on the current European market conditions and the effect that the decision to leave or remain would have on our economy relating it specifically to the property sector.

The consensus seemed to be that all economists agree that any Brexit scenario is negative, confidence is down, growth has slowed, investment has been reduced and the lack of optimism is a big issue.

When the discussions were concluded Charles staged a ‘Brexit referendum’ to gauge industry opinion based upon 2 key questions;

Leave or remain?

The vote was

  • Leave 13%
  • Remain 87%

And If leave was the option; May’s deal or a hard BREXIT?

The vote was

  • Take Mays deal 0%
  • Hard Brexit 100%

The results were quite clear; and from a group that was representing all the disciplines within the industry it is clear that the property sector wants to remain in the EU, but above all wants action to be taken swiftly so that the current ‘speed bump’ in the road can be navigated accordingly.

Today marks the end of a successful first construction phase of the new wharf at Rothera, the largest British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research centre, ahead of the Antarctic winter. The final construction team members have boarded the RRS James Clark Ross to make their way home following six-months of construction work, which was supported by Technical Advisors, Ramboll.

During the season the team dismantled the existing wharf to make way for the new skeleton structure, with six of the twenty steel frames successfully installed. Towards the end of the season the teams installed steel piles and backfilled with rock to protect the new sections of the wharf from icebergs during the harsh Antarctic winter. All the plant and equipment have now been ‘winterised’ ready for phase two of the construction later this year.

Forming part of a comprehensive programme of works known as the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernisation (AIM), commissioned by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) aims to keep the UK at the forefront of climate, biodiversity and ocean research.

The wharf construction team consisted of 50 BAM construction workers led by Construction Leader Martha McGowan. Upon departing Rothera, Martha said “It’s been a remarkable season in many respects- working in a unique and special environment, with an exceptional team, as well as playing a part in helping support the future sustainability of our planet. The entire team that worked here in Rothera and back in the UK can feel proud of what has been achieved, I am truly grateful for all of their support and commitment”.

Once complete, the new 74-metre long wharf will be larger and deeper than the previous one, to accommodate the new polar research vessel, the RRS Sir David Attenborough that will come into operation in 2020. The new wharf will also improve experiences for research and operational personnel working at Rothera. A new crane and enhanced cargo handling facilities will make it easier and quicker to load and unload cargo, whilst enhancing facilities for deploying small boats and gliders used for scientific purposes more efficiently.


David Seaton British Antarctic Survey, Senior Infrastructure Programme Manager, commented, “This last six months has seen some exceptional results and innovative engineering. The teams from BAS, BAM, SWECO and Ramboll completed all that they set out to do. They delivered their work on time and with an excellent safety performance. When construction resumes, we will be starting from a very good point.”

Graham Hopper, BAM’s Project Director said, “The first season of construction works at Rothera Wharf has been a tremendous success. The works have been delivered on programme and to budget, with an excellent safety and environmental performance. This success has been facilitated by the innovative method of delivery that has enabled the early engagement of all partners, the building of relationships and collaborative behaviours, that have mobilised benefits in budget, programme and risk to all partners. Our Employer UKRI/BAS should be given great credit for the selection of the procurement model and mentoring of partners.

“Thanks to these relationships and the early contractor engagement, our teams in Antarctica have worked seamlessly, sharing skills, equipment and delivering solutions to maximise benefit to all. All personnel involved in the project from the construction, scientific and operational communities, deserve to feel very proud of their achievements and I would like to pass on my thanks and admiration to all.”

The next stage

When teams return to work, they’ll work together reviewing results and capturing lessons learnt from season one, to integrate into plans for 2020 and future Antarctic projects. They’ll share learning with industry in the UK and globally, across science and engineering communities and forums. This will include, for example the innovations used to develop materials and components designed to withstand some of the coldest, windiest, remotest parts of our planet, and create sustainable infrastructure.





In the face of security fears swirling around the Chinese tech giant, will the company confirm its plans to develop a research facility near to the village of Sawson in Cambridgeshire.

If it goes ahead 45,000 sq m of floorspace will be built on an area bought by Huawei for £37.5m. The land was originally the site of a now derelict paper mill.

The new facility, which will include a small-scale manufacturing centre to build prototype chips, is expected to create up to 400 jobs.

But the firm will first have to win consent from local planning officials and councillors and consult residents at a time of heightened controversy over possible links to the Chinese government. Its own timetable shows it is due to formally apply for permission to build the site in “late May” 2019.

The company itself appears to be committed to the UK, where it has 1,400 staff, recently promised £3bn of investment and procurement by 2022 and has partnerships with 10 universities including Cambridge.

The proposed facility also shows its attraction to Cambridge, which has been dubbed “Silicon Fen” because of the boom in technology firms clustered around the city in the Fens region.

Huawei would be looking to benefit from proximity to more than 5,000 ‘knowledge-intensive’ firms based within 20 miles of Cambridge, including IT, telecoms, high-tech manufacturing, life sciences and healthcare companies.

The company expects construction to take up to 18 months. It can only begin when South Cambridgeshire’s district council makes its final decision, which the company expects by the summer.

But Huawei will only get the green light if its construction and design get through the many rules, checks and hurdles involved in the British planning system.



SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

St. Andrews University in Fife chose Creagh Concrete for the first stage of their £70million investment plans in student accommodation for the university. MMC Magazine Editor Joe Bradbury finds out more:

A building of historical significance

Founded in the 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world. Teaching began in the community of St Andrews in 1410, and the University was formally constituted by the issue of a papal bull in 1413.

In 2009, St Andrews became the first Scottish ancient to appoint a woman as Principal, recruiting Professor Louise Richardson from the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard, to lead it into its seventh century. She was succeeded in 2016 by Professor Sally Mapstone.

St Andrews recently celebrated 600 years of continuous existence during which time it has made an enduring contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of both Scotland and the wider world.

Project overview

The first stage of the investment called for two new accommodation buildings for the campus. The new buildings called Powell Hall and Whitehorn Hall respectively have created 389 new bedrooms for the university.

Creagh provided architectural concrete cladding for the buildings including feature walls with etched lettering. In total, Creagh installed 695 GFRC concrete pieces for both projects. Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete or GFRC (also known as GRC) is a type of fibre-reinforced concrete. GRC consists of high-strength glass fibres embedded in a concrete matrix. Both fibres and matrix offer a synergistic combination of properties that cannot be achieved with either of the components acting alone. The fibres provide reinforcement for the matrix, increasing its tensile strength, limiting the shrinkage and creep processes as well as eliminating curing cracking appearance.

For the St Andrews project, Creagh developed a project-specific GRC mix to match both the structural performance and aesthetics requirements. This allowed the installation of floor to floor panels with 25mm concrete skin and no steel rebar. Creagh’s manufacturing facility rose to the challenge of precise filigree moulding and different casting techniques required for the panels.  Among the benefits of GRC: it’s reduction in thickness provides an increased cavity and/or insulation allowance and a smaller loading to the façade. All of which significatively reduce the buildings carbon footprint but providing the same durability and resilience as traditional concrete.

Powell Hall opened its doors to postgraduate students for the first time in October 2018.  It is named after Renee Powell, American professional golfer who became one of the first female members of the R&A in 2015 and was the second African -American woman ever to play on the LPGA Tour.  The new building is five-storeys and adjacent to Agnes Blackadder Hall on the North Haugh, near the various science buildings.  It is also located near to the Sports Centre and is only a 15 minute walk to the town centre.

Aluminium copings were also installed on Whitehorn building, a four-storey building located adjacent to University Hall, near to the Sports Centre and the various science buildings on the North Haugh. It is named after Katharine Whitehorn – British journalist, writer and columnist, and first female Rector of the University of St Andrews from 1982 to 1985.

The decision to use precast concrete systems for the bulk of the building’s structural frame, cladding and balcony units was taken at an early stage on the project. The brief demanded a robust finish on the building, which would limit the amount of ongoing maintenance required.

Precast concrete is the ideal material of choice for frame construction and cladding.


Rising to the challenge

The job itself was not without its challenges. Speaking with MMC Magazine, Contracts Manager Ramon Escriva said “On the technical side, it was a very difficult installation with most of the panels with no access to fixings. We devised a range of different solutions to provide fixing points. There were also several cases with overhung panels that required special craneage arrangements.”

Creagh Director and Co-Founder Seamus McKeague added “We are seeing strong interest in our rapid build concrete systems because developers now understand the true value of slashing programme times.

“Investors not only benefit from revenue gained by the early occupation of units but, also, from the mobility of their capital resource. Quite simply, shorter build times mean developers can complete more projects with the same pot of finance.”

The brand new building offers various facilities for students to use for studying and/or socialising including, main social space, games room, cinema room, private dining room, sound insulated music room, study spaces, kitchen/lounges & a laundry room.

The new additions to the halls of residences will increase residential space offered by the University from 4,000 to 4,900 occupants, in an effort to accommodate the increase of students attending the University.

Tackling the severe accommodation shortage

From a political point of view, this project couldn’t have come at a better time, with Scotland facing a “clear problem” with providing accommodation for university students on campus.

In a recent article in the Scotsman, Green MSP Mark Ruskell called on the Scottish Government to hold a summit of university accommodation providers and student representatives to tackle the issue. Speaking at Holyrood, he said “I think it is clear that we have got a problem across Scotland.

“At Stirling University 180 first year students didn’t have accommodation last year. Under-18s cannot rent in the private sector, care leavers and international students struggle to find guarantors for private contracts. Disabled students very rarely find the appropriate private accommodation to meet their needs and we see increasing rents on campus as well.”

About Creagh

Creagh Concrete has been a pioneer of precast for over 43 years.  They are one of the UK’s largest producers of concrete products for a diverse range of market sectors throughout the UK and Ireland.  Creagh is leading the market with innovation in concrete, providing new solutions across the construction industry, changing the way people think about concrete, bringing new levels of efficiency and performance to their products.

The company operates from its head office in Toomebridge, Northern Ireland with bases in Ardboe, Dunloy, Draperstown and Magheraglass and also at Nottingham, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.

We asked them what their ethos is and this is what they said:

“Creagh is all about quality products & relationships – strong relationships with our customers, sub-contractors, clients and suppliers.  These relationships are key to our business and our approach to working together to deliver successful projects. From initial design consultation, through project development, groundworks, installation and beyond, your scheme couldn’t be in more experienced hands.”

Energy Crisis, Global Warming,  Carbon Reduction,  Sustainability, Zero Carbon, Environmental  Footprint – these are all terms familiar to the general public, yet seemingly remote to the construction industry which has such a significant role to play in the protection of our future environment.

As a major influence on the condition of the environment, both actively in the building process and passively in the results of our efforts (ie. the buildings), there is a curious reluctance to adopt measures which would benefit future generations.

The Committee on Climate Change Report just published, for example, is pretty damning of the construction industry’s efforts to counter our impact on the environment.    Far from leading in measures to counter global warming, England (particularly) aspires to some of the poorest energy standards in Europe.   The Report identifies that energy use in our homes actually increased from 2016 – 2017!

Over the years, however, a variety of organisations and groups have actively campaigned to stimulate more sustainable construction, with varying measures of success.   The Passivhaus Institut was established in Germany to promote building homes which are sufficiently insulated and weathertight to eliminate the need for an active or central heating system, the principle being that the energy generated and recycled within the home is sufficient for a comfortable lifestyle in all but extreme weather conditions.

Back in 1995-96, as energy efficiency was starting to be taken more seriously, isorast GmbH (aka BecoWallform in the UK) launched a national competition to design a Passivhaus (Yes, the Passivhaus really has been around since then!).   The competition was a huge success attracting worldwide entries and helping to establish the Passivhaus as a practical proposition.

Now Passivhaus is becoming a popular specification, the next stage of development is the E-Haus, the Energy House, generating and storing all its own energy independent of the grid and delivering surplus energy back into the local network to reduce the requirement for centralised energy production.   Advancing technology in design and detailing of building fabric, equipment and energy storage is creating the opportunity to build homes and communities with a negative carbon footprint in a more balanced environment.

Following the success of the original Passivhaus competition, isorast (BecoWallform) have launched a new competition to design the E-Haus, again leading the way in promoting a sustainable environment.

The E-Haus competition is open to architects and designers in the EU, UK and Switzerland, to design a family home up to 200 sq.m. which is energy self-sufficient.   Total prize money is €55,000 and entries are to be submitted by 16 August 2019.   The winning projects will be exhibited at the ReWoBau Trade fair in Wiesbaden, 7 – 9 February 2020.   Further details and competition documents are available via the isorast website: