Read Anthony Kaye’s view on how the construction skill shortage is creating a salary war in the sector.

Recruiting top talent in the construction industry is tough at the best of times, but the shortage of skilled professionals is creating a counter-offer culture that can set key recruitment searches back months.

Property and Construction recruitment specialist Anthony Kaye, of Alderpoint Partners, has seen a surge in counter offers over the last 12 months, with one in three candidates reporting they are being offered an increase in salary from their current employers when they break the news they are moving to a new company.

He says: “Counter offers are one of the biggest barriers developers are facing in hiring people at the moment. It is a candidate-driven industry, and wages are being inflated across the board because developers are keen to keep talent and are willing to match, or even increase on offers.”

The roots of the problem are based in the exodus of talent after the 2007 recession. The construction industry was hit harder than most, with highly skilled surveyors, land managers, civil engineers and sales people leaving permanently to take up roles in different industries.

Compounding this is the lack of training in interview techniques and a failure to address the change into a candidate-short market. Kaye says: “We’ve found there is a big issue with hiring managers having no interview training, which has led to some of our clients asking us to help train their managers in this area and, in some cases, sit in on interviews.”

With a poor pipeline of graduates coming into the industry, coupled with a push to counter the housing shortage crisis in the UK, companies are more likely to try to retain quality employees. So, it’s not just about structuring the interview to ask the right questions, it is also knowing how to sell the new job by ensuring candidates see the positives in a career move.

Kaye explains that a good recruiter needs to help the client do the best sales job they can, by targeting candidates’ real motives and desires for their next role. He says: “During the interview and selection process with the candidates, before they get to the client, we delve deep to find out the key drivers that will turn the candidates head.

“It could be they want flexible working, or a company that will invest in their development and training. Whatever it is, we strongly advise hiring managers to tell recruiters they need to know this before the interview process begins, as it’s vital to help managers focus their sales pitch on what really motivates the candidate’s decision on whether to take the new role and, importantly, stick with that decision in the face of a counter offer.”

He also recommends that clients try to stay close to the candidate during their notice period. He says, “If possible, meet with the candidate and even order which laptop, phone, or car they want, to make them part of the company before they’ve started”.

“Their current employer will likely pull on a candidate’s heart strings to persuade them to stay. So it’s important that the hiring company build a strong relationship with the candidate to help reduce this feeling of guilt in leaving a long standing employer.”

In his experience, an offer of a salary increase can be a first move for current employers to induce candidates to stay, but there are some strong non-salary motivators to move into a new role.

Flexible working hours

The top question candidates ask is whether the role offers flexible working hours. They want to be given the responsibility of managing their own time and diary. It is more appealing to people to work a set number of hours over a week, but with the freedom for them to dictate those hours so they can pick their kids up on a Friday, or take a day off without giving too much notice.

Work-life balance

Gone are the days where people were willing to commute to remote industrial parks for a higher salary. It is now the companies with smart, high-quality offices in easier to reach locations, that are attracting key talent. Candidates are also looking for more inclusive working environments, where there are greater opportunities for networking and social events.

Another key issue is the attraction of modern management methods. Even with a salary increase, traditional office cultures with a dictatorial management style that are being passed over in favor of more professional environments where candidates feel their opinions are valued. In this area smaller developers can compete against larger companies where employees can feel like just another cog in the machine.

Career progression

There may not be a promotion opportunity for candidates in their current company, so this is often an important reason why they would reject a counter offer. However, promotion is not the only career motivator.

Cross-training and learning more about the development life-cycle of a business is a key incentive for candidates. Offering courses and seminars outside the candidate’s immediate skill set is something Anthony is seeing more of as a desirable addition to employment packages.

Additional benefits

Anthony advises to look beyond just the salary, as it’s not always the number one driver. On top of flexible working hours, he has seen an increase in packages that include family health insurance, more holiday time and flexible holidays, incentives at work, summer and winter balls, and gym memberships.

Whilst not all these are necessarily going to combat candidates taking a counter offer, Anthony’s experience shows that a counter offer is not always a long-term solution. For employers it may be cheaper than finding a replacement for key talent, but even if a candidate accepts a counter offer and stays with their current employer, statistics show that within six months they will be back on the market looking for a new job.

“The recruiter and the company need to make sure they highlight the original reasons for wanting to move when considering a counter offer,” says Anthony. “It’s easy for candidates to say they aren’t motivated by money until they get offered another 10K to stay where they are. Usually there are serious underlying reasons for considering a move.”


Source: Showhouse

MTX are pleased to announce that we have won the Building Better Healthcare Award for Best Modular/Mobile Healthcare Facility for our orthopaedic operating theatre, delivered to Guy’s Hospital London.


Working collaboratively with Johnson & Johnson Managed Service, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, early engagement allowed us to demonstrate value, safety, speed and efficiency benefits for a hybrid modular based approach to the new theatre suite.

Through use of BIM visualisations and closely engaging with the stakeholders, including patients, staff and FM team, a fit for purpose and functional modular design was developed.


The offsite pre-fabricated units provided 850m² of new space over 2 storeys, with seamless access into the existing hospital at theatre suite level, blending current department activity and new operating facilities across different buildings and functions. Due to the offsite factor, the onsite activities were minimised which significantly reduced disruption to the hospital. This in turn decreased onsite trades, vehicle movements and waste, subsequently lessening the impact our activities have on the environment.


Due to the busy and congested streets of London and the 24 hour nature of the hospital, the modular lift had to take place out of normal working hours. This was programmed over a single weekend and the entire building was installed through a 48 hour continuous shift, minimising impact on operations and neighbours as well as reducing risks and accelerating programme.


The Building Better Healthcare judges spoke highly of the entry, paying particular praise to the time sensitive element of the delivery.

They said; ‘4.5 million people are on NHS waiting lists and there is not a hope of dealing with them as we do not have enough anaesthetists or capacity so something like this can help address that and is a very exciting thing. It was a challenging site and they got it done very quickly. This meets a very real demand for sure.’


CLICK HERE and view the case study

Walkable cities reduce traffic congestion – an issue that causes around 3.3 million deaths and $121 billion in economic losses every year. But when architects are developing pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, they often rely on trial and error, intuition or specialized simulations that are hard to use and to incorporate into their designs.

Urbano, a free software launched Oct. 26 by Cornell researchers, employs data, metrics and an easy-to-use interface to help planners and architects add and assess walkability features in their designs as effectively as possible.

“We wanted to create something that would allow architects and urban designers to simulate their designs and get some feedback early in the process,” said Timur Dogan, assistant professor of architecture and lead developer of Urbano. “This lets them make decisions based on facts and data, so they can create the sustainable and livable urban environments of the future.”

Since its launch, Urbano has been downloaded more than 400 times by universities and architecture firms around the world.


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The team most recently presented a paper on Urbano in June 2018, at the Symposium on the Simulation for Architecture and Urban Design, and new research is forthcoming in TAD, the journal of Technology, Architecture and Design.

Urbano relies on three metrics to assess walkability: Streetscore, which calculates how streets are used for certain routes; Walkscore, a customizable measurement that rates whether popular amenities are within walking distance of homes and workplaces; and AmenityScore, which considers demographics to estimate the usefulness of various services.

“This is really helpful information for designers doing site analysis,” Dogan said, “because then they can see if there are certain services or amenities missing in neighborhoods, or others that are underutilized or overutilized.”

Assessing walkability early makes it more likely that pedestrian-friendly features will be incorporated, since shifting gears once the process is underway can be costly and complex. And while experienced architects will automatically consider walkability in their designs, Urbano provides simulations backed up by facts and data.

Currently, the research team is working on software that can assess energy use in models of cities, as well as a simulation tool, called Eddy3d, that considers data about urban microclimates. He hopes to eventually create a comprehensive toolkit for sustainable urban design.

The research was partly funded by Cornell’s Center for Transportation, Environment and Community Health, and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.



Scanning the left side of the Roman Theatre stage with a Faro X330. The two-level column facade was recreated from the remains found on the Volterra site. There were three groups of these two-level columns, part of the scaenae frons (Latin for “stage front”), which was a permanent stage backdrop typical in ancient Roman and Greek theaters.

Not many geospatial professionals enter the field thinking they will travel to Italy to document and digitize ancient sites. For many, it would be the ultimate adventure of combining history and technology—Indiana Jones without the boulders and snakes, and Star Trek without the intergalactic conflict. Three leaders in the Survey/Geospatial Practice of Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) embarked on such an adventure to the town of Volterra as part of an international research team for two trips over the past three-year period.

Produced by Autodesk and Case Technologies, the humbly named “workshop” is executed through the Volterra-Detroit Foundation, which is a previously established relationship between the city of Volterra and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. The focus of the workshop was reality capture. New to most surveyors at firms, reality capture is enabled by photogrammetry, which is the use of   photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects. 3D models using photogrammetry can be combined with geographic information system (GIS) visuals such as land surface, roads, and rivers to create more complete georeferenced 3D digital models. These mapped sites can be viewed in a virtual environment.

Digital historical preservation of this kind is important to better document and monitor architectural treasures, especially as they deteriorate over time or are destroyed by natural disasters (earthquakes are not uncommon in Italy, and Volterra is particularly susceptible to landslides). By capturing data every few years, professionals can measure the shifting and deterioration that gradually occur over time. Historical preservation of this nature opens a window into history, ancient engineering and architecture, and archaeology for civilization to reference and enjoy for centuries to come, whether you’re a professional in the field or simply an interested member of the public.

Located approximately 50 miles southwest of Florence, the walled city of Volterra has been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years, with historic sites dating back to the fourth century B.C. The historic significance of Volterra is top of mind for Mayor Marco Buselli as he has been actively pursuing a World Heritage site classification from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). He knew that gathering data on and documenting the details of this village would likely support (and hopefully accelerate) the application process.


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The First Adventure: Racing Against Time to Document and Digitize Volterra’s Ancient Roman and Etruscan Sites
The first workshop in this series was a nine-month endeavor that began in October 2016 with an international team of technicians, software experts, architects, engineers, and historians (a team of eight, representing two countries, U.S. and Canada), and included Rick Celender, CEC’s Corporate Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program Leader, of the Pittsburgh office; Rob Sinclair, CEC’s Corporate CAD Technology Manager, also of the Pittsburgh office;
and Matt Bainbridge, a survey project manager in CEC’s Bridgeport office. The team was tasked with three assignments: create a digital, interactive 3D model of the city; create Building Information Models (BIMs) for historic buildings and architectural features; and create 3D models of ancient artworks and sculptures.

The primary equipment that Celender, Sinclair, and Bainbridge used for the data capture was a 3DR Drone with a GoPro and two Faro X330 LiDAR scanners.

Terrestrial Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) scanners were used inside historic buildings such as the the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the town hall, where the team captured millions of intelligent data points about everything from the intricate artwork on the ceilings to the tiniest of cracks in a pillar. The points were used to create detailed 3D models of the structures and their features, as well as a BIM, which becomes a useful tool for architects and planners should there ever be a need for maintenance, restoration, or retrofitting. The team also scanned objects in Volterra’s museums.

However, most of the team’s work was done outside.

LiDAR scanners were used to document and digitize Porta all’Arco, the oldest standing Etruscan arch in the world dating back to the fourth century B.C. and the main pedestrian access into Volterra (yes, still used today!).

LiDAR scanners were also used to document a Roman theatre, which alone required 120 individual scan locations to capture the site fully. Constructed in the first century B.C. and originally housing 3,500 spectators, it was excavated in the 1950s and sits just outside the city’s medieval wall.

After reviewing their data, the team found that this particular Roman theatre did not follow the archetypal Vitruvian architectural design that so many other theaters from that time period follow. Individual pieces of the marble decoration, found in various places and often in multiple pieces, were post-processed in 3D and then virtually restored to their original location in the 3D model. The complete catalog of the decoration fragments was developed in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Archeologia in Florence. The 3D model of the reconstructed theater was rendered in 3DS MAX as well as processed in Revit® Live and Stingray software to create a virtual reality (VR) experience that can be accessed through tools such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung GearVR as well as through holographic displays.

A southward panorama of the Roman Theatre site. The theater was constructed in the first century B.C. and had a capacity of approximately 3,500 spectators.

In addition to these notable sites, the team scanned architectural details from around the city using high-resolution digital cameras (and even iPhones, which illustrates the advances of everyday technology) and then converted them to 3D models.Every evening, the team processed data captured during the day, taking the point clouds and creating a mesh, which turns the point cloud into a 3D model. With hundreds of scans to register and drone flights to process into point clouds, the team used multiple software programs and created a workflow akin to an assembly line. Data was collected from scanners and drones by one person and then distributed to two or three people to register. Additional team members would then process the data into 3D models.

“From there, we can take the mesh data and incorporate it into Autodesk® Civil ٣D® or Revit® to create an as-built model,” noted Sinclair. “We can truly recreate the space—put details in, tag it with data, etc. All the measurements of the BIM were based off the point cloud or mesh we created.”

“It was hectic but efficient,” Celender remarked.

After leaving Italy, the team continued the initial nine-month adventure analyzing and modeling the captured data. In June 2017, some team members from the workshop returned to Volterra with a few interactive models and 3D-printed replicas for a presentation in the town hall. The team treated Mayor Buselli, his staff, city residents, and representatives from UNESCO to a virtual reality (VR) demo that mimicked walking through Volterra’s historical sites, including a chance to experience the fully recreated Roman theatre in its original glory. The public was invited to experience the models throughout the following month.

The processing of data continued in the months that followed the workshop. The models of the museums’ artifacts began to be used in virtual exhibitions, for research, and for conservation efforts, with the option of being replicated using 3D printers for educational purposes.


The SECOND Adventure: The First Ancient European Amphitheater Discovered in 150 Years Teaches an Important Surveying Lesson

In April 2019, the workshop reunited for a second trip which lasted for two weeks. New construction in Volterra had inadvertently unearthed evidence of more ancient architecture. Incredibly, what was identified as the remains of an ancient Roman wall turned out to be the first ancient amphitheater discovery in Europe for the past 150 years.

This time around, the Workshop team was significantly expanded, consisting of 15 members from eight countries and included Sinclair and Bainbridge (Celender was unavailable due to other project commitments). The primary equipment employed included two UAVs: the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and the DJI Mavic Air; six pieces of LiDAR equipment: the Leica Pegasus Backpack, two Leica RTC360 scanners, two Leica BLK360 scanners, and a Faro X350 scanner; various cameras, including a Ricoh Theta 360 Camera and a Matterport camera; a Leica Viva GS16 GPS system; three VR systems: an Oculus Go, an Oculus Rift, and an HTC Vive; and a Hexagon Geosystems Stream C ground-penetrating radar unit (GPR).

Bainbridge’s role was performing terrestrial laser scanning (using the phase-based Faro laser scanner as well as Leica BLK360 and RTC360 time-of flight scanners), establishing geodetic control with the Leica GS16 GNSS receiver and Leica Infinity software for areas scanned throughout the workshop’s tenure, and kinematic LiDAR capture of the Volterra streets using the Leica Pegasus Backpack with Simultaneous Location and Mapping (SLAM) technology. Sinclair’s primary role was capturing aerial mapping data via drones with mounted cameras. They uploaded point clouds to Cintoo, which triangulated that data and turned it into a solid. Team members then moved that data into Civil 3D® and Revit® to create models.

“It was surprising how accurate the point clouds from the UAV cameras were using photogrammetry when compared with precise ground-based LiDAR scanning,” Sinclair commented.

Unfortunately, due to significant ground moisture and depth of the ruins, the GPR scan results were not as successful, leaving much of the unexcavated extents discernible only by the surface topography.

“Surveyors always say we don’t have x-ray vision—GPR didn’t change that in this case,” Bainbridge commented. “One of the most difficult things we run into in the surveying profession is determining the location of things that we can’t see.” This served as a healthy reminder that surveyors don’t always get all of the data they’d like.

However, this second trip certainly wasn’t in vain. In addition to the data capture and modeling of the amphitheater, the Workshop completed subsequent scans on many of the same historic features from the first trip. Not only is the team documenting these artifacts and ruins in ways that allow the public to interact remotely through VR platforms such as Matterport, Cintoo, and Unreal, but the team has been able to make real data deliverables; for example, using the team’s laser scan information, Sinclair and Bainbridge produced a Civil 3D® surface and cross sections of the amphitheater, which allowed the city engineer to assess existing drainage structures and plan for upcoming excavation work.


What’s Next?
Many of Volterra’s historic sites are now digitized. The Roman amphitheater is currently on the “Tentative List” for Heritage Site classification from UNESCO.

“The opportunity to collaborate with an international team of architects, engineers, historians, and students to digitally record Volterra’s architectural history from the first century B.C. was amazing,” Celender remarked. “The support we received from Mayor Buselli was critical in our efforts. The access we had to the city, the Roman theatre, etc., to fly drones and to perform scanning missions was incredible. The wine and grappa [a grape-based brandy] were pretty memorable, too!”

“One of the most rewarding parts of this project has been using data we’ve captured to benefit the ongoing preservation efforts in Volterra,” Bainbridge said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the photo-realism of reality capture data and gloss over the fact that all of those beautiful colorized data points are actually survey-grade measurements. Before this workshop, my experience with GPR and magnetic line location had been in determining the approximate locations of utilities; I had never thought of applying this technology in the field of archaeology. We’ve come pretty far compared to the old days, which wasn’t actually that long ago—the days when surveyors made calculations in a notebook without the use of a calculator, and wrote down angles. Look where we are today!”

This advanced technology—and this team’s novel yet crucial use of that technology—is quickly becoming a game-changer in our industry.


Source: American Surveyor

The global modular and prefabricated buildings market is set for growth over the next six years, as offsite construction gains traction thanks to its sustainable approach, according to Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis

A global uptick in construction activities and significant cost, labour, and time savings in offsite construction are key factors driving market revenues toward $215bn (£167bn) by 2025.

With a constantly evolving regulatory landscape, adopting more environmentally sustainable and regulatory-compliant construction practices will boost prospects and revenues in the more mature markets of Western Europe and North America. Frost & Sullivan expects the market to expand at a sturdy CAGR of 6.3% from 2018-2025.

Prathmesh Limaye, senior analyst of chemicals & materials in infrastructure & mobility at Frost & Sullivan, said: “Despite increased construction costs from an offsite construction, a net saving of up to 7% is possible because of shortened construction periods.

“In addition, prefabricated buildings are increasingly being perceived as sustainable solutions for construction projects due to a growing usage of materials, such as timber and aluminium composites, that are more energy-efficient than concrete.

From a regional perspective, the recovering economies of Latin America along with high-growth markets of Eastern Europe, India, and Southeast Asia are expected to provide lucrative market opportunities. Slower growth is anticipated in North America and Europe due to increased construction activities in developing regions.

From a competitor position, the market is highly fragmented with several regional and smaller suppliers with wide market coverage due to the relative ease of setting up a business in this space. The offsite construction industry is, therefore, slated to experience consolidation with multiple merger and acquisition activities occurring in the foreseeable future.

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Limaye added: “Many small and regional participants influence the overall pricing and distribution patterns in regional markets, especially in Latin America, the Middle-East, and Asia-Pacific.”

To gain a competitive advantage, Limaye recommends players emulate innovative companies such as Katerra and Welement, and adopt automation and design tools to increase the quality and precision in their construction.

Additional growth opportunities participants should aim to secure include:

  • Manufacturers promoting more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable solutions that are compliant with regulations mandated by international organisations.
  • Gaining wider coverage by improving their portfolios with products that can be customised to end-user specifications and also promote ease of installation.
  • Expanding operations into high-growth regions such as Asia-Pacific due to the region’s growing infrastructure and construction development.
  • Offering products that are comparative with those offered by regional and local manufacturers.

Limaye concluded: “Despite significant market expansion prospects, perceptions surrounding the high initial cost of construction and transportation, design rigidity, multiple stakeholder involvement, and lack of skilled labour are key factors slowing adoption rates and hindering market growth.”




Recently, headlines were made when an Australian team published a study finding that there was more than enough pumped hydro storage resource locations to satisfy all future needs for storage in a 100% renewable grid. As the global resource map site hosted at the Australia National Museum says:


“We found about 616,000 potentially feasible PHES sites with storage potential of about 23 million Gigawatt-hours (GWh) by using geographic information system (GIS) analysis. This is about one hundred times greater than required to support a 100% global renewable electricity system.”


In other words, we only need to use about 1% of the global pumped hydro resource locations to satisfy our needs. Furthermore, pumped hydro can store energy for weeks and the round trip from electricity to elevated water to electricity is 80% to 90% efficient. It’s already by far the largest form of utility-scale storage in the world, with more than 160 GW of rated capacity of pumped hydro in operation as of the end of 2016.

NREL published a report on the value of pumped hydro in 2018 that’s worth quoting a couple of bits from:

“PSH is a highly flexible, low-marginal-cost, and fast-acting generation asset, and in the market simulations, it was shown to reduce system-wide operational costs in both the day-ahead and real-time markets”

“In all market simulations, the addition of PSH significantly reduced the annual operating costs for the test system. Cost savings ranged from 1.2% to 2.8% in the day-ahead market simulations and between 3.9% to 10% in the real-time simulations.”

Sounds like we have a winner. It’s a rock solid technology, first deployed in the 1890s. It may be dull, but it works, it’s simple, and it’s effective. It saves money on the grid. And as the Australian study showed, there’s absurdly more of the resource than we possibly need.


So why are there regular claims that pumped hydro won’t suffice?


I published The Short List Of Climate Actions That Will Work, and pointed to pumped hydro as a primary storage mechanism that needed to be developed. Comments on that piece included derogatory comments about pumped hydro. Similarly, in my assessment of the climate action plans of the leading Democratic candidates, none call for pumped hydro, but for more R&D into storage, with the intent to reduce costs below battery storage. Since pumped hydro is already below battery storage costs, it’s a head-scratching situation.

Recently, a South African representative of an innovative company in the space reached out to me based on my piece, Joi Scientific’s Perpetual Hydrogen Illusion Comes Tumbling Down. As with many of my clients, the company wanted an independent read on its technology to understand how it fits and whether they are missing something in their analysis.

The premise of their innovation is straightforward. If you use a big rock or concrete plug in a shaft full of liquid, you can use pumped hydro technology to move the plug up and down. Imagine a missile silo that’s generating electricity, instead of hiding an ICBM. This allows a much bigger weight with fewer mechanical construction challenges. I did a little due diligence to see if there was any way that I could add value. I reviewed their material, their patent, asked a few questions, and realized that their solution was solid.

The discussion triggered me to think about the Boring Company and Tesla Energy, and the characteristics of Tesla’s Powerpack battery solution. It’s an excellent same-day solution for fast response energy, but the characteristics that make it good for duck curves with solar don’t make it good for longer lasting storage. It’s getting cheaper, but it’s still not a cheap form of larger scale storage.

When I did an assessment of the viability of a large-scale, carbon-neutral, secure greenhouse in Canada for a client this year, the Powerpack component of the solution was the most expensive portion if the solution had to remain off grid, and that solution included a 100,000 sq ft high-tech greenhouse, 3 MW of LEDs, a few acres of solar panels and a very big ground-source heat pump, all of which are capital intensive components by themselves. Powerpack’s 4-hour efficiency is 85%, but it’s not so good at 72 hours.

I asked Jim Fiske, the founder and CEO of Gravity Power and the person whose name the patents are in, about the Tesla connection. They had had conversation with Musk about this, but among other things, the shaft diameter that the Boring Company drills are too small for economically viable models.

“The net result of all these considerations is that very large Gravity Power Plants (multiple gigawatt-hours) are extremely cost effective, while very small ones are generally not cost competitive. When I say “cost effective,” I mean the levelized cost of GPP storage is roughly five times lower than li-ion battery plants.”


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Between the conversations and the publications, I decided it was time to go deeper on the global study that had come out of Australia recently. Among other things, I was curious to see if it was another example of machine learning in the climate solution space, something I’m digging into as a series leading to a formal CleanTechnica report. The peer-reviewed paper on the global study isn’t out yet, but it’s an extension of an Australia-specific study published in 2018. That study is Geographic information system algorithms to locate prospective sites for pumped hydro energy storage by Lu, Stocks, et al., in the journal Applied Energy.

I realized quickly that there was a disconnect between how most people think of pumped hydro and what the study was saying, a disconnect that might be leading to dismissal of pumped hydro as a large-scale solution.

Outside of interesting innovations such as Gravity Power, there are three types of pumped hydro. One of them has characteristics that mean that it can take 15 years to gain approvals and build. Two of them don’t share those characteristics and are much faster to approve and build. The study focused specifically on the latter two, meaning that the 100x more resource than required is specifically for easier to site and faster to develop resource. That’s a very good news story.

Let’s look at the first type of pumped hydro, open-loop, to gain an understanding of the challenges. That form of pumped hydro is continuously connected to a naturally flowing water feature. That means building a dam, creating a large reservoir, and diverting water that flowed through the environment to power generation. That has a large number of environmental impacts, and is also highly subject to strong pushback from the public downstream and upstream of the facility, who typically and reasonably like the water flowing the way it is and the land unsubmerged. The large majority of the 160 GW of pumped hydro storage that exists today is open-loop.

That’s the form that takes 15 years to build, if it manages to get built at all.

However, the authors of the study focused on two types of closed-loop pumped hydro, dry-gully and turkey-nest.

Image RE100 Group Austrailian National University


The top diagram shows a dry-gully pumped hydro siting. As the name suggests, this is a land feature that is suitable for damming, but one that has no water running through it. As such, upper and lower reservoirs can be created and filled without impeding water flow, damaging streams or damaging habitat and wildlife that depend on the flowing water.

The bottom diagram shows the turkey’s-nest pumped hydro cross section. It’s called that because turkeys make their nests on the ground, building up the sides. The turkey’s-nest option is suitable for flatter land, where a dry gully doesn’t exist. Flatter doesn’t mean flat as a pancake of course, but one with a gentler decline from a higher elevation to a lower elevation, so that two turkey’s nest reservoirs can be excavated, the earth used to build up the walls and connected with a bored tunnel for two-way flow of water.

The study’s authors refer to this type of pumped hydro as short-term off river energy storage (STORES), and their modeling is based on this. They explicitly looked for resources with excellent characteristics for rapid development.

“STORES is located away from rivers and has little impacts on the environment and natural landscape due to: (1) no interaction with the ecosystem of main stem rivers, (2) no conflicts or competition with nature reserves and intensive land uses and, (3) medium-sized reservoirs located within close proximity to electricity infrastructure and renewable energy resources.”

Being in British Columbia, I’m familiar with reservoir sizes for hydroelectric sites, and know that they are very big indeed. The 800 MW capacity Site C Dam that’s being developed in northeastern BC on the Peace River near the border with Alberta, for example, will have a reservoir that’s 93 square kilometers, or 36 square miles. That’s an area that would cover most of San Francisco, and one that’s quite a bit bigger than Manhattan for perspective. It’s a fifth the size of Lake Tahoe.

The reservoir needs to be that big to enable a sufficient head — the vertical distance between intake and discharge  — for effective generation. When most people think of hydroelectric, that’s what they think of, huge reservoirs that inundate a lot of land that often had people, culturally significant elements, or agriculture on it, lots of concrete, and a downstream that’s radically altered. But that’s not what STORES is.

“PHES system with twin 100 hectares (ha), 1 gigalitre (GL) reservoirs separated by a height difference of 500 m is able to contribute 1 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of storage capacity (assuming an usable fraction of 85% and an efficiency of 90%), or 200 MW of power with 5 hours of storage to the electricity system – equivalent to a large gas-fired power plant.”

They looked for very high-head sites, where the vertical head makes a big difference for the amount of energy that can be stored. After all, it’s a gravity system, and the higher the head, the higher the potential energy of water. It takes more energy to lift a kilogram 10 meters than 1 meter, and you get more energy back.

The minimum head that they looked for in the study was 300 meters. Site C, for comparison, has a 50-meter head. That means that the reservoirs can be a lot smaller. The example above, at 100 hectares for each reservoir, is only a square kilometer or about 0.4 square miles. That’s a tenth of a percent of the size of the Site C Dam reservoir. That’s less than a third the size of Central Park in NYC or a quarter of the size of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The dam walls were modeled at a maximum of 40 meters (130 ft) for the dry-gully sites and 20 meters (65 ft) for the turkey’s nest sites. These aren’t trivial structures, but for comparison, the Oroville Dam in California is 234 meters (770 ft). By hydroelectric standards, they are modest.

So these are small reservoirs that don’t block rivers or streams, that are sited away from nature reserves and parks, that are sited near transmission lines, that are sited near high renewable energy resource areas and are capable of providing GWh capacity storage. The round trip efficiency is 80% to 90%, and storage can be for days or weeks, although typically its most economical for next day grid balancing per the NREL study. This contrasts to Tesla’s Powerpack which is currently very effective at in-day balancing, soaking up mid-day solar for end of day peaks.

There are two observations. The first is that siting approval for sites like this should be a lot faster and less controversial than for hydroelectric dams in general. Among other things, I wondered if the global siting study was able to have access to detailed data on sensitive or preserved natural areas of the same quality as the Australian study. I reached out to one of the study’s primary authors, Matt Stocks, and he told me:

“We use the World Protected Area Database for environmental exclusions. We haven’t had any issues with this brought to our attention. The land use is more difficult.  Our only land use exclusion is regions of high urban density.  It is not perfect with a number of smaller towns around he world inundated.”

I was reassured that the environmental approvals would not be challenged outside of Australia. The smaller town challenge should be trivial to resolve given that there are 100x more sites than required, so as the resource database is assessed by countries, they can eliminate sites with towns using country data. There’s also a proviso in the online mapping resource that geological, tectonic, and engineering work still needed to be done to validate each potential site. Many won’t be viable for reasons of slope stability and the like.

I was also curious if he had a perspective on whether siting approval was faster with STORES.

​”The individual states in Australia manage the main approvals and have regulatory responsibility for the electricity system.  NSW has released a pumped hydro road map and SA are supporting a number of proposals there.  The approval processes for wind and solar have been significantly streamlined through the states formalising the approval process and this appears to be emerging in Australia for pumped hydro.

In other words, yes. Standardizing on STORES gets us on track and allows streamlined approvals. Since we need a lot of movement by 2030, this is excellent news and something that’s replicable in every country.

Is it enough for the US? Well, what are the requirements? Per ANU:

“An approximate guide to storage requirements for 100% renewable electricity, based on analysis for Australia, is 1 Gigawatt (GW) of power per million people with 20 hours of storage, which amounts to 20 GWh per million people. This is for a strongly-connected large-area grid (1 million km2) with good wind and solar resources in a high-energy-use country.”

And what is the resource size for the United States? The study shows that the United States has about 4,500 GWh of potential STORES sites per million people, over 200 times what is expected to be required.

And those stores are close to major population centers for the most part. If some of the flatter states would like pumped storage, Gravity Power is happy to oblige. They are excellent for flat land siting and have even lower environmental impact concerns than STORES.

What else is true about a lot of those locations?

There are a lot of coal workers in those regions who know how to work rock. Building pumped hydro is strongly aligned to their technical and engineering skill set. And there are 60,000 or more of them who want good work, and would prefer it be not too far from where their families are. I keep suggesting that Democratic candidates should make this a campaign plank, but I haven’t seen any uptake yet. I’ve asked this question of Ike Kirby, PhD and Kamala Harris’ environmental policy advisor, but haven’t had a response yet.

But back to Elon Musk. As I pointed out earlier, the Boring Company isn’t well suited for Gravity Power’s large-diameter shaft requirement. But what about closed-loop pumped hydro as identified by the STORES study? Pumped hydro requires tunnels, not a huge shaft. The tunnels range from 4.5 to 8 meters per existing sites and a Springer study.

What does the Boring Company do? It bores 4.3-meter finished shafts. What does Tesla Energy do? It does energy storage. Start at the bottom, point the Line-Storm upward to the upper reservoir, start it up and use the resulting tunnel rock and soil in the earthen bulwarks of the reservoirs. What else is good for closed-loop pumped hydro? Covering material of some sort to reduce evaporation so that you don’t have to top them up that often, which strikes me as an excellent use case for Tesla’s commercial solar panels, floating on the placid waters of the upper and lower reservoirs. Seems like a no-brainer. So I reached out to Elon.

No response yet. If he does respond, I’m sure that will make for an interesting discussion.

Closing off, when I started reading the detailed study, I was curious to see if the approach used took advantage of machine learning or not. And it doesn’t. It’s a geographical algorithmic search process that first excludes a bunch of areas first, then does specific calculations about potentially viable spots. It’s computationally intensive, but using classic techniques, not neural-net techniques. This isn’t to say it doesn’t embody a good deal of insight and innovation, just not that specific type. I asked Matt Stocks why machine learning hadn’t been used for this particular solution.

“Machine learning works really well for large data sets where the machine learning algorithms can learn from one set of data and extrapolate to another. I don’t think there are sufficient examples of closed loop schemes to be able to train the algorithms. And once there is a reservoir there, we can’t see what the land underneath it looks like anymore since the elevation measurements will refer to the water level instead of the ground.”

This aligns well when compared to the CoastalDEM machine learning effort I covered recently which found much larger coastal risk of extreme water levels than had previously been understood. That study had both a global NASA SRTM dataset equivalent to what Stocks et al. used, but they also had a high-quality set of lidar data readings for much of the United States and Australia’s coastline to train it with. The number of existing dry-gully and turkey’s nest pumped hydro sites is small and there’s no equivalent to the lidar data set to correct the elevation and find similar features elsewhere.

So there we have it. Pumped hydro is a highly viable storage technology, it overlaps nicely with the characteristics of Tesla’s existing battery technology, the Boring Company has high-speed tunneling equipment suitable for penstocks, and there are a lot of excellent coal miners who could be repurposed close to home in the United States. Seems like a winner to me indeed.

About the Author

Michael Barnard is Chief Strategist with TFIE Strategy Inc. He works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth and cost takeout in our rapidly transforming world. He is editor of The Future is Electric, a Medium publication. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, and his work is regularly included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012.


Source: CleanTechnica

Leading construction connector manufacturer Simpson Strong-Tie has released their all-new 2020 catalogue; a comprehensive product guide which showcases the company’s most recent innovations and product line extensions.


Alongside the UK’s largest collection of connectors for timber and masonry construction, sit numerous new products, including the GPC, Gable Panel Connector, a high movement timber frame tie, decorative and a heavy duty post bases, an adjustable mini hanger, purlin anchor, twisted restraint strap and a 4mm reinforced angle bracket.

The catalogue also contains comprehensive technical data, performance characteristics, safe working loads, plus easy to follow installation instructions.

Managing Director, Malcolm Paulson explains: “It’s been a busy time for Simpson Strong-Tie, we’ve really pushed the boat out to increase our core product range, engineered to stand the test of time.

With our new enhanced product lines, along with our rapid made-to-order service, we really can say that if we don’t have it – you don’t need it”.

Available now in print on request, and online in the Resources / Literature section at the below website.


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When Performance Technology Group was formed at the beginning of 2018, it was envisioned as a means of bringing together a varied and industry-leading product portfolio, interdisciplinary expertise and nationwide fabrication and distribution capabilities into a single-point-of-access, customer-focused offering


The emphasis was on offering economies of scale and reducing complexity for the customer. Why spread your personnel across multiple meetings and multiple locations to discuss the fire, thermal and acoustic requirements of your project when PTG can address your needs over the course of a single engagement, with all the right people brought to the table? Before a single product has been delivered to site, this unified approach is saving you time, money and reducing the likelihood of error by removing unnecessary complexity.

Whilst offsite construction was very much on the PTG radar, it was only in the sense that the entire construction industry was on the PTG radar: commercial, residential, industrial, health, education hospitality, retail; from site protection, right at the outset of a project, through foundation work, from building envelope development to final fit-out.

Nationwide Fabrication Facilities

As PTG began to catalogue its business assets, it soon became apparent it possessed phenomenal fabrication facilities penetrating all areas of the UK, from Scotland, down through the North of England, through the Midlands to London, the South East and the South West.

All of these facilities were positioned in prime locations to serve their regions, but more impressive was the sheer breadth of technology and machinery available.

This is just a selection of what PTG have to offer: band saws, beams saws, CNC machines, cold-wire saws, guillotines, horizontal saws, hot-wire cutters, lamella cutters, multisaws, panel saws, pillar drills, profilers, routers, slitting machines, slotting machines and spindle moulders. This comprehensive suite of equipment enables PTG to cut materials to any size and thickness, provide intricate edge and joint detailing, face grooving, pre-drilled holes, duct cut-outs and a wide range of bonding and laminating solutions. And it’s all operated and lovingly maintained by a crew of skilled and experienced personnel, and augmented by a raft of hand-finishing tools and techniques.


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Materials and Supply

The fabrication facilities are set up to work with almost any material the modular construction industry can throw at it, from cement particle board to stone wool, from high-performance cladding panels to glass-fibre board, to produce bespoke flooring, ceiling and internal and external wall solutions.

A 2003 academic paper by A.G.F. Gibb and F. Isack – Re-engineering through pre-assembly: client expectations and drivers – was the result of interviews with major construction clients and identified, amongst many other things, that a “limited and disjointed supply chain” was a negative factor in relation to their projects.

PTG have supplied to some of the largest, logistically demanding construction projects in the UK, priding themselves on their reputation for uninterrupted supply, via strategically designated regional and local hubs and depots, and by creating and maintaining effective long-term relationships with a carefully selected group of manufacturers and suppliers.

Running in tandem with PTG’s product acquisition and the development of robust supply chains is a strong commitment to product testing, across fire, thermal and acoustic performance standards, with several senior members of our team involved with key industry bodies such as the Institute of Acoustics.

Mark Fyfe, Group Sales and Business Development Director for Performance Technology Group, said, “PTG can ‘plug-in’ to any modular contractor’s manufacturing and fabricating processes, effectively becoming a seamless part of their production line. Not only can we supply made-to-measure materials, we can supply a sequenced kit of parts or pre-assembled system components, potentially allowing a modular builder to rationalise their own asset base and reduce capital expenditure.”

Kara Windsor, PTG’s primary contact for all modular enquiries, said, “Modular construction is driven by an enthusiasm for efficiency, attention-to-detail, cost-effectiveness and, most importantly, innovation. PTG share all these values, making us the perfect fit for modular businesses.”

From architects to specifiers, installer to contractors, every player in the build chain must do their part in creating thermally efficient buildings, and that starts with the building envelope’s construction, explains Andy Stolworthy, Director of Product and Market Development.

With environmental legislation for building design and construction being updated across the globe, a new wave of architecture is being introduced. Architects and specifiers must find ways they can speed up building timelines, reduce energy usage and enhance a building’s lifespan when designing commercial and residential buildings.

The UK is making substantive improvements to its energy codes in order to reduce energy usage and wastage, seeing the construction industry shift towards bioclimatic architecture. Thermally efficient buildings using a well designed and installed envelope are crucial to this movement.



The building envelope is a protective boundary between the interior and exterior of a building that ‘wraps’ around the walls, floor, roof, windows and doors. This envelope shields the exterior of the building from natural elements, whilst facilitating climate control and protecting the indoor environment

Solutions that envelope energy efficiency

When a building envelope isn’t installed properly or is poorly specified, it will contribute to a substantial amount of energy loss, and one area that should not be neglected is the roof. More than 30% of heat is lost through the roof, and flat roofs particularly are prone to energy loss when a poor design is chosen.

There are two types of flat roof, warm and cold, the difference is the positioning of the insulation layer. In a warm roof the insulation is placed on top of the roof structure and choosing the right fastening solution will minimise the thermal bridging. This bridging is a funnel of unobstructed heat flow, which renders the surrounding layers of thermal insulation useless and ultimately can damage the building’s structure.

To prevent this, it is imperative the correct fastening solutions are used that work with the roofing system. Flat roofing solutions such as the Isotak thermally broken sleeve and fastener from SFS will ensure that the cladding is properly secured, therefore avoiding thermal bridges and decreasing energy loss.

The two-part fastener sits inside a polypropylene or polymide sleeve which penetrates below the surface of the insulation, providing a barrier between the fastener head and the external atmospheric conditions. This improves the whole roof’s thermal efficiency and reduces heat transfer through the building envelope.

The materials of the fixtures and fittings is another overlooked factor that contributes to excessive heat loss. Stainless-steel conducts heat at a slower pace than carbon steel which not only improves the thermal efficiency of the envelope but allows for improved corrosion-resistance, thereby maintaining the integrity of the installation and performance for longer. Installers should only use system approved fasteners and consult with manufacturers to identify the right fastener for the right situation.

Faster fixings that envelope efficiency

The building envelope is made up of a variety of different parts that make up a system – using the correct parts throughout will ensure a smooth building process. When the incorrect components are used, efficiency can go down as the wrong components can lead to unforeseen complications.

In the instance of a rainscreen subframe system, the manufacturer will typically just design solutions to meet mechanical and thermal needs. SFS’s NVELOPE system on the other hand will design everything down to the frame fastener to ensure the façade performs. Here is a perfect example where the right fasteners and fixings are paired with the right brackets and subframe systems and both construction and energy efficiencies increase.

Newer generations of fasteners, fixtures and brackets are being developed to aid a quick and easy installation too. For example, the SXC5 fastener is a self-drilling composite fastener that has been re-engineered to have an optimised tip and thread geometry, allowing installers to drive the fixing into the material they are fixing quicker.

As suppliers and installers enter this new wave of bioclimatic architecture, they must work together to ensure a successful construction of the building envelope. From training to on-site technical assistance and specifying the right components, all parties can secure the future of the building, speed up timelines and enhance its thermal performance.

The A. Proctor Group has, for over 50 years, been serving the construction industry with an extensive portfolio of technically advanced thermal insulation, specialist membranes and vapour control layers, providing an extensive range of superior high-performance products suitable for modular and off-site construction.


The basis of best practice in modular construction comes from an understanding of the relevant building regulations and a holistic approach to the building design. In doing so we consider six core aspects in the process related to the balance of Heat Air Moisture Management (HAMM):

  • Building
  • Weather
  • Occupants
  • Heat
  • Air
  • Moisture


The first area to consider is the type of building fabric involved. Concrete, steel and timber-based buildings all respond differently to moisture and contain different amounts of construction moisture which must be allowed to dry out. For example, buildings with a lot of in-situ concrete can take several years to fully dry out, this excess moisture load must be accounted for at the design stage.


Construction moisture can also come from the weather, and this must also be taken into account along with the weather conditions the building will be subjected to once completed. Being weather tight earlier in the construction process and generally being composed of drier materials, offsite construction has an important hygrothermal advantage.


By reducing the initial moisture loading on the building fabric, the design can be more precisely tailored to manage moisture associated with the occupants of the building and the uses the building will be put to, leading in turn to a more efficient fabric envelope and building system.

The influences of these three aspects can then be assessed in terms of the heat, air and moisture movement within the building. This takes into account the heating of the building, as well as the air leakage effects and response of the building fabric to the absorption and desorption of moisture. Factors such as the position and performance of the fabric insulation can also be considered.


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To ensure our design adequately manages these complex interactions, we undertake a hygrothermal analysis of the building fabric using software called WUFI. This breaks the building elements into individual layers and calculates the temperatures, moisture flow and degree of water storage at any point in the building fabric. This detailed analysis allows us to consider solutions that may mean that the internal vapour control layer can be removed altogether without creating a condensation risk.

This is made possible by the use of an external vapour permeable air barrier membrane. The Wraptite® membrane self adheres to the external face of the sheathing and provides a robust airtight layer without compromising moisture movement through the wall assembly.

By removing the vapour control in favour of an external air leakage solution we remove the associated material and installation costs, and more importantly, we remove the need to seal all the service penetrations, meaning we have a more reliable air barrier and can reduce the air leakage rates applied at the design stage.

In modular systems, incorporating an external air barrier is simple and brings several benefits over traditional mechanically fixed membranes.

Wraptite membrane can be applied to the panels in any orientation, and being self-adhered requires no mechanical fixings. This adhesion reduces the potential for membrane damage both during the module assembly process and while in transit to the site.

The panels are then assembled and the joints taped using Wraptite Tape, ensuring no adhesion issues or tape compatibility problems, and the panel assembly is now resistant to air leakage. The wall, roof and floor panels can then be assembled into modules, and Wraptite split-liner tape used to complete the airtight seal between adjacent assemblies. The completed modules can then be transported to site with full protection from the elements.