Design practice Studio Precht teamed up with tiny-house startup Baumbau to design Bert, a tiny modular treehouse that’s expected to hit the market in spring 2020. Inspired by the Minion films, the playful periscope-like structures eschew hard angles and offer a livable and cozy environment with a minimal footprint and off-grid capabilities, including built-in solar and a water treatment facility.

Designed as a reaction to Bauhaus-style buildings found in cities worldwide, Bert embraces diversity and natural materials rather than cold concrete and steel. Built with a wood structure with fabric-lined interiors, the Bert treehouse mimics the shape of a tree, from its rounded trunk-like body to its brown leaf-like shingles on the facade that help camouflage the building into the surroundings. Large glass openings immerse users in the forest. As a modular structure, all parts of Bert will be prefabricated in a factory and assembled on site to reduce landscape impact.

Futuristic treehouse in Arkansas is designed to inspire imagination, “We are fully aware that architecture is this serious and profound craft with a long culture and tradition,” says the design team in a press statement. “You see that when we architects find reference for our projects in art, philosophy, literature or nature. For this project, we also looked at art to find reference. But not at Michelangelo or Dali. Rather we looked at cartoon characters of Sesame Street or Minions. We took a playful look at this project and wanted to create a rather unique character than a conventional building. A quirky looking character that becomes part of the wildlife of a forest. I think this quirkiness can create feelings and emotions. And maybe these are attributes in architecture that are missing these days.”

Modeled after a tiny home, Bert offers all the basic necessities within four floors. The entrance and living space is located on the ground floor, a bedroom and sitting area on the second floor, the kitchen and dining area with a secondary bedroom on the third floor, and the bathroom on the top floor. As a modular structure, the Bert treehouse can be customized to the buyer’s specifications to “grow” taller and wider with new modules, making it an ideal choice for eco-hotel operators. The smallest Bert structure starts at 120.000€ ($136,313 USD) and is expected to hit the market early next year.


Source: Inhabitat


A joint venture between Trafford Housing Trust, L&Q and contractor Willmott Dixon using modern methods of construction is set to deliver 250 homes on a Homes England site in Preston.

The development vehicle Laurus Partnership Homes will buy the land in the Fulwood area of the Lancashire town from the government’s housing delivery agency and subject to planning consent begin building the homes later this year.

The £47m scheme on D’Urton Lane will result in a mix of two, three and four-bedroom homes, with 127 being affordable through shared ownership and affordable rent. The remaining homes will be for private sale.

Larry Gold, chief executive at Sale-headquartered Trafford Housing Trust, called for the sector to take up his organisation’s business model which he said “sees us reinvest all profits into providing more new homes and supporting wider social purpose initiatives”.

Duncan Inglis, Homes England’s head of accelerated delivery, said modern methods of construction would be used on the Preston scheme to help increase the speed of the development.

The contractor would “adopt a sub-assemblies and components approach, which includes building techniques such as the installation of pre-cast ground floors, first floor cassettes, and installing pre-formed wiring looms”, Inglis added.


Source: Housing Today


By Mark Coates

With survey results indicating that many businesses are still not working digitally, it’s time for construction and infrastructure professionals to ask themselves, Can machines help us think better?

It has now been seven decades since Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing and artificial intelligence, wrote, “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’” Turing’s question has now been proven beyond doubt in many fields: In chess, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat former chess grand master Garry Kasparov in 1997. In science, the HiSeq X genome-sequencing system can map tens of thousands of human genomes in a year — a task that initially took an army of scientists from 20 universities across the world more than 13 years to complete.

In the construction and infrastructure realm, professionals now need to ask these questions: “Do you believe that machines can help you to think better? Do you believe that information and data can help you to work smarter?”

What’s the Payoff?

As Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 film Wall Street, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” Since that time, the value of information has been further amplified by an explosion of data: In the first 19 years of the 21st century, we have produced more data than in the previous 5,000 years of humankind.

The most important benefit that we derive from information is insight, which helps us make better decisions for ourselves, our businesses, and the wider world. And the resulting financial impacts can be massive: For example, a British government policy paper on data highlighted that more effective sharing of data within and between organizations can unlock GBP 149 billion of operational efficiencies, and GBP 66 billion of new business and innovation opportunities, in the UK alone.

Going digital can unlock these insights and make data the new currency. One only needs to look at the USD 110 billion of sales that Google made in 2017, or the USD 55 billion in revenue Facebook recorded in 2018, to know that it is true.

Why Do We Need to Redefine Working Practices?

Despite these compelling indicators, it seems that many people in our industry do not believe that technology can help them think better, or believe but are not acting accordingly. Bentley Systems’ survey of more than 720 business professionals across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia, India, China, and Southeast Asia has shown that close to half of businesses (44.3%) have limited or no insight into company or project performance. These professionals are either not collecting data, or are collecting it manually instead of digitally.

It has never been more important for businesses — and all project delivery partners — to know what is happening on their projects. With 21st century construction projects becoming ever more complex, project partners are putting more money at stake while working to achieve tighter margins.

Making errors in project delivery can kill a business. Indeed, the results of our survey come just months after one of the British government’s largest contractors, Interserve, went bankrupt following spiralling project costs. A year earlier, the global contractor Carillion collapsed after losing GBP 470 million (USD 614 million) on contracts in the Middle East and Canada, and GBP 375 million (USD 490 million) on problem contracts in the UK.

It’s clear that the stakes are very high, yet our survey shows that many construction and infrastructure businesses across the world still do not have genuine oversight and understanding of their performance on projects, or of overall business performance. This situation needs to change, for their sake and for the industry’s sake.

We See the Value, but Are Not Able to Maximize It

While our survey has highlighted that many businesses are still not working digitally, what is heartening is that almost half of those businesses with little or no insight (45.2% of total respondents) understand the importance of collecting project data; they are just failing to make the most of it by not digitizing it. These businesses really value the importance of data, as they are investing the time to collect, collate, and report the information. However, they are taking longer by not going digital. This delay costs society: With USD 5.25 trillion a year at stake, taxpayers could be on the hook for USD 740 billion.

Collaboration is another case in point. 43.5% of respondents to our survey say that they have no capability for digital collaboration, or their information is paper-based and siloed. These companies are not realizing the full benefit of collecting this data, as they are not able to analyze and share it easily with their own organization or their project partners. They cannot properly collaborate and communicate with project partners, because they are unable to effectively share their valuable information. This system significantly impairs the productivity of a project and the project partners.

The global construction consultancy Mace estimates that in ten years’ time, the world will be spending USD 5.25 trillion on infrastructure a year. However, its analysis showed that around 80% of large projects experience cost or program overruns. Unless we can improve how we deliver infrastructure projects, Mace has calculated that taxpayers around the world could be left picking up the tab for an unexpected USD 740 billion worldwide. For taxpayers in individual countries, that translates into a cost of USD 229 billion to the United States, INR 9.1 trillion to India, AUD 59 billion to Australia, and GBP 19 billion to the UK.

To Unlock the Benefits of Digital Construction, Pick the Four Ps

Our industry has overcome many challenges to get to where it is today, including the creation of tools, industrial revolutions, and the improvement of health and safety standards. Now is time for us to work together to win the battle for the industry-wide adoption of digital construction. To help, we have created a set of guidelines — “The Four Ps” — that outline the journey construction and infrastructure businesses need to take when going digital.

Prepare for it. The single largest barrier holding us back from implementing digital construction is not the technology; rather, it’s the mindset and psychology of the people working in the industry. As Nietzsche said, “The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself.” The industry needs to challenge itself, and each one of us working in the industry must question whether our outlook and preconceptions are holding back our businesses and our industry, as well as ourselves.

The tactical objections over monetary cost, time, effort, human resources, and education can all be overcome if we are prudent and prepare our businesses for change in an orderly fashion. First of all, we must submit ourselves to the answer of the strategic question – do I believe that machines can help us think better? Once we have defeated our own objections and prepared ourselves for change, we need to prepare our businesses for going digital by defeating the objections of our colleagues and the leaders of our industry. It is crucial to get the buy-in of the entire senior leadership team to successfully instigate change.

Pilot it. Every business, and every business’s encounter with digital construction, is slightly different. To make going digital a success, first pilot the initiative among a small portion of the company on a single project, and take the time for team members to become familiar with and understand the technology.

Long-lasting, sustainable change happens slowly. Winning over a small portion of the company to new ways of working is the most effective method of enabling that change to spread throughout the organization.

Probe it. To win over advocates, we must demonstrate the benefit of going digital and probe change. We need to measure and quantify success to prove that going digital has saved team members time, made their jobs simpler, and improved their productivity.

We need to monitor and evaluate the performance of the project at frequent stages to capture progress and refine and improve our working practices. Hold open forum meetings and get people thinking collectively about the changes they are implementing; it is important for empowering team members to think and analyze how they work and to discuss whether there are any ways that they can do it better.

Showcased at Bentley’s Year in Infrastructure 2018 Conference, Infraero – Empresa Brasileira de Infraestrutura Aeroportuária, an airport operator in Brazil, needed a better way to organize its data for the fourth-largest airport in southern Brazil. For this estimated BRL 330,000 project, Infraero wanted to create a digital twin that would act as a reality mesh and a central repository for all airport data, including infrastructure, buildings, building systems, facilities, and maps and management data. With the digital twin completed in 2018, Infraero saw maintenance cost savings and improved airport operation at SBLO. The project team expects to save over BRL 559,000 per year with its digital twin, and expects to see an increase in commercial profitability and the availability of critical equipment.

Process it. To create and maximize impact across the whole organization, we need to be able to process it. We need to capture changes, understand how we achieved results, and be able to repeat them. Reviewing and improving existing organizational processes is an important part of going digital; otherwise, organizations will continue to replicate the same problems.

Adopting and embedding digital ways of working needs buy-in at all levels of a business. Organizations should develop board steering groups so that the top of the business can see and understand the benefits of going digital. Businesses should also nominate digital champions for each department and each project to ensure that processes become embedded and that the results of going digital are communicated to all team members.

Taking on Going Digital

As an industry, it is important for us to remember that a construction project is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Project partners who are not working digitally do not have the level of productivity, communication, and assurance necessary for 21st century project delivery. Businesses that embrace and master The Four Ps, in contrast, are setting themselves up to be at the forefront of construction over this century.

We need to challenge ourselves, our businesses, and our project partners to spread the benefits of going digital and to stop the deployment of 18th century (and even older) working practices on 21st century projects. As the former American Davis Cup captain and French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe said, “You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”

Let’s take on the task of going digital. There is too much at stake for us all not to.


Source: Cadalyst




By Malcolm Thomson, sales director at Scotframe

With the UK and Scottish governments keen to tackle the housing crisis – and setting stretch targets for the number of new homes – institutional investors have pricked up their ears to the potential earnings from offsite construction.

Currently touted as the ‘wunderkind’ of offsite construction is modular or – if you are of a certain vintage – an updated prefab for the 21st century. Whichever term you prefer, modular construction means three-dimensional homes built in a factory and shipped to site almost fully made. Assembling involves fitting the modules together, connecting services and adding the finishing touches.

Several financial investments have accelerated the buzz about modular. In April Goldman Sachs dropped a cool £75m into a UK modular housing manufacturer TopHat. Then Japanese housebuilding giant Sekisui House took a 35% stake in Manchester-based Urban Splash. Most recently Places for People confirmed the purchase of 750 modular units from Ilke Homes, with financial backing from Homes England.

However, while the buzz is getting louder, it’s worth bearing in mind that the current capacity of the industry is tiny – around 8,000-10,000 homes, with fewer actually delivered. Modern methods of construction as a whole, according to the National Homes Building Council, accounts for 15-20% of new-build homes, while modular itself probably accounts for less than 5%.

There is no doubt that offsite construction is a game-changer when it comes to tackling the housing shortage, not least because of the well-documented skills shortage in the sector. However, while modular has many positives – it’s quick, easy to assemble, more energy-efficient and less reliant on good weather than traditional brick or block construction – we need to be mindful that modular will only ever be part of the solution to the housing shortage. There’s another offsite solution that offers even more benefits – timber frame construction.

Scotland leads the way in this construction model, with 83% of new build Scottish homes using timber frame, compared to just 23% in England. This is partially explained by the impressive thermal performance of timber-built houses given Scotland’s climate. Timber is also particularly attractive option for self-build, which has always played a larger role in Scotland.

According to the Structural Timber Association, the market share for timber construction is rising steadily, aided by technologies such as cross-laminated timber and insulated panel systems like those used by Scotframe in our self-build homes.

Indisputably, offsite-manufactured timber structures have low operational and maintenance costs and achieve high performance standards. And taking a ‘fabric first’ approach – where energy efficient properties are built into a building’s exterior ‘envelope’ rather than relying on add-on’s such as photo-voltaic panels or smart home gadgets – can significantly improve a building’s sustainability credentials; an overall energy reduction of up to 33 per cent over a building’s lifetime.


Cost savings are an important factor too. A timber frame solution can often be cheaper in many instances, and that’s before you factor in the significantly shorter build time.

For me, timber frame also wins over modular when it comes to aesthetics. Modular, by its very nature, has to fit together in a pre-ordained way – the properties all look the same. Timber frame properties can be constructed to specific designs and have high kerb appeal. And this also applies to large, custom-build projects where the requirement is for numerous or bespoke house types.

So while modular will certainly play a part in helping the industry deliver more homes, it is only one of many offsite solutions. While it works for short-term homes in popular city areas, the need for something more personal will usually prevail with most buyers.

So my message to my colleagues working in the house building sector is this: by all means consider modular homes as part of your offsite construction strategy. But think timber frame too, as it offers a much more attractive, versatile and cost-effective package of benefits for your future house buyers.



Source: Scottish Construction Now


The Solar Trade Association underlines current scope for action on “Groundhog Day” CCC 2019 Progress Report to Parliament


Commenting on the CCC 2019 Progress Report to Parliament STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett said;

“For four years now the Committee on Climate Change has been urging the Government to get behind the most popular and cost-effective renewables. In what is now surely a national Groundhog Day, we again fully support their calls for technology neutral auctions that provide a secure route-to-market for large-scale solar. On the publication of last year’s Progress Report we said the Government must now surely listen and act. Not only has nothing happened but the policy framework has actually gone backwards for solar.”

The STA is disappointed that there has been no progress in levelling the playing field on market access for large-scale solar, nor progress on a ‘subsidy free’ CfD. Since last year the STA has had to fight off complex and potentially costly changes to transmission balancing charges that would have further damaged the progress of subsidy-free solar schemes, which carry notable risk. The scale of the threat has been reduced, but still remains.

The CCC report also underlines the growing importance of flexibility in the electricity system, but again the STA is fighting off damaging VAT changes that can apply to new solar when it is combined with battery storage for domestic homes. After sustained campaigning by the STA the Government has published its Smart Export Guarantee policy, but has failed to enforce a fair floor price for exported power and there is currently only one market participant.

However, the economics of rooftop solar in commercial and industrial installations is now clearly attractive and the Association is championing investment in solar by the public sector, as well as by households. The STA has long urged the CCC to consider the value of rooftop solar in its analyses, given these markets dominate across most of Europe where the technology plays a major role in delivering Net Zero buildings in all climates. Solar technology also puts the power to act in the hands of a range of players, including councils, businesses and individuals, which is enhanced by synergies with battery storage, EVs and renewable heat technologies.

Chris Hewett said, “Many organisations in the UK will once again share the CCC’s deep frustration at Government inaction. However, we urge the CCC and concerned parties to look very carefully at what can be done right now with rooftop solar, which can be economically attractive and which answers their call to put people at the heart of policy design. For those that are unable to invest in rooftop solar, there are further opportunities to support new solar parks through Power Purchase Agreements and genuine green tariffs. Of course we need to see Government get its act together on climate and energy policy, but the need to act is urgent and we must not wait on them when there is so much that can be done today.”


The Solar Trade Association

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, group director development and sales at L&Q, expressed her strong concerns regarding the banking sectors apparent reluctance to provide financial funding for, in particular, offsite projects. Warning that the banks reluctance posed a serious threat to the progress of housing portfolios that featured offsite construction methods.


Speaking at this years Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester, Fiona said, “We need to make sure there’s a better conversation about what’s going on with the banks, If we cannot secure debt against these portfolios then we will not make this work.”


She stressed that her own Housing Association would need to use modern methods of construction in order to meet their target of 100,000 new homes over the next ten years.


Fiona continued, “In the next few months, you will hear much more from L&Q about how MMC will be a major part of that journey.” L&Q signed a deal in February with Stewart Milne Timber Systems to deliver frames for more than 1,500 homes, demonstrating its commitment to offsite methods.


She told delagates that she believed MMC would improve the quality of new housing and sited an L&Q home build by traditional methods where sprinklers had not been connected to the water system and nor fire alarms to the electricity, thus rendering them useless, “We are putting people’s lives at risk and it’s not good enough,”


She said that although offsite manufacturing was still expensive, the improved quality could result in long-term savings. “It’s the long-term management costs that matter to us as well,” she concluded. “I see MMC as saving more over the whole life cycle of a building.”


London and Quadrant Housing Trust

Why the octogenarian engineer Max Fordham claims ventilation is the worst excess of the building industry.


Max Fordham’s house is “simple and practical” and mostly all natural.

There has long been skepticism about Passive House, or Passivhaus in the original German. Passivhaus expert Monte Paulsen listed some of the misconceptions in a Green Building Advisor article a few years ago, including “too expensive” or “too stuffy” or “too complicated” or “too rigid” or “too ugly”. But in the years since it has become clear that none of these are true, and a lot of those skeptics have been won over.

According to Jason Walsh, writing in Passive House Plus, physicist and engineer Max Fordham used to be a bit of a skeptic and critic of the Passive House concept. But he independently developed his own approach to building energy efficient buildings, and it was looking more and more like Passive house. Fordham tells Passive House Plus that ventilation is the source of “the worst excesses of the building industry.” He then goes on about one of my regular gripes, radiant underfloor heating:

In particular, once you’ve solved the ventilation problem you’ve got a building that doesn’t really need any heating. What’s happening a lot with passive houses we’re seeing built is that people are demanding things like underfloor heating… I think it’s a conservatism: people are afraid, but it’s [passive house] then being adopted and people are adding underfloor heating to the brief. That’s the worst kind of heating to have, in a way, because if you have a thermally heavy [passive] building it doesn’t actually need any heating. So, if you don’t need any heating, you’d better not put in a heating system that is difficult to control and slow to control. It may look very luxurious and nice, but you can’t really turn it off. It’s just wasting heat.

Justin Bere, architect for the house, explains a bit of Max Fordham’s conversion:

Throughout his career he has, in his own way, developed his own version of passive house. He was on the same wavelength but didn’t know about it, and in this he brought together what he was doing and what the Passive House Institute was doing, saying: ‘Were both on the same mission to fight for the planet.’

One very interesting thing about this house is that it is on three levels, and there doesn’t appear to be much of a concession to the fact that Max Fordham is in his eighties, other than the stairs do not have winders in them. Jason Walsh writes that “there is a focus on accessibility; it is possible to live entirely on the ground floor, for example, while cork flooring provides some safety against falls.” And the bathroom door on the ground floor opens outwards, but that is about it, and it is a tight ground floor suite.

But it is a very small mews site and Fordham almost seems to be treating this more as a physics experiment than a house. He tells Passive House Plus:

I’m just getting some feedback on the energy use. It’s very interesting: the top has the most glass and is getting the heat. It’s very cosy. The ground floor tends to need a little heat so I’ve just written a note that says that we need to increase the internal air flow. It’s very exciting getting some real feedback.

Readers should visit Passive House Plus for the technical details, but the house hits only .38 air changes per hour (PH limit is 0.6) and costs almost nothing to heat. It is built with natural and renewable materials including wood fibre insulation and wood cladding. There is a little electric heater coil in the Heat Recover Ventilator and a heat pump domestic hot water system.

One of the reasons that there used to be so many of the misconceptions about Passive House is that there really wasn’t a lot of experience with them. That has now changed. The builder, Bow Tie Construction, notes that some architects still don’t understand it.

Yesterday I spoke to an architect who said to me, ‘I don’t want to have to learn all this [in advance]. I want you to show me.’ One really interesting thing that comes to mind is that we try to specialise in passive house but [some] architects look at the costs and see us as too expensive or unapproachable. We’d like to see more co-operation between builders like us and architects.

When builders, engineers, architects and clients all understand what they are doing and why, most of those problems and extra costs will just disappear.


by Lloyd Alter


SOURCE: Treehugger

We hear a lot about the role of females in the UK construction industry, or lack of, but this story from across the Atlantic should be an inspiration to any female thinking of construction for a career, not sure what health and safety would have to say about the high heels though!!!

The construction business is no bed of roses — cutthroat competition makes it hard to stay on top. But one construction and design firm has been making its mark on some of our biggest landmarks.

Cheryl McKissack Daniel now sits atop the oldest African-American-owned and female-run construction company in the nation — a business her family truly built from the ground up. In the male dominated world of construction, McKissack Daniel feels right at home — even in a hard hat and heels.

As president of McKissack & McKissack, she manages projects ranging from a park in downtown Brooklyn to getting many of New York’s trains to run on time. Her company is on board to revamp Long Island’s railroad hub, which runs underneath the Brooklyn Nets’ home.

In fact, McKissack Daniel’s business is assigned to just about every major infrastructure improvement project financed by the city and state, including the current construction at LaGuardia Airport and the new Terminal One at JFK.

McKissack Daniel says competing in construction’s big leagues “takes relationships, and getting people to realize that you bring value to the table something unique and different.”

The nation’s oldest African-American-owned and female-run construction management firm dates back more than two centuries to a Tennessee slave named Moses.

Moses McKissack was taught the trade of making bricks by his Scottish slave master. The trade was passed down to her grandfather and great uncle, who incorporated the family business in 1905. Over the next 60 years, they built homes, hospitals, and colleges. McKissack said her grandfather built the Tuskegee air force base where black pilots trained to desegregate World War II.

In 1968, McKissack Daniel’s father William took over, laying the foundation for his three daughters. “We would go to work with him every Saturday starting at ten years old, walking construction sites, tracing documents, you know, learning about building systems early in life,” McKissack Daniel said. “It was all ingrained in us.”

When her father suffered a stroke in 1982, her mother, Leatrice B. McKissack, stepped in.

“I don’t know if my husband’s gonna live or die,” she recalled. “But the next morning at 8:00, I had five major architectural and engineering companies callin’ me, ’cause the message had already got out that my husband was seriously ill.” The business was so good, she said, that they all wanted it.

But with no training in architecture, the former school teacher used good sense and her master’s in psychology to find her way. She found courage in liquid form.  “[My husband] had a bar in the conference room. So I said […] ‘I’m goin’ in this bathroom and get fortified for this crazy board meeting,’” she said. She did well, managing a $50 million complex at Howard University and a project at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

By 2000, McKissack Daniel took over the helm, and moved the headquarters from Nashville to New York. But breaking into the the Big Apple was only made possible by affirmative action, she said.

“People do business with people who look like them.” she said. “All the work that we’ve done outside of New York, it didn’t matter in New York.”

Cheryl McKissack Daniel CBS News

But McKissack Daniel’s work mattered to the communities she served, beginning with her own. Sixty-one percent of her hires are minorities, and 34% are women. When her company worked on the $325 million patient pavilion at Harlem Hospital Center, it accepted job applications from locals in the neighborhood. She said she received 7,000 applications from people looking for work.

She hired 200 of those people, and later, she developed a job training workforce program to try to place the rest in other fields across the city.

She wants to show women of color “that the construction industry can build wealth” and that the construction industry can look like them.

But it’s not an easy sell, even for her own family. McKissack Daniel has two daughters, and her sisters have three – but “not one” is showing signs of wanting to take the reins, she said.

“I may have to hold on for the grandkids,” she said with a laugh.



Rare archive images showing engineers working on a secret construction project that became pivotal to Britain’s success at the D-Day landings have been released as part of a new film marking the 75th anniversary of the campaign.

The Mulberry harbours were artificially-constructed floating docks that enabled ships carrying vital supplies, military vehicles and troops to safely anchor off the French coast, on a stretch of land lacking any safe harbours. They were designed and constructed in secrecy by around 200,000 British engineers in the seven months leading up to the landing in June 1944, and helped soldiers who recall ‘fighting the sea’ at the same time as they battled against the German army.

British construction company Wates Group has now unearthed a series of rare images from its archive of its engineers constructing the harbours in the lead up to one of the most significant moments in the Allied war effort. Wates made a significant contribution during the war building aerodromes, army camps and factories. Having developed a specialty in pre-cast concrete structures, Wates supplied the concrete pier and pierhead pontoons for the Mulberry harbours.

The harbours were designed and built at yards and docks across the country including at Southampton, in Mitcham and the West India Docks, before they were assembled at Selsey in Sussex and towed across the channel to Normandy in sections after completion in April 1944.

Wates was among an alliance of British companies that joined forces to build the harbours. Wates was particularly involved in the construction of the concrete piers and pontoons known as ‘Beetles’. While one harbour was destroyed in a storm after just a couple of days, the second was operational for 10 months, making a significant contribution to the Allied war effort. In total, the harbour enabled 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies to land before it was decommissioned.

As the international community marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Wates has worked with D-Day Revisited – a charity established to commemorate the anniversary – to create a film celebrating the harbours.

MEMORIES OF MULBERRY  click for video

The film, titled “Memories of Mulberry”, includes rare photographs from the Wates archives, showing engineers working on the huge concrete and steel parts, as well as insight from leading historian Guy Walters.

Ted Cordery, 95 and from Oxford, who served on board the Royal Navy’s HMS Belfast from 1943-1944 as a Leading Seaman Torpedoman, is one of two D-Day veterans interviewed for the film about their memories of the historic landings. He said: “When I look back on my career in the Navy, I felt I spent more time fighting the sea than I did the Germans. You could never rely on it. It always turned one way or the other. The harbours minimised the possibility of this and you can’t have a better contribution than that in my opinion.”

Jack Quinn, also 95 and from Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, who was a Corporal in the Royal Marines, added: “We wondered what they were at first, when we saw them. ‘What are they going to do with them? They are going to load men and vehicles on them.’ We were surprised they towed them all that way. But the soldiers were glad to get in a lorry and drive off a Mulberry harbour instead of getting in a landing craft and getting wet through. Speed was the essence.”

Historian and author Guy Walters added: “When you think of inventions during the Second World War you think of the bouncing bomb, you think of radar, but for my money Mulberry harbours are right up there. They’re a classic example of British ingenuity and inventiveness.”

The video, which has been published on the Wates website, ends by thanking the servicemen and women who played their part.

James Wates CBE, Chairman of the Wates Group, said: “Wates has a proud history as an innovator in construction, and nowhere is this more evident than our involvement with building the Mulberry harbours. I remember my grandfather [Sir Ronald Wates] speaking to me about them when I was a boy, and I know he was so proud of what we were able to do.

“As we mark the 75th anniversary of the D Day landing, we look back with pride at our role in bringing an end to World War Two, and supporting our armed forces. Our purpose today remains as it was then: to work together to inspire better ways of creating the places, communities and businesses of tomorrow.”

To this day Wates Group continues to support the work of the armed forces, working with the Ministry of Defence and its supply chain – including building the base of the new Lightning jets at RAF Marham; BAE System Submarines’ new training base for apprentices; and maintaining housing for services personnel and their families.  Wates has also pledged to honour the Armed Forces Covenant, including a commitment to provide work opportunities for veterans.


Wates Group

How technology can end construction’s productivity slump

Ibrahim Imam, co-founder and managing director of PlanRadar, looks at how construction technology megatrends could help the industry beat its 20 year-long productivity slump

The construction industry plays a vital role in the UK’s economy. It accounts for 6% of GDP, employs 3.1 million people (nearly 10% of the UK’s workforce) and influences other key economic indicators like inflation. Yet, over the last two decades, the industry has been enduring a significant productivity slump, which the UK government estimates could be costing as much as £15bn a year.

This isn’t just a problem in the UK, in developed nations all over the world construction’s productivity performance drags down the wider economy. Worldwide, the average large construction project takes 20% longer to complete than planned and runs a staggering 80 % over budget.

Why is this? Well despite being worth 6% of global GDP, construction still hasn’t undergone any significant digitalisation. From our experience, at least 60-70% of construction companies are still not dealing with any digitalisation at all, and it’s stopping them from succeeding in a competitive market.

If you look at how other sectors have compared in the last few decades, productivity in the aerospace and automobile industries has roughly doubled. In the UK’s aerospace industry, it has risen by more than 50% since 2009 alone. The difference is both these sectors have embraced digital solutions in their development, allowing them to improve on the efficiency and maintenance of their delivery.

Overcoming its traditional problems and embracing new technologies is the key to ending construction’s 20 year-long productivity slump. The government data shows that even growing productivity by 0.25% a year for 10 years, would add £56bn to UK GDP. It’s why the government announced a £600bn productivity programme called Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) at the end of 2017, which itself underlined the necessity of embracing digital solutions.

Determining the type of digital adoption is the next step. There is a lot of focus right now given to headline technologies like IoT, 3D printing, augmented & virtual reality and commercialisation products such as online brokering. However, very little focus is given to the actual optimisation of processes inside construction projects, that don’t involve B2C aspects. These are often overlooked, despite the fact they have so much more potential.

This is because on-the-ground technology can directly tackle areas such as inadequate organisation, communication and performance management, three areas highlighted as amongst the most harmful to productivity by the recent McKinsey & Company research.

How technology in construction can improve productivity

Construction project management software is one of the best tools that a construction company can invest in to improve productivity. Projects can only run smoothly when all teams understand their tasks and roles. These platforms keep all the appointments, documents, plans and tasks for a project on a fast and efficient platform. They offer complete real estate life cycle that helps developers, planners, architects and construction contractors seamlessly communicate with each other, as well as giving contractors direct communication with their clients.

The platform gives a complete overview of the construction site, offering interactive blueprints with easy ticketing. Ticket creation allows attributes such as pictures, voice memos, text and status, with a priority rating and a required completion date to be added. A drawing function also allows you to add annotations to plans and images. Then, simply press a button and defects or orders are forwarded directly to the responsible contractor, along with resolution deadlines and priorities.

Mark Farmer, head of Cast Consultancy, who had recently been advising the governments construction strategy recently said that; “While we are all using smartphones, construction is still pretty much the same as it was during Roman times.” That fact is why it makes sense to adopt mobile technology and integrate it at the centre of new innovations. The platforms are readily available, on iOS, Android and Windows devices, as well as through internet browsers. As it’s cloud-based technology, no installation is required, and it can be accessed offline. Training isn’t required because the user interface is already so familiar and straightforward. On average, PlanRadar customers need less than an hour of support a year, if you can use a tablet, then you can use PlanRadar.

What difference does it make? Well, these project management platforms can increase project efficiency by up to 70%. With our system, users are already realising time savings of seven working hours per week on average. That’s roughly around 18% of their working time. A survey we conducted among our users and average personnel costs found an average ROI of 900%. It’s figures such as these that demonstrate the difference that on the ground digitalisation can make, and how digital technologies can significantly impact on the productivity gap by maximising the ROI of infrastructure investment. Continued modernisation will improve long-term margins, lower delivery costs, and create greater predictability by de-risking on site delivery. That’s how technology can end construction’s productivity slump.


Ibrahim Imam

Co-founder and managing director