Concrete in the afterlife

Does any company preside over an uglier set of buildings than BT? Well, there’s now one less hideous eighties monolith to marvel at, with the complete refurbishment of the Angel Building in Islington. It’s almost unrecognisable with its glass and exposed concrete, and a new facade that restores the old line of the Georgian terraces. It’s also very sustainable, with a BREEAM “excellent” rating. Architect AHMM kept the project’s carbon footprint low by keeping the old concrete frame – which made it an ideal cover star for the Spring issue of Concrete Quarterly magazine, which I edit. You can read the latest issue here.

The €16 billion question

There are many questions hanging over the future of nuclear power in the UK, and in particular over energy company EDF’s plans to start building four new power stations in 2012. But Alan Cumming can’t really answer any of them. As deputy director of procurement, construction and project controls, rather than planning, public policy, great unknowns or hopeless causes, Cumming isn’t best placed to talk about the implications of the new coalition government, the odds of securing planning permission after the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission or when EDF really needs a decision on a floorprice for carbon credits to determine whether the plants are financially viable. Fortunately, he could talk to me in quite some detail about a question that is of great importance to Building’s readers: how can they get involved in building them?

Less than zero

In May, I edited a Building magazine supplement for the Zero Carbon Hub, the public-private organisation helping the construction industry meet the target of building zero carbon homes by 2016. It’s a tall order, not least because “zero carbon” means reducing the energy homes consume not by 100%, but 150%. For an explanation, and plenty of information on how it can be done, you can read the supplement here.

Let’s hope they’re at least reading the manual

Fitting a wind turbine or a solar panel might sound a bit beyond your average DIYer, but there are plenty of courses on offer to teach construction workers how to do it. But what about the managers running multimillion construction projects, bristling with state-of-the-art technologies? As I found out in this article for Construction Manager, they’re just kind of muddling through…

Why do we put up with this?

If ranting about public transport were a sport, I would be at least semi-professional. So I was overjoyed when Building asked me to contribute to its public spending campaign with a rather polemical article on how rubbish Britain’s railways are and why we can’t afford to let them get any worse. Did you know Wales is the only country in the EU to have no electrified track apart from Albania?

The rich will always be with us

Everyone’s jumping on the sustainability bandwagon these days – and insurers are no exception. In June, I wrote for Insurance Times’ Property Focus on their unlikely forays into Energy Performance Certificates for buildings, as well as the Teflon-resilience of the super-rich in the recession, and the cast of thousands working behind the scenes to settle a big fire claim.

Where’s my sausage?

I did a couple of days on Construction Manager in the run-up to press day, writing news stories and the funnies page. Highlights inlcuded asking the industry whether collaborating with China was really an option, getting to grips with new sustainability clauses in JCT contracts, and asking what kind of fry-up consists of only eggs, bacon, toast and ketchup?