Climate Change Is Turning Cities Into Ovens

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Whichever side of the subjective city-versus-rural debate you’re on, the objective laws of thermodynamics dictate that cities lose on at least one front: They tend to get insufferably hotter, more so than surrounding rural areas. That’s thanks to the urban heat-island effect, in which buildings and roads readily absorb the sun’s energy and release it well into the night. The greenery of rural areas, by contrast, provides shade and cools the air by releasing water.

Climate change is making the urban heat-island effect all the more dire in cities across the world, and it’s only going to get worse. Like, way worse. An international team of researchers has used a new modeling technique to estimate that by the year 2100, the world’s cities could warm by as much as 4.4 degrees Celsius on average. For perspective, that figure obliterates the Paris agreement’s optimistic goal for a global average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C from preindustrial levels. In fact, the team’s figure more than doubles the agreement’s hard goal of limiting that global rise to no more than 2 degrees C.

Up until this point, global climate models have tended to snub urban areas, and for good reason, as they make up just 3 percent of the planet’s land surface. Cities are but a blip. Researchers are more interested in the dynamics of things like the ocean, ice, and air currents. “We’re closing this kind of gap,” says Lei Zhao, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and lead author on a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change describing the modeling. “We provide urban-specific projections for the future.”

His team’s model suggests that hotter cities could be catastrophic for urban public health, which is already suffering from the effects of increasing heat. Between 2000 and 2016, according to the World Health Organization, the number of people exposed to heat waves jumped by 125 million, and extreme heat claimed more than 166,000 lives between 1998 and 2017. And while at the moment half the world’s population lives in urban areas, that proportion is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050, according to the authors of this new paper. People in search of economic opportunity are unknowingly rushing into peril.

“When I read these papers, I just don’t know what’s wrong with humanity, to be honest with you. Because this is like the same song being sung by different people,” says climate scientist Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who wasn’t involved in the work. “Come on, man! When are we going to get serious about this problem? This is another person ringing the bell. We just for some reason refuse to hear this thing.”

To calculate how much city temperatures might rise, Zhao and his colleagues from a number of institutions, including Princeton University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, built a statistical model for the climate of urban regions, focusing on changing temperatures and humidities. These two factors are the conspiring menaces of extreme heat: Our bodies respond to high temperatures by perspiring, which is more fancily known as evaporative cooling. But humidity makes this process less efficient, because the more moist the air is, the less readily it accepts evaporating sweat from our bodies. That’s why humid heat feels so much more uncomfortable than dry heat.

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Houston creates tax incentives for green stormwater elements

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The City of Houston recently approved tax incentives for businesses that install green stormwater infrastructure.

Property owners who construct green roofs, rain gardens, permeable pavement, and rainwater harvesting elements can have their property tax reduced. A facility would be eligible for a tax abatement if the project valuation is at least $3 million, with at least $200,000 of that for green stormwater infrastructure.

The value of the abatement could be 100% of the project’s valuation for the green stormwater infrastructure for up to 10 years. Thus, a $3 million project with $200,000 worth of green stormwater infrastructure could save the owner $20,000 annually.

One city council member told the Houston Chronicle that he would like to extend the program to include residential property owners.

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Construction & infrastructure review 2020

Construction & Infrastructure review: The key to recovery

2020 was a tumultuous year, no one could have foreseen the rapid changes the country underwent in March and April and the impact the COVID-19 would have.

Inevitably, construction performance dipped as the country went into lockdown, with figures taking a huge knock. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics for the period to August 2020 indicated that infrastructure was the only element of the wider construction and infrastructure sector to have returned to pre-pandemic levels of output, with infrastructure output in August 0.6% higher than in February. This was achieved thanks to a 10.9% increase in output in the three months to August 2020 compared with the previous three months.

While the sector has, inevitably, been affected by the ongoing economic uncertainty, the outlook remains positive, with housing being a major factor in recovery. According to the latest figures released in December, IHS/CIPS* PMI marketing activity showed sustained recovery across the construction sector, with the latest index recording 54.7, up from 53.1 in October and registering above the 50.0 no change value for the sixth consecutive month.

For infrastructure, the outlook overall is good, with Civil Engineering returning to growth in November, registering at 52.3.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics in December for UK construction output**, show that, whilst the pandemic is still having a biting effect across much of industry, construction is steadily recovering. The latest figures record that construction output grew by 1.0% in the month-on-month all work series in October 2020. Increases were seen in both new work (0.3%) and repair and maintenance (2.3%); which helped the figures rise to £13,066M. This is the sixth consecutive month of growth for construction output, but the smallest monthly increase in that time.

The long-term effects of the pandemic and current lockdowns and tiered areas can still be seen, however, with the figures still well below pre-lockdown figures – by some 6.4%.

All sectors of the industry saw growth in October, apart from private new housing and private commercial new work. The only sector to recover completely is infrastructure, which is now recording output levels above the April decline.

The figures show that both infrastructure and public other new work were both more resilient to the lockdown effect, showing smaller drops in work at the beginning of the crisis and consistent growth ever since, albeit relatively small.

The construction industry as a whole has shown its resilience to the changes, bouncing back to growth under extraordinary circumstances where other industries have struggled.

Please click here for the full UK Construction Media story.

New business secretary tells construction to keep going during lockdown on first day in role

Open letter to industry from Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledges risks firms face in latest lockdown

New business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has written an open letter to the construction industry telling it is safe to carry on working and spelling out why sites are continuing to stay open.

His letter comes as concerns about working through this latest lockdown have grown in the week since it was announced by prime minister Boris Johnson.

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Kwasi Kwarteng says that by staying open, construction is helping the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic

Construction was again spared the stay-at-home message but several firms contacted by Building have said keeping sites open in the coming weeks might not be as straightforward as previous lockdowns.

Several pointed out that sites are open this time around when cases are higher than the first lockdown in March last year while schools, closed as part of the third lockdown, have drawn up detailed plans for homeschooling.

One small contractor told Building that one of its senior team was forced to take his five-year-old daughter to his site office last week. “His wife works in a hospital. He had to drop something off at the site so his daughter had to come along as well.”

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10 projects to watch in 2021

Some huge projects are due to hit critical milestones in the new year, as coronavirus, social distancing and Brexit continue to dominate the delivery of construction projects in 2021. Here’s our run-down of the big ones to watch.

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1) Forest Green Rovers stadium – a timber revolution?

Gloucestershire-based Forest Green Rovers’ decision to build a wooden football stadium was unprecedented. It has becoming an even bolder call when you consider the current perception of combustible materials and backdrop of financial uncertainty facing lower-league teams.

A director from Zaha Hadid, who designed the timber structure (above), told CN in February 2020 wood was a good material for stadium construction, being both low-carbon and conducive to an attractive design.

Planning approval for the 5,000-seater stadium was granted back in December last year and the government decided not to call the project in shortly before coronavirus struck. Since then, there have been claims that the stadium would take just two years to build.

Forest Green chairman Dale Vince has said there is unlikely to be football played there until 2023, but next year will be a crucial period for the construction of this unique project.

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2) Rolls-Royce doubles down on mini modular nuclear plans

The government laid out ambitious targets for reducing the UK’s carbon emissions in 2020. An upshot of that was an increased enthusiasm for nuclear energy, which, while it might not be everyone’s idea of a clean solution, produces substantially less emissions.

Talks over a new multi-billion-pound facility at Sizewell C in Suffolk were revived by the government in December 2020, as it seeks to deliver on its promise to invest in the sector. However, an interesting alternative to big plants is a plan, led by Rolls-Royce, to build several smaller modular nuclear reactors.

The household name is reeling after carrying out a £2bn rights issue to stabilise its balance sheet and fend off the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This situation has increased the importance of Rolls-Royce’s efforts to convince the government of the value of the smaller modular approach. Particularly as the airline industry, one of Rolls-Royce’s key markets, is struggling to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

Backing Rolls Royce in their efforts is Atkins, Bam Nuttall, Jacobs and Laing O’Rourke.

For the full list, please click here.

R&D Spending Rises by 30% Since Sector Deal

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In the two years since the launch of the Sector Deal for Construction, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown that R&D spending in the construction industry has risen by 30%. Sam Stacey of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) believes the Sector Deal has given construction companies the confidence to invest in innovation that will produce better value for money, and higher quality.

The total spending in the construction sector on R&D rose to a massive £417 million last year, an increase from £374 million the year before. According to ONS data released last month, Mr Stacey believes these new figures indicate that the industry has embraced the value of R&D.

As part of the Sector Deal, the UK Government has committed to investing up to £170 million via the Transforming Construction Programme in order to develop and commercialise the digital and offsite manufacturing technology needed to produce safe, energy efficient buildings which perform better throughout their life cycle. The programme has already started seeing projects it has funded achieve ambitious, yet realistic targets; buildings are being constructed 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with 50% lower lifetime carbon emissions.

Examples of innovation in architecture, engineering and construction include Eva Magnisali, the founder of DataForm Lab, who has successfully demonstrated the impact integrating industrial robotics can have in these industries. Her work demonstrates the essential part robotics can play in offsite manufacturing processes, but also proves how the technology makes construction projects more collaborative, productive and ultimately simpler.

Sam Stacey, Director of the Transforming Construction Challenge, UKRI, says: “The rise in research and development in the construction industry over the past two years is testament to the aims of the Transforming Construction challenge in giving companies the confidence to invest in digital building design, new technologies and offsite manufacturing, that will ultimately deliver quality, energy-efficient homes while providing value for money.

“The UKRI’s Transforming Construction Challenge sets out a framework of improvement based on common specifications, building components, digital standards, plus an optimised set of active building technologies to eliminate carbon emissions. This has resulted in innovators thriving by drawing on their expertise in manufacturing techniques, artificial intelligence and sensor-based controls. The pandemic has presented a unique set of challenges for the construction industry, but evidence suggests there has been no loss of momentum. Companies have found their use of novel digital and offsite techniques have made them more resilient in the face of any COVID restrictions.”

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Wallbarn Launches The Non-Combustible Pedestal – The MetalPad

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Wallbarn has launched MetalPad, its non-combustible Class A1 metal pedestal designed specifically for high-rise balconies, terraces and flat roofs, to meet BS 8579: 2020 Guide to the Design of Balconies and Terraces.

Wallbarn, a leading manufacturer of pedestal solutions for domestic and commercial suspended paving and decking projects, has developed what it believes is the UK’s first non-combustible Class A1 metal pedestal designed specifically for high-rise balconies, terraces and flat roofs.

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MetalPad was developed in direct response to BS 8579: 2020 Guide to the Design of Balconies and Terraces, which has just been published and details how all building elements of balconies and terraces must be non-combustible. Wallbarn says previously, heavy-duty plastic pedestal systems had been deemed appropriate but the new standard makes clear this is no longer acceptable. 

“We have more than 40 years of experience in the pedestals sector and foresaw, from an early draft of BS 8579: 2020, that the standard would shift the market to non-combustible products,” said Wallbarn Director Julian Thurbin. “We immediately began a research and development programme to identify how we could replicate the success of our heavy-duty polypropylene pedestals in metal to satisfy the standard.”

The Wallbarn designed, developed and produced MetalPad Class A1 non-combustible fully adjustable pedestal system is the result of Wallbarn’s R&D investment into developing a BS 8579 compliant system. The company says it offers specifiers, contractors, building owners, insurers and occupants peace of mind that the pedestals supporting paving and decking on balconies and terraces will not fail in the event of a fire. 

MetalPad is non-combustible to BS EN 13501-1, made from 2mm thick galvanised steel and designed for exterior applications. It has no plastic or rubber components, can support more than 1,000kg per pedestal thanks to its solid stem and superior weight tolerance, has a self-levelling headpiece with up to 5% movement in all directions, a sturdy 150mm diameter circular base plate which is smooth on the underside to prevent point loading and damage to the surface beneath, bespoke headpieces for paving and decking and millimetre-precise height adjustment to ensure a perfect, flat and safe finish. Heights range from 30mm to 258mm.

Julian added: “We’ve worked hard and invested heavily in bringing a product to market that is fit-for-purpose and meets the demands of the new standard. We are more than happy to talk architects, specifiers and contractors through the requirements of BS 8579 and what they need to be considering when specifying and installing metal pedestal systems. The key points are selecting a system that is fully non-combustible (so no plastic or rubber components), making sure the pedestals are suitable for exterior use and confirming they are strong enough for the job. Given that they will be used in high-rise outdoor structures it is imperative to select the correct product.”

What Can Geoxtextile Membranes Be Used For?

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Wallbarn supply a large recycled geotextile membrane range in a number of different densities & materials. This geotextile fabric range is absolutely ideal for many different uses, including protection, drainage, filtration, soil stabilisation & green roofing.

Wallbarn’s range of geotextile fabrics includes a piece of fabric in the form of a sustainable material called recycled geotextile membrane.

What Is a Recycled Geoxtextile Membrane?

These geotextiles are available as a white material and a multicoloured fabric. The white fabric is slightly stronger than the multicoloured fabric.

Both fabrics have lower tensile strength than virgin materials, but this reflects the fact that they are recycled existing fibres. They represent significant cost savings and as they are recycled materials they help with sustainability criteria including BREEAM ratings, for example.

Our recycled geotextile membrane range has proven to be extremely popular with the designers and applicators of sustainable construction projects particularly within a green roof and bio-diverse roof systems in conjunction with our other sustainable products on offer.

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What Applications are Recycled Geoxtextile Membranes Suited For?

Our recycled geotextile membrane range is supplied packed into tight rolls and we can supply material in a variety of roll sizes, from 1 metre wide up to 6 metres wide for very large-scale projects.

These super-jumbo rolls make installation much faster and easier as there will be less individual rolls to sew or seal together – ideal for applications such as landfills.

Geotextile products also have a wide range of use in conjunction with civil engineering solutions.

These include:

  • A filter-fabric in road construction
  • Preventing drainage systems from clogging with fine particles
  • Effective erosion control
  • Soil reinforcement agents & as a filter medium in road construction

Recycled polyester geotextile fabrics are particularly well suited for use with horticultural solutions including:

  • Prevention of weed growth with geotextiles: ‘a weed control fabric’, often by placing a geotextile layer on top of bare soil & then covering it with a mulch
  • Moisture conservation with geotextiles, again by placing the geotextile above the soil & applying a mulch above
  • Providing a filter layer (e.g. beneath a vegetated roof)
  • Creating a weed control layer (e.g. beneath a gravel path)

For further information relating to our range of protection and drainage products, please click here.

 

Wallbarn Has Ocean Certification

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Wallbarn is a company that has always taken the quality and environmental management aspect of our business very seriously. As such, we are both proud and delighted to announce that we have been granted ISO9001 & ISO14001 accreditation from the hugely well respected Ocean Certification Limited.

We have always been a customer-focused company, constantly looking at ways to improve our service. But this now means we have been independently assessed and certified as running quality management and environmental systems, which we hope provides our customers with even greater reassurance when it comes to doing business with us.

What Does This Mean?

ISO 9001 – Quality Management Certification

All organisations strive for quality in everything they do, from how they produce their product or service to how they manage their relationships with customers. Achieving this in the real world is challenging and takes commitment to a structured process and continual improvement.

Part of the twenty-first century corporate gold standard, ISO 9001 is the internationally recognised standard for quality management proficiency. Organisations who hold ISO 9001 are recognised in the UK and internationally for the exceptional quality of their management systems. This gives them a distinct advantage when seeking business partners, entering new markets and talking to potential large clients.

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Certification

Today the environmental performance of a company is a primary concern to its stakeholders; it has now become a significant factor in companies’ commercial success or failure.

An Environmental Management System promotes commitment to a systematic approach to environmental protection and to a model of continuous improvement.

ISO 14001 is the internationally recognised standard for environmental management proficiency. It is regarded as the ‘Gold Standard’ by the widest possible range of audiences, from governments and corporate clients to individual consumers. This gives a significant commercial advantage to those implementing a UKAS accredited ISO 14001 Environmental Management System with Ocean.

What Makes Ocean Certification So Important?

Ocean provide a professional and personal service because they believe in building strong relationships with clients to achieve the best certification outcome for clients increasingly looking for flexibility and responsiveness.

While Ocean continues to grow rapidly they remain small enough to provide a personal, customer-focused approach at a competitive price.

Their UKAS Accreditation provides complete assurance of the quality of our work and ensures that an Ocean Certificate of Registration will be widely recognised.

For more information relating to Ocean Certification Limited, please click here.

Contact Us

For more information about our listing or any of our products or services, please contact us on Tel. No. 0208 916 2222 and we will be happy to help.

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