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We spoke with Ray Hutchinson, Managing Director of award-winning construction and fit-out contractor Gilbert-Ash about its holistic approach to building educational projects characterised by proactive collaboration across a range of sectors, from education to the arts, rewarded with recognition from RIBA and the Stirling Prize judges.


Gilbert-Ash was originally owned by homes giant Bovis before a management buyout in the early seventies. Sustained growth since the late eighties has allowed it to shift focus, over the last eight years, away from its home market in Northern Ireland to concentrate on Great Britain and London in particular. “We’ve experience significant growth with turnover in excess of £165m in 2017 (up from £148m in 2016). Most of that turnover has been generated from projects completed in GB and further afield through our alliance with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. We’re working with them in 40 countries around the world employing more than 180 staff,” reveals Managing Director Ray Hutchinson.

With its strategy focused on landmark landscape projects such as Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre which was awarded the Stirling Prize, and the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and Lyric Theatre which were also shortlisted two years earlier, Gilbert-Ash complete quality construction and refurbishment work on technically challenging buildings. Among these in the education sector is the recently completed Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, a refurbishment scheme at Eltham College and an ongoing project designed by the architect Tim Reynolds in Sevenoaks, a £22m new build science, technology and sixth form centre completing this year. “It has involved much exposed, in-situ and pre-cast concrete work alongside timber and metal acoustic panels and baffles,” explains Hutchinson, whose company are also working on a £25m project at the Royal College of Music. “Adjacent to the Royal Albert Hall its bounded on all sides,” he adds. “So, in terms of the logistics of working in a live school with around 800 students on site it’s a huge challenge removing earth from inside the space site and craning it over the top of a listed building from such a confined area.”

Hutchinson maintains Gilbert-Ash couldn’t complete the projects it is involved in without being innovative to overcome the technical challenges. “We have different strands to how we work,” he reveals. “We do these landmark projects yet have also worked on many Premier Inn sites. We’ve done a number of hub hotels for them featuring significant tech. For example, when you go into a room you can use the app on your phone so the room remembers how you like your settings for heating, light etc. Most of what we do is design and build so we’re still pushing the boundaries with a BIM-enabled team of ten architects. We’re at the front end of developments in that sphere which allows us to set ourselves apart from our competitors with a portfolio of work demonstrating our diverse capabilities.”

These capabilities have recently been recognised with a RIBA award for a new swimming pool at the City of London Freemen’s School. “The swimming pool itself is set in a natural environment amongst the trees and made with an entirely timber frame - whitewashed glulam frames and CLT panels - which are very carefully detailed and arranged. Effectively the pools users are swimming among the trees,” says a proud Hutchinson.

Making a difference to communities while wowing awards panels is par for the course for Gilbert-Ash. Due to complete this November the company has worked extensively on the Cambridge Mosque project which will have 700 worshippers coming through its doors and, in terms of ecological sustainability, be Europe’s first eco-mosque with solar power generation, a green roof, super-insulation and also feature an underground car park. “We’re excited by the Cambridge Mosque which we feel is a potential award winner,” says Hutchinson. “A stunning curved freeform structure where the roof is supported by 32 glulam timber columns offers huge amounts of natural light flooding into the building. It’s another very unique project.”

What does Hutchinson believe are the unique requirements for working successfully with educational establishments and on community buildings? “It’s key to be sympathetic to the live environment we find ourselves working in,” he says. “Effective communication is vital as many of these projects will have students being taught in situ. We always have to be very careful about how we approach them from a logistics perspective so we’re not causing undue disruption. It’s a sector which is growing and one we’re hopeful of further opportunities in… We’ve recently been appointed preferred bidder for the Central Foundation boys school at Old Street in London - another challenging, tightly bound site requiring a unique approach.”

Hutchinson is passionate about the fact that, particularly with educational projects, design should not only be functional but inspire. “In 2016 we completed the works for UCL at the Bartlett School of Architecture,” he remembers. “Working in one of the most prominent and renowned architecture schools in the world, we were very conscious of the fact that the student architects were following our work so closely, we wanted to produce something that could be inspirational and drive creativity. Many of our schemes have arrived at a process which can help spark the imagination. We’re keen for our project to have that lasting legacy and stand the test of time.”

Inspiring the next generation of designers and architects is part of the process for Gilbert-Ash, even when working on more standard projects. “On a Belfast Marriot hotel project, we actually used Minecraft and challenged six schools to build a hotel inside the game,” explains Hutchinson. “What we learned from the back end of that allowed a few of the ideas from the schoolchildren to find their way in to the final design. It was great to see the power of that engagement and ideas that were so good the architect worked them into the finished building.”

Hutchinson believes it’s that inquisitive ethos that helps set Gilbert-Ash apart from its competitors. “We offer a partnership approach with a team hugely experienced on innovative projects, proud of the work they do but not resting on their laurels,” he asserts. “We’re not afraid to show we’re constantly learning through our efforts as a team, with a focus on collaboration and by offering forums for the opinions of all stakeholders, particularly on projects like UCL, to feed into that design process. Because everybody has a shared interest in arriving at a building which delivers inspiration in both form and function.”

source: constructionglobal.com

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A joint venture between Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Company (RLW), a subsidiary of Sterling Construction Company, and SEMA Construction has won a contract to design and perform the reconstruction work on I-25 in Weld and Larimer counties in Colorado.

Under the contract, awarded by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the joint venture partners will widen a stretch of Interstate 25 in the vicinity of Mead, about 35 miles north of Denver between SH-66 and the SH-402 Interchange.

Following the successful completion of design finalisation and execution of the construction manager/general contractor (CMGC) contract, the project is estimated to exceed $200m and is expected to begin construction in mid-2019.

In addition, Sterling and SEMA will widen the highway from two lanes in each direction to accommodate two general purpose lanes and one express lane in each direction.

Apart from the roadway widening, all interchanges within the project limits will be reconstructed, which includes replacing the existing bridges.

Sterling CEO Joe Cutillo said: “The selection of our joint venture with SEMA by CDOT for this major highway project is representative of our strategy to pursue heavy highway awards where we can deliver greater value to the project owner through our extensive design-build capabilities.

“Mead and its surrounding communities comprise a rapidly growing suburb within the greater-Denver area and there is a pressing need to accommodate increasing vehicular traffic as well as enhance various multi-modal connections.
“Colorado is an important part of our strategic growth plans throughout the Rocky Mountain region for our heavy civil construction business, and we are very excited about this and other upcoming opportunities.”

In August 2016, RLW has been awarded a $21.5m contract by the Colorado Department of Transportation to reconstruct the Crossroads Bridge on I-25 in Larimer County, Colorado.

The scope of the contract included the reconstruction of the I-25 interchange at Crossroads Boulevard and the associated roadway.

source: worldconstructionnetwork.com

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US-based construction firm Burns & McDonnell has secured a $220.8m contract from the University of Missouri to build the Translational Precision Medicine Complex (TPMC).

The new complex, located along Hospital Drive in Columbia, Missouri, is expected to bring together industry partners, multiple schools and colleges on campus.

Covering a total area of 275,000ft², the facility is expected to be completed in October 2021.


The TPMC complex is expected to build upon the university’s existing strengths to open new opportunities to transcend traditional learning, bringing world-class minds together to create the next generation of biomedical solutions.

University of Missouri chancellor Alexander Cartwright said. “This facility will act as a shared biomedical resource to tackle cancer, neurological and vascular diseases while helping us attract federal and industry grants and funding.

“Only a handful of these types of collaborative venues exist throughout the country. This will position MU and the other UM campuses on the forefront of leading-edge research discoveries.”

University of Missouri vice chancellor for strategic partnerships Elizabeth Loboa said: “The most promising ideas will advance from concept through pilot-scale manufacturing - from benchtop to bedside, all from inside the TPMC.”

A Burns & McDonnell architect who is leading the building design Clint Blew said:  "At Burns & McDonnell, we are honored to be a part of this cutting-edge facility that will be a critical and energizing addition to the MU campus

"Our firm has experienced architects, designers, and engineers all under one roof to collaborate with clients and partners to address the full scope of the complex facility design.

"And as a firm headquartered in Missouri, we are honored to be a part of this project that will place MU in a national and international leadership position in medical and research practice for decades to come."

source: worldconstructionnetwork.com

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Vertus, a full-service build-to-rent operator belonging to the Canary Wharf Group, has topped out Newfoundland, a diagrid structure on the Canary Wharf estate, which will be the UK’s tallest build-to-rent development.

The tower, which has reached its full height of 220m (729ft), will comprise 636 private rented apartments.


One of the first build-to-rent schemes on the Canary Wharf estate, Newfoundland will offer panoramic views of the capital through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Designed by Mayfair-based architects Horden Cherry Lee, the building’s transparent, diamond structure will have sloped, sculpted sides and an external frame providing spacious homes.

The apartments, ranging in size from 429ft² to 1,819ft², will provide studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom accommodation, which will be available fully-furnished through Vertus.

Residents will have access to a range of onsite facilities, including a private dining room, residents’ lounge, gym, virtual fitness studios, children’s play area and terrace garden.

The first floor of the 60-storey building will house a 10,000ft² M Restaurant and Grill.


Apart from Newfoundland, the Vertus portfolio includes a 327-apartment scheme at 10 George Street and 174 apartments at 8 Water Street, both located in Canary Wharf’s new residential district, Wood Wharf.

Construction began in 2015, and since then, more than 300 piles have been installed, with several reaching 60m deep.

More than 18,000m³ of spoil has been excavated to create the basement. Over 14,000m² of pre-cast concrete plank and 9,500 tonnes of structural steelwork have been erected for Newfoundland to reach its full height.

Newfoundland is set to be completed in the second quarter of 2020 and the apartments are expected to be available for rent from July 2020.

Vertus head Alastair Mullens said: “To reach topping out of the building is a significant milestone in the construction process. Set to fully complete at the beginning of 2020, it’s fantastic to see the building taking shape and cement its place amongst some of the most iconic buildings in London.

“Whilst the exterior is visually striking, the interiors will be of the highest quality and set a new standard in the build-to-rent sector. Newfoundland will meet a growing demand for dedicated rental properties in Canary Wharf.”

source: worldconstructionnetwork.com

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The government of Nigeria through the Family Homes Fund (FHF) intends to invest US $1bn over the next five years in bridging its 17 million housing deficit.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Infrastructure, Imeh Okon confirmed the report and said that the government would issue US $275m yearly for a five year period. The projects, despite being powered by the FHF will also involve private sector participation.

Also read: Kenya to develop 5000 low cost houses in Kiambu County

Nigeria housing deficit

According to the United Nations, Nigeria stands at a 180 million population with an annual growth rate of 3% as of 2015 and an urban population growth rate of 5%. Data from the World Bank and the National Bureau of Statistics states that there is a 17 million housing deficit in Nigeria.Globally, 1.6 billion people live in sub standard housing according to UN statistics. In Nigeria, over 100 million of its 180 million citizens live in substandard housing.

Mr. Yemi Adelakun, the managing director for Nigeria Integrated Social Housing(NISH) commented that the available houses built do not meet to the needs and affordability of the people hence making bridging the housing deficit hard.

Affordable housing

Currently, about 3,000 to 6,000 affordable housing are under construction in Nigeria with 1,400 houses in Nassarawa. Mr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, the Special Adviser to the President on Economic said that with hope of Nigerians accessing the housing units under the affordability index, the the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has managed to complete more than 2,000 houses in 72 units across Nigeria.

In regards to high mortgage, Mr. Dipeolu said that it would be a challenge for Nigerians to access homes with the high mortgage rates. “ The government is working to ensure that there are cheap mortgage  available for Nigerians.”

Ms. Okon added that under FHF, Nigerians earning even US $83 can afford a home which covers the government’s main aim of providing social and affordable homes.

source: /constructionreviewonline.com

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South Africa has announced to have started electrical distribution network on the US $205m Perdekraal East Wind Farm.

Construction project manager, Glenn Hobson confirmed the reports and explained that each wind tower is connected through underground cables to the main substation, which steps up the incoming power from each tower to match the voltage in the power grid.

“Each wind tower is connected through underground cables to the main substation, which steps up the incoming power from each tower to match the voltage in the power grid. The main substation is then connected to the grid through overhead high-voltage transmission lines,” he said.

Also Read: South Africa to begin construction of 110 MW Perdekraal East wind farm

Perdekraal East Wind Farm

The 110 MW wind farm will comprise of 48 wind turbines each 115 m high. Spanning 3 055 ha, the location of the Western Cape’s largest Bid Window 4 wind farm was chosen because of its excellent wind resource and its proximity to national roads for wind turbine transportation. The site also offers favorable construction conditions, municipality and local stakeholder support, a suitable connection to the national grid.

Scheduled for completion in late 2020, once finalized Perdekraal will generate about 368.8 GWh/y, this is estimated to power up to 95 000 houses.This mega project will have great impact not only on the national grid but also on the economies of surrounding communities in the Western Cape’s Witzenberg local municipality. Independent utility-scale wind and solar power plant developer Mainstream Asset Management South Africa will be responsible for managing its operation.

source: constructionreviewonline.com

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The inflow of imports, most consumer goods, is contributing to increasing demand for storage, logistics and warehousing services in South Africa, and a clear correlation is visible in the trend of wholesale and retail trade sales in comparison to imports. These are the insights in JLL’s latest report, Trade trends – the impact of trade imports on logistics and warehousing.The report provides a short update on the original research conducted in 2016.

Zandile Makhoba, Head of Research for Sub-Saharan Africa, JLL, comments: “As the technology economy advances, tertiary sectors – which provide products and services to all other industries in the economy – will continue to dominate. It is this context in which industrial and logistics accommodation is growing in strength.”

Also Read:US $110m Nairobi Gate Industrial Park project launched

Shifting demand for warehousing and logistics accommodation

The report highlights the shifting demand for warehousing and logistics accommodation, and along with it the changing development specifications. For example, historically, industrial buildings required larger office components and needed to host higher employee numbers. In more modern industrial buildings, the office component has reduced significantly, and buildings are made to accommodate increased machinery and technology use as opposed to labour.

Key factors for modern industrial occupiers

Four key factors are on the must-have list for modern industrial occupiers: Location is a big motivator with accessibility and visibility very important.Popularity of buildings in areas such as Jet Park,or Waterfall Estate with its highway frontage and opportunities for outdoor marketing, is evidence of this. Then the development of aerotropolis cities in KwaZulu-Natal (Dube Aerotropolis) and Gauteng (Aerotropolis Ekurhuleni) has also contributed to higher demand for accommodation near the King Shaka and O.R. Tambo international airports.

Other needs include larger yard space (to accommodate larger trucks and cargo vehicles), high volume maxi-units (occupiers are looking for big boxes,particularly for distribution and logistics use) and security (making access-controlled business parks popular).

The report confirms that most developments to date have been non-speculative in nature, so there is no real threat of a sharp oversupply in the market. However, developer confidence has seen the rise of speculative developments which cater for more flexible lease terms.These adjusting lease terms are an indication of the increased presence of international occupiers and retailers, and the local market is beginning to align with international norms in the industrial leasing market.

Makhoba concludes, “The expansion of light industrial accommodation is also an indication of the increased pressure on transport infrastructure in South Africa, which is already showing signs of deterioration. The good news is that the public sector is making the necessary investments to improve infrastructure capacity to cope with this growth.”

source: constructionreviewonline.com

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The government of Malawi is set to receive US $15m grant from the African Development Fund (ADF) for its Nkhata Bay water supply and sanitation project.

According to the bank the water project  is in line with Malawi’s development agenda contained in the Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) and Malawi’s Vision 2020.

Also read: DRC signs US $14bn deal for the Inga 3 dam project

Nkhata Bay water supply and sanitation project

The Nkhata Bay water supply and sanitation project will involve; construction of  new infrastructure water treatment plants, pipelines and water reservoirs. The water project  will directly benefit 60,000 residents while it boosts livelihoods of 200,000 people who depend on services offered by the town.

More than 300 jobs will be created during construction and an additional 50 during its operation phase. The project will begin in the beginning of 2019 and it’s expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

Nkhata Bay residents will have a 90% access to portable water in comparison to its previous 37% access and they will have an 85% access to sanitation facilities to its previous 45%. The new development will come with new infrastructures such as water reservoirs, pipelines, and water treatment plants.

Project implementation

The ADF grant will finance half of the estimated project cost that is US $30.4m. OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) through a US $12m loan will contribute to the remaining cost and the Malawian government will foot the remaining US $3.4 m through contributions.

Malawi’s Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) will implement the project. Nkhata Bay Town residents and surrounding areas have been actively consulted in the project’s design by the government and in turn, it has enhanced social accountability. The project is expected to commence in 2019 and completed by 2022.

source: constructionreviewonline.com

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Two hydro power plants are set to be constructed in Gabon following a signed concession agreement between the Gabonese Strategic Investment Fund (FGIS), the pan-African industrial group Eranove and the government of Gabon.

Serge Thierry Mickoto, director and general manager of the FGIS, confirmed the news and said that they are delighted with the progress of these water and electricity projects carried out as part of their consortium with the Eranove group.

“One of the objectives of the Gabonese Economic Recovery Plan is to strengthen the supply of electricity by making it more accessible, available and sustainable. Improving water supply and the quality of these services to citizens is a significant element in the implementation of the Gabon Vision 2025 programme,” said Thierry Mickoto.

Also Read: Uganda’s Karuma Hydro power project nears completion of its first turbine

Water treatment and supply plant

The two hydro power plants namely Ngoulmendjim (73MW) and Dibwangui (15MW), respectively will be developed by project companies, Asokh Energie and Louetsi Hydro.

The agreement also constitutes the production of drinking water- that is the Orélo drinking water treatment and supply plant located in the Estuary province. The contract covers the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of a new drinking water production unit with a production capacity of 140,000 m3 per day.

The Orélo project aims to improve the drinking water supply in Libreville and its surroundings by increasing the production capacity corresponding to the consumption of more than 600,000 people, in order to meet the ever-increasing demand of the population.

source: constructionreviewonline.com

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Municipal spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said the project started in 2007 to fix homes built by the provincial Department of Human Settlements between 1997 and 2002. She said the “R162m project” was implemented because the municipality discovered that the previous homes “were not suitable for human occupancy”, with protruding wires “causing electrical problems and shocking people”.

However, the project was halted in 2010 due to “underperformance by the contractors”. Ngcobo said a new contractor was appointed in 2013 and work on the project resumed. “But there are delays due to challenges like demolition approvals and missing beneficiaries,” she said.

The two-storey houses have several rooms. Each family has their own entrance with a kitchen, two bedrooms, living room and a bathroom. But many of the houses were left roofless and without doors and windows.

Not safe to use electricity

Bongiwe Madlala lives with her family on the ground floor of one such house. “We were told that the houses would be demolished [for fixing]. They were already giving us problems. We were getting electric shocks when using electrical appliances.”

She said that in 2011 they moved out to rent a house while theirs was being rebuilt. “Then the project stopped. We didn’t know what went wrong,” said Madlala.

She said she could not afford to continue paying rent so they had no choice but to return. “There were no windows and doors. The top floor was not finished, so when it rains water drips in from the roof. Everything from the walls to the floor becomes wet. It’s not safe to use electricity, and the wall is covered in mould.”

She is scared that the ceiling will fall on them one day. “The cracks are now visible … It leaks for days after rain.”

Stholakele Gumede lives in the same situation nearby. “I have decided to tighten the windows with wire. When it’s windy they shake. When it rains, we put buckets on the beds,” said Gumede.

“We don’t know what the problem is. The project has been stopped on numerous occasions. We were told that the houses were not properly done by the previous construction companies,” she said.

Madalala said, “The only thing we want is for these houses to be completed. We are sick because of the conditions we are living under. The government must finish and build these homes properly.”

'Shocking conditions'

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu visited Phase 4 last month. He told residents, “The conditions are shocking. As the government we are ashamed … We apologise to the residents.” He promised residents that he would take the matter to the Department of Human Settlements. “I want to know all the details of what happened since the project started years ago.”

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Human Settlements Mbulelo Baloyi said, “We have responded to the premier’s office and told them that the department is working on a plan to tackle the problem.”

source: Groundup

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University of Exeter has secured planning approval from Exeter City Council for the development of new student housing project at East Park on the university’s Streatham Campus.

University Partnerships Programme (UPP), a UK-based provider of on-campus residential and academic accommodation infrastructure, will be responsible for the design, build, funding and operation of the new accommodation.

Touted to be the university’s largest on-campus accommodation project since 2012, East Park forms part of plan to develop an additional student homes in total.

The site’s outline planning approval has been secured in April 2017. After the feedback from the local community, staff, and students on the updated plans the Reserved Matters application was submitted in August 2018 and the plans approved in October 2018.

The new student housing project will feature 1,182 high-quality bedrooms with access to all the services students need on their doorstep.

The East Park development will offer a choice of room types and rent levels. The bedrooms have been designed with a focus on enhanced health and wellbeing by minimising noise and light pollution. The residences will meet an enhanced level of Secure by Design standards.

Work on the project is set to begin in early 2019 with the new student homes set to open in two phases from September 2020 to September 2021.

UPP Group CEO Sean O’Shea said: “This news is a testament to the strength of our existing bespoke, long-term partnership with the University. Since 2009, we have delivered and operated circa 2,500 high-quality and affordable purpose-built student residences on campus.

“Through the proposed development, we will help the University to maintain and enhance its reputation for delivering an internationally excellent education. We look forward to continuing to support the University’s strategic objectives and taking another step forward in this close relationship.”

University of Exeter registrar and secretary Mike Shore-Nye said: “We are delighted to receive approval for our plans. The East Park development will create more high-quality, on-campus accommodation for our students, reducing the pressure on the city’s housing stock whilst strengthening our commitment to offer an excellent student experience.


“We will liaise closely with the local community to ensure the development process is a success for everyone. The East Park development is a significant project for the University which forms part of our ambitious Capital Strategy to invest in our campuses, estate and infrastructure over the next 10 years.”

source: worldconstructionnetwork.com


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